The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
E. A. Allen
Part 3 out of 13
The men of the Caves supported life by hunting. But a very small
part of their food supplies could have been drawn from the
vegetable kingdom. When the climate was so severe that Alpine
mosses grew at Schussenreid, acorns and like nuts would be about
all they could procure from that source. The animals hunted by
the Cave-men were principally reindeer, horses, bisons, and,
occasionally mammoths and woolly rhinoceros. But they were not
very choice in this matter, as they readily accepted as food any
animal they could obtain by force or cunning. Wolves and foxes
were not rejected, and in one cave large numbers of the bones of
the common water rat were obtained. We know what animals were
used as food, because we find their bones split for the purpose
of procuring the marrow they contained. This was evidently to
them a nutritious article of diet, since they were careful to
open all the bones containing it, and bones so split are
frequently the only means of detecting the former presence of
man in some bone caves.
We must not forget that at that time the shore of the Atlantic
Ocean, during a large part of the Paleolithic Age, was situated
much farther west than it is now, and so in all probability many
refuse heaps are now underneath the waves. From certain drawings
that are found in some French caves, we know they were used for
hunting both seals and whales.
We can not doubt that the capture of a whale afforded as much
enjoyment to them as it does to a tribe of Eskimos now. Bones of
birds and fishes are found in many instances. The salmon appears
to have been a favorite among fishes. Among the birds are found
some species now only living in cold countries, such as the
snowy owl, willow grouse, and flamingo. This is but another
proof that the climate of Europe was then very cold.
Illustration of Whale and Seal, Incised on Bone.------------
The Cave-men were not afraid to attack animals greatly superior
to them in strength. In the Hohlefels Cave in Germany were found
great quantities of the broken and split bones of cave bears, an
animal very similar to the grizzly, and probably its equal in
strength. The reindeer was the main reliance of these tribes.
Its bones are found in great abundance, and it doubtless was to
them all it is to the Lapps of Europe to-day, except, of course,
that it was not domesticated.
Though fire would naturally suggest some rude method of cooking,
we can scarcely find a trace of such operations, and it has been
a matter of conjecture how they proceeded. Sir John Lubbock
thinks they boiled their food, and in the absence of pottery
used wooden or skin vessels, bringing the water to a boiling
point by means of stones heated red hot and thrown into the
water. He points out the presence of peculiarly shaped stones
found in some caves, which he thinks were used for this
purpose.<19> It is not supposed they had any articles of pottery
during this epoch. This is quite an important point, because a
knowledge of pottery marks an important epoch in the culture of
Illustration of Cave Bear, Incised on Slate.-----------------
A people possessed of this knowledge have passed from Savagism
into the lower status of Barbarism.<20> A piece of pottery is as
little liable to destruction as a piece of bone, and so, had
those people possessed pottery, there is no reason why pieces of
it should not be found in every refuse heap, and amongst the
debris of all caves. But such is not the case;
no fragments of pottery have yet been found which can be
referred with confidence to the epoch of the Cave-men.<21>
Some speculations have been indulged in as to whether the men of
this age were cannibals or not. It need occasion no surprise if
they were, since ancient writers assert that even during
historical times this practice prevailed in Europe.<22>
Though not definitely proven there are many facts difficult of
explanation, except on this supposition. However, it may well be
that this, after all, only amounted to the custom of eating
parts of an enemy killed in battle, as certain modern savages do
that we would not call cannibals.<23>
It is not necessary to speak at much length of the methods of
hunting. They had bows and arrows, daggers of reindeer horn,
spears tipped with flint or bone, and harpoons. Besides, they
made a formidable club of the lower jaw-bone of the cave-bear
with its canine tooth still left in its place. Fishing with nets
is not supposed to have been known, Harpooning was probably
their favorite way. M. G. DeMortillet thinks they fished as
follows: They fastened a cord to the middle of a small splinter
of bone. This was then baited, and when swallowed by the fish,
was very certain to get caught in the body.<24>
We know that rude tribes of to-day have many means of snaring
animals. Doubtless similar scenes were enacted on their primeval
hunting-grounds. French books contain illustrations of the men
of this period driving game over precipitous sides. They had no
dogs to assist them in the hunt, and though reindeer were around
them in great abundance, it is not supposed that they thought of
Man is the only animal which seeks to protect his body from the
Summer's heat or the cold of Winter by the use of clothing.
We are, unfortunately, not able to present many details of the
dress of man during the early Stone Age. We are, however, quite
certain that when the climate was severe enough to permit such
animals as the musk-sheep and the reindeer to inhabit South-
western Europe, man must have been provided with an abundance of
warm clothing, though doubtless rudely made and fashioned.
Many reindeer horns found in France are cut and hacked at the
base in such a way as to indicate that it was done when removing
the skins. We also know that the rudest of savage tribes are
never at a loss for some process of tanning hides and rendering
them fit for use. From the immense number and variety of
scrapers found among the cave debris. we are sure the
preparation of clothing occupied no inconsiderable portion of
their time. We also find numerous awls and splinters of flint
and bone, which they doubtless used in exactly the same manner
as similar tools are used by the Lapps to-day in Europe, that
is, to pierce holes in the hides, through which to pass their
rude needle and thread. The needles are made of reindeer horn,
and they were not only smoothly polished, but the eyes are of
such a minute size, and withal so regularly made, that many at
first could not believe they were drilled by the use of flint
alone. This, however, has been shown to be the case by actual
experiments. The thread employed was reindeer tendons, for bones
of these animals are found cut just where they would he cut in
removing these tendons. This cut shows that they protected their
hands by means of long gloves of three or four fingers.<25>
Illustration of Glove, Incised on Bear's Tooth.-----------
We have thus far been considering those arts which pertain more
directly to living. We have presented some sketches found
engraved on pieces of bone. We first noticed this among the
relics found in one of the Creswell caves in England. It was
also noticed in Belgium. It was among the Cave-men of Southern
France that this artistic trait became highly developed.
Among the reindeer hunters of the Dordogne were artists of no
mean ability. We must pause a minute and mark the bearing of
this taste for art. We have seen many reasons for supposing the
men of the caves much farther advanced in the scale of culture
than those of the Drift, but we have also seen that we can not
rank them higher than the highest grade of savages.
Sir John Lubbock thus speaks of them: "In considering the
probable condition of these ancient Cave-men, we must give them
full credit for their love of art, such as it was; while, on the
other hand, the want of metal, of polished flint implements, and
even of pottery, the ignorance of agriculture, and the apparent
absence of all domestic animals, including even the dog,
certainly imply a very low state of civilization."<26>
They were certainly not as far advanced in civilization as the
next race we will describe, yet the Neolithic people had no such
skill as was possessed by the cave-men. This need not surprise
us, because "an artistic feeling is not always the offspring of
civilization, it is rather a gift of nature. It may manifest its
existence in the most barbarous ages, and may make its influence
more deeply felt in nations which are behind in respect to
general progress than in others which are more deeply advanced
Illustration of Reindeer Grazing.-------------
In regard to the objects themselves, a glance at the
illustrations show us that they are quite faithful sketches of
the animals at that time common. As might be expected, sketches
of the reindeer are numerous. This cut is regarded as the
highest example of Paleolithic art, sketched on a piece of horn
and found in Switzerland. The animal is grazing, and the grass
on which it feeds is seen below. We have on a piece of slate the
outlines of a group of reindeer, generally considered as
representing a fight, though it may mean a hunt, and that the
hunter has succeeded in killing a portion of the herd. Some, as
we see, are on the ground.
Illustration of a Group of Reindeers.---------
Illustration of Man and Other Animals.--------
It would be exceedingly interesting could we but find well
executed sketches of the men of this period, but, unfortunately,
with one or two exceptions, no representations, however rude,
have yet been discovered of the human form. Perhaps an
explanation of this fact may be found in the well-known
reluctance of savage tribes to have any engravings taken of
themselves, and we can well imagine that if any one was known to
make drawings of human beings he would be regarded with
suspicious distrust, and it would hardly be a safe
accomplishment to possess. One very curious group represents a
man, long and lean, standing between two horses' heads, and by
the side of a long serpent or fish, having the appearance of an
eel. On the reverse side of this piece of horn were represented
the heads of two aurochs or bisons. Mr. Dawkins thinks this also
represents a hunting sketch, and that the man is in the act of
striking one of the horses with a spear.
Illustration of Fish, Incised on Bear's Tooth.------------
Illustration of Ibex.------------------
On, a fragment of spear-head found in France several human hands
were engraved, but having only four fingers each. On this point
Mr. Lartet assures us that some savage tribes still depict the
hand without the thumb.<28> Representations of birds and
reptiles are very rare; fishes are more common. On a piece of
reindeer's horn was found this representation of the head and
chest of an ibex. Of special interest to us is a representation
of a mammoth found engraved on a piece of mammoth tusk in one of
the Dordogne caves. We have no doubt that the artist who
engraved it was perfectly familiar with the animal itself.
Illustration of Mammoth--La Madeline Cave, France.----------
Their artistic skill was not confined to the execution of
drawings. They frequently carved pieces of reindeer horn into
various animal forms. Our next cut shows us a dagger, the handle
of which is carved to imitate a reindeer. It will be seen how
the artist has adapted the position of the animal to the
necessities of the case. Flowers are very seldom represented;
but one implement from France has a very nice representation of
some flowering plant engraved on it.
Take it all in all, the possession of this artistic instinct is
certainly remarkable--the more so when we remember the rudeness
of his surroundings, and the few and simple means at his command
for work. "A splinter of flint was his sole graving tool; a
piece of reindeer horn, or a flake of slate or ivory, was the
only plate on which primitive man could stamp his reproduction
of animated nature."<29>
Illustration of Reindeer Carved on Dagger Handle.-------
Some speculations have been indulged in as to whether we have
any traces of a government amongst the Paleolithic people.
That they had some chief or leader is more than probable. In the
caves of France we find a number of fragments of reindeer horn.
