Early Men

On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, because we have

no data to go upon. We know that his earliest existence, of which we

have any cognisance, must have been at a period when the climate and

fauna of the Western continent was totally different to their present

state. Then roamed over the land, the elephant, rhinoceros,

hippopotamus, the Bos-primigenius, the reindeer, the cave bear, the

brown and the Arctic bears, the cave hyaena, and many other animals now

quite extinct. We know that man then existed, because we find his

handiwork in the shape of manufactured flint implements, mixed with the

bones of these animals--and, occasionally, with them human remains have

been found, but, as yet, no perfect skull has been found. There were two

types of man, the Dolicho Cephalous, or long-headed, and the Brachy

Cephalous, or round-headed--and, of these, the long-headed were of far

greater antiquity.

All we can do is to classify man's habitation of this earth, as well as

we can, under certain well-defined, and known conditions. Thus, that

called the Stone Age, must be divided into two parts, that of the

roughly chipped flint implements--which is designated the Palaeolithic

period--and that of the polished and carefully finished stone arms and

implements, which necessarily show a later time, and a higher state of

civilisation--which is called the Neolithic period. The next age is

that of bronze, when man had learned to smelt metals, and make moulds,

showing a great advance--and, finally, the Iron Age, in which man had

subdued the sterner metal to his will--and this age immediately precedes


The cave men were of undoubted antiquity--and were hunters of the wild

beasts that then overran Western Europe, and who split the bones of

those animals which they slew in order to obtain the marrow. Although

strictly belonging to the Palaeolithic period, they manufactured out of

that stubborn material, flint, spear-heads, knives, scrapers--and, when

the bow had been invented, arrow-heads. Nor were they deficient in the

rudiments of art, as some tracings and carvings on pieces of the horns

of slaughtered animals, clearly show. Mr. Christie in digging in the

Dordogne caves found, at La Madelaine, engraved and carved pictures of

reindeer, an ibex, a mammoth, &c., all of them recognisable, and the

mammoth, a very good likeness. This was incised on a piece of mammoth


The lake men, judging by the remains found near their dwellings,

occupied their houses during the Stone and Bronze periods. Herodotus

mentions these curious dwellings. "But those around Mount Pangaeus and

near the Doberes, the Agrianae, Odomanti, and those who inhabit Lake

Prasias[23] itself, were not at all subdued by Megabazus. Yet he

attempted to conquer those who live upon the lake, in dwellings

contrived after this manner: planks, fitted on lofty piles, are placed

in the middle of the lake, with a narrow entrance from the mainland by

a single bridge. These piles that support the planks, all the citizens

anciently placed there at the common charge; but, afterwards, they

established a law to the following effect; whenever a man marries, for

each wife he sinks three piles, bringing wood from a mountain called

Orbelus; but every man has several wives. They live in the following

manner; every man has a hut on the planks, in which he dwells, with a

trap door closely fitted in the planks, and leading down to the lake.

They tie the young children with a cord round the foot, fearing lest

they should fall into the lake beneath. To their horses and beasts of

burden they give fish for fodder; of which there is such an abundance,

that, when a man has opened his trap-door, he lets down an empty basket

by a cord into the lake, and, after waiting a short time, draws it up

full of fish."[24]

Here, then, we have a valuable record of the lake dwellings, and similar

ones have been found in the lake of Zurich. In 1854, owing to the

dryness and cold of the preceding winter, the water fell a foot below

any previous record: and, in a small bay between Ober Meilen and

Dollikon, the inhabitants took advantage to reclaim the soil thus left,

and add it to their gardens, by building a wall as far out as they

could--and they raised the level of the land thus gained, by dredging

the mud out of the lake. In the course of dredging they found deer

horns, tiles and various implements, and, the attention of an antiquary

having been directed to this find, he concluded that it was the site of

an ancient lake village. The lakes of Geneva, Constance, and

Neufchatel, have also yielded much that throws light on the habits and

intelligence of these lake men. They wove, they made pottery, they grew

and parched corn--nay they ground it, and made biscuits, they ate

apples, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, hazel and beech nuts,

and peas. They evidently fed on cereals, fruit, fish, and the flesh of

wild animals, for bones of the following animals have been found. Brown

bear, badger, marten, pine marten, polecat, wolf, fox, wild cat, beaver,

elk, urus, bison, stag, roe-deer, wild boar, marsh boar--whilst their

domestic animals were the boar, horse, ox, goat, sheep, and dog. These,

it must be remembered, range over a wide period, including the stone and

bronze ages. They wore ornaments, too, for pins, and bracelets have been

found. Lake dwellings have been found in Scotland, England, Italy,

Germany and France--so that this practice seems to have obtained very

widely. In Ireland they made artificial islands in the lakes, called

Crannoges, on which they erected their dwellings. Pile dwellings now

exist, and are inhabited in many parts of the world.

