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TO CORRESPONDENTS AND CONTRIBUTORS.
The present Editor's connection with the POPULAR SCIENCE REVIEW ceases with the publication of this number; and, unless otherwise announced, all communications intended for the Editor must be addressed to the Publisher. In taking leave of his numerous correspondents, the Editor tenders to them his sincere thanks for the consideration they have always extended to him, and his earnest wishes for their prosperity.
The POPULAR SCIENCE REView will in future be edited by HENRY LAWSON, M.D., Professor of Physiology, Queen's College, Birmingham, author of “Popular Physiology,” &c.
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THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN.
BY J. R. LEIFCHILD, M.A.
COW long has man been a tenant of this earth which he is
now so rapidly subduing and so extensively populating? What was the probable geological epoch in the shadowy past when he first made his appearance here, as the last of a grand series of animals created to succeed each other in ordained and typical sequence? This question has recently been rendered universally interesting by the book of Sir Charles Lyell, although it had been agitated amongst geologists for some years. While the common opinion has always been that man first inhabited our globe about four thousand years before Christ, or nearly six thousand years ago, a few far-sighted observers saw reason for arriving at a very different conclusion; and Dr. Schmerling, M. Boucher de Perthes, Dr. Falconer, and Mr. Prestwich, have during recent years severally investigated the geological evidences of man's great antiquity in different localities until each and all of them have admitted and advocated it.
A succinct and popular notice of the evidences for such human antiquity may be acceptable to our readers, divested of technicalities and condensed within moderate limits.
The evidences derived from the actual presence of human bones, but more commonly of works of human art in caves, first claim our attention; and of these the discoveries of Dr. Schmerling were both earliest in time and most decisive in character. In caverns in the limestone which rises up along the banks of the Meuse, this persevering geologist disinterred unquestionable human bones from two or three localities, and a now celobrated skull from the Engis cave.
Much discussion has been held over and about this skull, as respects the race of men to which it belonged. The most recent and the clearest observations upon it have been made by Professor Huxley, from which we may present the following paragraph
I can find no character in the remains of that cranium which, if it were a recent skull, would give any trustworthy clue as to the race to which it might appertain. Its contours and measurements agree very well with those of some Australian skulls which I have examined, and especially has it a ten
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dency to that occipital flattening to the great extent of which in some Australian skulls I have alluded. But all Australian skulls do not present this flattening, and the supraciliary ridge of the Engis skull is quite unlike that of the typical Australian. On the other hand, its measurements agree equally well with those of some European skulls, and assuredly there is no mark of degradation about any part of its structure. It is, in fact, a fair average human skull, which might have belonged to a philosopher, or might have contained the brains of a thoughtless savage.
Another human skull was discovered, in 1857, in the Neanderthal valley, near Düsseldorf, in Germany, and it is probable that the whole skeleton was originally preserved, although destroyed by the workmen, excepting some fragments of the larger bones. This is the most ape-like in its shape of any known human skull. Its capacity, however, is estimated as equal to seventy-five cubic inches, which is about the average capacity of present Hottentot and Polynesian skulls. In no sense, then, except mere shape, is the Neanderthal skull apelike, and in no sense can it, with the accompanying bones, be considered as having belonged to a race of men intermediate between human beings and the apes. Though lower in type than the Engis skull, the Neanderthal man was, in all probability, nearly of averago European size and stature.
These human remains are thought to be amongst the oldest at present known; and Dr. Schmerling, about thirty years ago, expressed his belief that they belonged to men who were contemporary with the quadrupeds of extinct species whose remains were found with them. This view was totally dissented from by Dr. Buckland, although he had nearly convincing evidence of its truth under his own eye when he was an explorer of the cave of Paviland, on the coast of Glamorganshire. There he saw a human skeleton, and the remains of recent testacea of eatable species which may have been carried in by the man himself when alive. There also were found numerous bones of animals, the entire mass of which appear to have been disturbed by ancient diggings, so that the remains of extinct animals had become mixed with recent bones and shells.
The instances in which works of human art have been discovered in caves are more numerous than those in which human bones have occurred. In England, we specially notice the “Wokey Hole hyæna den,” in Cheddar cliffs, near Wells, Somersetshire, which but for a fortunate incident might have remained unknown for centuries longer. It had been filled up to the roof with débris, stones, and organic remains, and no one had suspected its existence as a cave until by chance attention was directed to it. It was then
found to be a rich repository of curious remains. In three areas of this cave were found ashes of bone, and especially of the extinct woolly species of rhinoceros, associated with flint or chert implements of the same type as those found near Amiens and Abbeville, though they were ruder, and therefore, in all probability, of earlier date. They were found near underlying layers of peroxide of manganese and comminuted bone; and also overlying remains of the hyæna, which mark the old floors of the cave in one of its areas.