Generally speaking, they show evidence of a good deal of care in
making them. They are carved and ornamented with sketches of
various animals, and invariably have one or more holes bored in
the base. The idea has been quite freely advanced, that these
are emblems of authority.<30> And some have pointed out, that,
though they are too light for use as weapons, yet, their
"frequent occurrence, and uniformity of type, show that they
possess a conventional significance."<31> Mr. Geikie says that
these conjectures "are mere guess-work."<32> And Mr. Dawkins
points out that they are very similar in design and ornament
with an implement of the Eskimos known as an
Whatever may be our conclusions in regard to these ornamented
pieces of reindeer horn, we can not doubt but that their social
instincts found expression in some sort of alliance for the
common good. This is shown by several facts: such, for instance,
as the evidence of trade or barter between localities
considerable distances apart. The inhabitants of Belgium must
have gone to what is now Southern France to procure the flint
they used. They also procured, from the same source, fossil sea-
shells, which they valued highly.<34> We also notice the fact,
that certain localities appear to have been used as the place of
manufacture for certain articles, to the exclusion of others.
In other words, the primitive people appear to have learned the
great utility of a division of labor. One of the caves in
Belgium appears to have been used as a place to make flint
implements. Over twenty thousand articles of flint were found in
this cave.<35> In France, while in one cave the implements were
all of the spear-head type, in a neighboring cave horn was
almost the only article used in the manufacture of implements.
We must not, however, form an exalted idea of their
trade--it was simply barter in a rude state of society.<36>
Illustration of Flowers on Reindeer's Horn.--------
Various opinions have been held as to whether we have any trace
of a religious belief. Theoretically speaking, they had some
sort of a religion, though doubtless very vague and indistinct;
for we know of no nation as far advanced as they were destitute
of it.<37> It has been pointed out, that the bones of some
animals, as the horse, were very rare, and their absence
explained as the result of superstitious reasons. It has also
been conjectured that some of the perforated bones and teeth of
animals found in various deposits were amulets worn for
religious purposes; and some have gone so far as to infer, that
the ornamentations on some of these so-called amulets represent
the sun, and that, consequently, sun-worship prevailed among the
Cave-men. While these various conjectures are, of course,
possible, it is equally certain they are all "mere guess-work."
Illustration of Ornamented Reindeer Horn---------------
Early explorers describe with considerable degree of confidence
the manner of burial among the Cave-men, and inferred from the
remains found buried with the bodies that they had some notion
of a life beyond the grave--and, accordingly, placed near the
body food and drink to support him on his journey, weapons
wherewith to defend himself, and his favorite implements, so
that, arrived at the land of spirits, he would be well provided
for. These result are not borne out by later investigations. The
instance mentioned most prominently, that of the burial cave at
Aurignac, France, has been shown to have no bearing on the
question, as every thing indicates that the burials were of a
much later date.
We have yet a most important question before us--one that is
still engaging the attention of scientific men in Europe.
That is the question of race. Who were these early tribes?
Are they in any way connected with the men of the Drift? Have we
any representations of them now living upon the earth? On these
questions there is quite a diversity of opinion. In various
caves in France and Belgium, skulls and other bones of the human
skeleton have been found. These have been studied with care by
the best scholars in Europe; and B. Carfares has set forth
the results in his various works, in which he connects them, not
only with the men of the River Drift, but with the race of men
that inhabited Europe during the succeeding Neolithic Age, and,
indeed, with men now living in France and Belgium.
There is no question as to the correctness of these inferences
--the only one is, whether the skulls and fragmentary skeletons
are really remains of the Cave-men. This must be made perfectly
clear and unquestioned before we are to accept them. Mr. Darkens
reviews the various cases where skeletons have been found in
caves.<38> He points out that, in every instance, very serious
doubts can be raised as to whether they are really remains of
the Cave-men or not.
Until these objections are met, we do not see how the opinion of
B. Carfares (above) can be accepted. But if these instances
are not accepted, then, in all other instances where there is no
doubt, the remains are in such a fragmentary condition that no
conclusion can be made from them. So as far as remains of the
human skeleton are concerned, we can form no conclusions as to
the race to which the Cave-men belonged.
We have already noted, that the Cave-men came into Europe much
later than the men of the Drift, and that their range was very
limited, corresponding, in fact, with that of the northern group
of animals. When the cold of the Glacial Age passed away, the
musk-sheep, reindeer, and other animals, were driven out of
Europe. They are found now only in high northern latitudes, such
as Greenland. Mr. Darkens thinks that there, also, are to be
found the Cave-men of the Paleolithic Age, now known as the
Eskimos. Though not accepted by all authorities, yet some of our
best scholars find much to commend in this theory.
We have undoubted proofs that, in America, the Eskimos formerly
lived much farther south.<39> And Dr. Abbot thinks the
Paleolithic implements discovered in New Jersey, bearing such
striking resemblance to those of Europe, are undoubtedly their
work.<40> Therefore, there is no absurdity in asserting that
they once lived in Western Europe; the more so, when we reflect
that the climate, the animals--in fact, all their surroundings--
must have been similar to those of their present habitats.
When we come to examine the customs and habits of these Eskimos,
we are at once struck with their resemblance to what we have
seen was the probable state of life among the Cave-men.
At Solute, for instance, we have vast refuse heaps of bones of
animals. We find similar heaps around the rude huts of the
Eskimos to-day. Captain Parry describes one as follows:
"In every direction round the huts were lying innumerable bones
of walruses and seals, together with skulls of dogs, bears,
Other points of comparison strike us when reading Sir John
Lubbock's account of their habits and customs. For instance:
"Their food, if cooked at all, is broiled or boiled; their
vessels, being of stone or wood, can not, indeed, be put on the
fires, but heated stones are thrown in until the water becomes
hot enough and the food is cooked." "Their food consists
principally of reindeer, musk-ox, walrus, seals, birds, and
salmon. They will, however, eat any kind of animal food. They
are very fond of fat and marrow, to get at which they pound the
bones with a stone." "The clothes of the Eskimos are made from
the skins of the reindeer, seals, and birds, sewn together with
sinews. For needles they use the bones of either birds or
fishes." "The Eskimos have also a great natural ability for
drawing. In many cases they have made rude maps for our
officers, which have turned out to be substantially correct.
Many of their bone implements are covered with sketches."
Illustration of Eskimo Art.-----------
In this cut we have a bone drill on which are sketched reindeer,
geese, a braider or flat-bottomed boat, a tent around which
various articles of clothing are hung up to dry, a woman
apparently engaged in the preparation of food, and a
Now, we know that savage tribes, widely separated by time and
space, will, after all, under the pressure of common
necessities, invent much the same implements and live much the
same life. But still, where every thing seems to coincide, the
climate, the animals, the mode of life proved the same, and
especially when both are seen possessed of a common artistic
skill, together with the known fact that in the Western
Continent the Eskimos did formerly live much farther south;
there is surely a strong case made out, and therefore the
probabilities are that the Eskimos are the representatives of
the Cave-men of Europe.<42> And yet we must be cautious on this
point; or rather we remember that the phrase, "predecessors of
the Eskimos," does not imply that they were in all respects like
them. An examination of the rude sketches of the Cave-men left
by themselves seems to indicate that the whole body was covered
with hair. "The hunter in the Antler from Duluth Cave has a
long, pointed beard, and a high crest of hair on the poll
utterly unlike the Eskimo type. The figures are also those of a
slim and long-jointed man."<43>
This completes our review of the Paleolithic people, and it only
remains to present some general conclusions. The Glacial or
Pleistocene Age is seen to have been of immense duration, and
characterized by great changes in climate. We have found that
two races of men occupied Europe during this time. The men of
the River Drift are the most ancient.
We have seen that they can be traced over wide-extended areas.
They seem to have invaded Europe, along with the great invasion
of animals from Asia, constituting the temperate group of
animals; and with those animals they probably shifted back and
forth, as the cold of the Glacial Age increased or waned.
These people seem to have completely vanished. At a later date,
when the cold of the Glacial Age was once more severe,
associated with animals now living only in high northern
latitudes, came the Cave-men, whose discussion has formed the
subject of this chapter.
It will be seen how much we owe to patient investigators.
The results are, indeed, bewildering. They make us acquainted
with a people the very existence of whom was not known a few
years back. Though the whole life of those ancient races seemed
hopelessly lost in the night of time, the gloom is irradiated by
the light of modern science, which lays before our astonished
vision the remains of arts and industries of the primitive
tribes that occupied Europe during the morning-time of
(1) The manuscript of this chapter was submitted to Prof. B. B.
Wright, of Overlain, for criticism.
(2) On the formation of caves consult Geikie's "Prehistoric
Europe," p. 71; also Evans's "Ancient Stone Implements," p. 429.
(3) Evans's "Ancient Stone Implements," b. 445.
(4) Pronounced Bret'-cha, a rock composed of fragments of older
rock, united by a cement.
(5) Geikie's "Prehistoric Europe," p. 92.
(6) Pengelly, quoted by Geikie, "Prehistoric Europe," p. 93.
(7) Evans's "Ancient Stone Implements," p. 462.
(8) Evans's "Ancient Stone Implements," p. 463.
(9) Geikie's "Prehistoric Europe," p. 102.
(10) Mr. Dawkins ("Early Man in Britain," p. 203) does not
consider M. Dupont justified in dividing the remains found in
the caverns of Belgium into two epochs. He considers them to
be the remains of the same people, some tribes being, perhaps,
farther advanced than others. Mr. Dawkins is, of course, high
authority, but we think his argument could also be applied to
prove there was no real difference between the men of the River
Drift and the so-called Cave-men. This, in fact, is the opinion
of many, including Mr. Evans, who is exceptionally well
qualified to judge of these remains. We think, however, in view
of the evidence adduced by Mr. Pengelly, Mr. Geikie, Mr.
Dawkins, and others, few will venture to doubt that there is a
wide difference between the men of the River Drift and those of
(11) "Prehistoric Times," p. 330.
(12) "Early Man in Britain," p. 198.
(13) French writers make four divisions of these caves,
according to the degree of finish, which the specimens show.
Mr. Dawkins does not think the difference in the implements
sufficient to justify this view. With the possible exception of
Le Moustier, as stated above, we think his view correct, which
is also the opinion of Mr. Evans. ("Ancient Stone Implements,"
(14) Rau's "Early Man in Europe," p. 88.
(15) Dawkins's "Early Man in Britain," p. 205.
(16) Ibid., p.
(17) It is, however, thought that the station was used as a
camping-ground by very different people, at widely different
(18) Lubbock's "Prehistoric Times," p. 434.
(19) "Prehistoric Times," p. 335.
(20) Morgan's "Ancient Society," p. 12.
