« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
horses, dogs, and cattle now, they seem to have been as various in the earlier times, and associated then as now with particular tracts of country and families of mankind?; nor even in regard to man do we find much change in the African, Caucasian, or Mongolian races, which seem to have been from remote antiquity separate, and still are distinguishable by the characters assigned to them in the pages of Ammianus Marcellinus and Herodotus, and in the ancient sculptures of Egypt.
The interval of time which has elapsed since the present races of created life came into being cannot be known by any kind of research practicable for mankind, unless Geology can solve the problem. As far as human experience goes —a few thousand years—there appears too little change in individual character, or in the combination of the whole series, to furnish any data for inferences touching the epoch of the creation. If we are able to say these races of plants and animals were not eternal, nor the earliest of created things, but had predecessors and a date of origin, it is not Zoology, nor History, nor Tradition which tells us so; but Geology, which, agreeing with the authority of Scripture in the late date of man, and the races of beings associated with him, adds its own testimony of Pre-adamitic beings. If we take as the first of the problems to be examined on this subject, that which seems the most likely to be answered on satisfactory evidence, viz. the geological antiquity of the human race, we find clear though incomplete testimony leading to a sure and definite conclusion. Man and the works of man have been preserved in natural repositories of higher antiquity than all the mausoleums, and tumuli, and ÚTroyaia; in caverns, peat-bogs, lacustrine and river
1 Orpian. KYNHT. 1. 116.
; sediments, which derived their characteristic features from the operation of physical conditions long since passed away. Thus deep in the sediments of many of our British valleys left by the rivers in some earlier period, we find the canoe of the primitive inhabitant, hollowed by fire and rude stone chisels from the trunk of the native oak. In Caverns near Swansea, and near Narbonne, skeletons of the early people have been found; in those of Kent's hole and Brixham and Sicily, and deep in the gravel of Amiens and Abbeville, the flint instruments which served for rude workmen in wood, rude diggers of the ground, or rude warriors in the field. According to such observations as we can make these facts can only be explained by supposing a long period of time to have elapsed since their occurrence. To heap twenty or more feet of sediment over the buried canoes by the ordinary operation of a river like the Yorkshire Aire, would require thousands of years; if it were not accumulated under the ordinary circumstances ñow in operation, but under different geographical conditions, this would perhaps require the hypothesis of still longer time. In the alluvial sediments of this same valley lie nearly complete skeletons of the extinct Hippopotamus major?; in another place jaws and horns of the deer, and hazel wood and nuts, some of them petrified'. Perhaps man was contemporary with this extinct Hippopotamus, which has also been found in the Peat deposits of Lancashire.
The gravel of Amiens and Abbeville appears to furnish evidence of higher antiquity for the flint implements found there, for they lie at the bottom of the deposit, 20 ft. or more in depth. The deposit is of fluviatile origin, but it is not in the bed of the actual valley. It lies in what must have been the course of the great floods of some earlier time, under other geographical conditions, before the actual riverchannel was sunk to its present level. In this gravel have been found remains of Elephas primigenius, now extinct. Man may have been contemporary with that animal in Europe; nor will this appear a very startling inference, if we remember the discovery of the entire specimen covered with flesh and hair at the mouth of the Lena.
i British Association Reports, 1853,
Phil. Mag. 1827.
But how many soever of centuries we allow for the accumulation of the gravel, the filling of the caves, or the deposition of the alluvium, this period thus indicated is as nothing compared to those which have passed away before it began. In a general summary we may affirm that the human period of the earth’s history is a very short one on the geological scale, the latest of all, and yet the most important, since independent of the interest conferred on it by the presence of our race, it is by evidence collected from this period that we are to judge of the earlier ages of nature.
If we put as our second question the geological antiquity of the races of plants and animals which are directly and specially associated with man, as the valuable Pomaceous Plants and Ruminant Animals, the answer is of the same kind. They are of recent date—their remains are found only in deposits near the surface, which belong to the existing order of physical conditions, the later effects of geological agencies. The creatures most useful to him appear to be of contemporaneous origin; and may be employed as marks of the human period, in cases where no traces of man or his works remain. The relation of this to earlier periods will appear in the following scale of geological time, the length of the periods. being not perhaps exactly proportioned to the thick