Popular Science Monthly/Volume 22/November 1882/Who was Primitive Man?
|WHO WAS PRIMITIVE MAN?|
By Professor GRANT ALLEN.
WHEN Sir Charles Lyell's "Antiquity of Man" and Mr. Darwin's two great works first set all the world thinking about the origin of our race, there was a general tendency among scientific men and the public generally to take it for granted that the earliest known men, those whose remains we find in the river-drift, were necessarily "missing links" between the human species and its supposed anthropoid progenitors. People naturally imagined that these very ancient men must have been hairy, low-browed, semi-brutal savages, half-way in development between the gorilla and the Australian or the Bushman. Striking word-pictures painted the palæolithic hunter for us as an evolving ape; and we all acquiesced in the pictures as truthful and accurate. With the progress of discovery, however, another phase of the question has come uppermost, and anthropologists have now for some time inclined with marked distinctness to the exactly opposite view. As we examined more and more closely the relics of the cave-men, for example, it became clear that their works of art were those not merely of real human beings, but of human beings considerably in advance of many existing savages. Professor Boyd Dawkins, who knows more about the cave-men than any one else in Britain at least, unhesitatingly states his opinion that they were in all important respects the equals of the modern Esquimaux, whom he indeed regards as their probable lineal representatives. Any one who has closely examined the remains recovered from the French caves can not fail largely to fall in with this view, so far at least as regards the high level of palæolithic art. In fact, it is daily becoming clear that the antiquity of man is something even deeper and more far-reaching in its implications than Lyell himself at first imagined. For while on the one hand geologists are inclining more and more to the opinion that palæolithic man was as old as or older than the last glacial period, anthropologists on the other hand are inclining more and more to the opinion that this pre-glacial and inter-glacial man was really quite as human and quite as capable of civilization as any race now living, except perhaps a few of the most cultivated European stocks. Instead of being the "missing link," our cave-man turns out to be a mere average savage, living a rude and unintelligent life, to be sure, but quite capable, so far as regards his faculties, of becoming as civilized as the Sandwich-Islanders have become within our own memory.
It is, of course, obvious that these facts may be easily turned by opponents of Darwinism into powerful arguments against the theory of man's evolution from a lower form. "Here we accept all your facts," says the defender of the fixity of species; "we allow that man has inhabited the earth for as long a period as you choose, say 200,000 years; and, when we go down to the very beginning of that period, what do we meet with? A missing link? An evolving ape? No; nothing of the sort; a man exactly the same as the man of the present day. However far back we push our researches in the past, we find either no man at all, or else the same man that we now know. Your theory of evolution is disproved by the very facts which you were wont to allege in its favor. We used at first to argue against your facts, because we did not see in what direction they really pointed: nowadays we allow them all, and we find in them the very best bulwark of our own belief."
This argument, or something very like it, has lately been employed with great effect by Dr. Mitchell, of Edinburgh, in his able and interesting work, "The Past in the Present." The Scotch archæologist there shows good grounds for supposing that the cave-men and the river-drift men were really, in faculties and potentialities, the equals of most existing savages, if not even of our own average English population. He gives excellent reasons for the belief that while we have advanced very greatly in social organization and in material comfort since that early date, we may have advanced very little, if at all, in brain-power or in potentiality of thought. There are still isolated communities in out-of-the-way parts of Scotland which use hand-made pottery of the rudest primeval type, and spin with stone whorls of the prehistoric pattern; while their works of imitative art are ruder and more unlike the originals they depict than anything ever attempted by the earliest known men. Yet these people, as Dr. Mitchell rightly observes, are fully the equals in intelligence and moral feeling of their contemporaries in the great manufacturing centers. Hence we must not confound mere material backwardness with lowness of type or intellectual deficiency. It is probable, nay, almost certain, that the ordinary cave-man was superior in ingenuity and mental power to nine out of ten among our modern savages, and quite equal to the fair run of our own laboring classes.
