« ÎnapoiContinuați »
THE INDUSTRIAL, SOCIAL, AND RELIGIOUS
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT.
PRIMITIVE CONDITION OF THE HUMAN RACE.
At the time when Europeans were astounded at the condition of the so-called savage nations, as shown by the trans-oceanic discoveries of ancient and modern times, many imaginative people supposed the human species, on its first appearance, to have been endowed with the highest perfections, bodily, intellectual, and moral, and ascribed the absence of these advantages in the coloured inhabitants of forests and islands to a culpable degradation from that golden condition. In refutation of these now harmless errors, it is sufficient to refer to the change of opinion undergone by such a student of the subject as Herr von Martius. At the meeting of German naturalists at Freiburg, in 1838, he still asserted that, “ Every day that I spent among the Indians of Brazil increased my conviction that at one time they had been quite different, and that in the course of obscure centuries, manifold catastrophes had overtaken them and reduced them to the peculiarly deteriorated and stationary condition in which I found them.” Before thirty years had elapsed, we hear from his lips the following words respecting the same people : “As yet no evidence is before us that the barbarous state of these regions at that period was secondary, that it was preceded by one of higher civilization, that this resort of ephemeral, unstable hordes was ever occupied by a civilized people.”: Nor do those other views
survive which, at the end of the last century, were entertained by travellers who, like George Forster, filled with dreams worthy of Rousseau, envied the people of the South Seas as a fortunate race in a state of nature, and not yet deprived of the ideal condition of man by the follies of civilized life. Only the night before the savages killed him, Lamanon, the companion of La Pérouse, maintained, in conversation with his comrades, that savages were far better than civilized people. The physical beauty so frequently extolled in the unrestrained children of nature is generally wanting in the photographic portraits which now reach us in such abundance. Even where it actually exists, unmarred by the disfigurements inflicted by misguided taste, cleanliness, the best attention to the human body, is often lacking. The hair is in disorder and the teeth uncleaned. We expect to find certain vices only in highly cultured but deteriorated nations, as among the Greeks and in imperial Rome, yet any one who is but slightly versed in the older Spanish records of American tribes, is well aware that the latter knew of refinements of vice which never occurred either to the Romans when Tiberius dwelt at Capri, or to the Byzantines when Theodora, afterwards the consort of the Emperor Justinian, roamed about with strolling players.3 We may add, that nearly all these people were acquainted with poisons which destroy the human embryo, and that they were used with wanton recklessness. This dark side of the life of uncivilized nations has induced barbarous and inhuman settlers in transoceanic regions to assume a right to cultivate as their own the inheritance of the aborigines, and to extol the murder of races as a triumph of civilization.
? Schaafhausen, Archiv für Anthropologie. In the same spirit Helfer wrote in his journal before he was murdered by the Andamans, “ These are the much dreaded savages ! They are timid children of nature, happy as long as no harm is done to them.” Joh. Wilh. Helfer's Reisen in Vorderasien und Indien. Leipzic, 1873.
3 Vespucci, Quattuor Navigations, passim. Of this in the case of the Aleutes see Erman, Zeitsch. für Ethnologie (1871), of the Tshuktshi see Wrangel, Reise in Siberien, of the Itelmes see Steller, Kamschatka.
4 A list of the nations in which this vice is tolerated was recently given in the Archiv für Anthropologie. Brunswick, 1872.
The Supposed Animal Condition.
Other writers, led away by Darwinian dogmas, fancied they had discovered populations which had, as it were, remained in a former animal condition for the instruction of our times. Thus, in the words of a History of Creation, in the taste now prevalent, "in Southern Asia and the east of Africa, men live in hordes, mostly climbing trees and eating fruit, unacquainted with fire, and using no weapons but stones and clubs after the manner of the higher apes.” It can be shown that these statements are derived from the writings of a learned scholar of Bonn, on the condition of savage nations, the facts of which are based either on the depositions of an African slave of the Doko tribe, a dwarfish people in the South of Shoa, or on the assertions of Bengalese planters 7 or perhaps on the observation of a sporting adventurer, that a mother and daughter, and at another time a man and woman, were found in India in a semi-animal condition. On the other hand, not only have neither nations nor even hordes in an ape-like condition ever been encountered by any trustworthy traveller of modern times, but even those races which in the first superficial descriptions were ranked far below our own grade of civilization, have on nearer acquaintance been placed much nearer the civilized nations. No portion of the human race has yet been discovered which does not possess a more or less rich vocabulary, rules of language, artificially pointed weapons and various implements, as well as the art of kindling fire.
