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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

     

Part II: Primitive Cultures: The Problem of their Historical Origin

Chapter 3

Cultural Degeneration

     SOMEWHERE AROUND 3000 B.C. the cultural position of mankind seems to have been somewhat as follows: A remarkably high civilization represented in several areas in the Middle East, more particularly in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus Valley, was circled by a number of subsidiary settlements established as colonies reflecting some but not all of the core civilization which was ancestral to them. As we move away from the centre, the light grows dimmer. Here and there circumstances, the nature of which is not altogether clear, permitted the light to flare up more brilliantly, quite early in China (95) and considerably later in Central America. On the whole,

95. A number of authorities have suggested that Chinese civilization was rather directly descended from early Sumerian. Its script may have been related (S. L. Caiger, Bible and Spade, Oxford, 1936, p.2). There are apparently some close resemblances between Sumerian and very early Chinese music (M. E. L. Mallowan quoting F. W. Galpin, The Music of the Sumerians, Cambridge, 1937, in Antiquity, June, 1939, p.169). W. J. Perry in his Growth of Civilization (Pelican Books, Eng., 1937, p.125) refers to some very striking architectural parallels. Lord Raglan (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, July-Dec., 1957, p.144) argues that Chinese civilization progressed only so long as contact with the outside world was maintained. Carl Whiting Bishop in his paper, "The Beginnings of Civilization in Eastern Asia" (Smithsonian Institute Annual Report, 1940, pp.431-446), discusses in an interesting way the question of whether cultural centres such as Sumeria and China could have arisen in entire independence. He argues that the large number of common elements in these earliest civilizations, what he described as "homogeneity in fundamentals" (p.433) cannot be attributed simply to the fact that men's minds work pretty much the same everywhere. There seems to be little question as to the relatedness of them all. Joseph Needham underscores the fact that while Sinanthropus seems to antedate the beginnings of Chinese civilization by an immense period of time, there is a complete hiatus from this to the first clear evidence of wide scale settlement in 2,500 B.C. Note this time -- it is not very far from the traditional date of the Flood. Thereafter he says, "Then suddenly, about 2,500 B.C., the apparently empty land begins to support a large and busy population. There is evidence of hundreds, even thousands, of villages, inhabited by people of agricultural as well as pastoral economy, acquainted with carpentry, textiles, and ceramics," (Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge, 1954, vol.l, p.80). Incidentally, the same "sudden" appearance of civilization applies to Japan also (Ingram Bryan, The History of Japan, Benn, London, 1928, p.9). The Central American Cultures are, of course, far later.

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however, it appears to have been a general rule that the cultural level was lower as it moved further from the original source of inspiration. Any people who migrated either at will or under pressure so far that they passed beyond the stream of influence of the central core and no longer enjoyed the stimulation of continuous culture contacts, descended lower and lower in the scale, losing one element after another, until they reached that position with respect to culture that the body may reach with respect to disease where its energies are reduced so low as to render it unable to restore itself without outside aid. Unfortunately, just as the wrong restoratives may destroy the sickly patient, so the contact of the White Man and his vastly more complex civilization has tended to destroy the more primitive cultures, even when he honestly sought to improve their condition. Not a few peoples have shown themselves to have reached such a low ebb that the penalty of meeting a higher civilization has been total extinction; they sang their swan song and disappeared. If such primitive people really did in any way represent early man, one wonders whether cultural evolution ever could have occurred seeing that there does not appear to be any power of self-improvement.
     Those societies which suffered most from culture-contacts with the White Man have tended to be the most "degraded," and their degeneration resulted invariably from the extreme harshness of their environment. This very harshness has, however, discouraged higher civilizations from any desire to dispossess the aboriginal inhabitants until quite recent times, a fact which saved them from being brought to extinction. It is difficult in the first place to understand why any people should choose to settle in some parts of the world where the environment is so hostile. The Eskimo in the Arctic, the Ona and Yaghans in Tierra del Fuego, the Semang of the Malay Peninsula, the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, or the Ituri Pygmies in the hot humid forests of the Congo these would surely not choose such a habitat unless some circumstance had forced their ancestors into doing so, their descendants thereafter becoming accustomed to it and accepting it as normal for themselves. In many of these cases the margin of survival is so small that once a safe pattern of living has been established such societies cannot permit the slightest deviation
(96)

96. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R., Andaman Islanders, Cambridge, 1922, illustrates this point very forcibly for this particular people whose culture is very low indeed, showing that they will not allow the introduction of even the most useful items (such as traps, p.37) because of their fear of changing the slightest part of their culture. He repeatedly emphasizes this conservatism (see p.302).