(21) Lubbock's "Prehistoric Times," p. 338. J. C. Southall, in
his valuable work, "Recent Origin of Man," p. 195, et
seq., argues that pottery was known at this time, and cites
instances where it is stated to have been found. This is the
opinion of Figuier also. ("Primitive Man," p. 54.) But Mr.
Dawkins points out that these pieces of pottery are clearly of a
Neolithic style, and does not think it proven that they are of
Paleolithic age. Mr. Geikie also denies that there is any proof
that they were acquainted with the potter's art. ("Prehistoric
Europe," p. 18.) So the highest place in the scale of
civilization we can assign these people to is that of
(22) Rau's "Early Man in Europe," p. 79;
(23) Geikie's "Prehistoric Europe," p. 22.
(24) Figuier's "Primitive Man," p. 90.
(25) Dawkins's "Early Man in Britain," p. 210.
(26) "Prehistoric Times," p. 341.
(27) Figuier's "Primitive Man," p. 105.
(28) Figuier's "Primitive Man," p. 111.
(29) Figuier's "Primitive Man," p. 105.
(30) Figuier's "Primitive Man," p. 102.
(31) Rau's "Early Man in Europe," p. 73.
(32) "Prehistoric Europe," p. 18.
(33) Dawkins's "Early Man in Britain," p. 237.
(34) Figuier's "Primitive Man," p. 117.
(35) Ibid., p. 118.
(36) Ibid., pp. 94 and 95.
(37) This, as Sir John Lubbock points out, depends on our
meaning of the word "religion." ("Prehistoric Times," p. 589.)
(38) "The principal instance are Cro-Magnon, Frontal, and
Furforz, in Belgium; Aurignac, Bruniquel, and Mentone, in
France." "Cave-Hunting," chap. vii.
(39) "Contributions to N. A. Ethnology," vol. i, p. 102;
"U.S. Geographical Survey West of the 100th Meridian," vol. vii,
p. 12; Abbott's "Primitive Industry," p. 517.
(40) "Primitive Industry," 518.
(41) Quoted by Lubbock,"Prehistoric Times," p. 507.
(42) Dawkins's "Early Man in Britain," p. 242.
(43) Prof. Grant Allen, Popular Science Monthly,
November, 1882, p. 99.
END OF CHAPTER IV*********************
The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
by E. A. Allen
Processed by D.R. Thompson
ANTIQUITY OF THE PALEOLITHIC AGE.<1>
Interest in the Antiquity of man--Connected with the Glacial
Age--The Subject Difficult--Proofs of a Glacial Age--State of
Greenland to-day--The Terminal Moraine--Appearance of the North
Atlantic--Interglacial Age--Causes of the Glacial Age--Croll's
Theory--Geographical causes--The two theories not Antagonistic--
The date of the Glacial Age--Probable length of the Paleolithic
Age--Time since the close of the Glacial Age--Summary of
As we have already remarked, geological periods give us no
insight as to the actual passage of years. To say that man lived
in the Glacial Age, and that we have some faint traces of his
presence in still earlier periods, after all conveys to our
minds only vague ideas of a far-away time. The more a geologist
studies the structure of the earth, the more impressed is he
with the magnitude of the time that must have passed since
"The Beginning." At present, however, there are no means known
of accurately measuring the time that has passed. It is just as
well that it is so, since, were it known, the human mind would
be utterly incapable of comprehending it. But as to the
antiquity of man, it is but natural that we should seek more
particularly to solve the problem and express our answer in some
term of years.
Now, we have seen that the question of the antiquity of man is
intimately connected with that of the Glacial Age. That is to
say, the relics of man as far as we know them in Europe, are
found under such circumstances that we feel confident they are
not far removed from the period of cold. For it will be found
that those conservative scholars who do not think that man
preceded the Glacial Age, or inhabited Europe during the long
course of years included in that period, do think he came into
Europe as soon as it passed away. So, in any case, if we can
determine the date of the Glacial Age, we shall have made a most
important step in advance in solving the problem of the
antiquity of man himself. So it seems to us best to go over the
subject of the Glacial Age again, and see what conclusions some
of our best thinkers have come to as to its cause, when it
occurred, and other matters in relation to it.
It is best to state frankly at the outset that this topic is one
of the great battle-grounds of science to-day, and that there
are as yet but few points well settled in regard to it.
One needs but attempt to read the literature on this subject to
become quickly impressed with the necessity of making haste
slowly in forming any conclusions. He must invoke the aid of the
astronomer, geologist, physical-geographer, and physicist.
Yet we must not suppose that questions relating to the Glacial
Age are so abstruse that they are of interest only to the
scholar. On the contrary, all ought to be interested in them.
They open up one of the most wonderful chapters in the history
of the world. They recall from the past a picture of ice-bound
coasts and countries groaning under icy loads, where now are
harbors enlivened by the commerce of the world, or ripening
fields attesting the vivifying influence of a genial sun.
Let us, therefore, follow after the leaders in thought. When we
come to where they can not agree we can at least see what both
sides have to say.
Somewhat at the risk of repetition, we will try and impress on
our readers a sense of the reality and severity of the Glacial
Age. There is danger in regarding this as simply a convenient
theory that geologists have originated to explain some puzzling
facts, that it is not very well founded, and is liable to give
way any day to some more ingenious explanation. On the contrary,
this whole matter has been worked out by very careful scholars.
"There is, perhaps, no great conclusion in any science which
rests upon a surer foundation than this, and if we are to be
guided by our reason at all in deducting the unknown from the
known, the past from the present, we can not refuse our assent
to the reality of the Glacial Age of the Northern Hemisphere in
all its more important features.<2> At the present day glaciers
do exist in several places on the earth. They are found in the
Alps and the mountains of Norway, and the Caucasus, in Europe.
The Himalaya mountains support immense glaciers in Asia; and in
America a few still linger in the more inaccessible heights of
the Sierra Nevada. It is from a study of these glaciers, mainly
however, those of the Alps, that geologists have been enabled to
explain the true meaning of certain formations they find in both
Europe and America, that go by the name of drift.
When in an Alpine valley we come upon a glacier, filling it from
side to side, there will be noticed upon both sides a long train
of rock, drift, and other debris that have fallen down
upon its surface from the mountain sides. If two of these
ice-rivers unite to form one glacier, two of these trains will
then be borne along in the middle of the resulting glacier.
As this glacier continues down the valley, it at length reaches
a point where a further advance is rendered impossible by the
increased temperature melting the ice as fast as it advances.
At this point the train of rocks and dirt are dumped, and of
course form great mounds, called moraines. The glacier at
times shrinks back on its rocky bed and allows explorers to
In such cases they find the rocks smoothed and polished, but
here and there marked with long grooves and striae. These points
are learned from an examination of existing glaciers.
Further down the valley, where now the glaciers never extend,
are seen very distinctly the same signs. There are the same
moraines, striated rocks, and bowlders that have evidently
traveled from their home up the valley. The only explanation
possible in this case is that once the glaciers extended to that
point in the valley.
It required a person who was perfectly familiar with the
behavior of Alpine glaciers, and knew exactly what marks they
left behind in their passage, to point out the proofs of their
former presence in Northern Europe and America, where it seems
almost impossible to believe they existed. Such a man was Louis
Agassiz, the eminent naturalist. Born and educated in
Switzerland, he spent nine years in researches among the
glaciers of the mountains of his native country. He proved the
former wide extension of the glaciers of Switzerland. With these
results before them, geologists were not long in showing that
there had once been glacial ice over a large part of Europe and
The proofs in this case are almost exactly the same as those
used to show that the ancient glaciers of Switzerland were once
larger than now. But as the great glaciers of the glacial age
were many times larger than any thing we know of at the present
day, there were of course different results produced.
For instance, the water circulating under Alpine glaciers is
enabled to wash out and carry away the mass of pulverized rock
and dirt ground along underneath the ice. But when the glaciers
covered such an enormous extent of country as they did in the
Glacial Age, the water could not sweep away this detritus, and
so great beds of gravel, sand, and clay would be formed over a
large extent of country. But to go over the entire ground would
require volumes; it is sufficient to give the results.
The interior of Greenland to-day is covered by one vast sea of
ice. Explorers have traversed its surface for many miles; not a
plant, or stone, or patch of earth is to be seen. In the Winter
it is a snow-swept waste. In the Summer streams of ice-cold
water flow over its surface, penetrating here and there by
crevasses to unknown depths. This great glacier is some twelve
hundred miles long, by four hundred in width.<3> Vast as it is,
it is utterly insignificant as compared with the great
continental glacier that geologists assure us once held in its
grasp the larger portion of North America.
The conclusions of some of our best scholars on this subject are
so opposed to all that we would think possible, according to the
present climate and surroundings, that they seem at first
incredible, and yet they have been worked out with such care
that there is no doubt of the substantial truth of the results.
The terminal moraine of the great glacier has been carefully
traced through several States. We now know that one vast sea of
ice covered the eastern part of North America, down to about the
thirty-ninth parallel of latitude. We have every reason to think
that the great glacier, extending many miles out in the
Atlantic, terminated in a great sea of ice, rising several
hundred feet perpendicularly above the surface of the water.
Long Island marks the southern extension of this glacier. From
there its temporal moraine has been traced west, across New
Jersey and Pennsylvania, diagonally across Ohio, crossing the
river near Cincinnati, and thence west across Indiana and
Illinois. West of the Mississippi it bears off to the north-
west, and finally passes into British America.<4>
All of North America, to the north and northeast of this line,
must have been covered by one vast sea of ice.<5> Doubtless, as
in Greenland to-day, there was no hill or patch of earth to be
seen, simply one great field of ice. The ice was thick enough to
cover from sight Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire, and must have
been at least a mile thick over a large portion of this area,<6>
and even at its southern border it must in places have been from
two hundred to two thousand feet thick.<7> This, as we have
seen, is a picture very similar to what must have been presented
by Europe at this time.<8>
Illustration of Antarctic Ice Sheet.-----------------
The Northern Atlantic Ocean must have presented a dreary aspect.
Its shores were walls of ice, from which ever and anon great
masses sailed away as icebergs. These are startling conclusions.
