Researches into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization/Chapter 7
GROWTH AND DECLINE OF CULTURE.
Direct record is the mainstay of History, and where this fails us in remote places and times, it becomes much more difficult to make out where civilization has gone forward, and where it has fallen back. As to progress in the first place; when any important movement has been made in modern times, there have usually been well-informed contemporary writers, only too glad to come before the public with something to say that the world cared to hear. But in going down to the lower levels of traditional history, this state of things changes. It is not only that real in- formation becomes more and more scarce, but that the same curiosity that we feel about the origin and growth of civilization, unfortunately combined with a disposition to take any semblance of an answer rather than live in face of mere blank conscious ignorance, has favoured the growth of the crowd of mythic inventors and civilizers, who have their place in the legends of so many distant ages and countries. Their stories often give us names, dates, and places, even the causes which led to change, just the information wanted, if only it were true. And, indeed, recollections of real men and their inventions may sometimes have come to be included among the tales of these gods, heroes, and sages; and sometimes a mythic garb may clothe real history, as when Cadmus, הדם, "The East," brings the Phœnician letters to Greece. But, as a rule, not history, but mythology fallen cold and dead, or even etymology, allusion, fancy, are their only basis, from Sol the son of Oceanus, who found out how to mine and melt the brilliant sun-like gold, and Pyrodes, the "Fiery," who discovered how to get fire from flint, and the merchants who invented the art of glass-making (known in Egypt in such remote antiquity) by making fires on the sandy Phœnician coast, with their kettles set to boil over them on lumps of natron, brought for this likely purpose from their ship,—across the world to Kahukura, who got the fairies' fishing-net from which the New Zealanders learnt the art of netting, and the Chinese pair, Hoei and Y-meu, of whom the one invented the bow, and the other the arrow.
As the gods Ceres and Bacchus become the givers of corn and wine to mortals, so across the Atlantic there has grown out of a simple mythic conception of nature, the story of the great enlightener and civilizer of Mexico. When the key which Professor Müller and Mr. Cox have used with such success in unlocking the Indo-European mythology is put to the mass of traditions of the Mexican Quetzalcohuatl, collected by the Abbé Brasseur, the real nature of this personage shows out at once.
He was the son of Camaxtli, the great Toltec conqueror who reigned over the land of Anahuac. His mother died at his birth, and in his childhood he was cared for by the virgin priestesses who kept up the sacred fire, emblem of the sun. While yet a boy he was bold in war, and followed his father on his marches. But while he was far away, a band of enemies rose against his father, and with them joined the Mixcohuas, the "Cloud-Snakes," and they fell upon the aged king and choked him, and buried his body in the temple of Mixcoatepetl, the "Mountain of the Cloud-Snakes." Time passed on, and Quetzalcohuatl knew not what had happened, but at last the Eagle came to him and told him that his father was slain and had gone down into the tomb. Then Quetzalcohuatl rose and went with his followers to attack the temple of the Cloud-Snakes' Mountain, where the murderers had fortified themselves, mocking him from their battlements. But he mined in a way from below, and rushed into the temple among them with his Tigers. Many he slew outright, but the bodies of the guiltiest he hewed and hacked, and throwing red pepper on their wounds, left them to die.
After this there comes another story. Quetzalcohuatl appeared at Panuco, up a river on the Eastern Coast. He had landed there from his ship, coming no man knew from whence. He was tall, of white complexion, pleasant to look upon, with fair hair and bushy heard, dressed in long flowing robes. Received everywhere as a messenger from heaven, he travelled inland across the hot countries of the coast to the temperate regions of the interior, and there he became a priest, a lawgiver, and a king. The beautiful land of the Toltecs teemed with fruit and flowers, and his reign was their Golden Age. Poverty was unknown, and the people revelled in every joy of riches and well-being. The Toltecs themselves were not like the small dark Aztecs of later times; they were large of stature and fair almost as Europeans, and (sun-like) they could run unresting all the long day. Quetzalcohuatl brought with him builders, painters, astronomers, and artists in many other crafts. He made roads for travel, and favoured the wayfaring merchants from distant lands. He was the founder of history, the lawgiver, the inventor of the calendar of days and years, the composer of the Tonalamatl, the "Sun-Book," where the Tonalpouhqui, "he who counts by the sun," read the destinies of men in astrological predictions, and he regulated the times of the solemn ceremonies, the festival of the new year and of the fifty-two years' cycle. But after a reign of years of peace and prosperity, trouble came upon him too. His enemies banded themselves against him, and their head was a chief who bore a name of the Sun, Tetzcatlipoca, the "Smoking mirror," a splendid youth, a kinsman of Quetzalcohuatl, but his bitter enemy. They rose against Quetzalcohuatl, and he departed. The kingdom, he said, was no longer under his charge, he had a mission elsewhere, for the master of distant lands had sent to seek him, and this master was the Sun. He went to Cholullan, "the place of the fugitive," and founded there another empire, but his enemy followed him with his armies, and Quetzalcohuatl said he must be gone to the land of Tlapallan, for Heaven willed that he should visit other countries, to spread there the light of his doctrine; but when his mission was done, he would return and spend his old age with them. So he departed and went down a river on his ship to the sea, and there he disappeared. The sunlight glows on the snow-covered peak of Orizaba long after the lands below are wrapped in darkness, and there, some said, his body was carried, and rose to heaven in the smoke of the funeral pile, and when he vanished, the sun for a time refused to show himself again.
How dim the meaning of these tales had grown among the Mexicans, when Montezuma thought he saw in Cortes and the Spanish ships the return of the great ruler and his age of gold. Quetzalcohuatl had come back already many a time, to bring light, and joy, and work, upon the earth, for he was the Sun. We may even find him identified with the Sun by name, and his history is perhaps a more compact and perfect series of solar myths than hangs to the name of any single personage in our own Aryan mythology. His mother, the Dawn or the Night, gives birth to him, and dies. His father Camaxtli is the Sun, and was worshipped with Solar rites in Mexico, but he is the old Sun of yesterday. The clouds, personified in the mythic race of the Mixcohuas, or "Cloud-Snakes" (the Nibelungs of the western hemisphere), bear down the old Sun and choke him, and bury him in their mountain. But the young Quetzalcohuatl, the Sun of to-day, rushes up into the midst of them from below, and some he slays at the first onset, and some he leaves, rift with red wounds, to die. We have the Sun-boat of Helios, of the Egyptian Ra, of the Polynesian Maui. Quetzalcohuatl, his bright career drawing towards its close, is chased into far lands by his kinsman Tetzcatlipoca, the young Sun of to-morrow. He, too, is well-known as a Sun-god in the Mexican theology. Wonderfully fitting with all this, one incident after another in the life of Quetzalcohuatl falls into its place. The guardians of the sacred fire tend him, his funeral pile is on the top of Orizaba, he is the helper of travellers, the maker of the calendar, the source of astrology, the beginner of history, the bringer of wealth and happiness. He is the patron of the craftsman, whom he lights to his labour; as it is written in an ancient Sanskrit hymn, "He steps forth, the splendour of the sky, the wide-seeing, the far-aiming, the shining wanderer; surely, enlivened by the sun, do men go to their tasks and do their work." Even his people the Toltecs catch from him solar qualities. Will it be even possible to grant to this famous race, in whose story the legend of Quetzalcohuatl is the leading incident, anything more than a mythic existence?
The student, then, may well look suspiciously on statements professing to be direct history of the early growth of civilization, and may even find it best to err on the safe side and not admit them at all, unless they are shown to be probable by other evidence, or unless the tradition is of such a character that it could hardly have arisen but on a basis of fact. For instance, both these tests seem to be satisfied by the Chinese legend concerning quipus. In the times of Yung-ching-che, it is related, people used little cords marked by different knots, which, by their numbers and distances, served them instead of writing. The invention is ascribed to the Emperor Suy-jin, the Prometheus of China. Putting names and dates out of the question, this story embodies the assertion that in old times the Chinese used quipus for records, till they were superseded by the art of writing. Now in the first place, it is not easy to imagine how such a story could come into existence, unless it were founded on fact; and in the second place, an examination of what is known of this curious art in other countries, shows that just what the Chinese say once happened to them, is known to have happened to other races in various parts of the world.
