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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/510

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

fact that root-crops were not there grown from seeds; and there is a corresponding indication that the knowledge of cereals preceded the domestication of the seed-grown temperate root-crops of the old world, since none of these is anywhere dried, made into starch, or otherwise prepared for storage as the basis of a permanent food-supply of primitive tribes.

That the fruit-eating aborigines of the old world were not equipped for undertaking the use of cereals is further shown by the fact that those who left the moist tropics for the subtropical and temperate regions of Western Asia, North Africa and Europe did not resort, as in America, to the culture of more hardy root crops and cereals, but became pastoral nomads, dependent upon the milk and flesh of their herds, supplemented by such honey, wild fruits and other edible plants as they might encounter in searching for pasture. Dates, figs and other fruit trees might receive some attention from such wanderers, but the more successful they might become as shepherds the less likely they would be to take up the planting of cereals or of other herbaceous crops, which in the absence of fences would be appropriated by their animals before the owners could make even an initial experiment. It is accordingly significant that the origin of the agricultures and civilizations of the valleys of the Nile and Euphrates is no longer sought by ethnologists with Semitic shepherds or more northern peoples, but with a seafaring race which has been traced to southern Arabia, and whose language has been found to have analogies with the ancient Polynesian tongue of Madagascar.

 

Summary.

With the exception of the banana, the cultivated plants which were shared with America by the natives of the islands of the Pacific and of the old world tropics appear to be of American origin, and the wide distribution of these plants in the east and the relatively recent domestication of the old world root crops and cereals accord with the suggestion that the agricultural skill and compact social organization of a primitive American culture race were transferred to southern Asia during the movements of conquest and colonization which spread the Malayo-Polynesian linguistic stock from Hawaii and Easter Island to Madagascar and southern Arabia, but long anterior to existing peoples or languages. The cocoanut which affords so direct an intimation of American origin has already explained the failure of those who have attempted to demonstrate identity of languages, customs and arts on the two sides of the Pacific, but also condemns the equally erroneous attitude of others who refuse, in the absence of such identity, to accept the countless trans-Pacific similarities as indications of affinity or common origin.