Yet, in the Southern Hemisphere to-day is to be seen nearly the
same state of things. It is well-known that all the lands around
the South Pole are covered by a layer of ice of enormous
thickness. Sir J. A. Ross, in attempting to reach high southern
latitudes, while yet one thousand four hundred miles from the
pole, found his further progress impeded by a perpendicular wall
of ice one hundred and eighty feet thick. He sailed along that
barrier four hundred and fifty miles, and then gave up the
attempt. Only at one point in all that distance did the ice
wall sink low enough to allow of its upper surface being seen
from the mast-head. He describes the upper surface as an immense
plain shining like frosted silver, and stretching away as far as
eye could reach into the illimitable distance.<9>
The foregoing makes plain to us one phase of the Glacial Age.
Though it may not be quite clear what this has to do with the
antiquity of man, yet we will see, in the sequel, that it has
considerable. As to the periods of mild climate that are thought
by some to have broken up the reign of cold, we do not feel that
we can say any thing in addition to what has been said in a
We might, however, say, that the sequences of mild and cold
climate are not as well made out in America as they seem to be
in Europe; or at least our geologists are more cautious as to
accepting the evidence as sufficient. And yet such evidences are
not wanting: as in Europe, at various places, are found layers
of land surfaces with remains of animals and plants, but both
above and below such surface soil are found beds of bowlder
clay. These offer undeniable evidence that animals and plants
occupied the land during temperate inter-glacial epochs,
preceded and followed by an Arctic climate, and ice-sheets like
those now covering the interior of Greenland, and the
We have thus, though somewhat at length, gone over the evidence
as to the reality and severity of the Glacial Age. It was during
the continuance of such climate that Paleolithic man arrived in
Europe, though it was not perhaps until its close. We must not
lose sight of the fact that our principal object at present is
to determine, if we can, a date for either the beginning or
ending of this extraordinary season of cold, and thereby achieve
an important step in determining the antiquity of man.
A moment's consideration will show us that a period of cold
sufficient to produce over a large portion of the Northern
Hemisphere the results we have just set forth must have a cause
that is strange and far-reaching. It can not be some local
cause, affecting but one continent, since the effect produced is
observed as well in Europe as in America.
Every year we pass through considerable changes in climate.
The four seasons of the year seem to be but an annual
repetition, on a very small scale of course, of the great
changes in the climate of the earth that culminated in the
Glacial Age; though we do not mean to say, that periods of
glacial cold come and go with the regularity of our Winter.
The changes in the seasons of the year are caused by the earth's
position in its orbit, and its annual revolution around the sun.
It may be that the cause of the Glacial Age itself is of a
similar nature; in which case it is an astronomical problem, and
we ought, by calculation, to determine, with considerable
accuracy, dates for the beginning and ending of this epoch.
Nothing is clearer than that great fluctuations of climate have
occurred in the past. Many theories have been put forth in
explanation. It has been suggested that it was caused by loss of
heat from the earth itself. That the earth was once a ball of
incandescent matter, like the sun, and has since cooled down, is
of course admitted. More than that, this process still
continues; and the time must come when the earth, having yielded
up its internal heat, will cease to be an inhabitable globe.
But the climate of the surface of the earth is not dependent
upon the heat of the interior. This now depends "according to
the proportion of heat received either directly or indirectly
from the sun; and so it must have been during all the ages of
which any records have come down to us."<12> Some have supposed
that the sun, traveling as it does through space, carrying the
earth and the other planets with him, might, in the course of
ages, pass through portions of space either warmer or colder
than that in which it now moves. When we come to a warm region
of space, a genial climate would prevail over the earth; but,
when we struck a cold belt, eternal Winter would mantle a large
part of the globe with snow and ice. This, of course, is simply
guess-work. No less than seven distinct causes have been urged;
most of them either purely conjectural, like the last, or
manifestly incompetent to produce the great results which we
have seen must be accounted for. But, amongst these, two causes
have been advanced--the one astronomical, the other
geographical; and, to the one or the other, the majority of
scholars have given their consent.
It will be no harm to see what can be said in favor of both
theories. So, we will ask the reader's attention, as it is our
earnest desire to make as plain as possible a question that has
so much to do with our present inquiry. In the course of our
investigations, we can not fail to catch glimpses of wonderful
changes in far away times; and can not help seeing what labor is
involved in the solution of all questions relating to
The earth revolves around the sun in an orbit called an ellipse.
This is not a fixed form, but slowly varies from year to year.
It is now gradually becoming circular. It will, however, not
become an exact circle. Astronomers assure us that, after a long
lapse of time, it will commence to elongate as an ellipse again.
Thus, it will continually change from an ellipse to an
approximate circle, and back again. In scientific language, the
eccentricity of, the earth's orbit is said to increase
Illustration of Earth's Orbit.--------------------
In common language we would state that the shape of the path of
the earth around the sun was sometimes much more elongated and
elliptical than at others. The line drawn through the longest
part of an ellipse is called the major axis. Now the sun does
not occupy the center of this line, but is placed to one side of
it; or, in other words, occupies one focus of the ellipse.
It will thus be seen that the earth, at one time during its
yearly journey, is considerably nearer to the sun than at
others. The point where it approaches nearest the sun is called
Perihelion, and the point where it reaches the greatest
distance from the sun is called its Aphelion. It will be
readily seen that the more elliptical its orbit becomes the
greater will be the difference between the perihelion and
aphelion distance of the sun. At present the earth is about
three millions of miles nearer the sun in perihelion than in
aphelion. But we must remember the orbit of the earth is now
nearly circular. There have been times in the past when the
difference was about thirteen millions of miles. We must not
forget to add, that the change in the shape of the earth's orbit
is not a regular increase and decrease between well-known
extremes. It is caused by the attraction of the other planets.
It has been calculated at intervals of ten thousand years for
the last million years. In this way it has been found that "the
intervals between connective turning points are very unequal in
length, and the actual maximum and minimum values of the
eccentricity are themselves variable. In this way it comes about
that some periods of high eccentricity have lasted much longer
than others, and that the orbit has been more elliptical at some
epochs of high eccentricity than at others."<14> We have just
seen that the earth is nearer the sun at one time of the year
than at another. At present the earth passes its perihelion
point in the Winter of the Northern Hemisphere, and its aphelion
point in the Summer. We will for the present suppose that it
always reaches the points at the same season of the year. Let us
see if the diminished distance from the sun in Winter has any
thing to do with the climate.
If so, this effect will be greatly magnified during a period of
high eccentricity, such as the earth has certainly passed
through in the past. We will state first, that the more
elliptical the orbit becomes, the longer Summer we have, and the
shorter Winter. Astronomically, Spring begins the 20th of March,
and Fall the 22d of September. By counting the days between the
epochs it will be found that the Spring and Summer part of the
year is seven days longer than the Fall and Winter part. But if
the earth's orbit becomes as highly eccentrical as in the past,
this difference would be thirty-six days.<15>
This would give us a long Spring and Summer, but a short Fall
and Winter. This in itself would make a great difference.
We must beer in mind, however, that at such a time as we are
here considering, the earth would be ten millions of miles
nearer the sun in Winter than at present. It would certainly
then receive more heat in a given time during Winter than at
present.<16> Mr. Croll estimates that whereas the difference in
heat received during a given time is now one-fifteenth,<17> at
the time we are considering it would be one-fifth. Hence we see
that at such a time the Winter would not only be much shorter
than now, but at the same time would be much milder.
These are not all the results that would follow an increase of
eccentricity. The climate of Europe and North America is largely
modified by those great ocean currents--the Gulf Stream and the
Japan current. Owing to causes we will not here consider, these
currents would be greatly increased at such a time. As a result
of these combined causes, Mr. Croll estimates that during a
period of high eccentricity the difference between Winter and
Summer in the Northern Hemisphere would be practically
obliterate. The Winter would not only be short, but very mild,
and but little snow would form, while the sun of the long
Summers, though not shining as intense as at present, would not
have to melt off a great layer of snow and ice, but the ground
became quickly heated, and so warmed the air. Hence, if Mr.
Croll be correct, a period of high eccentricity would certainly
produce a climate in the Northern Hemisphere such as
characterized many of the mild interglacial epochs as long as
the earth passed its perihelion point in Winter.
We have so far only considered the Northern Hemisphere. As every
one knows, while we have Winter, the Southern Hemisphere has
Summer. So at the very time we would enjoy the mild short
Winters, the Southern Hemisphere would be doomed to experience
Winters of greatly increased length and severity. As a
consequence, immense fields of snow would be formed, which, by
pressure, would be changed to ice, and creep away as a
desolating glacier. It is quite true that the short Summer sun
would shine with increased warmth, but owing to many causes it
would not avail to free the land from snow and ice.
As Mr. Geikie points out, "An increased amount of evaporation
would certainly take place, but the moisture-laden air would be
chilled by coming into contact with the vast sheets of snow, and
hence the vapor would condense into thick fogs and cloud the
sky. In this way the sun's rays would be, to a large extent, cut
off, and unable to reach the earth, and consequently the
Winter's snow would not be all melted away." Hence it follows
that at the very time the Northern Hemisphere would enjoy a mild
interglacial climate, universal Spring, so to speak, the
Southern Hemisphere would be encased in the ice and snow of an
But the earth has not always reached its perihelion point during
the Winter season of the Northern Hemisphere. Owing to causes
that we need not here consider, the earth reaches its perihelion
point about twenty minutes earlier each year, so if it now
passes its perihelion in Winter of the Northern Hemisphere, in
about ten thousand years from now it will reach it in Summer,
and in twenty-one thousand, years it will again be at perihelion
in Winter. But see what important consequences follow from this.
If during a period of high eccentricity we are in the enjoyment
of short mild Winters and long pleasant Summers, in ten thousand
years this would certainly be changed. Our Summer season would
become short and heated; our Winters long and intensely cold.
Year by year it would be later in the season before the sun
could free the land from snow, and at length in deep ravines and
on hill-tops the snow would linger through the brief Summer, and
the mild interglacial age will have passed away, and again the
Northern Hemisphere will be visited by snow and ice of a truly.
Glacial Age. If, therefore, a period of high eccentricity
lasts through the many thousand years, we must expect more
than one return of glacial cold interspersed by mild
We have tried in these last few pages to give a clear statement
of what is known as Croll's theory of the Glacial Age. There is
no question but what the earth does thus vary in its position
with regard to the sun, and beyond a doubt this must produce
some effect on the climate, and we can truthfully state that the
more the complicated question of the climate of the earth is
studied, the more grounds do scholars find for affirming that
indirectly this effect must have been very great. And yet we can
not say that this theory is accepted as a satisfactory one even
by the majority of scholars. Many of those who do not reject it
think it not proven. Therefore, before interrogating the
astronomer as to the data of the Glacial Age, according to the
terms of this theory, let us see what other causes are, adduced;
then we can more readily accept or reject the conclusions as to
the antiquity of man which this theory would necessitate us
The only other cause to which we can assign the glacial cold,
that is considered with any favor by geologists, is
geographical; that is to say, depending on the distribution of
land and water. Glaciers depend on the amount of snow-fall.