The quipu is a near relation of the rosary and the wampum-string. It consists of a cord with knots tied in it for the purpose of recalling or suggesting something to the mind. When a farmer's daughter ties a knot in her handkerchief to remember a commission at market by, she makes a rudimentary quipu. Darius made one when he took a thong and tied sixty knots in it, and gave it to the chiefs of the Ionians, that they might untie a knot each day, till, if the knots were all undone, and he had not returned, they might go back to their own land. Such was the string on which Le Boo tied a knot for each ship he met on his voyage, to keep in mind its name and country, and that one on which his father, Abba Thulle, tied first thirty knots, and then six more, to remember that Captain Wilson was to come back in thirty moons, or at least in six beyond.This is so simple a device that it may, for all we know, have been invented again and again, and its appearance in several countries does not necessarily prove it to have been transmitted from one country to another. It has been found in Asia, in Africa, in Mexico, among the North American Indians; but its greatest development was in South America. The word quipu, that is, "knot," belongs to the language of Peru, and quipus served there as the regular means of record and communication for a highly organized society. Von Tschudi describes them as consisting of a thick main cord, with thinner cords tied on to it at certain distances, in which the knots are tied. The length of the quipus varies much, the main trunk being often many ells long, sometimes only a single foot, the branches seldom more than two feet, and usually much less. He has dug up a quipu, he says, towards eight pounds in weight, a portion of which is represented in the woodcut from which the accompanying (Fig. 15) is taken. The cords are often of various colours, each with its own proper meaning; red for soldiers, yellow for gold, white for silver, green for corn, and so on. This knot-writing was especially suited for reckonings and statistical tables; a single knot meant ten, a double one a hundred, a triple one a thousand, two singles side by side twenty, two doubles two hundred. The distances of the knots from the main cord were of great importance, as was the sequence of the branches, for the principal objects were placed on the first branches and near the trunk, and so in decreasing order. to age and sex, then the sheep in several subdivisions, the number of foxes killed, the quantity of salt used, and, lastly, the particulars of the cattle that have died. On other quipus is set down the produce of the herd in milk, cheese, wool, etc. Each heading is indicated by a special colour or a differently twined knot.
It was in the same way that in old times the army registers were kept; on one cord the slingers were set down, on another the spearmen, on a third those with clubs, etc., with their officers; and thus also the accounts of battles were drawn up. In each town were special functionaries, whose duty was to tie and interpret the quipus; they were called Quipucamayocuna, Knot-officers. Insufficient as this kind of writing was, the official historians had attained, during the flourishing of the kingdom of the Incas, to great facility in its interpretation. Nevertheless, they were seldom able to read a quipu without the aid of an oral commentary; when one came from a distant province, it was necessary to give notice with it whether it referred to census, tribute, war, and so forth. In order to indicate matters belonging to their own immediate district, they made at the beginning of the main cord certain signs only intelligible to themselves, and they also carefully kept the quipus in their proper departments, so as not for instance to mistake a tribute cord for one relating to the census. By constant practice, they so far perfected the system as to be able to register with their knots the most important events of the kingdom, and to set down the laws and ordinances. In modern times, all the attempts made to read the ancient quipus have been in vain. The difficulty in deciphering them is very great, since every knot indicates an idea, and a number of intermediate notions are left out. But the principal impediment is the want of the oral information as to their subject-matter, which was needful even to the most learned decipherers. However, should He even succeed in finding the key to their interpretation, the results would be of little value; for what would come to light would be mostly census-records of towns or provinces, taxation-lists, and accounts of the property of deceased persons. There are still some Indians, in the southern provinces of Peru, who are perfectly familiar with the contents of certain historical quipus preserved from ancient times; but they keep their knowledge a profound secret, especially from the white men.
Coming nearer to China, quipus are found in the Eastern Archipelago and in Polynesia proper, and they were in use in Hawaii forty years ago, in a form seemingly not inferior to the most elaborate Peruvian examples. "The tax-gatherers, though they can neither read nor write, keep very exact accounts of all the articles, of all kinds, collected from the inhabitants through- out the island. This is done principally by one man, and the register is nothing more than a line of cordage from four to five hundred fathoms in length. Distinct portions of this are allotted to the various districts, which are known from one another by knots, loops and tufts, of different shapes, sizes, and colours. Each taxpayer in the district has his part in this string, and the number of dollars, hogs, dogs, pieces of sandalwood, quantity of taro, etc., at which he is rated, is well defined by means of marks of the above kinds, most ingeniously diversified."
The fate of the quipu has been everywhere to be superseded, more or less entirely, by the art of writing. Even the picture-writing of the ancient Mexicans appears to have been strong enough to supplant it. Whether its use in Mexico is mentioned by any old chronicler or not, I do not know; but Boturini placed the fact beyond doubt by not only finding some specimens in Tlascala, but also recording their Mexican name, nepohualtzitzin, a word derived from the verb tlapohua, to count. When, therefore, the Chinese tell us that they once upon a time used this contrivance, and that the art of writing superseded it, the analogy of what has taken place in other countries makes it extremely probable that the tradition is a true one, and this probability is reinforced by the unlikeliness of such a story having been produced by mere fancy.
Moreover, the historical value of early tradition does not lie exclusively in the fragments of real history it may preserve. Even the myths which it carries down to later times may become important indirect evidence in the hands of the ethnologist. And ancient compositions handed down by memory from generation to generation, especially if a poetic form helps to keep them in their original shape, often give us, if not a sound record of real events, at least a picture of the state of civilization in which the compositions themselves had their origin. Perhaps no branch of indirect evidence, bearing on the history of culture, has been so well worked as the memorials of earlier states of society, which have thus been unintentionally preserved, for instance, in the Homeric poems. Safer examples than the following might be quoted; but as so much has been said of the history of the art of writing, the place may serve to cite what seems to be a memorial of a time when, among the ancient Greeks, picture-writing had not as yet been superseded by word-writing, in the tale of Bellerophon, whom Prœtus would not kill, but he sent him into Lycia, and gave him baneful signs, graving on a folded tablet many soul-destroying things, and bade him show them to the king, that he might perish at his hands.
Πέμπε δέ μιν Λυκίηνδε, πόρεν δ’ ὅγε σήματα λυγρὰ,
Γράψας ἐν πίνακι πτυκτῷ θυμοφθόρα πολλὰ,
Δεῖξαι δ’ ἠνώγει ᾧ πενθερῷ, ὄφρ’ ἀπόλοιτο.
It happens unfortunately that but little evidence as to the early history of civilization is to be got by direct observation, that is, by contrasting the condition of a low race at different times, so as to see whether its culture has altered in the meanwhile. The contact requisite for such an inspection of a savage tribe by civilized men, has usually had much the same effect as the experiment which an inquisitive child tries upon the root it put in the ground the day before, by digging it up to see whether it has grown. It is a general rule that original and independent progress is not found among a people of low civilization in presence of a higher race. It is natural enough that this should be the case, and it does not in the least affect the question whether the lower race was stationary or progressing before the arrival of the more cultivated foreigners. Even when the contact has been but slight and temporary, it either becomes doubtful whether progress made soon afterwards is original, or certain that it is not so. It has been asserted, for instance, that the Andaman Islanders had no boats in the ninth century, and that the canoe with an outrigger has only lately appeared among them. If these statements should prove correct, we cannot assume, upon the strength of them, that the islanders made these inventions themselves, seeing that they could easily have copied them from foreigners. Moreover, the fact that they now use bits of glass bottles, and iron from wrecks, in making their tools and weapons, proves that slight as their intercourse has been with foreigners, and bitter as is their hostility to them, their condition has, nevertheless, been materially changed by foreign influence.
Though direct evidence thus generally fails us in tracing the history of the lower culture of mankind, there are many ways of bringing indirect evidence to bear on the problem. The early Culture History of Mankind is capable of being treated as an Inductive Science, by collecting and grouping facts. It is true that very little has as yet been done in this way, as regards the lower races at least; but the evidence has only to a very slight extent been got into a state to give definite results, and the whole argument is extremely uncertain and difficult: a fact which sufficiently accounts for writers on the Origin of Civilization being able to tell us all about it, with that beautiful ease and confidence which belong to the speculative philosopher, whose course is but little obstructed by facts.
In a Lecture on the Origin of Civilization, since reprinted with a Preface, the late Archbishop Whately thus summarily disposes of any claim of the lower races to a power of self-improvement. "For, all experience proves that men, left in the lowest, or even anything approaching to the lowest, degree of barbarism in which they can possibly subsist at all, never did and never can raise themselves, unaided, into a higher condition." This view, it may be remarked in passing, serves as a basis for a theory that, though races arrived already at a moderate state of culture may make progress of themselves, such races must have been started on their way upwards by a supernatural revelation, to bring them to the point where independent progress became possible. Now, the denial to the low savage of the power of self-improvement is a broad statement, requiring, to justify it, at least a good number of cases of tribes who have had a fair trial under favourable circumstances, and have been found wanting. As definite statements of this nature, the two following are considered by Archbishop Whately as sufficient to give substance to his argument; and even these will not bear criticism.
"The New Zealanders, . . . whom Tasman first discovered in 1642, and who were visited for the second time by Cook, 127 years after, were found by him exactly in the same condition." Now Tasman never set foot in New Zealand. The particulars he recorded of the civilization of the natives, as seen from his ship, occupy a page or so in his journal. He mentions fires seen on shore; a sort of trumpet blown upon by the natives; their dressing their hair in a bunch behind the top of the head, with a white feather stuck in it; their double canoes, joined above with a platform; their paddles and sails; their clothing, which was (as it seemed) sometimes of matting, and sometimes of cotton (he was wrong as to this last point, but very excusably so, considering how little opportunity he had of close examination); their spears and clubs; a white flag carried by a man in a boat; and the square garden-inclosures seen on Three Kings' Island. This meagre account is all the basis Whately had for asserting that the condition of the New Zealanders in Tasman's time was exactly the same as in Cook's time. In point of fact, how does it prove that civilization may not have advanced or declined very considerably when Cook visited the country?
The other statement lies in the citing of a remark of Darwin's about the Fuegians, which runs thus:—"Their skill in some respects may be compared to the instinct of animals; for it is not improved by experience: the canoe, their most ingenious work, poor as it is, has remained the same, for the last two hundred and fifty years." But it must be noticed, that neither is the wretched hand-to-mouth life of the Fuegians favourable to progress, nor can a bark canoe ten feet long, holding four or five grown persons, beside children, dogs, implements, and weapons, and in which a fire can be kept burning on a hearth in the rough sea of Tierra del Fuego, be without tolerable sea-going qualities. As to workmanship, the modern Fuegian bark canoes are much above the very rude ones of the Australian coast, though probably below the highly finished ones of the Algonquins of North America. Sir Francis Drake speaks of those he saw in the sixteenth century, as "most artificiall," and of "most fine proportion," and later seamen's remarks, though they do not enable us to say that the modern ones are better or worse made than they used to be, leave no doubt as to their always having been high-class craft of their kind, so long as we know anything about them. But the most remarkable thing in the whole matter, is the fact that the Fuegians should have had canoes at all, while coast-tribes across the straits made shift with rafts. This was of course a fact familiar to Mr. Darwin, and in the very next sentence after that quoted above, he actually goes on to ascribe to the Fuegian race the invention of their art of boat-building. "Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have they come? What could have tempted, or what change compelled a tribe of men to leave the fine regions of the north, to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of America, to invent and build canoes, and then to enter on one of the most inhospitable countries within the limits of the globe? "Of this part of Mr. Darwin's remarks, however, Archbishop Whately did not think it necessary to take notice. It is a proof of the unsatisfactory condition of theological literature in England, that Whately's Essay, wanting as it is in any real evidence, should still be quoted as of authority.
Far more profitable work than the construction of speculative theories, may be done by collecting facts or groups of facts leading to direct inferences. When both fact and inference are sound, every such argument is a step gained, while if either be unsound, a distinct statement of fact and issue is the best means of getting them corrected, or, if needful, discarded altogether. A principal object of the present chapter is to bring forward a variety of instances drawn from sources where indirect evidence bearing on our early history is to be sought.
As examples of evidence from language, a few cases may be given. The word calculation, indicating the primitive art of reckoning by pebbles, or calculi, has passed on with the growth of science to designate the working of problems far beyond the reach of the abacus. So, though the Mexicans, when they were discovered, had a high numerical system and were good reckoners, the word tetl, "stone," remained as an integral part of one of their sets of numerals for counting animals and things; centetl "one stone," ontetl "two stone," etetl "three stone," etc., meaning nothing more than one, two, three. Nor is Mexico the only country where this curious phenomenon occurs. The Malays say for "one" not only sa, but also sawatu, that is literally "one stone," and the Javans say not only sa but sawiji, that is, "one corn, or seed," and in like manner the Nias language calls one and two sambua and dumbua, that is, apparently, "one fruit," "two fruits."
Still more notable is the Aztec term for an eclipse. The idea that the sun and moon are swallowed or bitten by dragons, or great dogs, or other creatures, is not only very common in the Old World, but it is even found in North and South America and Polynesia. But there is evidence that the ancient Mexicans understood the real cause of eclipses. They are represented in the picture-writings by a figure of the moon's disc covering part of the sun's, and this symbol, Humboldt remarks, "proves exact notions as to the cause of eclipses; it reminds us of the allegorical dance of the Mexican priests, which represented the moon devouring the sun." Yet the Mexicans preserved the memory of an earlier state of astronomical knowledge, by calling eclipses of the sun and moon tonatiuh qualo, metztli qualo, that is, "the sun's being eaten," "the moon's being eaten," just as the Finns say, kuu syödää, "the moon is eaten," and the Tahitians, that she is natua, that is "bitten" or "pinched." In the Mexican celebration of the Netonatiuh-qualo, or eclipse of the sun, two of the captives sacrificed appeared as likenesses of the sun and moon.
When, a thing or an art is named in one country by a word belonging to the language of another, as maize, hammock, algebra, and the like, it is often good evidence that the thing or art itself came from thence, bringing its name with it. This kind of evidence, bearing upon the progress of civilization, has been much and successfully worked, but it has to be used with great caution when the foreign language is an important medium of instruction, or spoken by a race dominant or powerful in the country. As instances of words good or bad as historical evidence, may be taken the Arabic words in Spanish. While alquimia (alchemy), albornóz (bornoos), acequia (irrigating channel), albaricoque (apricot), and many more, may really carry with them historical information of more or less value, it must be borne in mind that the influence of the Arabic language in Spain was so great, that it has often given words for what was there long before Moorish times, alacran (scorpion), alboroto (uproar), alcor (hill), and so on; not satisfied with their own word for head, to express a head of cattle, the Spaniards must needs call it res, Arabic ras, head. So the New Zealanders' use of buka-buka for book is good evidence as to who taught them to read. But the name that the Tahitian nobles are now commonly adopting, instead of the native term arii, is bad evidence as to the origin of caste among them; they like the title of tavana, which is a native attempt at governor.
Even the etymology of a word may sometimes throw light upon the transmission of art and knowledge from one country to another, as where we may see how the Roman made substantia by translating ὑπόστασις, and the German, making himself a word for "superstition," aberglaube, Flemish overgeloof, that is "over belief," had the super of superstitio before him when he introduced into his language a notion which it had perhaps hardly realized before. To take a more speculative case of a very different kind, the tea-urns used in Russia are well known, but where did the Russians get the invention from? They get their tea from China, where tea-urns much resembling our own have long been in use. But the apparatus is no new thing in Europe, and the specimen in the Naples Museum, if it were coloured with the conventional chocolate colour, and had a tap put in to replace the original one which is lost, would perhaps be only remarked upon at an English tea-table as being beautiful but old-fashioned. It was kept hot by charcoal burning in a tube in the middle, like the Russian urns. Now the name of a vessel just answering this description has been preserved, authepsa (αὐθέψης, "self-boiler"), and of this term the Russian name for their urns, samovar, "self-boiler," is an exact translation. The coincidence suggests that they may have received both the thing and its name through Constantinople. Moreover, there is reason to think that the Western element in Chinese art is far more important than is popularly supposed, and the tea-urn is so peculiar an apparatus, and so strikingly alike in ancient Italy and in China, that it is scarcely possible that the two should be the results of separate invention. The Russians actually supply Bokhara with samovars, so that on the whole there seems fair ground for the view that the hot-water urn originated very early in Europe, and travelled east as far as China.
It often happens that an old art or custom, which has been superseded for general purposes by some more convenient arrangement, is kept up long afterwards in solemn ceremonies and other matters under the control of priests and officials, who are commonly averse to change; as inventions have often to wait long after they have come into general use before they are officially recognized. Wooden tallies were given for receipts by our Exchequer up to the time of William IV., as if to keep up, as long as might be, the remembrance of the time when "our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally." It is true that the notched Exchequer tally had long had a Latin inscription on it, and at last there was given into the bargain a fair English receipt, written on a separate paper. The tally survives still, not only in the broken sixpence, and in, the bargains of peasants in outlying districts, but in the counterfoil of the banker's cheque. Some evidence of this ceremonial keeping up of arts superseded in private life, will be given in the chapters on the Stone Age and Fire-making.
Such helps as these in working out the problem of the Origin and Progress of Culture grow scarcer as we descend among the lower races, and those of which we have little or no historical knowledge. Mere observation of arts in use, and of objects belonging to tribes living or dead, forms at present the bulk of the evidence of the history of their culture accessible to us. Of these records an immense mass has been collected, but they are very hard to read.
Sometimes, indeed, an object carries its history written in its form, as some of the Esquimaux knives brought to England, which are carved out of a single piece of bone, in imitation of European knives with handles, and show that the maker was acquainted with those higher instruments, though he had not the iron to make a blade of, or even a few scraps to fix along the edge of the bone blade, as they so often do.
The keeping up in stone architecture of designs belonging to wooden buildings, furnishes conclusive proofs of the growth, in several countries, of the art of building in stone from the art of building in wood, an argument which is used with extraordinary clearness and power in Mr. Fergusson's Handbook. In Central America and Asia Minor there are still to be seen stone buildings more or less entirely copied from wooden constructions, while in Egypt a like phenomenon may be traced in structures belonging to the remote age of the pyramids. The student may see, almost as if he had been standing by when they were built, how the architect, while adopting the new material, began by copying from the wooden structures to which he had been accustomed. Speaking of the Lycian tombs which still remain with their beams, planks, and panels, as it were turned from wood into stone, Mr. Fergusson remarks upon the value of such monuments as records of the beginning of stone architecture among the people who built them. "... wherever the process can be detected, it is in vain to look for earlier buildings. It is only in the infancy of stone architecture that men adhere to wooden forms, and as soon as habit gives them familiarity with the new material, they abandon the incongruities of the style, and we lose all trace of the original form, which never reappears at an after age."
There could hardly be a better illustration of an ethnological argument derived from the mere presence of an art, than in Marsden's remark about the iron-smelters of Madagascar. It is well known that the Madagascans are connected by language with the great Malayo-Polynesian family which extends half round the globe; but the art of smelting iron has only been found in the islands of this vast district near Eastern Asia, and in Madagascar itself. Even in New Zealand, where there is good iron ore, there was no knowledge of iron. Now at the time of our becoming acquainted with the races of Africa, in central latitudes and far down into the south, they were iron- smelters, and had been so for we know not how long, and Africa is only three or four hundred miles from Madagascar, whereas Sumatra is three or four thousand. Nevertheless, Marsden's observation connects the art in Madagascar with the distant Eastern Archipelago, rather than with the neighbouring African continent. The process of smelting in small furnaces or pits is much the same in these two districts, but the bellows are different. The usual African bellows consist of two skins with valves worked alternately by hand, so as to give a continuous draught, much the same as those of Modern India. These were not only in use among the ancient Greeks and Romans, but are still to be found in Southern Europe; I saw a wandering tinker at work at Pæstum with a pair of goatskins with the hair on, which he compressed alternately to drive a current of air into his fire, opening and shutting with his hands the slits which served as valves. Several of these skin-bellows are often used at once in Africa, and there are to be found improved forms which approach more nearly to our bellows with boards, but the principle is the same. But the Malay blowing apparatus is something very different; it is a double-barreled air forcing-pump. It consists of two bamboos, four inches in diameter and five feet long, which are set upright, forming the cylinders, which are open above, and closed below except by two small bamboo tubes which converge and meet at the fire. Each piston consists of a bunch of feathers or other soft substance, which expands and fits tightly in the cylinder while it is being forcibly driven down, and collapses to let the air pass as it is drawn up; and a boy perched on a high seat or stand works the two pistons alternately by the piston-rods, which are sticks. (It is likely that each cylinder may have a valve to prevent the return draught.) Similar contrivances have been described elsewhere in the Eastern Archipelago, in Java, Mindanao, Borneo, and New Guinea, and in Siam, the cylinders being sometimes bamboos and sometimes hollowed trunks of trees. Marsden called attention to the fact that the apparatus used in Madagascar is similar to that of Sumatra. There is a description and drawing in Ellis's 'Madagascar,' which need not be quoted in detail, as it does not differ in principle from that of the Eastern Archipelago. A single cylinder is sometimes used in Madagascar, and perhaps also in Borneo, but as a rule the far more advantageus plan of working two or several at once is adopted. The Chinese tinkers, who practise the art, quite unknown in Europe, of patching a cast-iron vessel with a clot of melted iron, perform this extraordinary feat with an air forcing-pump, which has indeed but a single trunk and a piston backed with feathers, but is improved by valves and a passage which give it what is known as a "double action," so that the single barrel does the work of two in the ruder construction of the islands.
It seems from the appearance of this remarkable apparatus in Madagascar and in the Eastern Archipelago, that the art of iron- smelting in these distant districts has had a common origin. Very likely the art may have gone from Sumatra or Java to Madagascar, but if so, this must have happened when they were in the Iron Age, to which we have no reason to suppose they had come in the time of their connexion with the ironless Maoris and Tahitians. Language throws no light on the matter; iron is called in Malay, bâsi, and in Malagasy, vi.
It is but seldom that the transmission of an art to distant regions can be traced, except among comparatively high races, by such a beautiful piece of evidence as this. The state of things among the lower tribes which presents itself to the student, is a substantial similarity in knowledge, arts, and customs, running through the whole world. Not that the whole culture of all tribes is alike, far from it; but if any art or custom belonging to a low tribe is selected at random, it is twenty to one that something substantially like it may be found in at least one place thousands of miles off, though it very frequently happens that there are large portions of the earth's surface lying between, where it has not been observed. Indeed, there are few things in cookery, clothing, arms, vessels, boats, ornaments, found in one place, that cannot be matched more or less nearly somewhere else, unless we go into small details, or rise to the level of the Peruvians and Mexicans, or at least of the highest South Sea Islanders. A few illustrations may serve to give an idea of the kind of similarity which prevails so largely among the simpler arts of mankind.
The most rudimentary bird-trap is that in which the hunter is his own trap, as in Australia, where Collins thus describes it:— "A native will stretch himself upon a rock as if asleep in the sun, holding a piece of fish in his open hand; the bird, be it hawk or crow, seeing the prey, and not observing any motion in the native, pounces on the fish, and, in the instant of seizing it, is caught by the native, who soon throws him on the fire and makes a meal of him." Ward, the missionary, declares that a tame monkey in India, whose food the crows used to plunder while he sat on the top of his pole, did something very near this, by shamming dead within reach of the food, and seizing the first crow that came close enough. When he had caught it, the story says, he put it between his knees, deliberately plucked it, and threw it up into the air. The other crows set upon their disabled companion and pecked it to death, but they let the monkey's store alone ever after. The Esquimaux so far improves upon the Australian form of the art as to build himself a little snow-hut to sit in, with a hole large enough for him to put his hand through to clutch the bird that comes down upon the bait.
There is a curious little art, practised in various countries, that of climbing trees by the aid of hoops, fetters, or ropes. Father Gilij thus describes it among the Indians of South America:—"They are all extremely active in climbing trees, and even the weaker women may be not uncommonly seen plucking the fruit at their tops. If the bark is so smooth and slippery that they cannot go up by clinging, they use another means. They make a hoop of wild vines, and putting their feet inside, they use it as a support in climbing." This is what the toddy-drawer of Ceylon uses to climb the palm with, but the negro of the West Coast of Africa makes a larger hoop round the tree and gets inside it, resting the lower part of his back against it, and jerks it up the trunk with his hands, a little at a time, drawing his legs up after it. Ellis describes the Tahitian boys tying their feet together, four or five inches apart, with a piece of palm-bark, and with the aid of this fetter going up the cocoa-palms to gather the nuts; and Backhouse mentions a different plan in use in opossum-catching in Van Diemen's Land. The native women who climbed the tall, smooth gum-trees did not cut notches after the Australian plan, except where the bark was rough and loose near the ground. Having got over this part by the notches, they threw round the tree a rope twice as long as was necessary to encompass it, put their hatchets on their bare, cropped heads, and placing their feet against the tree and grasping the rope with their hands, they hitched it up by jerks, and pulled themselves up the enormous trunk almost as fast as a man would mount a ladder.
The ancient Mexicans' art of turning the waters of their lakes to account by constructing floating gardens upon them, has been abandoned, apparently on account of the sinking of the waters, which are now shallow enough to allow the mud gardens to rest upon the bottom. At the time of Humboldt's visit to Mexico, however, there were still some to be seen, though their number was fast decreasing. The floating gardens, or chinampas, which the Spaniards found in great numbers, and several of which still existed in his time on the lake of Chalco, were rafts formed of reeds, roots, and branches of underwood. The Indians laid on the tangled mass quantities of the black mould, which is naturally impregnated with salt, but by washing with lake water is made more fertile. "The chinampas," he continues, "sometimes even carry the hut of the Indian who serves as guard for a group of floating gardens. They are towed, or propelled with long poles, to move them at will from shore to shore." Though floating gardens are no longer to be met with in Mexico, they are still in full use in the shallow waters of Cashmere. They are made of mould heaped on masses of the stalks of aquatic plants, and will mostly bear a man's weight, though the fruit is generally picked from the banks. They differ from the ancient Mexican chinampas in not being towed from one place to another, but impaled on fixed stakes, which keep them to their moorings, but allow them to rise and fall with the level of the water.
The floating islands of the Chinese lakes are far more artificial structures than those of Mexico or Cashmere. The missionary Hue thus describes those he saw on the lake of Pinghou:—"We passed beside several floating islands, quaint and ingenious productions of Chinese industry which have perhaps occurred to no other people. These floating islands are enormous rafts, constructed generally of large bamboos, which long resist the dissolving action of water. Upon these rafts there is placed a tolerably thick bed of good vegetable mould, and thanks to the patient labour of some families of aquatic agriculturists, the astonished eye sees rising from the surface of the waters smiling habitations, fields, gardens, and plantations of great variety. The peasants on these farms seem to live in happy abundance. During the moments of rest left them from the tillage of the rice plots, fishing is at once their lucrative and agreeable pastime. Often when they have gathered in their crop upon the lake, they throw their net and draw it on board their island loaded with fish. . . . Many birds, especially pigeons and sparrows, stay by their own choice in these floating fields to share the peaceable and solitary happiness of these poetical islanders. Towards the middle of the lake, we met with one of these farms attempting a voyage. It moved with extreme slowness, though it had the wind aft. Not that sails were wanting; there was a very large one above the house, and several others at the corners of the island; moreover, all the islanders, men, women, and children, provided with long sweeps, were working with might and main, though without putting much speed into their farm. But it is likely that the fear of delay does not much trouble these agricultural mariners, who are always sure to arrive in time to sleep on land. They are often seen to move from place to place without a motive, like the Mongols in the midst of their vast prairies; though, happier than those wanderers, they have learned to make for themselves as it were a desert in the midst of civilization, and to ally the charms and pleasures of a nomade with the advantages of a sedentary life."
Such coincidences as these, when found in distant regions between whose inhabitants no intercourse is known to have taken place, are not to be lightly used as historical evidence of connexion. It is safest to ascribe them to independent invention, unless the coincidence passes the limits of ordinary probability. Ancient as the art of putting in false teeth is in the Old World, it would scarcely be thought to affect the originality of the same practice in Quito, where a skeleton has been found with false teeth secured to the cheek-bone by a gold wire, nor does the discovery in Egypt of mummies with teeth stopped with gold, appear to have any historical connexion with the same contrivance among ourselves. Thus, too, the Australians were in the habit of cooking fish and pieces of meat in hot sand, each tied up in a sheet of bark, and this is called yudarn dookoon, or "tying-up cooking," but it does not follow that they had learnt from Europe the art of dressing fish en papillote.
Perhaps the occurrence of that very civilized instrument, the fork for eating meat with, in the Fiji Islands, is to be accounted for by considering it to have been independently invented there. The Greeks and Romans do not appear to have used forks in eating, and they are said not to have been introduced in England from the South of Europe, till the beginning of the seventeenth century. At any rate, Hakluyt thus translates, in 1598, a remark made by Galeotto Perera, concerning the use of chop- sticks in China;—"they feede with two sticks, refraining from touching their meate with their hands, even as we do with forkes;" but he finds it necessary to put a note in the margin, "We, that is the Italians and Spaniards." How long forks had been used in the South of Europe, and where they originally came from, does not seem clear, but there is a remark to the purpose in William of Ruysbruck's description of the manners of the Tatars, through whose country he travelled about 1253. "They cut up (the meat) into little bits in a dish with salt and water, for they make no other sauce, and then with the point of a knife or with a little fork (furciculâ), which they make for the purpose, like those we use for eating pears and apples stewed in wine, they give each of the guests standing round one mouthful or two, according to their numbers."
The circumstances under which the fork makes its appearance in the Fiji Islands, are remarkable. If it is known elsewhere in Polynesia (except of course as distinctly adopted with other European fashions), it is certain not commonly so, and its use appears to be connected with the extraordinary development of the art of cooking there, as contrasted with most of the Pacific islands, where, generally speaking, there were no vessels in which liquid was boiled over the fire, and boiling, if done at all, was done by a ruder process. But the Fijians were accomplished potters, and continue to use their earthen vessels for the preparation of their various soups and stews, for fishing the hot morsels out of which the forks are used, perhaps exclusively. Those we hear of particularly are the "cannibal forks" for eating man's flesh, which are of wood, artistically shaped and sometimes ornamented, and were handed down as family heirlooms. Each had its individual name; for instance, one which belonged to a chief celebrated for his enormous cannibalism was called undroundro, "a word used to denote a small person or thing carrying a great burden." It would be a remarkable point if, as Dr. Seemann thinks, the fork were only used for this purpose, and we might be inclined to theorize on its invention as connected with the tabu, so common in Polynesia, which restricts the tabued person from touching his food with his hands, and compels him to be fed by some one else, or in default, to grovel on the ground and take up his food with his mouth. But a description by Williams of the furniture of a Fijian household, seems to imply its use for ordinary purposes as well. "On the hearth, each set on three stones, are several pots, capable of holding from a quart to five gallons. Near these are a cord for binding fuel, a skewer for trying cooked food, and, in the better houses, a wooden fork—a luxury which, probably, the Fijian enjoyed when our worthy ancestors were wont to take hot food in their practised fingers." But whether the use of the fork in eating came about in Fiji as a consequence of the common use of stewed food, or from some more occult cause, it seems probable that their use of it and ours may spring from two independent inventions. That they got the art of pottery from Asia is indeed likely enough, but there seems very little ground for thinking that the eating-fork came to them from Asia, or from anywhere else.
If an art can be found existing in one limited district of the world, and nowhere else, there seems to be ground for assuming that it was invented by the people among whom it is found, with much greater confidence than if it appears in several distant places. Any one, however, who thinks this an unfair inference, may console himself with the knowledge that ethnologists seldom get a chance of using it at present, except for very trifling arts or for unimportant modifications. Indeed, any one who claims a particular place as the source of even the smallest art, from the mere fact of finding it there, must feel that he may be using his own ignorance as evidence, as though it were knowledge. It is certainly playing against the bank, for a student to set up a claim to isolation for any art or custom, not knowing what evidence there may be against him, buried in the ground, hidden among remote tribes, or contained even in ordinary books, to say nothing of the thousands of volumes of forgotten histories and travels.
Among the inventions which it seems possible to trace to their original districts, is the hammock, which is found, as it were, native in a great part of South America and the West Indies, and is known to have spread thence far and wide over the world, carrying with it its Haitian name, hamac.
The boomerang is a peculiar weapon, and moreover there are found beside it in its country, Australia, intermediate forms between it and the battle-axe or pick; so that there is ground for considering it a native invention developed through such stages into its most perfect form. Various Old World missiles have indeed been claimed as boomerangs; a curved weapon shown on the Assyrian bas-reliefs, the throwing-cudgel of the Egyptian fowler, the African lissán or curved club, the iron hungamunga of the Tibbûs, but without proof being brought forward that these weapons, or the boomerang-like iron projectiles of the Niam-Nam, have either of the great peculiarities of the boomerang, the sudden swerving from the apparent line of flight, or the returning to the thrower. The accounts given by Colonel Lane Fox in his instructive lectures (1868-9) at the United Service Institution, of the missiles of the indigenous tribes of India, whirled in the manner of boomerangs to bring down game, seem to me to furnish evidence similar to that from Australia, of the local and gradual invention of weapons. Sir Walter Elliot describes the rudest kind in the South Mahratta district as mere crooked sticks, and hence we trace the instrument up to the katuria of the Kulis of Gujerat, a weapon resembling the boomerang in shape, and in being an edged flat missile, preserving its plane of rotation, but differing from it in being too thick and heavy to swerve or return. While admitting the propriety of Colonel Lane Fox's classification of the Indian and Australian weapons together, I think we may regard their specific difference as showing independent though partly similar development in the two districts. Mr. Samuel Ferguson has written a very learned and curious paper on supposed European analogues of the boomerang, in concluding which he remarks, not untruly, that "many of the foregoing inferences will, doubtless, appear in a high degree speculative." As might be expected, he makes the most of the obscure description of the cateia, set down about the beginning of the seventh century by Bishop Isidore of Seville. But what is far more to the purpose, Mr. Ferguson seems to have made trial of a carved club of ancient shape, and some hammer- and cross- shaped weapons, such as may have been used in Europe, and to have made them fly with something of the returning flight of the boomerang. On the whole, it would be rash to assert that the principle of the boomerang was quite unknown in the Old World. Another remarkable weapon, the bolas, seems to be isolated in the particular region of South America where it was found in use, and was therefore very likely invented there; but its principle is known also among the Esquimaux, whose thin thongs, weighted with bunches of ivory knobs, are arranged to wind themselves round the bird they are thrown at, in much the same way as the much stouter cords, weighted at the ends with two or three heavy stone balls, which form the bolas' of the Southern continent.
A few more instances may be given, rather for their quaintness than for their importance. The Australians practise an ingenious art in bee-hunting, which I have not met with anywhere else. The hunter catches a bee, and gums a piece of down to it, so that it can fly but slowly, and he can easily follow it home to the hive, and get the honey. The North American bee-hunters do not use this contrivance, but they put a bait of honey on a flat stone and surround it with a ring of thick white paint, across which the bee crawls to take flight from the edge of the stone, and at once clogs and marks itself. Again, there is the curious art of changing the colour of a live macaw's feathers from blue or green to brilliant orange or yellow, by plucking them and rubbing some liquid into the skin (it is said the milky secretion from a small frog or toad), which causes the new feathers to grow with a changed colour. This is done in South America, but, so far as I know, not elsewhere; and it seems reasonable to suppose that it was invented there. Travellers in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra describe the thrilling effect of the tones, as of flutes and organs, that seem to grow out of the air as they approach some hamlet, sometimes single and interrupted notes rising, swelling into a burst of harmony, and dying away. These sounds are produced by bamboos fixed up in the trees, slit between the joints so that each bamboo becomes an Æolian flute of many tones. This beautiful habit may well be of native origin. But it is curious to compare it with an early South American description from the province of Picara, now in Columbia. There, at the entrances of the caciques' houses, were platforms surrounded with stout canes, on which (in the fashion of the Dayaks) were set up heads of enemies, "looking fierce with long hair, and their faces painted in such sort as to appear like those of devils. In the lower part of the canes there are holes through which the wind can pass, and when it blows, there is a noise which sounds like the music of devils."
When an art is practised upon some material which belongs exclusively, or in a large degree, to the place where the art is found, the probability that it was invented on the spot becomes almost a certainty. No one would dispute the claim of the Peruvians or Chilians to have discovered the use, for manure, of the huanu, or, as we call it, "guano," which their exceptionally rainless climate has allowed to accumulate on their coasts, nor the claim of the dwellers in the hot regions near the Gulf of Mexico to have found out how to make their chocollatl from a native plant.
On the other hand, when tribes are found living among the very materials which are turned to account by simple arts elsewhere, and yet are ignorant of those arts, we have good ethnological evidence as to their condition when they first settled in the place where we become acquainted with them. In investigating the difficult problem of Polynesian civilization, this state of things often presents itself, not uniformly, but in a partial, various way, that gives us a glimpse here and there of the trains of events that must have taken place, in different times and places, to produce the complex result we have before us. It is clear that a Malayo-Polynesian culture, proved by the combined evidence of language, mythology, arts, and customs, has spread itself over a great part of the Southern Islands, from the Philippines down to New Zealand, and from Easter Island to Madagascar, though the pure Malayo-Polynesian race only forms a part of the population of the district in which its language and civilization more or less predominate. The original condition of the Malayo-Polynesian family, as determined by the state of its lower members, presents us with few arts not found at least in a rudimentary state in Australia, though these arts were developed with immensely greater skill and industry. In most of the South Sea Islands there was no knowledge of pottery, nor of the art of boiling food in vessels over a fire. Great part of the race was strictly in the stone age, knowing nothing of metals. The sugar-cane grew in Tahiti, but the natives only chewed it, knowing nothing of the art of sugar-making; nor did they make any use of the cotton plant, though it grew there. The art of weaving was unknown in most of the islands away from Asia. Though the coco-nut palm was common, they did not tap it for toddy; and Dr. Seemann taught the Fijians the art of extracting sago from their native sago-palms.
In other districts, however, a very different state of things was found. In Sumatra and other islands near Asia, and in Madagascar, iron was smelted and worked with much skill. The simplest kind of loom had appeared in the Eastern Archipelago, only, as the evidence seems to show, to be supplanted by a higher kind. Pottery was made there, and even far into Polynesia, as in the Fiji Islands. All these things were probably introduced from Asia, to which country so very large a part of the present Malay culture is due, but there are local arts found cropping up in different groups of islands, which may be considered as native inventions peculiar to Polynesia. Thus, in some of the islands, it was customary to keep bread-fruit by fermenting it into a sour paste, in which state it could be stored away for use out of season, an art of considerable value. This paste was called mahi in Tahiti, where Captain Cook first saw it prepared, but it would seem to have been invented at a period since the part of the race which went to the Sandwich Islands were separated from the Tahitians, for the Sandwich Islanders knew nothing of it till the English brought it to them from Tahiti. The use of the intoxicating liquor known as ava, kava, or yangona, appears to be peculiar to Polynesia, and therefore probably to have been invented there. It is true that the usual, though not universal practice of preparing it by chewing, gives it some resemblance to liquors so prepared on the American continent, but these latter are of an entirely different character, being fermented liquors of the nature of beer, made from vegetables rich in starch, while the ava is not fermented at all, the juice of the plant it is made from being intoxicating in its fresh state.
The miscellaneous pieces of evidence given in this chapter have been selected less as giving grounds for arguments safe from attack, than as examples of the sort of material with which the ethnologist has to deal. The uncertainty of many of the inferences he makes must be counterbalanced by their number, and by the concurrence of independent lines of reasoning in favour of the same view. But in the arguments given here in illustration of the general method, only one side of history has been kept in view, and the facts have been treated generally as evidence of movement only in a forward direction, or (to define more closely what is here treated as Progress) of the appearance and growth of new arts and new knowledge, whether of a profitable or hurtful nature, developed at home or imported from abroad. Yet we know by what has taken place within the range of history, that Decline as well as Progress in art and knowledge really goes on in the world. Is there not then evidence forth- coming to prove that degradation as well as development has happened to the lower races beyond the range of direct history? The known facts bearing on this subject are scanty and obscure, but by examining some direct evidence of Decline, it may be perhaps possible to form an opinion as to what indirect evidence there may probably be, and how it is to be treated; though actually to find this and use it, is a very different matter.
There are developments of Culture which belong to a particular climate or a particular state of society, which require a despotic government, a democratic government, an agricultural life, a life in cities, a state of continued peace or of continued war, an accumulation of wealth which exceeds what is wanted for necessaries and is accordingly devoted to luxury and refinement, and so forth. Such things are all more or less local and unstable. The Chinese do not make now the magnificent cloisonné enamels and the high-class porcelain of their ancestors; we do not build churches, or even cast church-bells, as our forefathers did. In Egypt the extraordinary development of masonry, goldsmiths' work, weaving, and other arts which rose to such a pitch of excellence there thousands of years ago, have died out under the influence of foreign civilizations which contented themselves with a lower level of excellence in these things, and there seems to be hardly a characteristic native art of any importance practised there, unless it be the artificial hatching of eggs, and even this is found in China. As Sir Thomas Browne writes in his 'Fragment on Mummies,' "Egypt itself is now become the land of obliviousness and doteth. Her ancient civility is gone, and her glory hath vanished as a phantasma. Her youthful days are over, and her face hath become wrinkled and tetrick. She poreth not upon the heavens, astronomy is dead unto her, and knowledge maketh other cycles."
The history of Central America presents a case somewhat like that of Egypt. The not uncommon idea that the deserted cities, Copan, Palenque, and the rest, are the work of an extinct and quite unknown race, does not agree with the published evidence, which proves that the descendants of the old builders are living there now, speaking the old languages that were spoken before the Spanish Conquest. The ancient cities, with their wonders of masonry and sculpture, are deserted, the special native culture has in great measure disappeared, and the people have been brought to a sort of low European civilization; but a mass of records, corroborated in other ways, show us the Central Americans before the Conquest, building their great cities and living in them, cultivating, warring, sacrificing, much like their neighbours of Mexico, with whose civilization their own was intimately allied. An epitome of the fate of the ruined cities may be given in the words which conclude a remarkable native document published in Quiche and French by the Abbé Brasseur, "Ainsi done e'en est fait de tous ceux du Quiché, qui s'appelle Santa-Cruz." The ruins of the great city of Quiche are still to be seen; Santa Cruz, its successor, is a poor village of two thousand souls, a league or so away.
Among the lower races, degeneration is seen to take place as a result of war, of oppression by other tribes, of expulsion into less favourable situations, and of various other causes. But arts which belong to the daily life of the man or the family and cannot be entirely suppressed by violent interference, do not readily disappear unless superseded by some better contrivance, or made unnecessary or very difficult by a change of life and manners. When the use of metals, of pottery, of the flint and steel, of higher tools and weapons, once fairly establishes itself, a falling back appears to be uncommon. The Metal Age does not degenerate into the Stone Age except under very peculiar circumstances. The history of a higher weapon is generally that it supplants those that are less serviceable, to be itself supplanted by something better. We read of the Indian orator who exhorted his brethren to cast away the flint and steel of the white man, and to return to the fire-sticks of their ancestors, and of the Chinese sage desiring to discard the art of writing, and return to the ancestral method of record by knotted cords, but such things are rather talked of than done.Cases of savage arts being superseded by a higher state of civilization are common enough. An African guide, or an Australian, will know a man by his footmark, while we hardly know what a footmark is like; at least, nine Englishmen out of ten of the shoe-wearing classes will not know that the footprints in the Mexican picture-writings, as copied in Fig. 16, are true to  though travellers are often put to great straits for fuel. The Gauchos of South America know better, for when they kill a beast on a journey, they use the bones as fuel to cook the flesh, as the Scythians did in the time of Herodotus; living in a country wanting wood, they made a fire of the bones of the beasts sacrificed, and boiled the flesh over it in a kettle, or if that were not forthcoming, in the paunch of the animal itself, "and thus the ox boils himself, and the other victims each the like."
It sometimes happens that degeneration is caused by conquest, when the conquering race is in anything at a lower level than the conquered. There is one art whose history gives some extraordinary cases of this kind of decline, the art of irrigation by watercourses. "Within a few years one people, the Spaniards, conquered two nations, the Moors and the Peruvians, who were skilful irrigators, and had constructed great works to bring water from a distance to fertilize the land. These works were for the most part allowed to go to rack and ruin, and in Peru, as in Andalusia, great tracts of land which had been fruitful gardens fell back into parched deserts; while in Mexico the ruins of the great native aqueduct of Tetzcotzinco tell the same tale. Here, as in the irrigation of British India under our own rule, the results of higher culture in the conquered race declined in the face of a lower culture of the conquerors, but the sequel is still more curious. The Spaniards in America became themselves great builders of watercourses, and their works of this kind in Mexico are very extensive, and of great benefit to the drier regions where they have been constructed. But when a portion of territory that had been under Spanish rule was transferred to the United States, what the Spaniards had done to the irrigating works of the Moors and Peruvians, the new settlers did to theirs. In Froebel's time they were letting the old works go to ruin; thus history repeats itself.
The disappearance of savage arts in presence of a higher civilization is however mostly caused by their being superseded by something higher, and this can hardly be called a decline of culture, which must not be confounded with the physical and moral decline of so many tribes under the oppression and temptation of civilized men. Real decline often takes place when a rude but strong race overcomes a cultivated but weak race, and of this we have good information; but neither this change, nor that which takes place in the savage in presence of the civilized invader, gives the student of the low races all the information he needs. What he wants besides is to put the high races out of the question altogether, and to find out how far a low race can lose its comparatively simple arts and knowledge, without these being superseded by something higher; in fact, how far such a race can suffer pure decline in culture. This information is, however, very hard to get.
Livingstone's remarks on the Bakalahari of South Africa show us a race which has fallen in civilization, but this fall has happened, partly or wholly, through causes acting from without. The great Kalahari desert is inhabited by two races, the Bushmen, who were perhaps the first human inhabitants of the country, and who never cultivate the soil, or rear any domestic animals but dogs, and the Ba-Kalahari, who are degraded Bechuanas. These latter are traditionally reported to have once possessed herds of cattle like the other Bechuanas, and though their hard fate has forced them to live a life much like that of the Bushmen, they have never forgotten their old ways. They hoe their gardens annually, though often all they can hope for is a supply of melons and pumpkins. And they carefully rear small herds of goats, though Livingstone has seen them obliged to lift water for them out of small wells with a bit of ostrich egg-shell, or by spoonfuls. This remarkable account brings out strongly the manful struggle of a race which has been brought down by adverse circumstances, to keep up their former civilization, while the Bushmen, who, for all we know, may never have been in a higher condition than they are now, make no such effort. If we may judge these two races by the same standard, the Bushmen are either no lower than they have ever been, or if they have come down from a condition approaching that of the Bechuanas, the process of degradation must indeed have been a long one.
Tribes who are known to have once been higher in the scale of culture than they are now, are to be met with in Asia. Some of the coast Tunguz live by fishing, though they are still called Orochi, which is equivalent to the term "Reindeer Tunguz." No doubt the tradition is true of the Goldi that, though they have no reindeer now, they once had, like the Tunguz tribes north of the Amur. There are Calmucks north of the Caspian who have lost their herds of cattle and degenerated into fishermen. The richest of them has still a couple of cows. They look upon horses, camels, and sheep as strange and wondrous creatures when foreigners bring them into their country. They listen with wonder to their old men's stories of life in the steppes, of the great herds and the ceaseless wanderings over the vast plains, while they themselves dwell in huts of reeds, and carry their household goods on their backs when they have to move to a new fishing place. The miserable "Digger Indians" of North America are in part Shoshonees or Snake Indians, who were brought down to their present state by their enemies the Blackfeet, who got guns from the Hudson's Bay Company, and thus conquered the Snakes, and took away their hunting grounds. They lead a wandering life, lurking among hills and crags, slinking from the sight of whites and Indians, and subsisting chiefly on wild roots and fish, and such game as so helpless a race is able to get. They are lean and abject-looking creatures, deserving the name of gens de pitié given them by the French trappers, and they have been driven to abandon arts which they possessed in their more fortunate days, such as riding, and apparently even hut-building; but how far their degradation has brought with it decline in other parts of their former culture, it is not easy to say.
Here, then, we have cases of material evidence which, as we happen to have other means of knowing, ought to be treated as recording decline. The sculptures and temples of Central America are the work of the ancestors of the present Indians, though if history, tradition, and transitional work had all perished, it would hardly be thought so. The gardening of the Bakalahari, if the account of their origin is to be received, is a proof, not of an art gained, but of a higher level of civilization for the most part lost.
It thus appears that, in the abstract, when there is found among a low tribe an art or a piece of knowledge which seems above their average level, three ways are open by which its occurrence may be explained. It may have been invented at home, it may have been imported from abroad, or it may be a relic of a higher condition which has mostly suffered degradation, like the column of earth which the excavator leaves to measure the depth of the ground he has cleared away.
Ethnologists have sometimes taken arts which appeared to them too advanced to fit with the general condition of their possessors, and have treated them as belonging to this latter class. But where such arguments have had no aid from direct history, but have gone on mere inspection of the arts of the lower races, all that I can call to mind, at least, seem open to grave exception.
Thus the boomerang has been adduced as proof that the Australians were once in a far higher state of civilization. It is true that the author who argued thus confounded the boomerang with the throwing-cudgel, or, as a Hampshire man would call it, the squoyle, of the Egyptian fowler, so that he had at least an imaginary high civilization in view, of which the boomerang was an element. But, as has been mentioned, intermediate forms between the boomerang and the war-club or pick, are known in Australia, a state of things which fits rather with growth than with degeneration.
In South America, Humboldt was so struck with the cylinders of very hard stone, perforated and sculptured into the forms of animals and fruits, that he founded upon them the argument that they were relics of an ancient civilization from which their possessors had fallen. "But it is not," he says, "the Indians of our own day, the dwellers on the Oronoko and the Amazons whom we see in the last degree of brutalization, who have perforated substances of such hardness, giving them the shapes of animals and fruits. Such pieces of work, like the pierced and sculptured emeralds found in the Cordilleras of New Granada and Quito, indicate a previous civilization. At present the inhabitants of these districts, especially of the hot regions, have so little idea of the possibility of cutting hard stones (emerald, jade, compact felspar, and rock crystal), that they have imagined the green stone to be naturally soft when taken out of the ground, and to harden after it has been fashioned by hand." But while mentioning Humboldt's argument, it must also be said that he had not had an opportunity of learning how these ornaments were made. Mr. Wallace has since found that at least plain cylinders of imperfect rock crystal, four to eight inches long, and one inch in diameter, are made and perforated by very low tribes on the Rio Negro. They are not, as Humboldt seems to have supposed, the result of high mechanical skill, but merely of the most simple and savage processes, carried on with that utter disregard of time that lets the Indian spend a month in making an arrow. They are merely ground down into shape by rubbing, and the perforating of the cylinders, crosswise or even lengthwise, is said to be done thus: a pointed flexible leaf-shoot of wild plantain is twirled with the hands against the hard stone, till, with the aid of fine sand and water, it bores into and through it, and this is said to take years to do. Such cylinders as the chiefs wear are said sometimes to take two men's lives to perforate. The stone is brought from a great distance up the river, and is very highly valued. It is, of course, not necessary to suppose that these rude Indians came of themselves to making such ornaments; they may have imitated things made by races in a higher state of culture; but the evidence, as it now stands, does not go for much in proving that the tribes of the Rio Negro have themselves fallen from a higher level.
On the other hand, it is much easier to go on pointing out arts practised by the less civilized races, which seem to have their fitting place rather in a history of progress than of degeneration. This remark applies to the case just mentioned, of the intermediate forms between the boomerang and the war-club being found in Australia, as though to mark the stages through which the perfect instrument had been developed. Several such cases occur among the arts of fire-making and cooking described in the following chapters. To glance for a moment at the history of Textile Fabrics (into which I hope togo more fully at a future time), it may be noticed that the spindle for twisting thread has been found in use in Asia Africa, and North and South America, among people whose ruder neighbours had no better means of making their finest thread or cord than by twisting it with the hand, by rolling the fibres with the palm, on the thigh or some other parts of the body.  Mr. John Evans has three specimens of fabrics from the Swiss Lakes, which form a series of great interest. The first (Fig. 17) is also from Wangen, and, to use the description accompanying the sketches he has kindly given me, "the warp consists of strands of un-twisted fibre (hemp?) bound together at intervals of about an inch apart by nearly similar strands 'wattled in' among them."
To conclude, the want of evidence leaves us as yet much in the dark as to the share which decline in civilization may have had in bringing the lower races into the state in which we find them. But perhaps this difficulty rather affects the history of particular tribes, than the history of Culture as a whole. To judge from experience, it would seem that the world, when it has once got a firm grasp of new knowledge or a new art, is very loth to lose it altogether, especially when it relates to matters important to man in general, for the conduct of his daily life, and the satisfaction of his daily wants, things that come home to men's "business and bosoms." An inspection of the geographical distribution of art and knowledge among mankind, seems to give some grounds for the belief that the history of the lower races, as of the higher, is not the history of a course of degeneration, or even of equal oscillations to and fro, but of a movement which, in spite of frequent stops and relapses, has on the whole been forward; that there has been from age to age a growth in Man's power over Nature, which no degrading influences have been able permanently to check.
- Brasseur, 'Hist. du Mexique,' vol. i. books ii. and iii. See vol. iii. book xii. chapter iii.
- The author, after ten years' more experience, would now rather say more cautiously not that Quetzalcohuatl is the Sun personified, but that his story contains episodes seemingly drawn from sun-myth. [Note to 3rd edition.]
- Müller, 'Lectures,' 2nd series, p. 497.
- Goguet, vol. iii. p. 322. De Mailla, 'Histoire Gén. de la Chine;' Paris, 1777, vol. i. p. 4.
- Herod., iv. 98. See Plin., x. 34. Bastian, vol. i. p. 415.
- Keate, 'Pelew Islands;' London, 1788, pp. 367, 392.
- Erman (E. Tr.); London, 1848, vol. i. p. 492. Macpherson, 'Memorials of India,' p. 359. As. Res. vol. iv. p. 64, vol. v. p. 127. Journ. Ind. Archip. vol. i. pp. 260, 330*.
- Goguet, vol. i. pp. 161, 212. Klemm. C. G., vol. i. p. 3. Bastian, vol. i. p. 412.
- Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 151. Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 235 (a passage which suggests a reason for Lucina being the patroness of child-birth). Talbot, Disc. of Lederer, p. 4
- Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. iii. p. 20. Rochefort, p. 412.
- J. J. v. Tschudi, 'Peru;' St. Gall, 1846, vol. ii. p. 383. See Markbam, 'Gr. & Dic. of Quichua,' p. 11.