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The culture becomes "of a piece," and any changes tend to be disastrous unless they are from within. Goldenweiser refers to this as cultural involution, (97) which occurs without conflict, as opposed to evolution which depends upon conflict. It is for this reason that contacts with other cultures are feared and are avoided as far as possible. It seems likely that this characteristic of all primitive people has always existed. Such conservatism stands firmly against any kind of progressive evolution as an automatic process resulting from the Struggle to Survive, because this kind of change almost always had a detrimental effect on the culture. Involution can take place quietly. Indeed, it is only ever permitted when this is possible. Thus, the evolutionary concept of Struggle for Survival, per se, does not benefit a primitive society. Their resources are far too small.
     On the other hand, cultural devolution can be shown to have occurred many times in history. To summarize this situation, we may see that progress has only taken place in the mainstream, in those cultures which derived their inspiration and renewed it from time to time from the initial explosive development which was the subject of the first part of this Paper. The moment any culture broke contact, its history thereafter tended to be characterized by the loss of old elements rather than the gain of new ones. Gains were made in some cases, but almost always by involution. Moreover, once the break had occurred and lack of contact continued for some time, renewal of contact tended to be harmful rather than beneficial. We do not have any case on record of any culture once so isolated having thereafter enjoyed a continually progressive development to a higher level. If we allow the biblical view of a high civilization at the very beginning, resulting from the circumstances of man's original creation and special endowment, followed by the disaster of the Flood and the scattering of man shortly after while he still enjoyed a high civilization, the subsequent cultural history of mankind makes good sense. The evolutionary picture of man beginning as an animal and slowly educating himself for better and higher things until after half a million years he reached a Neolithic stage, from which he quickly improved his own lot and soon became highly civilized, may appear to be reasonable, but is not really supported by the evidence.
     Now these two alternative views have always existed, although today no anthropologist of reputation in the world would be willing

97. Goldenweiser, A., Anthropology, Crofts, New York, 1945, p.414, footnote. 4.

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to admit holding the first. But E. B. Tylor, while believing strongly in the second alternative, nevertheless admitted that the biblical view was at least possible. Notice, however, the curious form in which this admission appears. To use his own words: (98)

     The thesis which I venture to sustain, within limits, is simply this, that the savage state in some measure represents an early condition of mankind, out of which the higher culture has gradually been developed or evolved, by processes still in regular operation as of old, the result showing that on the whole, progress has far prevailed over relapse.
     On this proposition, the main tendency of human society during its long term of existence has been to pass from a savage to a civilized stage.

     Yet he continued:

     This progression-theory of civilization may be contrasted with its rival, the degeneration theory. . . .  This theory has received the sanction of great learning and ability. It has practically resolved itself into two assumptions, first, that the history of culture began with the appearance on earth of a semi-civilized race of men, and second, that from this stage culture has proceeded in two ways, backward to produce savages, and forward to produce civilized men. The idea of the original condition of man being one of more or less high culture, must have a certain prominence given to it on account of its considerable hold on public opinion. As to definite evidence, however, it does not seem to have any ethnological basis whatever.

     In spite of the tenor of his final conclusion here, he nevertheless proceeds to state that modern primitives, though they are representatives of Paleolithic Man in his view, are actually a very poor witness for the progressive theory since they never seem to show any evidence of progress themselves. He observes that Niebuhr, in attacking the progressionists of the 18th century, had been one of the first to make the point "that no single example can be brought forward of an actually savage people having independently become civilized."
     Whately
(99) appropriated this remark, which indeed forms the kernel of his well-known lecture "On the Origin of Civilization." "Facts are stubborn things," he said, "and that no authenticated instance can be produced of any savages that ever did emerge unaided from that state, is no theory but a statement hitherto never disproved of as matter of fact." With this view Tylor had little patience; (100) yet

98. Tylor, Edward B., Primitive Culture, vol.1, Murray, London, 2nd edition, 1891, p.32 and 35.
99. Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, "On the Origin of Civilization," Exeter Hall Papers, 1854-55, Nisbet, London, p.23. This whole essay is still well worth reading in spite of its date.
100. Tylor, E. B., Anthropology, New Science Library, Hill, New York, 1904, p.14 following.

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he was honest enough to admit that there were known cases of degeneration within the historical period. As a matter of fact, in another work he devoted considerable space to further instances, and to some of the factors which bring such degeneration about. For his more evolutionary minded successors such admissions gave far too much comfort to the enemy and consequently were seldom if ever alluded to in "official" literature until, as we have previously pointed out, there came a gradual revolt among anthropologists against this dogmatic insistence that everything in man's cultural past must have an evolutionary history. There is another fact that better acquaintance with existing primitive people has brought clearly to light which also challenges the view that early man started with little more intelligence than an animal and only after hundreds of thousands of years evolved into a superior and more cultured being. This is the discovery that in spite of all appearances to the contrary, existing primitive people are every bit as intelligent as we are and in many cases a whole lot wiser. It is customary to suppose that early man was so slow in improving his lot because he was at first little more intelligent than the other primates, whose world he shared. Not till an immense period of time had passed did he have sufficient intelligence to settle in one spot and make a serious attempt to control his environment by domestication of plants and animals, replacing a nomadic life by a settled one. But we know now that the lowest of all primitive people of recent times are every bit as educable as ourselves, the difference being one of environment, training, and opportunity.
      Loren Eiseley in an article reviewing Darwin's ideas about the development of man's brain pointed out that Wallace himself long ago admitted men with simple cultures possess the same basic intellectual powers which the Darwinians maintained could only be developed by competitive struggle. This struggle was conceived of as having been a very greatly extended one, but as Eiseley remarked:
(101)

