« EelmineJätka »
utmost accuracy, while every part of the building exhibits the highest structural science. In all these respects this largest pyramid surpasses every other in Egypt. Yet it is universally admitted to be the oldest, and also the oldest historical building in the world. Now these admitted facts about the Great Pyramid are surely remarkable, and worthy of the deepest consideration. They are facts which, in the pregnant words of the late Sir John Herschel, “according to received theories ought not to happen,” and which, he tells us, should therefore be kept ever present to our minds, since “they belong to the class of facts which serve as the clue to new discoveries.” According to modern theories, the higher civilisation is ever a growth and an outcome from a preceding lower state ; and it is inferred that this progress is visible to us throughout all history and in all material records of human intellect. But here we have a building which marks the very dawn of history, which is the oldest authentic monument of man's genius and skill, and which, instead of being far inferior, is very much superior to all which followed it. Great men are the products of their age and country, and the designer and constructors of this wonderful monument could never have arisen among an unintellectual and half-barbarous people. So perfect a work implies many preceding less perfect works which have disappeared. It marks the culminating point of an ancient civilisation, of the early stages of which we have no trace or record whatever. The three cases to which I have now adverted (and there are many others) seem to require for their satisfactory interpretation a somewhat different view of human progress from that which is now generally accepted. Taken in connection with the great intellectual power of the ancient Greeks—which Mr. Galton believes to have been far above that of the average of any modern nation—and the elevation, at once intellectual and moral, displayed in the writings of Confucius, Zoroaster, and the Vedas, they point to the conclusion that, while in material progress there has been a tolerably steady advance, man's intellectual and moral development reached almost its highest level in a very remote past. The lower, the more animal, but often the more energetic types have, however, always been far the more numerous; hence such established societies as have here and there arisen under the guidance of higher minds have always been liable to be swept away by the incursions of barbarians. Thus in almost every part of the globe there may have been a long succession of partial civilisations, each in turn succeeded by a period of barbarism ; and this view seems supported by the occurrence of degraded types of skull along with such “as might have belonged to a philosopher,” at a time when the mammoth and the reindeer inhabited southern France.
Nor need we fear that there is not time enough for the rise and decay of so many successive civilisations as this view would imply ; for the opinion is now gaining ground among geologists that palaeolithic man was really preglacial, and that the great gap (marked alike by a change of physical conditions and of animal life) which in Europe always separates him from his neolithic successor, was caused by the coming on and passing away of the great ice age.
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.”
* 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.”