Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Achievements Of The 19th Century:





 Exploration And Discovery


 Medical Science, Hygiene, And Surgery

 Modern Warfare

 Printing And Publishing

 Read More Articles About: Achievements Of The 19th Century


( Originally Published Early 1900's )

If it be true that, as the poet Pope says, "The proper study of mankind is man," mankind owes an immense debt to the Nineteenth Century for its anthropology alone. Hundreds of years ago Aristotle said, "Man is, according to his nature, a political animal," but until the Eighteenth Century there seems to have been no conception of a science of mankind outside of the conventional ground of universal history. The latter part of the Eighteenth Century, so productive of germinal ideas, conceived the idea of a philosophy of the history of mankind, but the science of anthropology scarcely stood on a firm basis until toward the middle of this Century. The comparative method of study has provided the anthropologist with tools with which to solve the most difficult problems. Anthropology is wide in its scope, embracing as it does somatology, psychology and ethnology. The latter branch is that discussed chiefly in this article.

So long as it was believed that the world was only a few thousand years old, history was relied upon to tell the story of mankind. But as the ancient civilizations on the banks of the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates have yielded their secrets, it has been found that the world was much older than had been imagined. Then geology stepped in, and assisted by paleontology, revealed that the earth has been in existence for millions of years, and that man has dwelt on it for untold periods of time.

The establishment of the antiquity of man is one of the great achievements of the Century. The first of the Egyptian Kings mentioned on the monuments of the Nile valley is Mena or Menes, who was the founder of Memphis. Careful study of the lists of monarchs and of court architects found at Karnak, Sacquarah, and at Abydos has convinced archaeologists that Menes lived over three thou-sand years B. C., at the lowest estimate. Yet at that remote period Egyptian civilization was so highly advanced that Menes began the building of his capital by a mighty feat of engineering that of diverting the Nile from its channel in order to protect the city against invasion from the deserts on the east. The earliest monuments of Egypt depict a high state of civilization with a complex social order, skillful and beautiful architecture, truly artistic sculpture and painting, and some knowledge of astronomy. Philologists testify that "the oldest monuments of the world show Egypt in possession of the art of writing," and with a highly developed language. These facts, in connection with the knowledge that in the earlier stages of civilization the growth of ideas is much slower than it is later, have led to the conclusion that man lived in the valley of the Nile for many thousands of years before the reign of Menes. Borings in the Nile valley have brought to light pottery and other relics of a simple civilization which were buried so far beneath the surface of the earth that, at the rate of the Nile deposit, it must have taken over eleven thousand years to cover them. And, buried in limestone hills and formations which nature has taken thousands and thousands of years to build, have been discovered evidences of a stone age when man in Egypt, like prehistoric man on any other part of the globe, made his implements and weapons of rudely chipped stone.

In 1799, during the French occupation of Egypt, a French officer of engineers, M. Boussard, discovered in an excavation made near Rosetta, a rude block of black basalt. Soon after, the French fleet was defeated at Aboukir and the mouths of the Nile were occupied by the English. The "Rosetta stone" fell into the hands of Sir William Hamilton, and in 1802 was presented to the British Museum. This "priceless jewel" of the archaeologists furnished the key to the inscriptions on ancient Egyptian monuments and tombs; for, when examined, it was found to bear an inscription in three languages, one written in hieroglyphics, one in demotic, or Middle Egyptian, and the third in Greek. The hieroglyphics, by means of the other two renderings of the inscription, were interpreted with much patient labor by Young and Champollion. The inscription on the basalt steel was in itself not of much importance, being a decree in honor of Ptolemy Epiphanes by the priests of Egypt, assembled in synod at Memphis, for the remission of arrears of taxes and dues owed by that body, and dated 196 B. C. The discovery of another trilingual inscription by Lepsius in 1866, while making researches at Tanis, confirmed the results of the work of the hieroglyphic readers. Today the most ancient Egyptian inscriptions on monuments and tombs are read, and the life of the people who lived on the banks of the Nile more than six thousand years ago is as open to us as though a thing of yesterday, and the "wisdom of Egypt," so long a sealed book, is ours.

The decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions of Asia was begun by Georg Friedrich Grotefend, of Hanover. In February, 1802, he submitted to the Academy of Göttingen the first translation of a cuneiform alphabet. By a stroke of genius, Grotefend had, aided by his knowledge of ancient history, deciphered the names of three Persian monarchs, after having observed that certain groups of signs were always preceded by the word "king" which he had identified in a formula in which the signs for "king" frequently occurred. The names of the sovereigns Darius, Xerxes and Hystapes in the orthography of their time furnished only twelve letters of the old Persian alphabet. There was still an infinite variety of characters to be read. Other patient philologists followed in Grotefend's footsteps, each winning renown for himself by deciphering one or two characters. In 1835 Henry Rawlinson applied himself to the work and accomplished the mighty feat of copying and reading the Behistun inscription of more than one thousand lines. Inscriptions in the Persian cuneiform writing were usually accompanied by parallel columns in Median and Babylonian-Assyrian, each of the three languages having a different alphabet. The Archaemenian kings issued their decrees thus in order that they might be read by the three principal nations whom they ruled.

Of the three kinds of cuneiform script the Babylonian-Assyrian was the most important, as well as the most difficult to decipher. The Persian characters are alphabetical, there being only about fifty of them. The Median or Medo-Scythic, as it has been called, is both alphabetical and syllabic, with an alphabet of about one hundred characters. The Babylonian-Assyrian cuneiform script is both ideographic and syllabic. In the development of the script from picture writing the signs passed through many changes. Therefore, there are numerous varieties of Babylonian-Assyrian inscriptions and the student who can read the late Babylonian inscriptions may be totally unable to decipher the late Assyrian; and the early Babylonian is very different from either.

Slow and laborious as was the task of mastering the numerous and varied cuneiform characters, archaeologists have had their reward. Multitudes of documents thou-sands of years old have been brought to light by recent excavations at Babylon, Nineveh and Nippur and through their perusal the long-forgotten past has yielded tip its history and legends.

The appointment of P. E. Botta as French consul at Mosul was a great thing for Assyrian exploration. Through the enterprise and diligence of Botta and his consular successor, Victor Place, the palace of the mighty Sargon was unearthed and explored between the years of 1843 and 1855. This achievement prompted Austen Henry Layard to explore Nineveh, Calah and other ruined cities of Babylonia and Assyria, which he did with marked success, finding a wealth of sculptures and inscriptions. In 1872 George Smith discovered tablets containing the story of the deluge agreeing essentially with the Biblical account of the Flood. These tablets are now in the British Museum.

Nippur, or Niffur, is said to be the oldest city in the world, and well it may be. Some Assyriologists claim that the relics of its ancient civilization recently brought to light, date back to more than seven thousand years before Christ. In 1888 the University of Pennsylvania sent out a scientific expedition under Dr. Peters to explore the ruins of the city 0f Nippur, near ancient Babylon. The number of tablets, inscribed vases, and the value of the cuneiform texts found therein rivaled the results of the explorations of Layard at Nineveh, and the excavators and explorers thought that they had found the very foundations of the ancient Nippur. Records of the time of Sargon and King Ur-Gur were discovered and a floor or plat-form was reached which was supposed to be the ground level of the city. It was then thought that the earth had no deeper secrets to reveal. But one of the exploring party suggested that the digging should be continued until either virgin soil or bed rock should be reached. The excavating had already been carried to a depth of thirty-six feet.

It was now continued for thirty feet further. It was found that what had been thought to be the ruins of the ancient city of Nippur were in reality the ruins of a much later city, built above the ruins of an archaic Nippur dating from not later than 6000 years B. C. The inhabitants of this old, old city were in a high state of civilization, which necessarily must have taken centuries for its development. It has been calculated that man must have lived in the valley of the Euphrates for at least ten thousand years before Christ. This need not conflict with the Bible. The system of chronology affixed to the Bible in its margins is not a part of the sacred text, but an estimate made over two hundred and fifty years ago by Archbishop Ussher and others, with the aid of the best light afforded by the scholarship of the day. But since two hundred and fifty years ago how immeasurably has man's horizon widened !

