Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/468

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
448
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

wood and bone, the ornaments, headdresses, and costumes—all, in fact, that made the savagery of those strange lands of the South Sea so remarkable and distinctive. In it is reflected the spirit of that island civilization that spreads from the far South to the Alaskan shores of the Pacific.

The results of the explorations conducted by the department in Florida, the caves of the Ohio Valley, and in Yucatan have been of the greatest scientific importance. The explorations of Mr. Charles B. Moore in the shell mounds of Florida produced a case of selected objects which filled a most important gap in the collection of the American department. During the past few years Mr. Henry C. Mercer, Curator of American and Prehistoric Archæology, has visited the most important prehistoric sites of Europe. The university museum has thus been enriched by European collections, such as are to be found in no other museum in America. He made sketches of French caves, where the oldest objects of human skill have been discovered, and where pictorial art of a striking character has been found in drawings upon the bones of the mammoth and the cave bear. Mr. Mercer has also explored the floors of the mountain caves of Yucatan for traces of pre-Indian occupation, continuing the systematic search for evidences of the existence of palæolithic and glacial man, which he had carried on with negative results in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. The caves yielded nothing older than the pottery of the Maya Indians of the time of the conquest, verifying Maya traditions that they found the country uninhabited when they entered it, ages ago, from the North. Mr. Mercer's observations have practically demonstrated that the antiquity of man in America is more recent than in Europe, as shown by the human remains found in European caves.

No piece of work done in America in a decade has so elevated the European estimate of American scholarship as the recent explorations in Babylonia under the auspices of the university. In the summer of 1888 the University of Pennsylvania equipped and sent out the first American expedition to the northern half of the plains of Babylonia to effect a thorough exploration of the ruins of Nippur. A short time before this a few citizens of Philadelphia had met in the house of Dr. William Pepper and formed the Babylonian Exploration Fund, with the purpose of effecting a systematic exploration of ancient Babylonia. Two professors, Dr. J. P. Peters and Dr. Hermann V. Hilprecht, were intrusted with the management of the expedition. The explorations were conducted amid the greatest difficulties, the chief ones being the deadly climate and the hostility of the natives. But the excavations were pressed on with energy and confidence, under the gracious protection of the Sultan of Turkey and Hamdy Bey, the Director-