We have other traces of prehistoric man in the shell mounds,

kjoekkenmoeddings, or kitchen middens, which still exist in Denmark, and

have been found in Scotland on the shores of the Moray Firth and Loch

Spynie; in Cornwall, and Devon, at St. Valery at the mouth of the Somme,

in Australia, Tierra del Fuego, the Malay Peninsula, the Andaman

Islands, and North and South America, showing a very wide range. The

Danish kjoekkenmoeddings, when first thoroughly noticed, (of course, in

this century), were taken to be raised beaches--but when they were

examined, it was found that the shells were of four species of molluscs

or shell-fish,[25] that did not live together, and that they were

either full-grown, or nearly so. A stricter examination was made, and

the result was the finding of some flint implements, and bones marked by

knives, conclusively showing that man had had a hand in this collection

of shells--and the conclusion was come to that these were the sites of

villages of a prehistoric man, a hypothesis which was fully borne out by

the discovery, in some of them, of hearths bearing traces of having

borne fire. Thus, then, these refuse heaps were clearly the work of a

very ancient race, so poor, and backward, as to be obliged to live on

shell-fish--and these mounds were made by the shells which they threw


We can find a very great analogy between them and the Tierra del

Fuegans, when Darwin visited them, while with the surveying ships

Adventure and Beagle, a voyage which took from 1832 to 1836; and,

when we read the following extracts from Darwin's account of the

expedition, we can fancy we have before us a vivid picture of the makers

of the kitchen middens. "The inhabitants, living chiefly upon

shell-fish, are obliged constantly to change their place of residence;

but they return at intervals to the same spots, as is evident from the

pile of old shells, which must often amount to some tons in weight.

These heaps can be distinguished at a long distance by the bright green

colour of certain plants which invariably grow on them.... The Fuegian

wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, a haycock. It merely consists

of a few broken branches stuck in the ground, and very imperfectly

thatched on one side, with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole

cannot be so much as the work of an hour, and it is only used for a few

days.... At a subsequent period, the Beagle anchored for a couple of

days under Wollaston Island, which is a short way to the northward.

While going on shore, we pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians.

These were the most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On

the east coast, the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco cloaks, and,

on the west, they possess sealskins. Amongst the central tribes the men

generally possess an otter skin, or some small scrap about as large as a

pocket handkerchief, which is barely sufficient to cover their backs as

low down as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and,

according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. But these

Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even one full-grown woman

was absolutely so. It was raining heavily, and the fresh water, together

with the spray, trickled down her body.... These poor wretches were

stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white paint,

their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices

discordant, their gestures violent and without dignity. Viewing such

men, one can hardly make oneself believe they are fellow-creatures and

inhabitants of the same world.... At night, five or six human beings,

naked, and scarcely protected from the wind and rain of this tempestuous

climate, sleep on the wet ground, coiled up like animals. Whenever it is

low water, they must rise to pick shell-fish from the rocks; and the

women, winter and summer, either dive and collect sea eggs, or sit

patiently in their canoes, and, with a baited hair line, jerk out small

fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcase of a putrid whale

discovered, it is a feast: such miserable food is assisted by a few

tasteless berries, and fungi. Nor are they exempt from famine, and, as a

consequence, cannibalism accompanied by parricide."

This I believe to be as faithful a picture as can be drawn of the makers

of the shell mounds.

But in Denmark, although shells formed by far the major part of these

middens, yet they ate other fish, the herring, dorse, dab, and eel.

Birds also were not despised by them, bones of swallows, the sparrow,

stork, capercailzie, ducks, geese, wild swans, and even of the great auk

(now extinct) have been found. Then of beasts they ate the stag,

roe-deer, wild boar, urus, dog, fox, wolf, marten, otter, lynx, wild

cat, hedgehog, bear, and mouse; beside which they lived on the seal,

porpoise, and water rat.

Owing to the almost total absence of polished implements--and yet the

fact being that portions of one or two have been found--the makers of

these kjoekkenmoeddings, are classed as belonging to the later Palaeolithic


Of the Bronze and Iron Ages there is no necessity to write, men were

emerging from their primaeval barbarity--and all the gentle arts, though

undeveloped, were nascent. Men who could smelt metals, and mould, and

forge them, cannot be considered as utter barbarians, such as were the

long-headed men, with their chipped flint implements and weapons.

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