Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/643

This page has been validated.

vases entirely by hand. The principal type of these is the cylinder, with many small variations. Figures were carved in alabaster and bone, and modeled in clay and paste; these are rude, but show that the type of the race was fine, with a high forehead and pointed beard. The use of marks denoting property was common, and such marks seem to be the earliest stages of the system of signs which developed later into the alphabet. This civilization had apparently passed its best time, decoration had ceased on the pottery, when a change came over all classes of work.

The second prehistoric civilization seems to have belonged to a people kindred to that of the first age, as much of the pottery continued unchanged, and only gradually faded away. But a new style arose of a hard, buff pottery, painted with patterns and subjects in red outline. Ships are represented with cabins on them, and rowed by a long bank of oars. The use of copper became more general, and gold and silver appear also. Spoons of ivory, and rarely of precious metals, were made, but hair combs, which were common before, ceased to be worn. Stone vases were commonly carved in a variety of hard and ornamental stones, but always of the barrel outline and not the early cylinder shapes. Flint-working reached the highest stage ever known in any country, the most perfect mastery of the material having been acquired. Though this civilization was in many respects higher than that which preceded it, yet it was lower artistically, the figures being ruder and always flat, instead of in the round. Also the use of signs was driven out, and disappeared in the later stage of this second period. The separation of these two different ages has been entirely reached by the classification of many hundreds of tombs, the original order of which could be traced by the relation of their contents. In this way a scale of sequence has been formed, which enables the range of any form of pottery or other object to be exactly stated, and every fact of connection discovered can be at once reduced to a numerical scale as definite as a scale of years. For the first time a regular system of notation has been devised for prehistoric remains, and future research in each country will be able to deal with such ages in as definite a manner as with historic times. The material for this study has come entirely from excavations of my own party at Nagada (1895), Abadiyeh, and Hu (1899); but great numbers of tombs of these same ages have been opened without record by M. de Morgan (1896–97), and by French and Arab speculators in antiquities.

The connection between these prehistoric ages and the early historic times of the dynastic kings of Egypt is yet obscure. The cemeteries which would have cleared this have unhappily been