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THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN
A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE EVIDENCE IN THE LIGHT OF THE MOST RECENT DISCOVERIES
BY FREDERIC A. LUCAS
OR many years the problem of the antiquity of man has been one of great interest. Once admitted that his physical form, to say nothing of his intellectual qualities, was the result of long years of evolution, the question arose, When did man as such make his appearance on this earth of ours?
The discovery of the Neanderthal skull, which was found in a cave near Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1857, was the first evidence of the existence of an early race of mankind differing markedly from any living, and of a decidedly lower type. Naturally this low-browed cranium met with a varied reception: by some it was held as
the long-looked-for evidence of the former existence of an extremely degraded race of men, while others denied that it was any more primitive or apelike than the skulls of many living races, or asserted that it was simply an abnormal skull, and not the type of any race. As years passed, other material, however, came to light to prove that this was really a characteristic example of a race very different from any now living, and of late years one discovery has followed upon another, all tending to show that not only did man exist at a very early period, but that his still more primitive ancestors must have lived at an almost inconceivably early date. These
discoveries have also revealed not merely differences between early man and his living descendants, but differences between various specimens so great as to indicate the existence of more than one kind, or species, of man.
The Neanderthal skull was very incomplete, and no jaw was associated with it; but in 1866 part of a lower jaw quite dif
speaking, primitive race of man widely distributed in Europe, earlier than the caveman proper in point of time, and naturally inferior to him in intelligence and capacity. Still other discoveries indicate older and yet more bestial races, though very far from apelike.
One of the most recent of these discoveries, and one of special importance as indicating the great antiquity of man, is that of a lower jaw found in a sand-pit at Mauer, near Heidelberg, on July 21, 1907. This jaw, which lay in undisturbed, stratified sand, is very different from that of modern man, being wide, low, massive, and devoid of a chin, features in which it resembles the jaw of an ape. The teeth, however, are typically human in arrangement and character, though differing slightly in relative proportions and very decidedly in size from modern teeth. The character of this jaw, its resemblance to that of an ape, and its departures from that of a modern man, are best appreciated. from the picture on page 933. They are so distinctive that Dr. Schoetensack, who has described it at length, considers it as representing a distinct species of man, upon which he has bestowed the name Homo heidelbergensis. It remains to be said that Dr. Schoetensack had patiently awaited its discovery for twenty years, having full faith that it was merely a question of time when such. a jaw would be brought to light. The great antiquity of this jaw is evidenced by the bones of extinct animals found in the same pits, which showed that the Heidelberg man lived in company with
ferent from the typical jaw of to-day was found at La Naulette, Belgium; and in 1886, at Spy, Belgium, specimens were discovered in which the Neanderthal type of cranium was associated with the Naulette type of jaw. Since then specimens having similar characters have come to light at various localities, a skull found at Gibraltar serving to indicate how widespread was the Neanderthal race of men. There is no longer any doubt that the Neanderthal skull is a characteristic cranium of a degraded or, more strictly
the Etruscan rhinoceros, a species of elephant earlier than the mammoth, and with other animals long extinct.
Most recent of all discoveries, made in 1908, at La Chapelle aux Saints, is that of a number of bones, the imperfect skeleton of an old man, associated with primitive stone implements and bones of various species of living and extinct animals, including the woolly rhinoceros. So here we have at last combined evidences of the physical character of the man of an earlier period, the tools he used, and the animals with which he was surrounded and on which he preyed.
The pyramids of Egypt have long done duty as venerable monuments of antiquity, but the prehistoric period of Egypt reaches back into the past thousands of years before their date, while compared with the age of the Neanderthal and Heidelberg man they are creations of yesterday. Man was looked upon as old when it was shown that he was contemporary with the mammoth in the glacial period; but these recent discoveries prove him to be immeasurably older, and to have lived with the forerunners of the mammoth, Elephas antiquus and the Etruscan rhinoceros, Rhinoceros etruscus. He found his way into Great Britain while the British Islands were still a peninsula, and the Thames was a tributary of the Rhine, and in the ancient valley of the Thames pursued the deer or fled from the cave bear and the tiger. This we know from the bones and stone implements found in undisturbed ground far below the present surface of the soil. Until recently it was thought that the socalled "missing link," of which we once heard so much and now hear so little, was to be found in the Pliocene, but we now know that the hypothetical common ancestors of man and ape must be sought for not later than in the Miocene; for early in the Pleistocene man had so far progressed as to make use of rude stone weapons, and, as indicated by the care with which he buried his dead, to have very decided religious beliefs.