Nevertheless, I believe it is allowable for us frankly to admit all these facts, and yet remain evolutionists just as heartily as before. No doubt our general tendency was at first in the opposite direction, and many evolutionists will be staggered by the conclusions of Professor Dawkins and Dr. Mitchell, while others will endeavor, under the influence of false prepossessions, to dispute their facts. But modifiability of opinion is the true test of devotion to truth, and honest thinkers can hardly fail to modify their opinions on this question in accordance with the latest discoveries. After frankly and fairly facing all the difficulties of the situation, I believe we may come at last to the following conclusions, which, for clearness' sake, I will number separately: 1. The cave-men were not only true men, but men of a comparatively high type. 2. But the river-drift men, who preceded them, were men of a lower social organization, and probably of a lower physical organization as well. 3. The earliest human remains which we possess, though, on the whole, decidedly human, are yet, in some respects, of a type more brute-like than that of any existing savages. 4. They specially recall the most striking traits of the larger anthropoid apes. 5. There is no reason to suppose that these remains are those of the earliest men who inhabited the earth. 6. There is good reason for believing that before the evolution of man in his present specific type, a man-like animal, belonging to the same genus, but less highly differentiated, lived in Europe. 7. From this man-like animal the existing human species is descended. 8. Analogy would lead us to suppose that the line of descent which culminates in man first diverged from the line of descent which culminates in the gorilla and the chimpanzee, about the later Eocene or early Miocene period.
In order to give such proof of these propositions as the fragmentary evidence yet admits, it will be necessary first to clear the ground of one or two common misapprehensions. And, before all, let us get rid of that strangely unscientific and unphilosophical expression, the Stone age.
Most people who have not specially studied prehistoric archæology, and many of those who have studied it, believe that the period of human life on the earth may be divided into three principal epochs, the Iron age, the Bronze age, and the Stone age; and that the last named epoch may be once more subdivided into the Palæolithic and the Neolithic ages. All the great archæologists know, of course, that such a division would be utterly misleading; yet, in their written works, they have often used language which has led the world generally to fall, almost without exception, into the error. The division in question can only be paralleled by a division of all human history into three periods, the age of Steam, the age of Printing, and the age of Unprinted Books; the latter being subdivided into the mediæval and the Egyptian ages. The real facts may much better be represented thus:
There are two great geological epochs in which we find remains of man. The first is that of the palæolithic or old chipped-flint weapons. The second is the modern or recent period, including the three so-called Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages. The first or palæolithic epoch is separated from the second or recent epoch by a vast and unknown lapse of time. We may place its date at somewhere about 200,000 years back. The remains of human origin belonging to it all occur under the conditions which we ordinarily describe as geological; they are found either in the drift deposits of our river-valleys or beneath the concreted floors of caves. They consist chiefly of rude stone weapons, in unpolished flint, chipped off by side-blows. What events caused the break in continuity between palæolithic and recent man in Europe we do not exactly know; but many of the best authorities believe that it was brought about by the coming on of the last glacial epoch (that is to say, the final cold spell of the recurrent pleistocene cycles). If these authorities are right, then at a period earlier than 200,000 years since, Europe was peopled by palæolithic men; and about 80,000 years ago these men were very gradually driven southward by the spread of the polar ice over the whole of the northern temperate zone. Be this as it may, however, we know, at any rate, that they belonged to a far earlier state of things, when the whole geographical condition of Europe differed in many respects from that which prevails at the present day.
On the other hand, recent man in Europe dates back, probably, only some twenty thousand years or so. His remains, whether of the Neolithic, the Bronze, or the Iron age, are found in tumuli still standing on the surface of the ground. Since his reappearance here, no notable changes have taken place in the face of the country. Instead of occurring in deep natural deposits or under the solid floors of primeval caves, his bones and his weapons are found in graves or mounds of recent make. The Neolithic men, though they used implements of stone, polished them exquisitely by grinding and smoothing, and were in all respects, save in the use of metals and a few similar particulars, as advanced as their successors of the Bronze age. No great gap in time separates them from the bronze and iron men, as a great gap separates all three from the palæolithic cave-men and drift-men. They were probably identical with two modern races, in three successive stages of their culture; whereas, the palæolithic race is cut off utterly from the recent race by a whole unknown interval, presumably representing the time during which Northern Europe was glaciated. Accordingly, with recent man we shall have nothing to do here.
Again, I must further premise that the very question which heads this paper—who was Primitive Man?—is in itself a somewhat irrational one. For of course, if we accept the evolutionist theory at all, there never was a first man. The early undifferentiated ancestors of men and anthropoid apes slowly developed along different lines toward different specific forms; but there never was a point in the series at which one might definitely put down one's finger and say, "Here the man-like ape became a complete man." All that we can do is to decide that the ancestors of modern man at such and such a given date had progressed just so far in their way toward the existing highest type.