     Natural Selection could only have endowed the savage with a brain little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one but little inferior to that of the average of our learned societies. . . .
     Wallace insisted that artistic, mathematical, and musical abilities could not be explained on the basis of Natural Selection and the struggle for existence.

     In a similar vein Franz Boas cautioned: (102)

101. Eiseley, Loren C., "Was Darwin Wrong About the Human Brain?" Harpers, Nov., 1955, p.67.
102. Boas, Franz, The Mind of Primitive Man, Macmillan, New York, 2nd edition, 1939, pp.16, 17.

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     By analogy we associate lower mental traits with brute-like features. In our naive, everyday parlance, brutish features and brutality are closely connected. We must distinguish here, however between anatomical, muscular development of the face, trunk and limbs due to habits of life. . . .  We are also inclined to draw inferences in regard to mentality from a receding forehead, a heavy jaw, large and heavy teeth, perhaps even from inordinate length of arms or an unusual development of hairiness.
     It appears neither cultural achievement nor outer appearance is a safe basis on which to judge the mental aptitude of races.

     In one of the Oxford pamphlets on World Affairs, Sir Alfred Zimmern makes the interesting point that the reverse is also true, namely, that in our own culture "every baby that is born . . . is a Stone Age baby." (103) The significance of this is that human potentialities have never really changed either for good or for ill. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, you and I are not one bit more gifted by nature than a baby born in a contemporary primitive society. Zimmern was attempting to underscore the fact that a modern European (he had in mind the Nazis) can be by nature as savage as any "savage." A higher "culture" does not mean superior intelligence. Nor, by the same token, does a lower culture signify a lower intelligence. Many recent writers have stressed this point. Thus Nicholson recently reviewing a work by Oscar Lewis, Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty, concluded from the evidence: (104)

      The progress from poverty to riches is a progress from deep to shallow religious perception, from more to less serious reading, from earthy to diseased sexual problems, and from a kind of rough contentment based on a full day's work to an almost constant cantankerousness resulting from artificial pleasures and twisted values.
     This trend should give food for thought to those who still believe that the trend from an underdeveloped to a developed economy is necessarily and in itself desirable.

     Moreover, part of the awakened interest in this subject has been due to the fact that World War II revealed how utterly inhuman so-called "civilized" man could be, the more inhuman as he is the better educated. E. J. Holmyard in an editorial on this point remarked: (105)

     That the average man of 1946 is very much better informed than his predecessors of even a century ago must surely be ascribed to better methods for the dissemination of knowledge rather than to an increased power of assimilating it. And it can hardly be disputed that one of the chief reasons for our present troubles is this wide extension

103. Zimmern, Sir Alfred, The Prospects of Civilization, Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs, No.1, Oxford, 1940, p.23.
104. Nicholson. I., Book reviews, Discovery, London, Dec., 1959, p.540.
105. Holmyard, E. J., "The Future of Man," Endeavour, Imperial Chemical Industry, London, Jan., 1946, p.2.

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of knowledge to people whose minds are not sufficiently cultured to make proper use of it.

     We have to be careful how we judge lower cultures when we have information only about the simplicity of their weapons and commodities. There is plenty of evidence that their children make first class, and sometimes superior, scholars when given opportunity. (106) The same must apply to Early Man. As Kenneth Oakley has recently pointed out: (107)

     We have no reason to infer that all Early Paleolithic men had brains qualitatively inferior to those of the average man today. The simplicity of their culture can be accounted for by the extreme sparseness of the population and their lack of accumulated knowledge. A supposed hallmark of the mind of Homo sapiens is the artistic impulse, but archaeological evidence suggests that this trait manifested itself almost at the dawn of tool making.

     As a matter of fact, it is instructive to turn the tables upon ourselves and learn what primitive people have sometimes thought of the White Man _ when he could be persuaded to express his opinion in spite of the restraint of his own natural politeness. Consider, for example, the reply delivered to the Virginia Commission in 1744 when that worthy Body offered to educate six Indian youths in William and Mary College. (108)

     Several of our young people were formally brought up in colleges of the Northern Provinces: they were instructed in all your sciences; but when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, or councilors; they were totally good for nothing.
     We are, however, not the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it; and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.

