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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/217

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THE STONE AGE IN EGYPT.

man, known to us only through the rough-cut flints we find in the alluvions, made his first appearance. After this period of excavation came that of filling up with silt, which still continues. New evidences of man appear in his burial places and the ruins of his villages, the kitchen middens which he has left in his habitations of unburned brick and in his camps. This time he is more civilized; he chips his flints with a skill that is not surpassed in European neolithic implements; he makes vessels of stone and clay, covers them with rude paintings, sculptures animal forms of schist, and wears necklaces of the shells and the stones of the country. Then comes a foreign people to take possession of Egypt, bringing knowledge of metals, writing, hieroglyphics, painting, sculpture, new industries and arts that have nothing in common with the arts of the people it has overcome. The ancient Pharaonic empire begins, or perhaps the reign of the divine dynasties. The men with stone implements are the aborigines; the others are the conquering civilized Egyptians. Nothing can be more interesting than a comparison of the arts of the aborigines and those of the Egyptians of the earlier dynasties. Nearly all their characteristics are different, and it is impossible to regard them as of common origin. Yet some of the native forms persisted till the last days of the empire of the Pharaohs. These aborigines belonged to a race that is now extinct, they having been absorbed into the mass of the Egyptians and Nubians among whom they lived, and from this mixture the fellah of ancient times is derived. The origin of the conquering race—of the Egyptians as we know them—has not been precisely determined. The weight of evidence, so far as it has been obtained, and the balance of opinion, are in favor of an Asiatic origin and of primary relationship with the Shemites of Chaldea.

In Egypt more than in any other country it is necessary to proceed with the most scrupulous circumspection in the examination of remote antiquities. The relics of thousands of years of human life have been piled one upon another and often intermixed. The questions they raise can not be answered in the cabinet or by the study of texts; but the inquiry must be prosecuted on the ground, by comparison of the deposits where they are found and in the deposits from which they are recovered.

From my first arrival in Egypt, in 1892, my attention has been greatly occupied with the question of the origin of the relics of the stone age that have been found from time to time in that country. I have gathered up the scattered documents, explored a large number of sites, and have bought such flint implements as I have found on sale. I have gradually been led to believe that while some of these cut stones may possibly belong to the historical epoch, we shall have