Professor Boyd Dawkins, in his recent work on "Early Man in Britain," and in his discourse at the last meeting of the British Association, has so clearly summed up the results of all the latest investigations as to palæolithic man that it will only be necessary here briefly to recapitulate the views he has enunciated. He divides the men of the Pleistocene period in Europe and Asia into two successive classes, the earlier or river-drift men, and the later or cave-men. The drift of the Thames, Somme, and other rivers is the earliest geological stratum in which we find unquestionable evidence of the existence of man. The evidence in point consists entirely of chipped flint instruments of the very rudest type, incomparably ruder than anything produced by the very lowest of modern savages. Man at that period was clearly a rough and perhaps almost solitary hunter, using rude triangular stone implements. Moreover, we have evidence of that homogeneous condition which betokens an early stage of evolution, in the fact that implements of precisely the same sort are found all over Europe, Asia, and Africa. The primæval hunter who chased the stag in Africa had brethren who chased the fallow deer in Spain and Italy, and others who chased the various wild beasts among the jungles of India. Over the whole Eastern hemisphere, so far as we can judge, man was then a single homogeneous race, living everywhere the same life, and producing everywhere the same rude and primitive weapons.
The drift-men were succeeded, in Northern Europe at least, by another and higher development of humanity, the cave-men. How far they may have differed physically from their predecessors of the Drift period we have no sufficient means of judging; but the analogy of other human varieties would lead us to suspect that they presented some marked signs of advance; for we know that among all existing races there is a pretty constant ratio between social development and physical peculiarities. At any rate, the cave-men were apparently far more advanced in the rudiments of culture than the drift-men, especially toward the end of the cave period, during which they made continuous advances in the arts of life. Their weapons, though still chipped (instead of being ground, like those of the neolithic Europeans and the modern savages), were more varied in shape and better worked than the rude triangular hatchets of the drift. They manufactured, in their last stage, excellent barbed harpoons of good designs. They made fish-hooks and needles of bone with some degree of finish. They employed ruddle for personal decoration, and collected fossil shells, which they drilled and strung as necklaces. Moreover, they had a remarkable talent for imitative art, producing spirited sketches on mammoth ivory or reindeer horn of various animals, living or extinct. In fact, they seem to have been in most essential particulars almost as advanced as the modern Esquimaux, with whom Professor Dawkins conjecturally identifies them.
But if Professor Dawkins means us to understand that the cavemen were physically developed to the same extent as the Esquimaux, it is necessary to accept his conclusion with great caution. It does not follow, because the Esquimaux are the nearest modern parallels of the cave-men, that the cave-men therefore resembled them closely in appearance. Several of the sketches of cave-men, cut by themselves on horn and bone, certainly show (it seems to me) that they were covered with hair over the whole body; and the hunter in the antler from the Duruthy cave has a long pointed beard and high crest of hair on the poll utterly unlike the Esquimau type. The figures are also those of a slim and long-limbed race. And when Professor Dawkins tells us that the very earliest known man was unquestionably a man and not a "missing link," it becomes a matter of importance to decide exactly what the phrase "a missing link" is held to imply.
Man differs from the anthropoid apes mainly in the immensely larger development of his brain; for the other peculiarities of his pelvis, his teeth, and the position of his head on the shoulders, are mere small adaptive points, dependent upon his upright attitude and the nature of his food. Even the lowest savage and the oldest known human skull have a brain-capacity far bigger in proportion than that of the highest apes. Now, this brain could not, of course, have been developed per saltum it must have been slowly evolved in the course of a long and special intercourse with nature. But between civilized man and his early ancestor, common to him and the anthropoid apes, there must at some time have existed every possible intermediate link. Some such links still survive in the Bushman, the Australian black fellow, and the Andaman-Islander. Other and earlier links probably became extinct at various previous periods, under the pressure of the higher varieties from time to time developed, just as these lowest savages are now in process of becoming extinct before the face of the European colonist. But we would naturally expect the men of the palæolithic period to be still a trifle more brute-like in several small particulars than any existing savages, because they were so much the nearer to the primitive common ancestor, a few of whose distinctive traits they would probably retain in a higher degree than any race now living. In short, while it would be absurd to suppose that palæolithic men were "missing links" in the sense of being exactly half-way houses between apes and Bushmen, it is yet natural to expect that they would be the last or penultimate links in a chain whose other links are many and wanting. Do we, as a matter of fact, find any such slight traces of brute-like structure in the earliest human remains which have come down to us?
