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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/542

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

development, it has branched off in various directions, in accordance with varying environment; and the tracing of lines of connection between different forms of culture, as is the case with the physical variations, is a matter of intricate complexity. Migrations with the attendant climatic changes, change of food, and, in fact, of general environment, to say nothing of the crossing of different stocks, transmission of ideas from one people to another, and other factors, all tend to increase the tangle.

Although in certain instances savage tribes or races show obvious signs of having degenerated to some extent from conditions of a higher culturedom, this can not be regarded as the general rule, and we must always bear in mind the seemingly paradoxical truth that degradation in the culture of the lower races is often, if not usually, the direct result of contact with peoples in a far higher state of civilization.

There can, I think, be little doubt that Colonel Lane Fox was well justified in urging the view that most savage races are in large measure strictly primitive, survivals from early conditions, the development of their ideas having from various causes remained practically stationary during a very considerable period of time. In the lower, though not degenerate, races signs of this are not wanting, and while few, possibly none, can be said to be absolutely in a condition of arrested development, their normal progress is at a slow, in most cases at a very slow, rate.

Perhaps the best example of a truly primitive race existing in recent times, of which we have any knowledge, was afforded by the native inhabitants of Tasmania. This race was still existing fifty years ago, and a few pure-blooded survivors remained as late as about the year 1870, when the race became extinct, the benign civilizing influence of enlightened Europeans having wiped this extremely interesting people off the face of the earth. The Australians, whom Colonel Lane Fox referred to as being 'the lowest amongst the existing races of the world of whom we have any accurate knowledge' are very far in advance of the Tasmanians, whose lowly state of culture conformed thoroughly with the characteristics of a truly primitive race, a survival not only from the stone age in general, but from almost the earliest beginnings of the stone age. The difference between the culture of the Tasmanians and that of the Australians was far greater than that which exists between man of the 'river drift' period and his Neolithic successors. The objects of every-day use were but slight modifications of forms suggested by nature, involving the exercise of merely the simplest mental processes. The stone implements were of the rudest manufacture, far inferior in workmanship to those made by Paleolithic man; they were never ground or polished, never even fitted with handles, but were merely grasped in the hand. The varieties of imple-