In any country where the amount of snow-fall is so great that it
is not all evaporated or melted by the Summer's sun, and
consequently increases from year to year, glaciers must soon
appear, and these icy rivers would ere-long, flow away to lower
levels. If we suppose, with Sir Charles Lyell, that the lands of
the globe were all to be gathered around the equator, and the
waters were gathered around the poles, it is manifest that there
would be no such a thing as extremes of temperature, and it is,
perhaps, doubtful whether ice would form, even in polar
areas.<18> At any rate, no glaciers could be formed, as there
would be no land on which snow could gather in great quantities.
If, however, we reverse this picture, and conceive of the land
gathered in a compact mass around the poles, shutting out the
water, but consider the equatorial region of the earth to be
occupied by the waters of the ocean, we would manifestly have a
very different scene. From the ocean moisture-laden winds would
flow over the polar lands. The snowfall would necessarily be
great. In short, we can not doubt but what all the land of the
earth would be covered with glaciers.<19>
Although these last conceptions are purely hypothetical, they
will serve the good purpose of showing the great influence that
the geographical distribution of land and water have on the
climate of a country. Of one thing, however, geologists have
become more and more impressed of late years. That is, that
continents and oceans have always had the same relative position
as now; that is to say, the continents have followed a definite
plan in their development. The very first part of North America
to appear above the waters of the primal sea clearly outlined
the shape of the future continent. Mr. Dana assures us that our
continent developed with almost the regularity of a flower.
Prof. Hitchcock also points out that the surface area of the
very first period outlined the shape of the continent. "The work
of later geological periods seems to have been the filling up of
the bays and sounds between the great islands, elevating the
consolidated mass into a continental area."<20> So it is not at
all probable that the lands of the globe were ever grouped, as
we have here supposed them.
This last statement is liable, however, to leave us under a
wrong impression; for although, as a whole, continental areas
have been permanent, yet in detail they have been subject to
wonderful and repeated changes. "Every square mile of their
surface has been again and again under water, sometimes a few
hundred feet deep--sometimes, perhaps, several thousand.
Lakes and inland seas have been formed and been filled up with
sediment, and been subsequently raised into hills, or even
mountains. Arms of the sea have existed, crossing the continent
in various directions, and thus completely isolating the divided
portions for varying intervals. Seas have become changed into
deserts and deserts into seas."<21>
It has been shown beyond all question that North-western Europe
owes its present mild climate to the influence of the Gulf
Stream.<22> Ocean currents, then, are a most important element
in determining the climate of a country. If we would take the
case of our hypothetical polar continent again, and, instead of
presenting a continuous coast line, imagine it penetrated by
long straits and fiords, possessing numerous bays, large inland
seas, and in general allowing a free communication with the
ocean, we are very sure the effect would be widely different.
Under these circumstances, says Mr. Geikie, the "much wider
extent of sea being exposed to the blaze of the tropical sun,
the temperature of the ocean in equatorial regions would rise
above what it is at present. This warm water, sweeping in broad
currents, would enter the polar fiords and seas, and everywhere,
beating the air, would cause warm, moist winds to blow athwart
the land to a much greater extent than they do at present;
and these winds thus distributing warmth and moisture, might
render even the high latitude of North Greenland habitable by
civilized man." So we see that it is necessary to look for such
geographical changes as will interfere with the movements of
Now, it is easy to see that comparatively small geographical
changes would not only greatly interfere with these currents,
but might even cause them to entirely change their course.
An elevation of the northern part of North America, no greater
in amount than is supposed to have taken place at the
commencement of the Glacial Age, would bring the wide area of
the banks of Newfoundland far above the water, causing the
American coast to stretch out in an immense curve to a point
more than six hundred miles east of Halifax, and this would
divert much of the Gulf Stream straight across to the coast
Such an elevation certainly took place, and if continued
westward, Behring's Strait would also have been closed. It is to
such northern elevations, shutting out the warm ocean currents,
that a great many geologists look for a sufficient explanation
of the glacial cold.
Prof. Dana says: "Increase in the extent and height of high
latitude lands may well stand as one cause of the Glacial Age."
Then he points out how the rising of the land of Northern Canada
and adjacent territory, which almost certainly took place, "all
a sequel to the majestic uplift of the Tertiary, would have made
a glacial period for North America, whatever the position of the
ecliptic, or whatever the eccentricity of the earth's orbit,
though more readily, of course, if other circumstances
It may occur to some that if high northern lands be all that is
necessary for a period of cold, we ought to have had it in the
Miocene Age, when there was a continuous land connection between
the lands of high polar areas and both Europe and America, since
we know that an abundant vegetation spread from there, as a
center, to both these countries. But at that epoch circumstances
were different. The great North Temperate lands were in a
"comparatively fragmentary and insular condition."<25> There
were great inland seas in both Europe and Asia, through which
powerful currents would have flowed from the Indian Ocean to
Somewhat similar conditions prevailed in North America.
The western part was in an insular condition. A great sea
extended over this part of the country, joining the Arctic
probably on the north, through which heated water would pour
into the polar sea. And so, instead of a Glacial Age, we
find evidence of a mild and genial climate, with an
We thus see that there are two theories as to the cause of the
Glacial Age presented for our consideration. Both of them have
received the sanction of scholars eminent for their scientific
attainments. On inspection we see they are not antagonistic
theories. They may both be true for that matter, and all would
admit that whatever effect they would produce singly would be
greatly enhanced if acting together. Indeed, there are very good
reasons for supposing both must have acted in unison.
There seem to be very good reasons for not believing that the
eccentricity of the earth's orbit, acting alone, produced the
glacial cold. If that were the case, then whenever the
eccentricity was great we should have a Glacial Age. Now, at
some period of time during the long-extended Tertiary Age we are
certain the eccentricity of the earth's orbit became very great,
much more so, in fact, than that which is supposed to have
produced the cold of the Quaternary Age. But we are equally
certain there was no glacial epoch during this age.<26>
What other explanation can we give for its non-appearance except
that geographical conditions were not favorable?
But, on the other hand, there are certain features connected
with the phenomena of the Glacial Age that seem very difficult
of explanation, if we suppose that geographical changes alone
produced them. We must remember that evidences of the former
presence of glaciers are found widely scattered over the earth.
We shall, therefore, have to assume an elevation not only for
America and Europe, but extend it over into Asia, and take in
the Lebanon Mountains, for they also show distinct traces of
glaciers. And this movement of elevation must also have affected
the Southern Hemisphere, the evidence being equally plain that
at the same comparatively late date glaciers crushed over
Southern Africa and South America.<27> This is seen to prove too
much. Again, how can we explain the fact that some time during
the Glacial Age we had a submergence, the land standing several
hundred feet lower than now, but still remained covered with
ice, and over the submerged part there sailed icebergs and
ice-rafts, freighted with their usual debris? That such
was the state of things in Europe we are assured by some very
Neither do geographical causes afford an adequate explanation of
those changes of temperature that surely took place during the
Glacial Age. These last considerations show us how difficult it
is to believe that geographical causes could have produced the
We are assured that all through the geological ages the
continents had been increasing in size and compactness, and that
just at the close of the Tertiary Age they received a
considerable addition of land to the north. The astronomer also
informs us that at a comparatively recent epoch the eccentricity
of the earth's orbit became very great. The conditions being
favorable, it is not strange that a Glacial Age supervened.
We have been to considerable length in thus explaining the
position of the scientific world in regard to the cause of the
Glacial Age. Our reason for so doing is that this age is, we
think, so connected with the Paleolithic Age of man, that it
seems advisable to have a clear understanding in regard to it.
What we have to say is neither new nor original. It is simply an
earnest endeavor to represent clearly the conclusions of some of
our best scholars on this subject, and we have tried to give to
each theory its due weight. Our conclusions may be wrong, but,
if so, we have the consolation of erring in very good company.
We have now gone over the ground and are ready to see what dates
can be given. Though the numbers we use seem to be very large
indeed, they are so only in comparison with our brief span of
life. They are insignificant as compared with the extent of time
that has surely rolled by since life appeared on the globe.
Let us, therefore, not be dismayed at the figures the astronomer
sets before us.<29>
About two hundred and fifty thousand years ago the earth's path
around the sun was much the same as that of the present.
No great changes in climate were liable to take place at that
time. During the next fifty thousand years the eccentricity
steadily increased. Towards the end of that time all that was
necessary to produce a glacial epoch in the Northern Hemisphere
was favorable geographical causes, and that our earth should
reach its point nearest the sun in Summer. This it must have
done when about half that time had elapsed.
We can in imagination see what a slow deterioration of climate
took place. Thousands of years would come and go before the
change would be decisive. But a time must have at length arrived
when the vegetation covering the ground was such as was suited
only for high northern latitudes. The animals suited for warm
and temperate regions must have wandered farther south;
others from the north had arrived to take their place. We can
see how well this agrees with the changes of climate at the
close of the Pliocene Age. The snows of the commencing Glacial
Age would soon begin to fall, finally the sun would not melt
them off of the high lands, and mountain peaks, and so a Glacial
Age would be ushered in.
We have referred to the fact that the earth reaches its
perihelion point a little earlier each year, and, as a
consequence, we would have periods of mild climate alternating
the cold. This extended period of time, equal to twenty-one
thousand of our ordinary years, has been named the Great Year of
our globe. Mr. Wallace has pointed out some very good reasons
for thinking Mr. Croll's theory must be modified on this point.
He thinks that when once a Glacial Age was fairly fastened on a
hemisphere, it would retain its grasp as long as the
eccentricity remained high, but whenever the Summer of the Great
Year came to that hemisphere, it would melt back the glacial ice
for some distance, but this area would be recovered by the ice
when the Winter of the Great Year supervened. These effects
would be different when the eccentricity itself became low.