     It is not stated in the source from which I obtained this interesting quotation whether any young men of Virginia took advantage of the offer of being properly educated. It shows, however, that we may be so frightfully culture-bound that we fail to see in a primitive society any of the real values which exist there and how lacking they may

106. A whole series of such "experiments" will be found cited by T. Mildred Creed in Nineteenth Century, vol.7, 1905, p. 89 ff. See also Nature (England), vol.40, 1889, p.634. The interest at the time was much greater than it is now, since the fact was so unexpected.
107. Oakley, Kenneth, "The Evolution of Human Skill," in A History of Technology, vol.1, edited by Singer, Holmyard and Hall, Oxford, 1957, p.27.
108. Quoted from Wallbank and Taylor, Civilization -- Past and Present, vol.1, Scott Firesman, Chicago, 1942, pp.499 and 500.

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actually be in our own. We look upon such people as grown-up children playing rather foolish games, easily angered and generally immature in their behaviour. It may, therefore, come as a surprise to read the following assessment of the White Man made to Rasmussen by an Eskimo. (109)

     It is generally believed that White Men have quite the same mind as small children. Therefore one should always give way to them. They are easily angered, and when they cannot have their will they are moody, and like children have the strangest ideas and fancies.

     In her book Ishi, a Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America, Mrs. Theodora Kroeber writes a very sensitive appraisal of a truly "primitive" man, who survived only by accident into the modern world. She and her husband (A. L. Kroeber) established complete rapport with this remarkable and gentle man, and as a result, were able to discern his genuine impressions of the White Man who came as a total stranger to him as he did to them. He considered the White Man to be "fortunate, inventive, and very, very clever: but child-like and lacking in a desirable reserve and in a true understanding of Nature." Just before he died (in 1916) he reaffirmed his view of us as sophisticated indeed but "still only children -- smart but not wise." (110) And this man was a representative of a people we took for granted were untaught, superstitious savages, a condition supposedly once characteristic of our own prehistoric forebears.
     And just to keep the record straight early Britons, when they were first contacted by the Romans, were looked upon much as we have looked upon our primitive contemporaries. Cicero wrote back to Rome:
(111)

     Do not obtain your slaves from Britain because they are so stupid and so utterly incapable of being taught that they are not fit to form part of the Household of Athens.

     This might be another way of looking at the old battle cry, "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves." Much more recently the African native has begun to find courage enough, and words, to express his candid view about the White Man. He has never failed to admire our technology but his feelings about our cultural behaviour are something else. Since the original statement which I have

109. Spoken by an Eskimo named Kuvdluitsoq and quoted in "The Seal Eskimos," by Knud Rasmussen, in A Reader in General Anthropology, edited by C.S. Coon, Holt, New York, 1948, p.119.
110. Kroeber, Theodora, Ishi. A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America, University California Press, Los Angeles, 1971, pp.229 and 237.
111. Cicero, quoted by Kenneth Walker in Meaning and Purpose, Penguin Books, England, 1950, p.147.

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in mind here is rather long, the following summary may suffice. The writer was an African native visiting Europe and America. (112) He was genuinely shocked at the manner in which children are not only allowed but almost encouraged to be disrespectful to their elders. "The white women," he says, "appear to be chattering like birds all the time. Their remarks...are not to be taken seriously." He observed that the White Man gets all excited and speaks with exaggeration of things he himself would consider of no particular significance. They are so ill at ease with one another, he felt, that they must be talking all the time, afraid of silence. We think of native people as quite lacking in individualism, but this African gentleman was surprised to find how great was our fear of being thought "different." He further observed, "Men appear even more mysterious. It may seem to us that they even play the role of children in the house. They are looked after very carefully and told what they are supposed to like, to eat, to wear, and to do." He was amazed at the fear of age, which to him was a prerequisite of mature judgment. For all this he was also a wise man for he said, "We know such an interpretation is not accurate, and so we should not attach too much importance to our first general impressions." In this observation he had in mind also to warn the European visitor against premature judgments of native ways based on insufficient understanding.
     Such things should serve to correct some rather common preconceptions about people of "lower" cultures in general. If they are as wise and as intelligent as we are and if they do represent prehistoric man in any way, then prehistoric man was no less fully human and wise and intelligent than ourselves. Why, if this is so, did he take so long to develop a civilization? Or, to put the question in a slightly different form, why have his modern counterparts never been known to elevate themselves, except by contact with a higher civilization? The cause for this latter phenomenon has been tentatively identified: namely, that existing or recently extinct primitive societies have reached their conditions by degeneration, and when this condition results, no power of self-recovery remains. Would it not therefore be logical to suppose that Paleolithic cultures were also degenerate fragments resulting from the initial break-up of the high civilization in the Middle East? These prehistoric cultures never did show any progressive development except that which resulted by the subsequent infiltration of later fragments from the core civilization. Of course, such a picture appears to fly in the face of all the

112. African view: reported under the title, "Different People -- Different Ways," in South African Pioneer, SAGM (South African General Mission), Apr.- June, 1955, p.15.