In dealing with this question we have to remember in the first place that the number of quite undoubted palæolithic human bones of the earliest period is all but absolutely nil; and that even the few dubious and suspected bodily remains which we possess, presumably of that age, are for the most part mere broken fragments. Most of our palæolithic bones belong to the latest cave age, and represent a comparatively high race of savages, known as the Cro-Magnon men. Of their earlier predecessors we know but little. We have, however, two remarkable portions of skulls, one of which is almost free from suspicion, while the other, though more doubtful, is still accepted as genuine by good Continental anthropologists. Both apparently belong to the earliest age of the cave-men. The first is the celebrated jaw of La Naulette. This is a massive and prognathous bone, with enormous and projecting canine teeth; and these canine teeth, as Mr. Darwin notes, point back very clearly to a nearly anthropoid progenitor. The second is the much-debated Neanderthal skull, which possesses large bosses on the forehead, strikingly suggestive of those which give the gorilla its peculiarly fierce appearance. So good an anatomist as Professor Rolleston assures us that, if these frontal sinuses had been found without the skull to which they are attached, he would have been a bold man indeed who would venture to pronounce them human. The thickness of the bones in the rest of the Neanderthal skeleton, to which Professor Schaafhausen calls attention, also approximates to the anthropoid pattern. "No other human skull," says that able anthropologist, "presents so utterly bestial a type as the Neanderthal fragment. If one cuts a female gorilla skull in the same fashion, the resemblance is truly astonishing, and we may say that the only human feature in this skull is its size." All the skulls of what De Quatrefages and Hamy call the "Canstadt race" show these same low characteristics, and "must have presented a strangely savage aspect." The other supposed relics of the earlier cave-men are either too slight, too much crushed, or too uncertain, to be of much use for purposes of argument. When we add that even the later cave-man was almost certainly hairy, like the modern Ainos, we have before us the picture of what may fairly be considered a sort of missing link, though only the last in a long chain.
Moreover, it is a most deceptive practice to speak of the cave-men as if they were a single set of people, representing a merely temporary type. As a matter of fact, the period covered by the cave remains is enormously long, and the men of one epoch must have differed widely from those of another. M. de Mortillet has actually distinguished three subdivisions of the cave period, marked by a successive improvement in the arts of working stone and bone, to which he gives the names of the Moustier epoch, the Solutré epoch, and the La Madelaine epoch, from the stations which best typify each stage of primitive culture. M. Broca has shown that, between the time when the Moustier cave was inhabited by troglodytes and the time when the La Madelaine cave was similarly inhabited, the valley of the Vézère had undergone a denudation to the depth of twenty-seven metres; while from the date of the La Madelaine cave to our own time the denudation was only four or five metres. In other words, the interval between the two epochs was far greater than the interval between the last of them and our own times.
As to the drift-men, the few bones attributed to them are so singularly and suspiciously like those of neolithic times that it seems very unsafe to build any definite conclusion upon them. Accordingly, when Professor Dawkins tells us that "the river-drift man first comes before us endowed with all human attributes, and without any signs of a closer alliance with the lower animals than is presented by the savages of to-day," I think we must venture to suspend judgment for the present. Seeing that a later skull, like that of Neanderthal, is strikingly ape-like in one most important particular, is considerably lower in general type than that of the lowest living savage, and (as Professor Huxley has shown) is rather nearer the chimpanzee than the modern European in outline, it seems hazardous to conclude on very dubious evidence that a still earlier race had skulls as well formed as those of the neolithic Iberians. The least doubtful cases are acknowledged to be identical in character with the far later Cro-Magnon remains (belonging to the latest cave age), which in itself is enough to rouse considerable suspicion. So many supposed palæolithic skeletons, like the "fossil man" of Mentone, have turned out on further examination to be neolithic or later, that it is unwise to base conclusions upon them, when those conclusions clearly run counter to the general course of evolution.
With regard to the previous history of the human race, we can only guess at it by the analogy of the other higher mammalia. But late researches have all gone to show that the general progress of mammalian development has been singularly regular. If we apply this analogy, and couple it with the other known and observed facts, we may be able still further to bridge over the gap between man and his anthropoid progenitor. As Professor Huxley remarks, "The first traces of the primordial stock whence man has proceeded need no longer be sought, by those who entertain any form of the doctrine of progressive development, in the newest tertiaries; they may be looked for in an epoch more distant from the age of the Elephas primigenius than that is from us."