Then we would expect the glacial conditions to vanish entirely
when the Summer of a Great Year comes on.<30>
As we have made the theoretical part of this chapter already too
long, we must hurry on. We can only say that this view is
founded on the fact that when a country was covered with snow
and ice, it had so to speak, a great amount of cold stored up in
it, so much, in fact, that it would not be removed by the sun of
a new geological Summer. This ought to be acceptable to such
geologists as are willing to admit the advance and retreat of
the great glacier, but yet doubt the fact of the interglacial
But now to return to the question of time about two hundred and
twenty thousand years ago. Then the Northern Hemisphere,
according to this theory, was in the grasp of a Glacial Age.
According to Mr. Wallace, as long as the eccentricity remained
high, there could be no great amelioration of climate, except
along the southern border of the ice sheet, which might, for
causes named, vary some distance during the Great Year.
Two hundred thousand years ago the eccentricity, then very high,
reached a turning point. It then steadily, though gradually,
diminished for fifty thousand years; at that time the
eccentricity was so small, though considerably larger than at
present, that it is doubtful if it was of any service in
producing a change of climate.<31> At that time, also, the
Northern Hemisphere was passing through the Summer season of the
Great Year. We ought, therefore, to have had a mild interglacial
season. Except in high northern latitudes the ice should have
disappeared. This change we would expect to find more marked in
Europe than in America.
We need only recall how strong are the evidences on this point.
Nearly all European writers admit at least one such mild
interval, and though not wanting evidence of such a period in
America, our geologists are much less confident of
But from that point the eccentricity again increased. So when
the long flight of years again brought secular Winter to the
Northern Hemisphere, the glaciers would speedily appear, and as
eccentricity was again high, they would again hold the country
in their grasp. Fifty thousand years later, or one hundred
thousand years ago, it passed its turning point again;
eighty thousand years ago, it became so small that it probably
ceased to effect the climate. Since then it has not been very
large. Twenty-five thousand years ago it was less than it is
now, but it is again growing smaller. According to this theory,
then, the Glacial Age commenced about two hundred and twenty
thousand years ago. It continued, with one interruption of mild
climate, for one hundred and forty thousand years, and finally
passed away eighty thousand years ago.
What shall we say to these results? If true, what a wonderful
antiquity is here unfolded for the human race, and what a
wonderful lapse of time is included in what is known as the
Paleolithic Age! How strikingly does it impress upon our minds
the slow development of man! Is such an antiquity for man in
itself absurd? We know no reason for such a conclusion. Our most
eminent scholars nowhere set a limit to the time of man's first
appearance. It is true, many of them do not think the evidence
strong enough to affirm such an antiquity, but there are no
bounds given beyond which we may not pass.
Without investigation some might reject the idea that man could
have lived on the earth one hundred thousand years in a state of
Savagism. If endowed with the attributes of humanity, it may
seem to them that he would long before that time have achieved
civilization. Such persons do not consider the lowliness of his
first condition and the extreme slowness with which progress
must have gone forward. On this point the geologists and the
sociologists agree. Says Mr. Geikie: "The time which has elapsed
from the close of the Paleolithic Age, even up to the present
day, can not for a moment compare with the aeons during which
the men of the old stone period occupied Europe." And on this
subject Mr. Morgan says: "It is a conclusion of deep importance
in ethnology that the experience of mankind in Savagery was
longer in duration than all their subsequent experience, and
that the period of Civilization covers but a fragment of the
life of the race."<32> The time itself, which seems to us so
long, is but a brief space as compared with the ages nature has
manifestly required to work out some of the results we see
before us every day. We are sure, but few of our scholars think
this too liberal an estimate. All endeavor to impress on our
minds that the Glacial Age is an expression covering a very long
period of time.
As to the time that has elapsed since the close of the Glacial
Age there is some dispute, and it may be that we will be forced
to the conclusion that the close of the Glacial Age was but a
few thousand years ago. Mr. Wallace assures us, however, that
the time mentioned agrees well "with physical evidence of the
time that has elapsed since the cold has passed away."<33>
Difficulties are, however, urged by other writers. We can see at
once that as quick as the glaciers are removed the denuding
forces of nature, which are constantly at work, would begin to
rearrange the debris left behind on the surface, and in
the course of a few thousand years must effect great changes.
Now, in some cases the amount of such change is so small that
geologists are reluctant to believe a vast lapse of time has
occurred since the glaciers withdrew. Mr. Geikie tells us of
some moraines in Scotland that they are so fresh and beautiful
"that it is difficult to believe they can date back to a period
so vastly removed as the Ice Age is believed to be."<34> In our
own country this same sort of evidence is brought forward, and
we are given some special calculations going to show that
the disappearance of the glaciers was a comparatively
It will be seen that these conclusions are somewhat opposed to
the results previously arrived at. In explanation Mr. Geikie
thinks the cases spoken of in Scotland were not the moraines of
the great glaciers, but of a local glacier of a far later date.
He thinks that the climate, while not severe enough to produce
the enormous glaciers of early times, was severe enough to
produce local glaciers still in Scotland.<36> It is possible
that a similar explanation may be given for the evidence adduced
in the United States. We can only state that, according to the
difference in climate between the eastern and western sides of
the Atlantic Ocean, when the climate was severe enough to
produce local glaciers in Scotland, it would produce the same
effect over a large part of eastern United States down to the
latitude of New York City.<37> And while it is true there would
not be as much difference in climate on the two sides of the
Atlantic in Glacial times as at present, since the Gulf Stream,
on which such difference depends would then have less force,
still it was not entirely lacking, and the difference must have
Prof. Hitchcock has made a suggestion that whereas we know a
period of several months elapses after the sun crosses the
equator before Summer fairly comes on, so it is but reasonable
to suppose that a proportionate length of time would go by after
the eccentricity of the earth's orbit became small, before the
Glacial Age would really pass away. He accordingly suggests it
may have been only about forty thousand years since the
At the close of the Glacial Age Paleolithic man vanished from
Europe. This, therefore, brings us to the conclusion of our
researches into what is probably the most mysterious chapter of
man's existence on the earth.
It may not come amiss to briefly notice the main points thus far
made in our investigation of the past. As to the epoch of man's
first appearance, we found he could not be expected to appear
until all the animals lower than he had made their appearance.
This is so because the Creator of all has apparently chosen that
method of procedure in the development of life on the globe.
According to our present knowledge, man might have been living
in the Miocene Age, and with a higher degree of probability in
the Pliocene. But we can not say that the evidence adduced in
favor of his existence at these early times is satisfactory to
the majority of our best thinkers. All agree that he was living
in Europe at the close of the Glacial Age, and we think the
evidence sufficient to show that he preceded the glaciers, and
that as a rude savage he lived in Europe throughout the long
extended portion of time known as the Glacial Age.
We also found evidence of either two distinct races of men
inhabiting Europe in the Paleolithic Age, or else tribes of the
same race, widely different in time and in culture. The one
people known as the men of the River Drift apparently invaded
Europe from Asia, along with the species of temperate animals
now living there. This people seem to have been widely scattered
over the earth. The race has probably vanished away, though
certain Australian tribes may be descendants of them. They were
doubtless very low in the scale of humanity, having apparently
never reached a higher state than that of Lower Savagism. The
second race of men inhabiting Europe during the Paleolithic Age
were the Cave-dwellers. They seem to have been allied to the
Eskimos of the North. They were evidently further advanced than
the Drift men, but were still savages.
The Paleolithic Age in Europe seems to have terminated with the
Glacial Age. But we are not to suppose it came to an end all
over the earth at that time. On the contrary, some tribes of men
never passed beyond that stage. When the light of civilization
fell upon them they were still in the culture of the old Stone
Age. We are to notice that in such cases the tribes thus
discovered were very low in the scale. The probable data for the
Paleolithic Age have formed the subject of this chapter.
While claiming in support of them the opinions of some eminent
scholars, we freely admit that it is not a settled question, but
open to very grave objections, especially the date of the close
of the Glacial Age, which seems to have been comparatively
recent, at least in America. We think, however, that these
objections will yet be harmonized with the general results.
Neither is this claimed to be an exhaustive presentation of the
matter. It is an outline only--the better to enable us to
understand the mystery connected with the data of
In these few chapters we have been dealing with people, manners,
arid times, of which the world fifty years ago was ignorant.
Many little discoveries, at first apparently disconnected, are
suddenly brought into new relation, and behold, ages ago, when
the great continents were but just completed, races of men, with
the stamp of humanity upon them, are seen filling the earth.
With them were many great animals long since passed away.
The age of animals was at an end. That of man had just begun.
The child requires the schooling of adversity and trial to make
a complete man of himself, and it is even so with races of men.
Who can doubt that struggling up from dense ignorance,
contending against adverse circumstances, compelled to wage war
against fierce animals, sustaining life in the midst of the low
temperature which had loaded the Northern Hemisphere with snow
and ice, had much to do in developing those qualities which
rendered civilization possible.
As to the antiquity of man disclosed in these chapters, the only
question that need concern us is whether it is true or not.
Evidence tending to prove its substantial accuracy should be as
acceptable as that disproving it. No great principle is here at
stake. The truth of Divine Revelation is in no wise concerned.
There is nothing in its truth or falsity which should in any
way affect man's belief in an overruling Providence, or in an
immortality beyond the grave, or which should render any less
desirable a life of purity and honor. On the contrary, we think
one of the greatest causes of thanksgiving mortals have is the
possession of intellectual powers, which enable us to here and
there catch a glimpse of the greatness of God's universe, which
the astronomer at times unfolds to us; or, to dimly comprehend
the flight of time since "The Beginning," which the geologist
finds necessary to account for the stupendous results wrought by
It seems to us eminently fitting that God should place man here,
granting to him a capacity for improvement, but bestowing on him
no gift or accomplishment, which by exertion and experience he
could acquire; for labor is, and ever has been, the price of
material good. So we see how necessary it is that a very
extended time be given us to account for man's present
advancement. Supposing an angel of light was to come to the aid
of our feeble understanding, and unroll before us the pages of
the past, a past of which, with all our endeavors, we as yet
know but little. Can we doubt that, from such a review, we would
arise with higher ideas of man's worth? Our sense of the depths
from which he has ascended is equated only by our appreciation
of the future opening before him. Individually we shall soon
have passed away. Our nation may disappear. But we believe our
race has yet but fairly started in its line of progress;
time only is wanted. We can but think that that view which
limits man to an existence extending over but a few thousand
years of the past, is a belittling one. Rather let us think of
him as existing from a past separated from us by these many
thousand years; winning his present position by the exercise of
(1) The manuscript of this chapter was submitted to Prof. G. F.