Not only has ethnology, through the labors of archaeologists, investigated and studied the buried histories and customs of ancient civilized peoples, but archaeology, aided by geology and paleontology, has shown us the life of primeval man. Curiously shaped pieces of stone, crudely resembling weapons, have been found in different parts of the world for thousands of years. As man could find no natural explanation of their remark-able appearance he fancied them of supernatural origin, calling them "thunder-bolts" or "arrows of the gods." During the Middle Ages in Europe some pious folk believed such "thunder stones" to be the "weapons of heaven" and imagined that they had fallen to earth during the battle in which Satan and his host were driven from the abode of light. After the revival of learning, a natural explanation was sought for the origin of these chipped or polished stones, sometimes with droll results. In 1649 Tollius informed inquirers that these stones were "generated in the sky by a fulgurous exhalation conglobed in a cloud by the circumposed humours." About the beginning of the Eighteenth Century a large weapon of chipped flint was found with the bones of an elephant in a bed of gravel in London. This looked as though the rude stone weapon had been used to kill the elephant in a bygone age. Soon after it was found that the implements of savagery brought to Europe by travelers from far distant lands were very like the "thunder-bolts" found in Europe. Gradually the belief that the "thunder-bolts" were made by primitive man was established. Explorations and excavations made by private individuals in various parts of Europe revealed other chipped or polished flint implements in juxtaposition to bones of beasts or men. In 1847 Boucher de Perthes published a volume on "Celtic and Antidiluvian Antiquities," containing engravings of flint implements and weapons, examples of thousands which he had found in the peat and drift near Abbeville in France. These were found in connection with bones of quadrupeds such as the beaver and bear. Yew trees, firs, oaks and hazels were dug out of the peat in the valley of the Somme, and the whole condition of the valley indicated a series of vast geological changes since the weapons and implements had been left there which must have been at a time when the river system of France was entirely different from what it is now. Similar discoveries were made in other parts of France, in England, in Belgium and in other countries. Lyell, the eminent geologist, visited parts of England, France and Belgium, personally examining many of these discoveries. In 1863 he published his "Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man." Since then, implements of man have been found in company with the bones of extinct animals.

When did man first appear on the earth ? The remains of quadrupeds resembling most of our mammals are found in the stratified rock belonging to that part of the tertiary epoch known as the eocene. Fossil anthropoid apes have been found in miocene strata, and it is thought that man may have begun his existence on the globe at the same time. But both miocene and pleocene rocks tell little about man. The gradual cooling of the earth which resulted in the glacial epoch seems to have banished apes from Europe, but many traces of man are found throughout the ice age. There were at least three well defined glacial periods, and there is evidence that man lived in Western Europe in the first of these periods, or early in the quarternary epoch. It has been estimated that the ice age began 240,000 years ago and lasted, including all three glacial periods and intervening milder times, 160,000 years. The first portion of man's existence on the earth is called the palaeolithic or ancient stone age. To it belong the chipped flint or other unpolished stone implements. To the neolithic or later stone age belong polished stone axes, hammers, rude pottery and personal ornaments sometimes of jade and of gold. The bronze age shows fine flint implements, pure copper and moulded bronze ones. All prehistoric races seem to have been acquainted with fire, and all except the cave-dwellers of the palaeolithic period had hand-made pottery. No definite dates can be assigned to these ages. Roughly speaking, the early stone age lasted throughout the glacial age. The later stone age lasted in Europe until a comparatively recent period, being followed by a short bronze age which merged gradually into an iron age. But there is no definite division between the ages either in time or country.

During the high civilization of the Greeks and Romans the tribes on the shore of the Baltic Sea were still in the early stone age, and the Finns, who to this day have made less progress than any other European people, were savages of the most primitive type. Tacitus describes them as "abjectly poor and wonderfully savage. They have no homes," says he, "no arms; they dress in the skins of wild beasts; they sleep on the bare ground; they have no iron, and their arrows are tipped with bone. Like the men, the women live by hunting, accompanying them in their wanderings and sharing the prey. They weave nests from the branches of trees to cover their little children. These are the homes of the young and the resting places of the old; still they consider such privations preferable to the work of tilling the fields, building houses and, alternating between hope and fear for themselves and those belonging to them, careless of man, regardless of the gods, they have reached that most desperate state where they feel no need of prayer."

Very like this was the state of primitive man. He lived only for the day and took no thought for the morrow. A shelter of boughs was his only home, unless he was fortunate enough to find a cave in which to take refuge, and for this he was probably obliged to do battle either with some wild beast or his fellow man before he could occupy it. Like the North American Indian, he wandered over the earth, following the game on which he depended for food for himself, his mate and their young. His pairing was usually permanent, and his off-spring he cared for to the best of his ability, except in the case of the feeble and sickly, who were often slain without mercy. It was a case of the survival of the fittest. He had no home to protect, no property, beyond his weapons, to defend; no sympathy outside of his little family group; and the tribal state, which grew from the natural increase of families, was a decided advance in his social progress.

It was a wonderful discovery for ethnology that people in the same stage of development are almost exactly alike without reference to the time or place in which they live. Thus the Australian and South African races of savages, until lately to be seen in a primitive state, furnished data for comparative ethnology and aided in determining-the characteristics and condition of primitive man thousands upon thousands of years ago.

The Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institute began to publish annual reports in 1879. For many years individual students and explorers, as well as scientific societies, had collected and published information about the aborigines of America, and the world was comparatively well acquainted with the appearance, customs and habits of the red men. But all attempts at classification had been founded on somatological characteristics. Such classification was pronounced by the Bureau of Ethnology "utterly useless in practical ethnic work." Therefore the Bureau began to develop another system based on language. "Similarity in language generally accompanies similarity in tribal organization and law, while similarity in language and law is commonly connected with similarity in beliefs and arts," says J. W. Powell, director of the Bureau of Ethnology. This discovery of the connection of language with social organization, law and beliefs led to the systematic study of the institutions and ceremonials of the Indians, and brought to light complex organizations and elaborate religious beliefs, including the explanations of many singular customs and curious or beautiful myths. The discoveries of the Bureau of Ethnology are turned to account in grouping the Indians on reservations. Those who are bound together by ties of language associate much more amicably than those whose likeness is purely biotic.

An especially interesting department of the work carried on by the Bureau of Ethnology is the study of the relics of prehistoric inhabitants of our land. These left behind them not only stone and copper weapons, implements, ornaments and pottery, but mammoth earthworks and graves, such as the artificial hillocks of the people whom, for lack of a better name, we call the Mound Builders, and forsaken habitations such as the homes of the Cliff Dwellers. The Mound Builders are supposed to have lived over two thousand years ago, but, to-day, their earth-works still exist in large numbers in the river valleys and plains which they inhabited. In Ohio alone there are nearly ten thousand artificially constructed mounds, and in the neighborhood of Trempealeau, Wisconsin, almost two thousand. But the mounds are not confined to a few states, being found in almost every section of the Union, and in Mexico. They are rarer in British America. They vary vastly in size and in shape. Many of them exhibit mathematical regularity, being built in geometrical figures, others are shaped to resemble animals, including man. The "Serpent Mound" in Ohio is gigantic, being more than one thousand feet long, and is regarded by archeologists as the most remarkable of all the structures built by this singular people. Through the efforts of F. W. Putnam, the eminent archaeologist, the Serpent Mound was purchased by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and presented to the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. Soon afterwards, the trustees of the museum made the additional purchase of seventy acres of land immediately surrounding the mound, and the whole was laid out as a public park. The serpent measures 1,254 feet in length from the tip of the upper jaw to the end of the tail. The jaws are open as if to swallow the oval commonly known as the egg. Viewed as a whole, it appears as though the huge python were creeping forward to seize the oval, which gives it a weird lifelike appearance. Such structures as the Serpent Mound are called "effigy mounds." Many curious "effigy mounds" have been discovered, some of them representing men, panthers, wild cats, lizards, raccoons, tortoises, spiders, and squirrels.

Many of the earthworks of the Mound Builders are breastworks and fortresses, and it has been found that their builders, who lived so long ago, were skillful enough to erect for defence walls, redoubts and other fortifications, choosing their sites with the acumen of trained engineers. Archaeologists have lately discovered that their fortifications are connected by deep trenches and admirably constructed secret passages. Some of the high mounds built on hill tops were evidently used as observation posts from which to signal or to spy on the movements of enemies. Excavation and exploration are revealing more and more about these interesting people, but, in spite of the numerous relics unearthed from their mounds and the patient investigations of archaeologists, many of their secrets seem to be lost forever.

The wonderful structures of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, known as the cliff-dwellings, are still a puzzle to archaeologists. Why did these prehistoric people build so high? Science has no better answer than that they builded because they found the caverns in which to build. However, this answer seems insufficient since the Pueblos, who seem to be descended from them, are much nearer the level of the ordinary habitations of men. Traditions in all tribes from Oregon to Mexico agree in the story of a great flood, ages and ages ago, which but few escaped, and the question arises whether the Cliff Dwellers, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, may not have intended to build so high as to avoid such danger in future.

These singular habitations are found within an area of three hundred miles square in the steep cliffs which border the canyons of that region. The rock of the cliffs runs in layers with ledges and galleries varying from a few feet in extent to a thousand and fifty feet wide. On these ledges the Cliff Dwellers erected their homes. The houses vary much as do human dwellings everywhere, some being small adobe structures like huge swallows' nests, other substantial stone houses with three or four stories, though the stories are rarely more than six feet in height, others yet show the ruins of towers. The stone edifices are built of blocks of stone cut into regular shape and held together by adobe cement. The roofs are constructed of a layer of pine or cedar poles crossed by another of small sticks and covered with adobe cement into which vegetable fiber was pressed. Six by six to eight by ten feet was the usual size of the rooms.