The bifurcation of the European placental mammals begins in the Eocene; and it is to the Eocene that we must look for the earliest appearance of the Primates. At that period, there existed lemurs in Europe and America, of a transitional type, showing points of resemblance to the hoofed animals of the same age, the ancestors of our own horses and tapirs. The Eocene was the epoch of the first great placental mammalian population, and we know that in such early epochs of each main class, when the class is assuming a dominant position, it always possesses an immense plasticity, rapidly dividing and subdividing into more and more definitely specialized types. Accordingly, it was probably as early as this period that the ancestors of the higher apes began to differentiate themselves from the ancestors of the modern lemurs. All analogy shows us that these divisions begin a long way down in time, proceed rapidly at first, and grow less rapid as the various creatures become more and more specialized, so losing their original plasticity.
In the Miocene, the specialization of the Primates must have continued very fast; for as early as the mid-Miocene strata we find in Continental Europe a large anthropoid ape, identified by good authorities as a close relation of the modern gibbons. Other apes of the same date are similarly identified as nearly allied with other living genera. Hence the question naturally arises—if the bifurcation of the Primates had already proceeded so far in the mid-Miocene period that even existing genera of higher apes had been fairly well demarkated, must not the ancestors of man have already begun to be generically distinct from the ancestors of the other anthropoids? Is it not consonant with analogy to suppose that the monkey group should have separated from the lemur group in the Eocene; that the anthropoid apes should have separated from the monkeys in the lower Miocene; and that the human genus (as distinct from the fully developed human species) should have separated from the anthropoid apes in the mid-Miocene? There seems to be good reason for this conclusion.
In mid-Miocene strata at Thenay, the Abbé Bourgeois has found certain split flints, some of them bearing traces of fire, which he believes to be of artificial origin; and in this belief he is upheld by M. de Mortillet, Dr. Hamy, MM. de Quatrefages, Worsaae, and Capellini, and other distinguished anthropologists. Specimens may be seen in the Musée de St. Germain, almost as obviously human in their workmanship as any of the St. Acheul type. M. Delaunay has similarly found a rib of an extinct manatee, which seems to have been notched or cut with a sharp instrument; and M. Ribeiro, of the Portuguese geological survey, has noted wrought flints in the Miocene deposits of the Tagus, which he exhibited in Paris in 1879. On the evidence of these and other facts M. de Mortillet pronounces in favor of what he calls Tertiary man. But as he carefully distinguishes him from Quaternary man, "l'homme de St. Acheul"—the river-drift man of Professor Dawkins—I suppose he means to imply that this species, though belonging to the same genus as ourselves, was yet so far unlike us, so little differentiated, as to be man only in the generic, not in the specific sense.
Professor Boyd Dawkins, on the other hand, argues apparently against the existence of man in any form in Miocene Europe. "There is," he says, "one important consideration which renders it highly improbable that man was then living in any part of the world. No living-species of land mammal has been met with in the Miocene fauna. Man, the most highly specialized of all creatures, had no place in a fauna which is conspicuous by the absence of all the mammalia now associated with him. . . . If we accept the evidence advanced in favor of Miocene man, it is incredible that he alone of all the mammalia living in those times in Europe should not have perished, or have changed into some other form in the long lapse of ages during which many Miocene genera and all the Miocene species have become extinct." But, if I understand M. de Mortillet aright, this is just what he means by distinguishing Tertiary from Quaternary man. Professor Dawkins argues as though the animal which split the Abbé Bourgeois's flints must either have been man or not-man; but the whole analogy of evolution would lead us to suppose that it was really a "tertium quid" or half-man; as Professor Dawkins himself suggests, a creature "intermediate between man and something else," a creature which should "bear the same relation to ourselves as the Miocene apes, such as the Mesopithecus, bear to those now living, such as the Semnopithecus"
But Professor Dawkins, who seems strangely unwilling to admit the existence of such an intermediate link, endeavors to account for the split flints of the mid-Miocene by curiously round-about ways. "Is it possible," he asks, "for the flints in question, which are very different from the palæolithic implements of the caves and river deposits, to have been chipped or the bone to have been notched without the intervention of man? If we can not assert the impossibility, we can not say that these marks prove that man was living in this remote age in the earth's history. If they be artificial, then I would suggest that they were made by one of the higher apes then living in France rather than by man. As the evidence stands at present, we have no satisfactory proof either of the existence of man in the Miocene or of any creature nearer akin to him than the anthropomorphous apes. These views agree with those of Professor Gaudry, who suggests that the chipped flints and the cut rib may have been the work of the Dryopithecus, or the great anthropoid ape, then living in France. I am, however, not aware that any of the present apes are in the habit of making stone implements or cutting bones, although they use stones for cracking nuts." And, in a foot-note, Professor Dawkins further observes: "Even if the existing apes do not now make stone implements or cut bones, it does not follow that the extinct apes were equally ignorant, because some extinct animals are known to have been more highly organized than any living members of their class." Does not this reasoning exactly remind one of that which was current when M. Boucher de Perthes first called attention to the Abbeville flints?