Sir John Lubbock asserts in his book on Prehistoric Times, that certain inhabitants of the Pacific Islands have no acquaintance with fire. We are sorry to find this asserted also of the aborigines of Van Diemen's Land, for Sir John need only have opened the record of Abel Tasman 9 to ascertain that even the first discoverer saw columns of smoke rising in the interior of the island. With as little justice Lubbock asserts that the inhabitants of Fakaafo were unacquainted with fire. This island belongs to the Union
5 Archiv für Anthropologie.
6 Krapf, Reisen in Ostafrika. ? G. Pouchet, The Plurality of the Human Race. 1864. 8 Ausland. 1860.
9 Burney, Discoveries. The Tasmanians moreover possessed a tradition respecting the derivation of fire. See Tylor, Early History of Mankind, p. 301. See also Lubbock, Prehistoric Times, p. 453.
group, and is situated in the north of the Samoan Archipelago, the inhabitants of which have been named navigators on account of their nautical skill and extensive voyages, so that they would long ago have conveyed fire and the art of kindling it to their neighbours at Fakaafo, if these had been without it. For any one else it would have been warning enough, that in the dialect of Fakaafo the word for fire occurs which, according to the various dialects of the Malay language, is pronounced api, afi, ahi.10 Sir John Lubbock, on the contrary, evades this by the supposition that, as in the allied Maori language, the word may stand only for light and heat. As the only foundation for his assertion he appeals to the famous American navigator Wilkes, who noticed the absence of cinders in every part of Fakaafo, and therefore conjectured that the aborigines consumed their food in a raw condition. The great work of his companion, Horatio Hale, on the languages of the South Seas, appeared only a year after the publication of Wilkes's discoveries. This excellent anthropologist testified not only that a word for fire existed on this island, but, in order to refute Wilkes's mistake, he expressly remarks that, on the evening before their embarkation, he and his companions saw a column of smoke rising from Fakaafo." We may therefore confidently maintain the proposition that no human family unacquainted with fire has yet been found.12 Fire is an instructive and powerful auxiliary of man.
It is a means that has no substitute for producing those modifications of matter, without which our most important articles of food would be unfit for consumption. With the aid of fire, trunks of trees were first, and are still, hollowed out into canoes. Fire alone scares away the fierce beasts of prey of the forest and desert—the African lion, the Asiatic tiger, the American jaguar. By fire
According to the vocabulary in Mariner's Tonga Islands, tolo-afi signifies to rub fire, and tolonga the grooved wood in which it is rubbed.
11 United States Exploring Expedition ; Ethnography. Philadelphia, 1846.
12 The death of the author prevents an appeal to him to alter this passage, in which he certainly misrepresents Sir John Lubbock, who sums up his remarks on this subject with the words: “ The fact, if established, would be most important; but it cannot be said to be satisfactorily proved that there is at present, or has been within historical times, any race of men entirely ignorant of fire." See Prehistoric Times, pp. 453, 454. London, 1865.
Discovery of Fire
primitive man hardened his rude weapons and the points of his wooden spears. In the absence of trained dogs, prairie fires serve to drive the game into the hands of the hunting tribes of Australia and South Africa. Traces of charred wood and ashes are found in the caves of Périgord,"3 and with yet greater significance in the source of the Schussen, among implements of reindeer's horn, which belong to the glacial period of Northern Europe. 14
If we now consider from what source man originally obtained fire, the first thought will probably be that he received it as a gift from on high by means of a flash of lightning, which set fire to a tree. But before man could render himself master of fire as a useful auxiliary, he must first have had a knowledge of all the purposes to which man alone is able to adapt it. The conservation of fire must therefore have been preceded by familiar handling of it. If we may draw an inference from the observations of those who have watched nations in a semi-natural condition, we may add that primitive man would have fled in terror from the spectacle of the blazing tree whenever a kindling flash darted from the threatening cloud. The most probable conjecture is, therefore, that it was in the vicinity of volcanic lava streams that man first and permanently became acquainted with the benefits of fire. 15 Alexander von Humboldt reports that twenty years after the eruption of Jorullo, shavings could still be kindled in the fissures of the Hornitos, or dwarf-craters. 16 Thus throughout the life of a whole generation this lava mass offered continual opportunities of obtaining fire. At the bottom of many craters, as in the volcanoes of Hawai, and in the so-called Hell of Masaye, the glowing lava has seethed for ages without intermission. Again, in some few districts there are numbers of so-called mud-volcanoes, or vents, emitting inflammable gas, namely, carburetted hydrogen. We refer to phenomena of this description in the United States, in China and Italy, but especially to the perpetual fires of the peninsula of Absheron near Baku, on the Caspian Sea, which day and night, summer and winter, throw up blasts of flaming gas from fifteen to twenty feet in
14 Ibid. p. 39.
13 See above, p. 36.