Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/568

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

M. de Mortillet gave in another form his view of the sort of creature the hypothetical anthropopithecus should be in a paper on Tertiary Man, read before the Anthropological Section of the French Association for the Advancement of Science in 1885, when he said the question was not to find whether man already existed in the Tertiary epoch as he exists at the present day. Animals varied from one geological epoch to another, and the higher the animals the greater was the variation. It was to be inferred, therefore, that man would vary more rapidly than the other mammals. The problem was to discover in the Tertiary period an ancestral form of man a predecessor of the man of historical times. There were, he affirmed, unquestionably in the Tertiary strata objects which implied the existence of an intelligent being—animals less intelligent than existing man, but much more intelligent than existing apes. While the skeleton of this ancestral form of man had not yet been discovered, he had made himself known to us in the clearest manner by his works. The general opinion of the meeting after hearing M. de Mortillet's paper is said to have been that there could be no longer any doubt of the existence of the supposed ancestral form of man in the Tertiary period.

The discovery in Java, announced by Dr. Dubois, in 1896, of fossil remains presenting structural characteristics between those of man and those of the monkey, to which the name Pithecanthropus erectus was given, were accepted with hardly a question by M. de Mortillet and his colleagues as confirming his views.

At a banquet given to M. de Mortillet, May 1, 1884, by a number of anthropologists, when his portrait was presented to him, the hall was decorated for the occasion with a life-size picture of an ancient Gaul, executed according to his latest researches. The man was represented as having no hair on his body; with very long arms and very powerful muscles; his feet capable of being used in climbing trees, but with toes not opposable; his jaw strongly prognathous, but not at all equal to that of an anthropoid ape; his breadth strongly compressed laterally and his abdomen prominent; the skin not negroid, but of our present color; and the expression of his face was about as intelligent as that of an Australian.

In his Le Préhistorique M. de Mortillet attempted to determine how far distant was the epoch when Homo sapiens first appeared on the earth, by estimating the rate of progression of blocks which were carried by former ice fields, as he had observed them in Switzerland with Agassiz. His conclusion was that more than two hundred thousand years had elapsed since that event.

In 1894 M. de Mortillet proposed in the Société d' Anthropologie an important reform in chronology. Pointing out the inconvenience