Now, I confess I am at a loss to comprehend why Professor Dawkins should be so anxious to escape the natural inference that these flints were split by an ancestor of man. If he were a determined opponent of evolutionism, it would be easy enough to understand his attitude; but, as he is a consistent and bold evolutionist, one can hardly guess why he should go so far out of his way to get rid of a simple conclusion. He argues most strenuously that man was fully developed in the Pleistocene age. He can not imagine that man reached this full development by a sudden leap or miraculous interposition. And, therefore, he might naturally conclude that an early and less differentiated ancestor of man was living in the Miocene age, and developing upward through the Pliocene times, till he reached that highly specialized specific form which he had demonstrably attained in the later Pleistocene period. Implements such as we should naturally expect a priori to be produced by such an intermediate form are actually forthcoming in the Miocene. The traces of use and marks of fire upon them seem irresistible proofs—the edges are chipped and worn exactly like those of undoubted flake-knives—while the regular repetition of their shapes is most noticeable. Yet, for some unknown reason, rather than accept the plain conclusion of M. de Mortillet, Professor Dawkins prefers to believe that they were produced by apes, and to leave man without any traceable ancestry whatsoever. Surely he does not believe that man was suddenly evolved, at a single bound, from a creature no nearer akin to him "than the anthropomorphous apes." Yet this is certainly the conclusion which most readers would draw from his facts and arguments.
It is clear that the difficulty in all these cases depends upon the too great definiteness of our words, with their hard-and-fast lines of demarkation, when applied to the gradual and changeful forms of evolving species. The very question as to the existence and character of "primitive" man thus becomes one of mere artificial and arbitrary distinctions. We try to draw a line somewhere, and wherever we draw it we must necessarily cause confusion. Let us try, then, to set forth the probable course of evolution in the line which finally culminates in civilized man, from the Eocene age upward, using so far as possible such language as will the least involve us in classificatory distinctions.
In the very first part of the Eocene age man's ancestors were very plastic and unspecialized placental mammals of the early "generalized" type. They were still so little removed from the original form, so little adapted for special habits and habitats, that they at the same time closely resembled the progenitors of the horses and the hedgehogs. But before the middle of the Eocene period this homogeneous group had begun to split up into main branches. And by the later Eocene times the particular branch to which man's ancestors belonged had reached, even in Europe, the stage of lemuroid creatures—four-handed and relatively small-brained animals, still retaining many traces of their connection with the ancestral horse-like and insectivore-like forms. These lemuroids were forestine, and, perhaps, nocturnal fruit-eaters. They lived among trees, which their hands were especially adapted for climbing.
In the lower Miocene times the lemuroids again must have split up into two main branches, that of the monkeys and of the lemurs. We find no trace of the monkeys in the remains of this age; but, as they were highly developed in the succeeding mid-Miocene period, they must have begun to be distinctly separated at least as early as this point of time. To the monkey branch, of course, the progenitors of man belonged.