Wright, of Oberlin, for criticism.
(2) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 113.
(3) Nordenskiold's "American Journal of Science," vol. 110, p.
(4) Wright's "Studies in Science and Religion," p. 307, where a
map of this moraine is given.
(5) There is, however, a small area in the south-west part of
Wisconsin where, for some reason, the ice passed by.
(6) Dane's "Manual of Geology," p. 538.
(7) Wright's "Studies in Science and Religion," p. 308.
(8) "Men of the Drift," p. 71.
(9) Geikie's "Great Ice Age," p. 93.
(10) "Men of the River Drift."
(11) Abbott's "Primitive Industry," p. 545; Quoted from "Geology
of Minnesota." Report, 1877, p. 37.
(12) Geikie's "Great Ice Age," p. 97.
(13) The astronomical theory, which we will first examine, was
first enunciated by Mr. Croll, following a suggestion of the
astronomer Adhemer. Mr. Croll's views were set forth in many
able papers, and finally gathered into a volume entitled
"Climate and Time in their Geological Relation." The ablest
defense of these views is that by Mr. James Geikie, in his works
"The Great Ice Age," and "Prehistoric Europe."
(14) Geikie's "Great Ice Age," p. 114.
(15) Lubbock's "Prehistoric Times," p. 420, Table 4.
(16) Ibid., Table 5.
(17) Geikie's "Great Ice Age," p. 123.
(18) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 143.
(19) Ibid., p. 124.
(20) "Geology of New Hampshire," Vol. II, p. 5.
(21) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 99.
(22) Geikie's "Great Ice Age," p. 103.
(23) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 149. Hitchcock's "Geology of
New Hampshire," Vol. II, p. 7, gives a map showing what immense
areas in that section would be raised to the surface by a raise
of three hundred feet.
(24) American Journal of Science, 1871, p. 329.
(25) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 184.
(26) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 182.
(27) Ibid., p. 157 and note. Prof. Wright thinks this statement
doubtful. He refers to the date of the Glacial Age in the
(28) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 200; Dawkins's "Early Man in
Britain," p. 119; Geikie's "Great Ice Age," p. 256;
Quatrefages's "Human Species," p. 288.
(29) For these results, see McFarland's Calculations in
"American Journal of Science," 1880, p. 105.
(30) "Island Life," p. 153.
(31) See chart, p. 124, Wallace's "Island Life."
(32) "Ancient Society," p. 39.
(33) "Island Life," p. 201.
(34) "Prehistoric Europe," p. 312.
(35) On this point consult Wright's "Studies in Science and
Religion," pp. 232~347; also Prof. Lewis in "Primitive
Industry," pp. 547-551.
(36) "Prehistoric Europe," p. 560.
(37) See any isothermal map.
(38) Wallace's "Island Life," p. 154, note.
(39) "Geology of New Hampshire," Vol. III, p. 327, referred to
in Wright's "Studies in Science and Religion," p. 327.
END OF CHAPTER V.**********************
The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
by E. A. Allen
Processed by D.R. Thompson
THE NEOLITHIC AGE IN EUROPE.<1>
Close of the first cycle--Neolithic culture connected with the
present--No links between the two ages--Long lapse of time
between the two ages--Swiss lake villages--This form of villages
widely scattered--Irish cranogs--Fortified villages--Implements
and weapons of Neolithic times--Possessed of pottery--Neolithic
agriculture--Possessed of domestic animals--Danish shell-heaps--
Importance of flint--The art of navigation--Neolithic clothing--
Their modes of burial--The question of race--Possible remnants--
Connection with the Turanian race--Arrival of the Celts.
In the preceding chapters we have sought to learn what we could
of the Paleolithic Age. We have seen what strange people and
animals occupied the land, and have caught some glimpses of a
past that has been recovered to us out of the very night of
time. From under the ashes of Vesuvius archaeologists have
brought to light an ancient city. We gaze on it with great
interest, for we there see illustrated the state of society two
thousand years ago. But other cities of that time are still in
existence, and not only by the aid of tradition and song, but
from the pages of history, we can learn of the civilization of
the Roman people at the time of the destruction of Pompei; so
that, in this case, our knowledge of the past is not confined to
one source of information. But no voice of history or
tradition, or of existing institutions, speaks to us of the
Paleolithic Age. Of that remote time, the morning time of human
life, we learn only from the labors of geologists and
archaeologists. We are virtually dealing with a past geological
age. The long term of years thus defined drew to its close
amidst scenes of almost Arctic sterility. In all probability,
glaciers reflected the sun's rays from all the considerable
hills and mountains of Central and Northern Europe, though
forming, perhaps, but a remnant of the great glaciers of the Ice
Age. The neighboring seas must have been whitened by the
glistening sails of numerous icebergs. Such was the closing
scene of Paleolithic life.
The first great cycle of human life, as far as we know it now,
was concluded in Europe. We do not mean to say that it
terminated all over the world. In other regions it survived to
far later times. But, in Europe, Paleolithic animals and men had
worked out their mission, and we have now to record the arrival
and spread of a new race, bringing with them domestic animals, a
knowledge of rude husbandry, and many simple arts and industries
of which their Paleolithic predecessors were ignorant.
We recall, that the men of the Paleolithic Age seemed incapable
of advancement;<2> or their progress was so slow that we
scarcely notice it. But we can trace the lines of advancement
from the Neolithic culture to that of the present. We have,
however, to deal with people and times far removed from the
light of history.
We have before us, then, a new culture and a new people. On the
one hand is Paleolithic man, with his rude stone implements,
merely chipped into shape--surrounded by many animals which have
since vanished from the theater of life--inhabiting a country
which, at its close at least, was more like Greenland of to-day
than England or France. The scene completely changes, when the
misty curtain of the past again rises and allows us to continue
our investigations into primitive times.
We would naturally expect to find everywhere, connecting links
between these two ages--the culture of the one gradually
changing into the culture of the other. This, however, is not
the case. The line of demarkation between the ages is everywhere
plainly drawn; and, furthermore, we are learning that a very
long time elapsed between the departure, or disappearance, of
the Paleolithic tribes, and the arrival of their Neolithic
successors. This is shown in a great many ways, and we will
notice some of them. We learn that Neolithic man occasionally
used caves as a place of habitation. In such cases there is
nearly always a thick layer of stalagmite between the strata
containing the Paleolithic implements and the Neolithic strata
--though this stalagmite is unmistakable evidence of the lapse
of many years, we can not determine how many, as we do not know
the rate of formation.
This lapse of time is shown very plainly when we come to
consider the changes wrought in the surface features of the
country by the action of running water. We know that rain,
running water, and frost, constituting what we call denuding
forces, are constantly at work changing the surface of a
country. We know that, in general, this change is slow.
But great changes have been wrought between these two ages.
In the British Islands, we know that the rivers had time to very
materially change the surface features of the land.
The important rivers of Scotland had carved out channels one
hundred feet deep in places; and along their courses, especially
near their mouths, had plowed out and removed great quantities
of glacial material--forming broad flats which became densely
wooded before Neolithic man made his appearance on the scene.
In some cases the entire surface of the land had been removed,
leaving only knolls and hills of the old land surface.
Examples of this occur on the east coast of England, and in what
is known as the Fen-lands. The final retreat of the glaciers
must have left the country covered with debris.
After this had been largely denuded, the country became densely
wooded. It was not until these changes had taken place, that
Neolithic man wandered into Europe.<3>
But still another ground exists for claiming a long interval
between these two ages, namely, the great changes that took
place in the animal world of Europe during these two epochs.
Many different species of animals characteristic of the
Paleolithic Age vanished as completely from Europe as the rude
tribes that hunted them, before the appearance of Neolithic
tribes. But little change in the fauna of England has taken
place in the last two thousand years. So it is obvious that the
great change above-mentioned demands many centuries for its
accomplishment. Huge animals of the elephant kind, such as the
mammoth, no longer crashed through the underbrush, or wallowed
in the lakes. The roars of lions and tigers, that haunted the
caves of early Europe, were no longer heard.<4> In short, there
had disappeared forever from Europe the distinctly southern
animals that diversified the fauna of Paleolithic times.
Even the Arctic animals were banished to northern latitudes, or
We have dwelt to some length on the proofs of a long-extended
time between these two ages. The more we reflect on these
instances the more impressed are we with a sense of duration
vast and profound, in which the great forests and grassy plains
of Europe supported herds of wild animals all unvexed by the
presence of man. We will only mention one more point and then
We have seen that the highest rank we can assign to Paleolithic
man in the scale of civilization is Upper Savagism. But when
Neolithic man appeared, he was in the middle status of
Barbarism. The time, therefore, between the disappearance of
Paleolithic man and the arrival of Neolithic man was long enough
to enable primitive man to pass one entire ethnical period, that
of Lower Barbarism. But this requires a very long period of
time, probably several times as long as the entire series of
years since Civilization first appeared, which is supposed to be
in the neighborhood of five thousand years ago.<5>
We must now turn our attention to Neolithic man himself and
learn what we can of his culture, and discover, if possible,
what race it was that spread over Europe after it had been for
so long a time an uninhabitable country. A few remarks by way of
introduction will not be considered amiss.
We are learning that tribal organization, implying communism in
living, is characteristic of prehistoric people.<6> Tribal
organization sufficed to advance man to the very confines of
civilization. We have no doubt but that this was the state of
society amongst the Neolithic people. But this implies living in
communities or villages. We need not picture to ourselves a
country dotted with houses, the abodes of single families;
such did not exist, but here and there were fortified villages.
Still another consequence follows from this tribal state of
society. There was no such thing as a strong central government.
Each tribe obeyed its own chief, and a state of war nearly
always existed between different tribes. Such we know was the
state of things among the Indian tribes of America.
Travelers tell us that it is so to-day in Africa. Each tribe
stood ready to defend itself or to make war on its neighbors.
One great point, therefore, in constructing a village, was to
secure a place that could be easily defended.
Bearing these principles in mind, let us see what we can learn
of their habitations. Owing to a protracted drouth, the water in
the Swiss lakes was unusually low in the Winter of 1854, and the
inhabitants of Meilen, on the Lake Zurich, took advantage of
this state of affairs to throw up embankments some distance out
from the old shore, and thus gain a strip of land along the
coast. In carrying out this design, they found in the mud at the
bottom of the lake a number of piles, some thrown down and
others upright, fragments of rough pottery, bone and stone
instruments, and various other relics.