From the phenomena and facts observed in this cave, Mr. W. B. Dawkins, who examined it, inferred that man, in one of the early, if not in the earliest, stage of his existence, dwelt in this cave, as some of the most degraded of our race do at the present day in some countries ; and that he manufactured his implements and weapons out of flint brought from the chalk downs of Wilts, from the least fragile chert of the greensand strata at Blackdown Hills, in Devonshire, and also arrow-heads out of the more easily worked bones of animals of that era. Although the men of this cave employed fire, and were acquainted with the use of the bow, yet with their puny weapons of flint and bone they were far worse armed than the wild beasts of that day with their sharp claws and strong teeth. But the very fact that man held his ground against them, shows that cunning and craft more than compensated for the defects in his defensive arms. Again, as he was preceded in his occupation of this cave by some kind of wild beast, as was proved by the underlying fragments of bone; so he was succeeded by another kind of beast, the hyæna, as proved by the overlying bones.
How favourite a resort of quadrupeds this cave must have been, is manifest from the quantity of animal remains extracted from it. In all, these consisted of one thousand bones, one thousand and fifteen teeth, and one hundred and fifty-six jaws belonging to the lion, wolf, fox, bear (of two species), badger, the cave-hyæna, ox, deer (six species), Irish elk, horse, and rhinoceros (of two species). Amidst this aggregate of diverse quadrupeds did man find his entrance, and fix his crude habitation. What was man then ?—the lordly biped; but at that time how lowly, how mean, degraded, and animalized, how unlike the civilized, reading, reflecting man of to-day!
Of other caves the principal ones may be briefly alluded to. The Gower caves, in South Wales, yielded to Dr. Falconer human bones amongst those of the elephant, as the Paviland cave did to Dr. Buckland, and as the Spritsail Tor and the Mewslade fissure did to Colonel Wood, in addition to abundant flint knives and bone weapons, all evidently shaped by man. A very significant exploration was conducted by Dr. Falconer and Mr. Everest, in the spring of 1858, in a cave at Brixham, Devon. All possible precautions for a faithful registration of discoveries were adopted, and it was soon announced that human industrial works had been discovered, mixed indiscriminately with bones of the rhinoceros, hyæna, and other extinct animals, in the undisturbed ochreous gravel and earth of the cave. Experienced geologists examined the cave and its whole products, and concluded without doubt that they had not been introduced by different natural agencies at wide intervals of time. The establishment of this fact is obviously of great importance in similar researches, for upon it nearly the entire value of cave evidences for human antiquity rests.
The Brixham cave may be regarded as in itself a complete geological case in point, since no preventible chance of inaccuracy was left unprovided for, and every fact was corroborated by careful examination. It is true that no human bones were discovered in it, yet many humanly-worked flint knives were found, chiefly in the lowest part of the bone earth, and a very perfect one was disinterred at a depth of thirteen feet from the surface, covered with bone-earth of the same thickness. Fifteen other flint knives were extracted in another part, which was at the same level as, though not in connection with, remains of mammalia. In the bone-earth also of this level an entire left hind-leg of a cave-bear was exhumed, with every bone in its natural place. It must, therefore, have been introduced to the cave when clothed with flesh, or, at least, while the separate bones were bound together by their natural ligaments, and buried in that state in the mud. Other interesting facts of a like character were noticed in the Brixham cave.
Dr. Falconer's researches in richly ossiferous caves in Sicily produced similar results, and it may be fully expected that other ossiferous caverns will, from time to time, add to the geological evidences of man's contemporaneity with several
tinct mammalia. Even while we write we learn that another ossiferous cavern of interest has just been discovered in the rock of Gibraltar. There a human skull was found embedded in bone-earth, in close contiguity with a stone implement; and the bone of a large mammal twenty feet below the surface of a limestone plateau of very compact and solid rock. Seventeen feet below the level two human jaws were found, and close by it two stone knives, together with an oblong slab of sandstone, having one surface much worn and polished as if by friction. Many other interesting relics of human presence have been dug out from the same cavern, with fragments of pottery and bits of charcoal; all, however, tending to show that the men who once harboured in it were not of the most ancient races.