By the epoch of the mid-Miocene deposits the monkey tribe had once more presumably subdivided itself into two or three minor groups, one of which was that of the anthropoid apes, while another was that of the supposed man-like animal who manufactured the earliest known split flints. The anthropoid apes remained true to the old semi-arboreal habits of the race, and retained their four hands. The man-like animal apparently took to the low-lying and open plains, perhaps hid in caves, and, though probably still in part frugivorous, eked out his livelihood by hunting. We may not unjustifiably picture him to ourselves as a tall and hairy creature, more or less erect, but with a slouching gait, black-faced and whiskered, with prominent prognathous muzzle, and large pointed canine teeth, those of each jaw fitting into an interspace in the opposite row. These teeth, as Mr. Darwin suggests, were used in the combats of the males. His forehead was no doubt low and retreating, with bony bosses underlying the shaggy eyebrows, which gave him a fierce expression, something like that of the gorilla. But already, in all likelihood, he had learned to walk habitually erect, and had begun to develop a human pelvis, as well as to carry his head more straight upon his shoulders. That some such an animal must then have existed seems to me an inevitable corollary from the general principles of evolution, and a natural inference from the analogy of other living genera. Moreover, we actually find rude works of art which occupy a position just midway between the undressed stone nut-cracker of the ape and the chipped weapons of palæolithic times. This creature, then, if he existed at all, was the real primitive man, and to apply that term to the cave-men or the drift-men is almost as absurd as to apply it to the civilized neolithic herdsmen.
The supposed Miocene ancestor of humanity must have been acquainted with the use of fire, and have been sufficiently intelligent to split rude flakes of flint. But his brain was no doubt about half-way between that of the anthropoid apes and that of the Neanderthal skull. Such an intermediate stage must have been passed through at some time or other, and the mid-Miocene is just about the time when one would naturally expect it to have existed. The fact that no bones of this man-like creature have yet been found militates very little against the argument, for in all cases the mammalian remains, which we actually possess from any particular stratum, are a mere tithe of the species which we know must have been living during the period when it was deposited. And, after all, the works of man (or of a man-like animal) are just as good evidence of his existence as his bones would be; for, as Sir John Lubbock rightly observes, the question is whether men then existed, not whether they had bones or not.
During the Pliocene period, the scent does not lie so well, and we seem to lose sight for a while of man's ancestry. Such gaps are common in the geological history, and need surprise no one, considering the necessarily fragmentary nature of the record, based as it is upon a few stray bones or bits of flint which may happen to escape destruction, and be afterward brought to light. Some cut bones, however, have actually been detected in Tuscan Pliocenes, and may possibly bear investigation. Professor Dawkins, it is true, objects that the presence of a piece of rude pottery together with the bones casts much doubt upon their authenticity. But Professor Capellini, their discoverer, now writes that Mr. Dawkins is mistaken in this particular, and that the pottery belongs to quite a different stratum from the bones. Other marked remains have been discovered in Pliocene strata elsewhere; and worked flints have been detected in the gravels of St. Prèst, which, however, are of doubtfully Pliocene age. Nevertheless, the ancestors of man must have gone on acquiring all the distinctive human features during this period, and especially gaining increased volume of brain. If we could find entire skeletons of our Miocene and Pliocene progenitors, analogy leads us to suppose that naturalists would arrange them as at least two, if not more, separate species of the genus Homo. Whether we should call them men or not is a mere matter of nomenclature; but that such links in the chain of evolution must then have existed seems to me indisputable.
In the Pleistocene period, we come at last upon undoubted traces of the existing specific man. The early Pleistocene strata show us no very certain evidence; but in the mid-Pleistocene we find the earliest indubitable flint flake, split by chipping, and very different in type from the workmanship of the supposed mid-Miocene man-like creature. In the later Pleistocene we get the well-known drift implements. Without fully accepting Professor Dawkins's argument that the drift-men were human beings of quite a modern type, one may at least admit that the remains prove them to have been really men of the actual species now living—men not much further removed from us than the Andamanese or the Digger Indians. Accordingly, we can not suppose that they had been developed straightway from a totally inferior quadrumanous form, and reached their Pleistocene mental eminence by a leap. "The implements of the drift," says Professor Dawkins, "though they imply that their possessors were savages like the native Australians, show a considerable advance on the simple flake left behind as the only trace of man of the mid-Pleistocene age." They also show a still greater advance upon the very rude chips of the unknown mid-Miocene ancestor. Hence the progressive improvement is exactly what we should expect it to be, and we are justified, I think, in concluding that by the beginning of the Pleistocene age the evolving anthropoid had reached a point in his development where he might fairly be considered as a man and a brother. At the beginning of that age, he was probably what naturalists would recognize as specifically identical with existing man, but of a very low variety. By the mid-Pleistocene he had become an ordinary savage of an exaggerated sort, and by the age of the drift he had reached the stage of making himself moderately shapely stone implements. The river-drift man, however, as Professor Dawkins believes, has no modern direct representative—or, to put it more correctly, the whole race, even in its lowest varieties, has now quite outstripped him, certainly in culture, and probably in physique as well.