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chronological evidence. To many, this difficulty may appear to be insuperable. We shall leave this aspect of the problem for the present, and only point out that such a reconstruction of prehistory in Europe, Africa and Asia as well as in the New World makes remarkably good sense of the available cultural evidence. Moreover, if the initial fragmentation and scattering of mankind resulted in successive waves of migration, some groups of people would inevitably be pressed into the most marginal areas where it is almost certain that individuals or single families might wander even further and die in their isolation reduced to circumstances which would leave them little if anything above the beasts who shared their environment. One might suppose that such oppression would break not only the spirit of man, but physically degrade the human form also, and that for this reason the most primitive fossil remains would be found as indeed they invariably are not near the centre where man originated, but at the edges where in his final degradation he breathed his last. (113) This might account for the otherwise anomalous fact that the most primitive fossil types, such as Sinanthropus, could still produce flint weapons "sometimes of fine workmanship." (114) Even as he died, thousands of miles away his not too distant relatives were pressing forward toward the creation of some of the most remarkable civilizations that the ancient world ever knew.
     How far down the scale can man go when circumstances cause him to be uprooted from the stabilizing influences of the mainstream of culture? And how long is this process likely to take? Exotic arts might be lost readily enough, but is it likely that any people who once had a fair range of useful arts would ever abandon them or forget the techniques of their manufacture?
     In some ways the New World presents a clearer picture of what can actually happen than the Old, because compared with the total time periods involved in Europe as currently interpreted, the span here is so very much shorter, even if we allow the maximum figures given for human remains and artifacts (i.e., up to 25,000 years or so). The whole interval is certainly less than one tenth of that involved in Europe by such a reckoning, and could even be no more than one twentieth, if Paleolithic times in the Old World lasted for 500,000 years. Actually it is far less than 25,000 years, for the decay of the New World Culture is almost (though not quite) an event of the last 2,000 to 2,500 years at the most. 

113. This point is explored further in "The Supposed Evolution of the Human Skull," Part IV in Genesis and Early Man, vol.2 in The Doorway Papers Series.
114. Sinanthropus' tools: on this point see Marcellin Boule and Henri V. Vallois, Fossil Men, Dryden, New York, 1957, p.145, footnote 45.

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     Moreover, the settlement of the New World by the White Man was accompanied by the gradual eclipse or degradation of a number of aboriginal peoples and such events were chronicled by eyewitnesses at the time. This is strictly a matter of historical record in many cases. We do not have to surmise what would happen if this kind of dislocation took place on a wide scale we actually know. Sometimes it was the displacement of people still to all intents and purposes at a Stone Age level by others who were much further advanced a phenomenon which may also have happened though perhaps less dramatically to prehistoric man in Europe if we knew enough. The now generally recognized "contemporaneity of cultures," which were formerly always looked upon as successive, may bear on this. Dawson (115) reports on a case where Paleolithic men were found with Neolithic arrowheads in their bones.
    In other instances it was a case of the catastrophic destruction of high civilizations, as in Central America for example, chiefly by duplicity but also by superior weapons. This, too, has happened more than once in history and may account for the disappearance of some African civilizations, such as that which lay behind the ruins of Zimbabwe.
(116) In the Island of Yezo, (117) now inhabited only by the primitive Ainu, there are numerous vestiges of large cities, roads, canals, and mines skillfully worked, and other traces of towns and castles embedded in the forests, evidences of a high civilization which may have been desolated as the Indus Valley Cultures were "destroyed" by the "barbaric" Aryans. (118)
     Continuing to this day one may still see the gradual extinction of primitive people in the New World such as those of Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south, again chiefly because of the White Man's presence and the introduction of diseases against which the natives had no natural defense. Who knows but what Neanderthal Man disappeared in Europe (if indeed he did) for a similar reason? The reduction in the population of a tribe so situated can be fantastic, even without any actual warfare. Lincoln Barnett says that the Alacalufes, canoe people of the Western Channels, numbered 10,000

115. Dawson, J. W., Fossil Men and Their Modern Representatives, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1883, pp.109, 123.
116. Pollock, David, "Zimbabwe: Mystery of Mashonaland," in Wonders of the Past, vol.3, Putnam, New York, pp.601-605; a very interesting report.
117. Allen, F. A., "On the Evolution of Savages by Degradation," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.19, 188586, p.133.
118. Childe, V. G., "India and the West Before Darius," Antiquity, 1939 p.15: "The Aryans . . . are disclosed as the destroyers rather than the creators of the Indian civilization." 