Estimates place the period at which the dwellings of the Cliff Dwellers were abandoned at thousands of years ago, but the relics found in their graves, their dwellings, and refuse heaps show them to have attained a degree of civilization as high as that of the Moquis, or even the Aztecs. The skulls show fully average brain capacity. The mummies prove that the men reached a height of six feet, while some of the women stood five feet, seven inches. The skull of one woman has soft reddish-brown hair still adhering, which is neither wiry like the Indian's nor woolly like the negro's, but is as fine and as straight as that of a Caucasian. Among the relics of the Cliff Dwellers are spear-heads, arrows and throwing sticks, basket work which equals anything done by modern workmen and, most wonderful of all, a robe of feathers and fur in quaint pattern and coloring. Their wooden vessels were painted with a resinous substance which filled the pores of the wood and hardened, rendering them waterproof. In the grave of one woman were found several bracelets of turquoise beads and a small pouch of skin containing threads of yucca fiber with two finely pointed prickers. Their bone needles and spoons show clever workmanship, and their pottery closely resembled that of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.

From their eyrie-like abodes the Cliff Dwellers are sup-posed to have descended after their number became much greater. Then were built the rounded towns on plains or table lands. To them were applied the ancient architecture of their forefathers. High perpendicular walls, artificially constructed, took the place of the sheer walls of the canyons, and from them houses were built, descending in terraced stories exactly as houses had been built from the natural walls of canyons. All the dwellings faced the open court. Thus the court took the place of the canyon which the ancient dwellings overlooked. Not only were the main features of the cliff-dwellings transferred to the rounded towns 0f the plains, but inconspicuous details which had been admirably suited to the exigencies of the cliffs were exactly copied on the plains with no apparent reason except the prompting of long usage.

The great difference in the houses of the Cliff Dwellers gives rise to the belief that there were two distinct races 0f these peoples. Frank Hamilton Cushing, who has lived among the Zuni Indians for years, says that the "cave dwellings," usually further down on the cliffs, are of an older type than the "cliff-dwellings." The "cliff-dwellings" are rounded, while the "cave-dwellings" are rectangular. The Zuni Indians are supposed to be descended from a union of the two kinds of Cliff Dwellers who came together after they had built their towns on the plains. This is attested by the fact that the Zunis have among their wealth of legends one in which is told of the coming together of the "People of the Midmost" and the "Dwellers-in-the-towns-builded-round." Gradually the building customs of the "People of the Midmost" who builded "square" superceded the customs of the people who builded "round." So, when the white man came to America, he found the Zunis dwelling in square towns, and only ruins bore witness to the round ones.

The Zunis are particularly interesting to study, being more like the archaic peoples of America than any other of the Indians, even among the Pueblos. Although more highly developed in many ways than any of the aborigines, they retain many of the ancient myths and customs of their ancestors.

A fruitful field of investigation to the anthropologist is that of folk-lore. Says Dr. Daniel G. Brinton : "The stories, the superstitions, the beliefs, and customs which prevail among the unlettered, the isolated, and the young, are nothing else than survivals of the mythologies, the legal usages, and the sacred rites of earlier generations. It is surprising to observe how much of the past we have been able to construct from this humble and long-neglected material."

A result of what is called mankind's psychical unity is the tendency to evolve at a like stage of intellectual development like ideas and fancies. Granting the analogy between the life of an individual and the history of man-kind as a whole, it will be seen that the ideas and fancies of a race at an early stage of development must resemble those of a child, and that the imaginings of a child must resemble those of the savage of to-day, and those of the savage of to-day must be like those of primitive man, no matter where or when he lived. All this is well borne out by evidence. Children's games and stories contain many elements of savage customs and folk tales, and the savage folk tales of to-day betray a close resemblance to the earliest myths and legends of which we have knowledge.

Researches of the ethnologist and archaeologist have thrown much light upon the subject of philology, and its comparative study has been almost entirely a growth of the Century. Franz Bopp, of Mainz, is known as the father of the science, and his reputation was made by his "conjugation system" published at Frankfort in 1816, in which he traced the history of the verb inflections of the Greek, Latin, Old Persian and Teutonic as compared with the Sanscrit. In later works he traced their grammatical forms to a common origin in a lost Indo-Germanic speech. In connection with the study of languages it is interesting to note the predominence of the English tongue in the world today. When Shakespeare and Milton wrote it was spoken by less than 6,000,000 of people. At the be-ginning of the Nineteenth Century, French, German, Spanish and Russian each had wider currency than English, there being but 20,520,000 English speaking persons. But in 1890 English was the tongue of 111,100,000 persons. Its proportion of the whole had increased from 12.7 to 27.7. German, the second on the list today, is spoken by 75,200,000 beings, a proportion of 18.7 the same as in 1801. English is rapidly becoming the polite language of Europe and it is well known that those engaged in the Asiatic trade find it by far the most useful tongue to master for purposes of commerce.

Home | More Articles | Email: