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If the views now advanced are correct, many, perhaps most, of our existing savages are the successors of higher races; and their arts, often showing a wonderful similarity in distant continents, may have been derived from a common source among more civilised peoples.
Conclusion.—I must now conclude this very imperfect sketch of a few of the offshoots from the great tree of Biological study. It will, perhaps, be thought by some that my remarks have tended to the depreciation of our science, by hinting at imperfections in our knowledge and errors in our theories where more enthusiastic students see nothing but established truths, But I trust that I may have conveyed to many of my hearers a different impression. I have endeavoured to show that, even in what are usually considered the more trivial and superficial characters presented by natural objects, a whole field of new inquiry is opened up to us by the study of distribution and local conditions. And as regards man, I have endeavoured to fix your attention on a class of facts which indicate that the course of his development has been far less direct and simple than has hitherto been supposed; and that, instead of resembling a single tide with its advancing and receding ripples, it must rather be compared to the progress from neap to spring tides, both the rise and the depression being comparatively greater as the waters of true civilisation slowly advance towards the highest level they can reach.
And if we are thus led to believe that our present knowledge of nature is somewhat less complete than we have been accustomed to consider it, this is only what
we might expect; for however great may have been the intellectual triumphs of the nineteenth century, we can hardly think so highly of its achievements as to imagine that, in somewhat less than twenty years, we have passed from complete ignorance to almost perfect knowledge on two such vast and complex subjects as the Origin of Species and the Antiquity of Man.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF ANIMALS AS INDICATING GEOGRAPHICAL CHANGES."
Old Opinions on Continental Changes—Theory of Oceanic Islands—Present and Past Distribution of Land and Sea—Zoological Regions—The Palaearctic Region—The Ethiopian Region—The Oriental Region—Past Changes of the Great Eastern Continent—Regions of the New World— Past History of the American Continents—The Australian Region— Summary and Conclusion.
THERE is a curious old book entitled Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities Concerning the Most Noble and Renowned English Nation, written in 1605, by R. Verstegen. The fourth chapter treats “Of the Isles of Albion, and how it is showed to have been continent or firm land with Gallia, now named France, since the Flood of Noe;” and after referring to several ancient writers who had held this opinion but without giving any reasons for it, the author proceeds to argue the point, referring to the narrowness of the straits, their extreme shallowness, the similarity of the opposite coasts both in height and character, the meaning of the word “cliff.” as being that which is cleft asunder, and other matters; after which comes this quaint and interesting passage:– “Another reason there is that this separation hath been made since the flood, which is also very considerable, and that is the patriarch Noe, having had with him in the Ark all sorts of beasts, these then, after the flood, being put forth of the ark to increase and multiply, did afterward in time disperse themselves over all parts of the continent or main land; but long after it could not be before the ravenous wolf had made his kind nature known to man, and therefore no man unless he were mad, would ever transport of that race out of the continent into the isles, no more than men will ever carry foxes (though they be less damageable) out of our continent into the Isle of Wight. But our Isle, as is aforesaid, continuing since the flood fastened by nature unto the Great Continent, those wicked beasts did of themselves pass over. And if any should object that England hath no wolves on it they may be answered that Scotland, being therewith conjoined, hath very many, and so England itself sometime also had, until such time as King Edgar took order for the destroying of these throughout the whole realm.” The preservation of foxes for sporting purposes was evidently quite out of the range of thought at this not very distant epoch, and our author, in consequence, made a little mistake as to what men “ever” would do in the case of these noxious animals; but his general argument is sound, and it becomes much strengthened when we take into consideration the smaller vermin, such as stoats, weasels, moles, hedgehogs, fieldmice, vipers, toads, and newts, which would certainly not all have been X
* This is one of the Lectures on Scientific Geography delivered before the Royal Geographical Society, but the introductory portion has been rewritten. The original Lecture appeared in the Proceedings of the Society for September, 1877, under the title: “On the Comparative Antiquity of Continents, as indicated by the Distribution of Living and Extinct Animals.”
brought over by uncivilised man, even if any one of them might have been. But there is another reason why they were not so brought over. For on that supposition we should discover remains of fewer and fewer species as we go back into past times till at last when we reached the time of the first occupation of the country by man we should find none at all. But the actual facts are the very reverse of this. For the further we go back the more species of noxious and dangerous animals we discover, till in the time of the palaeolithic (or oldest) prehistoric men, we find remains not only of almost every animal now living, but of many others still less likely to have been introduced by man's agency. Such are the mammoths, rhinoceroses, lions, horses, bears, gluttons, and many others; and it is equally impossible that these could all have swum across an arm of the sea, which although only about twenty miles wide in its narrowest past, is yet so influenced by strong tides and currents that it becomes as effective a barrier as many straits of double the width. Owing, however, to the want of all definite ideas as to the mode by which the earth became stocked with animals and plants, the existence of identical species in countries separated by arms of the sea attracted very little attention till quite recent times. It is probable that Mr. Darwin was really the first person to see the full importance of the principle, for in his Naturalist's Voyage Round the World, he remarks, that “the South American character of the West Indian mammals seems to indicate that this archipelago was formerly united to the southern continent.” Some years later, in 1845, Mr. George Windsor Earl called special attention to the