- Marsden, p. 192. Keate, loc. cit. Klemm, C. G., vol. iv. p. 396.
- Tyennan and Benuet, Journal; London, 1831, vol. i. p. 455.
- Boturini, 'Idea de una nueva Historia,' etc.; Madrid, 1746, p. 85.
- Il., vi. 168. Wolf, Proleg. in Horn.; Halle, 1859, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 48, etc. Liddell and Scott, s. v. σῆμα. "Here, as everywhere else, in order thoroughly to understand Homer, one must use the negative evidence of the tragedians. Till we remark how freely they attribute writing to the heroic age, we shall not fully take in the importance of Homer's utter silence upon the subject."—Saturday Review, Apr. 29, 1865, p. 511.
- Monat, 'Andaman Islanders,' pp. 7, 11, 315.
- Whately, 'Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews;' London, 1856.
- Swart, 'Journaal van de Reis naar het onbekende Zuidland, door Abel Jansz. Tasman;' Amsterdam, 1800, pp. 80–95.
- Fitz Roy and Darwin, Narrative of Voyage of 'Adventure' and 'Beagle;' London, 1839, vol. iii. p. 236. See vol. i. p. 137.
- 'The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake.' Hakluyt Soc. 1854, pp. 74–8. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 330 W. P. Snow, 'Tierra del Fuego,' etc.; London, 1857, vol. i. p. 338
- Crawfurd, Gr. and Dic. of Malay Language; London, 1852, vol. i. pp. lvi. lviii. lxvii. and see ccxviii.
- Jacob Grimm, 'Deutsche Mythologie,' pp. 224–5 668. Schoolcraft, part i. p. 271. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 84. Du Tertre, 'Hist. Gén. des Antilles,' etc.; Paris, 1667, vol. ii. p. 371. Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 531.
- Humboldt, Vues, pl. 56.
- Castrén, 'Finnische Mythologie,' pp. 63–5. Grimm, D. M. p. 669. Ellis, Polyn. Res. vol. ii. p. 415.
- Nieremberg, Hist. Nat.; Antwerp, 1635, p. 143. Humboldt, Vues, pl. 23.
- Vambéry, 'Travels in Central Asia;' London, 1864, p. 173.
- Pictet, 'Origines,' part ii. p. 425.
- Fergusson, 'Illustrated Handbook of Architecture;' London, 1855, vol. i. pp. 148, 208, 220, etc.
- Petherick, pp. 293, 395. Andersson, p. 304. Backhouse, Narr. of a Visit to the Mauritius and S. Africa; London, 1844, p. 377. Du Chaillu, 'Equatorial Africa,' p. 91, etc. etc. It appears, however, that a bellows on the Malagasy principle is known in West African districts. See Waitz, vol. ii. p. 378.
- Marsden, p. 181. Raffles, Hist. of Java, vol. i. pp. 168, 173. Dampier, 'Voyages;' London, 1703–9, 5th ed. vol. i. p. 332. Bishop of Labuan, in Tr. Eth. Sec.; London, 1863, p. 29. G. W. Earl, 'Papuans;' London, 1853, p. 76. Mouhot, 'Travels in Indo-China,' etc.; London, 1864, vol. ii. p. 133. Ellis, 'Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 307. Percy, 'Metallurgy;' London, 1864, pp. 255, 273–8, 746.
- Collins, vol. i. p. 548. Ward, 'Hindoos,' p. 43. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 314; vol. ii. p. 292.
- Gilij, 'Saggio di Storia Americana;' Rome, 1780–4, vol. ii. p. 40. See Bates, 'The Naturalist on the R. Amazons;' London, 1863, vol. ii p. 196.
- Tennent, 'Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 523. See Plin., xiii. 7.
- Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 236. Adanson in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 642.
- Ellis, vol. i. p. 371.
- Backhouse, 'Australia,' p. 172.
- Humboldt, 'Essai Politique;' Paris, 1811, vol. ii. p. 185, etc.
- Torrens, 'Travels in Ladâk,' etc.; London, 1862, p. 271.
- Hue, 'L'Empire Chinois;' Paris, 1854, 2nd ed. p. 114.
- Bollaert, Res. in New Granada, etc.; London, 1860, p. 83.
- Wilkinson, Pop. Acc., vol. ii. p. 350.
- Grey, Journals, vol. ii. p. 276.
- Wright, 'Domestic Manners,' p. 457.
- Hakluyt, 'The Principal Navigations, Voyages,' etc.; London, 1598, vol. ii. part ii. p. 68.
- Gul. de Rubruquis, in Hakluyt, vol. i. p. 75. See Ayton, in Purchas, vol. iii. p. 242.
- Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. pp. 212–3.
- Seemann, 'Viti,' p. 179.
- Williams, vol. i. p. 133.
- Lane Fox, 'Primitive Warfare,' in Journ. Royal United Service Inst.
- S. Ferguson, in Trans. R. I. A.; Dublin, 1843, vol. xix.
- "Est enim genus Gallici teli ex materia quàm maximè lenta, quæ jacta quidem non longe propter gravitatem evolat: Bed quò pervenit, vi nimia perfringit : quòd ai ab artifice mittatur : rursum redit ad eum, qui misit," etc. (Isid. Origg. xviii. 7.)
- Lang, p. 328. Backhouse, Austr., p. 380. J. G. Wood, in 'Boy's Own Mag.' vol. v. p. 526.
- Wallace, 'Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro;' London, 1853, p. 294. De la Condamine, in Pinkerton, vol. xiv. p. 248. Dolrizhoffer, vol. i. p. 327.
- Logan, in 'Journ. Ind. Archip.,' vol. iii. p. 35. Cameron, 'Malayan India,' p. 120.
- Cieza de Leon, 'Travels' (Tr. and Ed. by Markham), Hakluyt Soc. 1861, p. 81.
- Cook, First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 186. So the Birmese, Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien.,' vol. ii. p. 99; see also W. G. Palgrave, 'Central and Eastern Arabia,' vol. ii. p. 156.
- J. R. Forster, Observations (Cook's Second Voy.); London, 1778, p. 384.
- Seemann, pp. 291, 329.
- Marsden, p. 183.
- Cook's First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 198; Third Voy., vol. iii. p. 141.
- The etymology of kava or ava is of interest. Its original meaning may have been that of bitterness or pungency; kawa, N. Z = pungent, bitter, strong (as spirits, etc.); 'ava, Tah. = a bitter, disagreeable taste; kava, Rar. Mang. Nuk., 'a'ava, Sam., awa awa, Haw. =sour, bitter, pungent. Thence the name may have been given, not only to the plant of which the intoxicating drink is made, the Macropiper methysticum, kara, Tong. Rar. Nuk.; 'ara, Sam. Tah. Haw.; but also in N. Z. to the Macropiper excelsum, or kawa kawa, and in Tahiti to tobacco, 'ava 'ava. Lastly, the drink is named in Tahiti and in other islands from the plant it is expressed from. But Mariner's Tongan vocabulary seems to go the other way; cava = the pepper plant; also the root of this plant, of which is made a peculiar kind of beverage, etc.; cawna = bitter, brackish, also intoxicated with cava, or anything else. This looks as though the name of the plant gave a name to the quality of bitterness, as we say "peppery" in the sense of hot. (See the Vocabularies of Mariner, Hale, Buschmann, and the Church Miss. Soc., N. Z.) Southey (Hist, of Brazil, vol. i. p. 245) compares the word kava with the South American word caou-in or kaawy, a liquor made from maize or the mandioc root by chewing, boiling with water, and fermenting; but the idea of bitterness or pungency is unsuitable to this liquor. Dias (Dic. da Lingua Tupy) gives perhaps a more accurate form, cauím = rvinho, a derivative perhaps from cań = beber (vinho). To show how easily such accidental coincidences as that of kava and cauím may be found, a German root may be pointed out for both, looking a* suitable as though it were a real one, kauen, to chew.
- Brasseur, 'Popol Vuh;' pp. 345–7. See also Diego de Landa, Rel.
- Burton, 'City of the Saints,' p. 60.
- Darwin, Journal, p. 194.
- Herod., iv. 61. See Ezekiel xxiv. 5 in LXX. Klemm, C. G., voL ii. p. 229 (bones rubbed with fat burnt by Esquimaux).
- Tylor, 'Mexico,' pp. 157–161.
- Livingstone, p. 49.
- Ravenstein, p. 318.
- Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 4.
- Buschmann, 'Spuren der Aztekischen Sprache im nördlichen Mexico,' etc., etc. (Abh. der K. A. v. W., 1854); Berlin, 1859, p. 633, etc.
- W. Cooke Taylor, The Nat. Hist. of Society; London, 1840, vol. i. p. 205.
- See Eyre, vol. ii. p. 308; Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 316, pl. vii. Lane Fox, l. c.
- Humboldt & Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 481, etc. It is a fact that some stone is more easily worked when fresh from the ground, than after its water has evaporated.
- Wallace, p. 278. See Ran, 'Drilling in Stone without Metal,' in Smithsonian Report, 1868.
- Troyon, 'Habitations Lacustres;' Lausanne, 1860, pl. vii. fig. 24, pp. 43, 429, 465.