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in 1831 at the time of Darwin's visit; now there are hardly 100. (119) The Onas, an inland tribe of the Archipelago, were massacred by sheep farmers in quest of grazing land; today only 7 of an original 4,000 are still alive. Such massacres, it seems, occurred in prehistoric times. The prehistoric inhabitants of the Upper Cave at Choukoutien in China, whose fossil remains were found in 1929, seem to have come to such an end. (120)
     The Eskimos to the north are in many ways unique because, although they have been looked upon as modern representatives of men of the Old Stone Age, they have proved themselves highly adaptable to new cultural influences. They have always been remarkably inventive and mechanically minded, and in fact the White Man's teacher when it came to his first introduction to an Arctic environment.
(121) They are possibly representatives of the people who first entered the New World, probably across the Bering Straits from Siberia to Alaska. These first-comers were presumably the makers of the Folsom, Yuma, and other well-known spear or arrow heads. One has only to examine such weapons to be struck with the skill that went into their manufacture. The work of these craftsmen bears the hallmark of genius: simplicity of design, beauty of form, perfection of workmanship. It is quite clear that the men who made them were not experimenting nor were they simply interested in making "some kind of a point." These are not weapons only, they are works of art like some of the older rifles finished with an attention to detail, which speaks volumes for the kind of people who made them. Kenneth Macgowan says of one particular style, "the Yuma point is easily the finest job of flint knapping in the New World and it is equalled only by the later (sic!) Neolithic daggers of Egypt and Scandinavia." (122)
     Settlement thereafter throughout the whole of the New World may have been quite rapid, for this particular tool-making industry is found from Alaska to the Southern States. In fact Macgowan suggests that far less time may have been required for some parts of this migratory movement than is usually supposed, even pointing out

119. Barnett, Lincoln, "Darwin's World of Nature: Part IV. Uttermost Region of the Earth," Life, June 1, 1959, p.68.
120. All seven people in the Upper Cave at Choukoutien, China, had evidently met violent deaths (Antiquity, Notes and News, June, 1939, p.243).
121. Ackerknecht, E. H., "The Eskimo's Fight Against Hunger and Cold," Ciba Symposia, vol.10, no.1, July-Aug., 1948, p.894, points out that the White Man only survived in the Arctic at first because he accepted the Eskimo's advice on almost every feature of the design of his original equipment and clothing.
122. Macgowan, Kenneth, Early Man in the New World, Macmillan, New York, 1950, p.116.

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that it could have taken as little as 20 years to make the trip from Harbin, Manchuria, to Vancouver Island. (123)
     At this point of initial entry into the New World, well-organized but small settlements were very early established, and from here man moved down into and across the continent. In the Mississippi Valley and in the Southwest, larger settlements soon appeared and wherever they persisted, colonies sharing a large number of culture-traits mushroomed as explosively as the original Middle East cultures had done. We do not know how it came about that the Mayas, Aztecs, Incas and others ultimately rose to such a high level, but Raglan suggested a combination of favourable environment, readily available natural resources, and constant contacts with other native cultures.
(124) There may, of course, have also been influences from across the Pacific; but the question is far from settled yet.
     What we do know, however, is that gradually the tide of development turned, and the levels of culture began to regress everywhere except perhaps in the very centre. Possibly the continued retreat of the great ice sheet to the north changed the climate and rendered the land less fertile and more arid. The decay was, of course, greatly accelerated by the coming of the White Man, but, and this is an important point, American Indian tribes of lower culture seem already to have begun to degenerate in pre-Columbian times. Among the numerous monuments of these less well-known aboriginal societies are the huge earth works of the Mound-Builders, one of which is actually the largest pyramid in the world.
(125) One enclosure has been found occupying an area of 4 square miles. Tylor mentions their cultivated fields, their pottery and their stone implements, and by comparison he says, "If any of the wild roving hunting tribes now found living near these huge earth works of the Mound Builders are the descendants of this somewhat advanced race, then a very considerable degradation has taken place." (126)
     For one reason or another, not one of the original American

123. Ibid., p.3. On their way, it seems such people created remarkable cultures in Siberia, which were afterwards deserted. The ruins of such settlements were noted long ago by Allen in his paper (ref.117), p.132, and more recent reference to one of these "cities" with a central heated palace covering 1,500 sq. yds. appeared in the newspapers (Hamilton Spectator, Canada, Jan. 28, 1947). The Russians have now issued an official report entitled, "Ancient Population of Siberia and Its Culture," reviewed in Science, vol.30, 1959, p.1467.
124. Raglan, Lord, "Some Aspects of Diffusion," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute July-Dec., 1957, p.147.
125. Known now as Monk's or Cahokia Mound near St. Louis, Missouri.
126. Tylor, E. B., Primitive Culture, vol.1, p.56.

     pg.13 of 22     

cultures was able to maintain itself at a high level. Changes of climate, migration induced by an increase in population, (127) or because of disease introduced by newcomers, and by what seems to be a "natural" tendency for more arts to be lost than are newly invented all these, and other factors, brought a gradual drop in cultural levels all over the continent. Such a generalized pattern of events is summed up by W. J. Perry who wrote: (128)

     We find in the region of northern Mexico and Arizona which is rich in ruins of the settlements of people who had installed great irrigation systems along the sides of canons, that the present-day Indian tribes are in no way the equals of their predecessors, culturally speaking. Throughout this area, as well as in Mexico and Central America, there are numerous tribes who live amidst the ample traces of ruins of a vanished past of which they have but little knowledge.
    It is found as an invariable rule that, as time goes on, the cultural level in all parts of North America consistently drops. One element of culture after another is lost.