At last, we reach the age of the cave-men. By that period, man had become to a certain extent cultured. He had learned how to make finished implements of stone and bone, and to draw and carve with spirit and with a rude imitative accuracy. It is possible enough that the cave-man was the direct ancestor of the Esquimaux, and that that race has kept its early culture with but few later additions and improvements. Nevertheless, it does not at all follow that in physical appearance the earlier cave-men were the equals of the Esquimaux, or, indeed, that the Esquimaux are any more nearly related to them than ourselves. They may have been darker-skinned and less highly human looking; they probably had lower foreheads, with high bosses, like the Neanderthal skull, and big canine teeth like the Naulette jaw. Even if the Esquimaux are lineally descended from the later cave-men with little change of habit or increase of culture, the mere lapse of time, aided by disuse of parts, may have done much to modify and mollify these brute-like traits. "The fact that ancient races," says Mr. Darwin, "in this and several other cases" [he is speaking of the inter-condyloid foramen, observed in so large a proportion of early skeletons], "more frequently present structures which resemble those of the lower animals than do the modern races, is interesting. One chief cause seems to be that ancient races stand somewhat nearer than modern races in the long line of descent to their remote animal-like progenitors." We must not be led away by identifications of race in too absolute a sense. We ourselves are, of course, the lineal descendants either of the cave-men or of their contemporaries in some geologically unexplored region; yet it does not follow on that account that our late Pleistocene ancestors were white-skinned people with regular Aryan features. Granting that the Esquimaux are nearer representatives of the cave-men than any other existing race (which is by no means certain), it may yet be true that the earlier cave-men themselves were black-skinned, hairy savages, with skulls and brains of the low and brutal Neanderthal pattern. The physical indications certainly go to show that they were most like the Australian savages.
With the cave-men our inquiry ceases. The next inhabitants of Europe were the comparatively modern and civilized neolithic Euskarians—a race whom we may literally describe as historical. I trust, however, that I have succeeded in pointing out the main fallacy which, as it seems to me, underlies so much of our current reasoning on "primitive man." This fallacy lies in the tacit assumption that man is a single modern species, not a tertiary genus with only one species surviving. The more we examine the structure of man and of the anthropoid apes, the more does it become clear that the differences between them are merely those of a genus or family, rather than distinctive of a separate order, or even a separate sub-order. But I suppose nobody would claim that they were merely specific; in other words, it is pretty generally acknowledged that the divergence between man and the anthropoids is greater than can be accounted for by the immediate descent of the living form from a common ancestor in the last preceding geological age. Mr. Darwin even ranks man as a separate family or sub-family. Therefore, according to all analogy, there must have been a man-like animal, or a series of man-like animals, in later, if not in earlier tertiary times; and this animal or these animals would in a systematic classification be grouped as species of the same genus with man. In the Abbé Bourgeois's mid-Miocene split flints we seem to have evidence of such an early human species; and I can conceive no reason why evolutionists should hesitate to accept the natural conclusion. To speak of palæolithic man himself—a hunter, a fisherman, a manufacturer of polished bone needles and beautiful barbed harpoons, a carver of ivory, a designer of better sketches than many among ourselves can draw—as "primitive," is clearly absurd. A long line of previous evolution must have led up to him by slow degrees. And the earliest trace of that line, in its distinctively human generic modification, we seem to get in the very simple flint implements and notched bones of Thenay and Pouancé.—Fortnightly Review.
- Since this article was sent to press, Professor Maska, of Neutitschein, has discovered a human jaw-bone, associated with pleistocene mammalian remains, in the Schipka cave (Moravia). This bone, which belonged to a very young child (as inferred from the development of the teeth), "is of very large, indeed, of colossal dimensions."
- I am not, however, inclined to attach much importance to the evidence of Esquimau art; or rather, that art seems to me to point in the opposite direction. After carefully comparing numerous specimens, I am convinced that the art of the cave-men is of quite a different type from that of the Esquimaux, and far higher in kind. Both, it is true, represent animals; but there the likeness stops. The Esquimaux represent them with wooden stiffness; the cave-men represent them with surprising spirit and life-like accuracy.