Dr. Keller, president of the Zurich Antiquarian Society, was
apprised of this discovery, and proceeded at once to examine the
collection made and the place of discovery. He was not long in
determining the prehistoric nature of the relics, and the true
intent of the pile remains. He proved them to be supports for
platforms, on which were erected rude dwellings, the platforms
being above the surface of the water, and at some distance from
the shore, with which they were connected by a narrow bridge.
Illustration of Lake Village, Switzerland.-------------
This was the first of a series of many interesting discoveries
from which we have learned many facts as to Neolithic, times.
The out we have introduced is an ideal restoration of one of
these Swiss lake villages. It needs but a glance to show how
admirably placed it was for purposes of defense. Unless an enemy
was provided with boats, the only way of approach was over the
bridge. But the very fact that they resorted to lakes, where at
the expense of great labor they erected their villages, is a
striking illustration of the insecurity of the times.
This discovery once made, it is surprising what numbers of these
ancient lake villages have been discovered. Switzerland abounds
in large and small lakes, and in former times they must have
been still more numerous, but in the course of years they have
become filled up, and now exist only as peat bogs. But we now
know that during the Neolithic Age the country was quite thickly
inhabited, and these lakes were the sites of villages. Over two
hundred have been found in Switzerland alone. Fishermen had
known of the existence of these piles long before their meaning
was understood. Lake Geneva is one of the most famous of the
Swiss lakes. Though in the main it is deep, yet around the shore
there is a fringe of shallow water.
It was in this shallow belt that the villages were built.
The sites of twenty-four settlements are known. We are told that
on "calm days, when the surface of the water is unruffled, the
piles are plainly visible. Few of them now project more than two
feet from the bottom, eaten away by the incessant action of the
water. Lying among them are objects of bone, horn, pottery, and
frequently even of bronze. So fresh are they, and so unaltered,
they look as if they were only things of yesterday, and it seems
hard to believe that they can have remained there
A lake settlement represents an immense amount of work for a
people destitute of metallic tools. After settling on the
locality, the first step would be to obtain the timbers.
The piles were generally composed of the trunks of small-sized
trees at that time flourishing in Switzerland. But to cut down a
tree with a stone hatchet is no slight undertaking.
They probably used fire to help them. After the tree was felled
it had to be cut off again at the right length, the branches
lopped off, and one end rudely sharpened. It was then taken to
the place and driven into the mud of the lake bottom. For this
purpose they used heavy wooden mallets. It has been estimated
that one of the settlements on Lake Constance required forty
thousand piles in its construction.<8>
The platform which rested on these piles was elevated several
feet above the surface of the water, so as to allow for the
swash of the waves. It was composed of branches and trunks of
trees banded together, the whole covered with clay.
Sometimes they split the trees with wedges so as to make thick
slabs. In some instances wooden pegs were used to fasten
portions of the platform to the pilework.
As to the houses which were erected on these platforms, though
they have utterly vanished, yet from a few remains we can judge
something as to the mode of construction. They seem to have been
formed of trunks of trees placed upright, one by the side of the
other, and bound together by interwoven branches. This was then
covered on both sides with two or three inches of clay.
A plaster of clay and gravel formed the floor, and a few slabs
of sandstone did duty for a fire-place. The roof was of bark,
straw, or rushes. There does not seem to have been much of a
plan used in laying out a settlement. As population increased
other piles were added, and thus the village gradually extended.
No one village would be likely to contain a great number of
inhabitants. Calculations based on the area of one of the
largest settlements in Lake Geneva, gives as a result a
population of thirteen hundred, but manifestly nothing definite
This brief description gives us an idea of a method of
constructing villages which, as we shall soon see, extended all
over Europe, though varied somewhat in detail. The condition of
the remains indicate that these settlements were often destroyed
by fire. At such times quantities of arms, implements, and
household industries would have been lost in the water, and so
preserved for our inspection.
This mode of building found such favor among the early
inhabitants of Europe that it continued in use through the
Neolithic Age, that of Bronze, and even into the age of Iron.
Passages here and there in ancient histories evidently refer to
them. Though they have long since passed away in Switzerland,
the Spaniards found them in Mexico, and they are still to be
seen in some of the isles of the Pacific. Remembering this, we
need not be surprised if we find in one small lake settlements
belonging to widely different ages. Here one of the Stone Age,
there one of the Bronze, or even a confused mingling of what
seems to be several ages in one settlement.<9>
There is scarcely a country in Europe that does not contain
examples of lake villages. From their wide distribution we infer
that a common race spread over the land. We will now mention
some differences in construction discovered at some places,
where, from the rocky nature of the bed of the lake, it was
impossible to drive piles so as to form a firm foundation.
They sometimes packed quantities of stone around the piles to
serve as supports in a manner as here indicated. "In all
probability the stones used were conveyed to the required spot
by means of canoes, made of hollowed out trunks of trees.
Several of these canoes may still be seen at the bottom of Lake
Bienne, and one, indeed, laden with pebbles, which leads us to
think it must have foundered with its cargo."<10>
Illustration of Foundation, Lake Village.------------
In some cases these heaps of stone and sticks rise to the
surface of the water or even above it, the piles in such cases
serving more to hold the mass together than as a support to the
platform on which the huts were erected. This mode of
construction could only be employed in small lakes. This makes
in reality an artificial island, and seems to have been the
favorite method of procedure in the British Islands. In Ireland
and Scotland immense numbers of these structures are known.
They are called crannogs. This cut represents a section of one
in Ireland. Though they date back to the Neolithic Age, yet they
so exactly meet the wants of a rude people that they were
occupied down to historic times.
Illustration of Irish Crannog.---------------
The advantage of forming settlements where they could only be
approached on one side were so great that other places than
lakes were resorted to. Peat-bogs furnished nearly as secure a
place of retreat as do lakes. These have been well studied in
Northern Italy. They do not present many new features. They were
constructed like the lake villages, only they were surrounded by
a marsh, and not by a lake. In some of the Irish bogs they first
covered the surface of the bog with a layer of hazel bushes, and
that by a layer of sand, and thus secured a firm surface.<11>
In this case the villages were still further defended by a
breastwork of rough spars, about five feet high. One of the
houses of this group was found still in position, though it had
been completely buried in peat. No metal had been used in its
construction. The timbers had been cut with a stone ax, and the
explorer was even so fortunate as to find an ax, which exactly
fitted many of the cuts observed on the timbers.
But we are not to suppose that lakes and bogs afforded the only
sites of villages. They are found scattered all over the surface
of the country, and, as we shall soon see, they show the same
painstaking care to secure strong, easily defended positions.
They have been generally spoken of as forts, to which the
inhabitants resorted only in times of danger. We think, however,
they were locations of villages, the customary places of abode.
For this is in strict accordance with what we find to be the
early condition of savage life in every part of the world.
Traces of these settlements on the main-land have been mostly
obliterated by the cultivation of the soil during the many years
that have elapsed since their Neolithic founders occupied them.
In Switzerland the location of five of these villages are known.
In all instances they occupied places very difficult of approach
--generally precipitous sides on all but one or two. On the
accessible sides ramparts defended them. The relics obtained are
in all respects similar to those from the lake villages.<12>
Illustration of Fortified Camp, Cissbury.------------
Fortified inclosures have been described in Belgium. We are
told, "They are generally established on points overhanging
valleys, on a mass of rocks forming a kind of headland, which is
united to the rest of the country by a narrow neck of land.
A wide ditch was dug across this narrow tongue of land, and the
whole camp was surrounded by a thick wall of stone, simply piled
one upon another, without either mortar or cement." "One of
these walls, when described, was ten feet thick, and the same in
height." These intrenched positions were so well chosen that
most of them continued to be occupied during the ages which
followed." The Romans occasionally utilized them for their
camps. Over the whole inclosure of these ancient camps worked
flints and remains of pottery have been found.<13>
These fortified places have been well studied in the south
What is known as the South-Downs in Sussex is a range of hills
of a general height of seven hundred feet. This section is about
five miles wide and fifty miles long. Four rivers flow through
these downs to the sea. In olden times their lower courses must
have been deep inlets of the sea, thus dividing those hills into
five groups, each separated from the other by a wide extent of
water and marsh land. To the north of these hills was a vast
expanse of densely wooded country. It is not strange, then, to
find traces of numerous settlements among these hills. As the
surface soil is very thin, old embankments can still be traced.
The cut given is a representation of Cissbury, one of the
largest of these camps. It incloses nearly sixty acres.
The rampart varies according to the slope of the hill. Where the
ascent was at all easy it was made double. Fortified camps are
very numerous throughout the hill country. They vary, of course,
in size, but the situation was always well chosen.<14>
As for the buildings themselves, or huts of the Neolithic
people, we know but little. They were probably built much the
same as the houses in the lake settlements. We meet with some
strange modifications in England. Frequently within these
ramparts we find circular pits or depressions in the ground.
They are regarded as vestiges of habitations, and they must have
been mainly under ground. "They occur singly and in groups, and
are carried down to a depth of from seven to ten feet through
the superficial gravel into the chalk, each pit, or cluster of
pits, having a circular shaft for an entrance. At the bottom
they vary from five to seven feet in diameter, and gradually
narrow to two and a half or three feet in diameter in the upper
part. The floors were of chalk, sometimes raised in the center,
and the roof had been formed of interlaced sticks, coated with
clay imperfectly burned."<15>
In the north of Scotland, instead of putting them under ground,
they built them on the natural surface, and then built a mound
over them all. In appearance this was scarcely distinguishable
from a mound, but on digging in we discover a series of large
chambers, built generally with stones of considerable size, and
converging toward the center, where an opening appears to have
been left for light and ventilation. In some instances the mound
was omitted, and we have simply a cluster of joining huts, with
dry, thick walls. These have been appropriately named
We can form a very good idea of Neolithic Europe from what we
have learned as to their habitations. A well-wooded country,
abounding in lakes and marshes, quite thickly settled, but by a
savage people, divided into many tribes, independent of and
hostile to each other. The lakes were fringed with their
peculiar settlements; they are to be noticed in the marshes, and
on commanding heights are still others. The people were largely
hunters and fishers, but, as we shall soon see, they practised a
rude husbandry and had a few domestic animals. Such was the
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