     It is true that this was originally written in 1926, and it is true also that Perry was a "diffusionist," with rather exaggerated views about the importance to the world of Egyptian Civilization, nevertheless, since he wrote, archaeological research in the New World has only tended to confirm his impressions of a steady decline.
     Roland B. Dixon stresses the fact that this decline had already begun prior to the White Man's coming, i.e., in pre-Columbian times. Some ferment was at work uprooting the older cultures and causing widespread movements of whole tribes. He pointed out:
(129)

     The semi-agricultural and sedentary Woodland tribes of Algonkian and Siouian stock, abandoning their former habitat, moved westward out into the Plains, lost agriculture, pottery making, and their semi-sedentary mode of life, and became buffalo-hunting nomads.

     And he adds that widespread dislocations in the centre had repercussions even in the very tip of South America. As he says, (130) "The Yaghans appear to have been crowded into this inclement and harsh environment and there to have retrograded somewhat and lost some of their cultural traits such as the bow which they once possessed." Considering

127. Cunningham Geikie refers to a statement of an Admiral Osborn who observed that a tribe wandering along the extreme northern edge of the Siberian coast had recently driven another tribe across the Frozen Sea to an island lying so far north that only its mountain tops could be seen from the Siberian headlands. This was entirely the result of a chain-effect, due to a population increase on the mainland (Hours With The Bible, vol.1, Alden, New York, 1886, p.184).
128. Perry, W. J., The Growth of Civilization, Penguin Books, England, 1937, p.186 and p.123.
129. Dixon, Roland B., The Building of Cultures, Scribners, New York, 1928, p.280.
130. Ibid.

     pg.14 of 22     

that Tierra del Fuego abounds with trees, one wonders how on earth a people could lose the art of making bows, but the loss of pottery seems equally surprising. Pottery is found everywhere in Iroquois and other sites in Ontario, New York State, etc., yet it, too, became a lost art here just as it had among the Plains Indians of whom Dixon speaks. This would have seemed a most unlikely occurrence since pottery vessels are of all things the most common possessions of "rich" and poor alike, but evidently such has been the case on a number of occasions, and this only goes to show how easily lost even the most useful of arts may be, when a society is dislocated and forced to move into a new environment. Humphrey Johnson has put it: (131)

     The anthropologists of the latter half of the last century, so obsessed with the idea of the evolution of culture, were too prone to denounce as reactionaries those who believed that cultural degeneration had occurred alongside of it. This attitude was still dominant when the present century began, and as late as 1911 Sir E. B. Tylor was able to write, "Had the Australians or New Zealanders, for example, ever possessed the potter's art they could hardly have forgotten it." Yet, only the very next year Dr. W. H. Rivers, one of the leading ethnologists of his day, addressing the British Association voiced a view diametrically opposed to it. "In many parts of Oceania," he said, "there is evidence that objects so useful as the canoe, pottery, and the bow and arrow, have once been present where they are now unknown or exist only in degenerate form. . . .  Some of the widely accepted theories of anthropology depend on the assumption, which rests on the application of our utilitarian standards of conduct to cultures widely different from our own, has been shown to be without justification."

     In another part of the world, the Bushmen of the Cape region, like the North American Indians and the Polynesians, lost the art of making pottery when they were driven south by the Bantu. (132) Originally the Bushmen were exceedingly fine artists. (133) Today their artistic production is virtually nil.
     Of the Polynesians, Dixon wrote:
(134)

     There is no evidence anywhere in Polynesia that pottery was ever made, yet the ancestors of the Polynesian people in their earlier Indonesian home probably were in possession of the art, and one can see no adequate reason why the manufacture of this useful product should have been given up. But lost the art certainly was, and so thoroughly that not even a tradition of it now remains. 

