Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/38

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and of the action of the atmosphere on the surface of spiral curves, but which, like most great inventions, was unquestionably discovered by accident. Yet with all their sagacity and shrewdness, they are so low down in the scale of intelligence as not to be able to count more than five: one is "garro," two "boö," three "koromde," four "wogaro," and five "boö koromde," compounded of two and three; higher members are not differentiated, but PSM V52 D038 Papuan carvings of a coconut.pngPapuan Carvings on Cocoanut Vase. This carving is cut into the surface of the cocoanut, a sort of intaglio, which the Italians call graffiti. lumped together as "meian," many. It would seem to us quite natural that they should be able to count at least as high as ten with the aid of the fingers of both hands, but such is not the case. An Australian can keep a record of twenty or thirty objects by making a notch for each one in a stick, but he has no name for this sum total and can not carry it in his head. Even the blacks who have learned a little English are incapable of using the English numerals beyond six with any degree of accuracy. Mackenzie, one of the most intelligent of the natives in Semon's service, could by this means count as far as ten and perform very simple processes of addition; thus, for example, if he caught three ant-eaters yesterday and four to-day, he knew that taken together they made seven. But this was the extreme limit of his arithmetical computations; if he brought in three animals on each of three days, he could tell how many there were in all only by producing his tally; the multiplication of three by three was a mental operation far too complicated for him. As with number concepts, so with all abstract ideas, the Australians are incapable of forming them, and have therefore no words to express them. They have no collective names for animal and plant. They perceive very clearly the difference between the various species of venomous serpents in which their country abounds, but they have no terms by which to distinguish one genus from another, but call the whole family "wonge"; while "bui" is used to designate the harmless and edible serpents, of which the Python spilotes is the most conspicuous representative. Still more remarkable, perhaps, is the want of distinct designations for colors; they have separate words for the extremes of white, "bambar," and black, "ngurue,"[1] but not for the primary and composite colors red,


  1. The literal meaning of which is "dirty."