It has, too, been generally assumed that man made his appearance somewhere in southern Asia, and then spread in various directions to people the earth, and that the
1 These have been described at length by Dr. Florentino Ameghino.
2 As is well known among primitive peoples to this
New World is very new so far as man is concerned. Although this assumption still stands as a general proposition, accumulating evidence tends to show that while man is a comparatively recent arrival in the Western Hemisphere, yet he is positively old, and must have reached here very many thousand years ago.
Curiously enough, testimony of the existence of early races of man in America comes from the South and not from the North, where theoretically man should have come into the Western Continent by way of some convenient bridge of land or ice where Bering Strait now is. There have been, it is true, various discoveries that at first sight seemed to place a high antiquity on man in North America, but none of these has stood the searching light of scientific investigation, and not one is generally, not to say universally, accepted by the world of science. Probably the most striking discovery in South America was that made in 1896 by Nordenskjöld, showing that the extinct giant ground-sloth Mylodon, a predecessor of the mastodon, was kept in a state of domestication by early man. Since then various skulls and portions of skulls, some nearly complete, some fragmentary, have come to light,' and while most will consider that Dr. Ameghino overestimates the age of these crania, none can deny the great antiquity of all and the primitive character of some. Of doubtful age and origin are certain masses of baked clay, ascribed by Dr. Ameghino to fires made by man, and by his opponents to the heat of volcanic eruptions. Be this as it may, the evidence available at present shows the existence of man at an earlier date in South America than in North America.
So far as we now know, the earliest traces of man are in Europe; but this by no means proves that they do not exist elsewhere, nor that this was the birthplace of man as such. The conditions of climate under which man lived in Europe, especially when crowded south by the ice and snow of the glacial period, led him to resort to places where his bones and other evidences of his former existence have been preserved, while the denser population and the more general labor of his descen
day, cooking is done by means of a shallow bed dug in the ground in which a fire is built and stones are heated.
dants have led to their discovery. In Asia and its adjoining islands large areas are unexplored, while the climate is such that man may and did live anywhere he chose, and was not forced to reside more or less in certain fixed localities, where there was a chance of his bones and traces of his former existence being preserved and found.
Many of us would like to know just how this very-great-grandfather of ours looked, and there have been various attempts to gratify this quite natural curiosity. We have a good foundation to build on in the way of fairly complete skeletons, but many details are necessarily left, if not to the imagination, at least to the theories of the re-creators.
that this far-off ancestor of ours was a little under the average height, with slightly longer arms than man has nowadays, and that the thigh portion of the leg was proportionately longer than in any modern man; also we know that he had a low forehead and beetling brows, and that while the jaws as a whole were prominent, the chin was retreating. Owing to the straightness of the backbone and the bend in the knees, the body was probably carried with a slight forward stoop. Of this we are fairly certain; it is when we come to externals that we are forced to call upon the law of probabilities to give him a swarthy complexion and endow him with a considerable covering of hair, characters that exposure to the weather seem to call for.
DIAGRAM ILLUSTRATING THE CHARACTER AND RELATIVE AGE OF HUMAN REMAINS AND THE QUATERNARY DEPOSITS IN WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN FOUND. ADAPTED FROM MCCURDY AND RULET According to some anthropologists, implements fashioned by man occur in strata of a period known as Oligocene, but this conclusion is not accepted by paleontologists who base their opinion on the character of the mammals of that period, none yet discovered being sufficiently advanced to lead to man. Pithecanthropus, the most manlike ape comes from the Pliocene(?), which is more recent than the Oligocene by several hundred thousand years.