131. Johnson, Humphrey J. T., The Bible and the Early History of Mankind, revised edition, London, 1947, pp.70f. An R. C. publication.
132. Wendt, Herbert, I Looked For Adam, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1955, p.393; Rivers, W. H., The Disappearance of Useful Arts, British Association Report, 1912, pp.598, 599; Raglan, Lord, Home Came Civilization; Methuen, London, 1939, p.35.
133. Adam, Leonard, Primitive Art, Penguin Books, England, 1949, p.97.
134. Dixon, R. B., The Building of Cultures, Scribners, New York, 1928, p.147.

     pg.15 of 22     


     Whatever was the cause for its abandonment by the Bushmen, it is likely that in the case of Polynesia the volcanic islands had no suitable material for pottery making, as Prince John Loewenstein recently pointed out. (135) The Plains Indians perhaps became altogether too nomadic to be able to take the time to build the necessary furnaces, etc.
     Here, then, we see the loss of two cultural elements which would appear to be of great value and importance the bow (which vastly increased man's effective range of attack on his enemies or for the taking of game), and pottery which is both inexpensive in terms of raw materials, highly useful for storage of water and other products, and for cooking, etc., as well as providing plenty of scope for man to express his artistic impulses. In each case the loss was due to dislocation of the culture, resulting in the disappearance of the original skills or the absence of suitable material in the new environment.
     Sometimes isolation is sufficient in itself to bring about the decay and final disappearance entirely of almost every art by which man is to be distinguished from the animals. The Tasmanians enjoyed one of the finest temperate climates in the world and animal life abounded. Their island is well watered, fertile, and amply supplied with wood. Yet they were unquestionably the lowest of any people known to modern man. Why? George Murdock
(136) said, "Not climate or topography, but isolation is responsible for this condition." Fish abounded, yet they had entirely lost the art of fishing, nets and fishhooks being unknown to them. Sollas said: (137)

     The primitive ancestors of the race may have been widely distributed over the Old World: displaced almost everywhere by superior races, they at length became confined to Australia and Tasmania, and from Australia they were finally driven and partly perhaps absorbed or exterminated by the existing aborigines of that continent who were prevented from following them into Tasmania because by that time Bass Strait was wide enough to offer an insuperable barrier to their advance.

     So complete was the break that both the bow and arrow, and the boomerang, were entirely lost.
    Contrary to some popular accounts, the Tasmanians still had fire. But there is at least one tribe, the Pygmies of the Epilu River of Central Africa, who although they use fire still do not make it for  

135. Adam, Leonard, Primitive Art, Penguin Books, England, 1949, p.97.
135. Lowenstein, Prince John, "Who First Settled Polynesia," The Listener, BBC, London, Apr. 23, 1959, p.712.
136. Murdock, George P., Our Primitive Contemporaries, Macmillan, New York1951. p.1.
137. Sollas, W. J., "The Tasmanians," in The Making of Man, edited by Calverton, Modern Library, Random House, New York, 1931, p.87.

     pg.16 of 22     


themselves. They "purchase" it from neighbors. (138) If they should ever become as isolated as the Tasmanians, it seems likely they would lose it entirely, for they seem quite unwilling or uninterested in learning to make it for themselves. Whatever the reason for this, the dependence on others is there even in such a basic element of civilization as the making of fire, and separation from the source of supply would rob them of it altogether. To revert to my original analogy of a very sick man, it is as though the patient had not merely lost the ability to recover but even the will to do so, for it appears from Montagu that they do not even want to learn how to make fire.
     In many cases the loss is not sudden but gradual. The art decays until the product is no longer useful and in time it is discarded. Any "natural tendency" for techniques to improve with time simply is not there. It looks as though things always improve, as though the new is better than the old, but this is apt to be true only of those cultures which have maintained a vital connection with the original main stream. The examples of trait degeneration which could be given are simply legion. In Britain, after pottery first appeared it thereafter steadily declined.
(139) Early Neolithic pottery in Europe, both in richness of form and technique, contrasts sharply with the lesser achievements of later Neolithic times. (140) In Thessaly, the earlier pottery is far superior to that of subsequent generations. (141)
     Other arts tend to follow the same pattern. Early Navaho weavers were far more skillful than their descendants, and their techniques were much more complex and varied.
(142) The art of making gold jewelry was lost by the Indian tribes of Central America. (143) Schliemann found the bronze age at Hissarlik (Troy) was at a level below the Stone Age, thus reversing the "normal" order of cultural evolution, (144) just as the very high Minoan Civilization degraded to a Neolithic level after the breakdown of the culture for some still

135. Montagu, Ashley, Man: His First Million Years, Mentor Books, New York, 1958, p.159.
139. Scott, Sir Lindsay, "Pottery," in A History of Technology, vol.1, edited by Singer et al, Oxford, 1954, p.377.
140. MacCurdy, George G., reviewing Le Neolithique Lacustre Ancien, in American Journal of Archaeology, July-Sept., 1935, p.413.
141. Hanson, Hazel D., Early Civilizations in Thessaly, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1933, pp.44 and 72.
142. Stirling, Matthew, "Indian Tribes of Pueblo Land," National Geogographic Magazine, Nov., 1940, p.571.
143. Dawson, Sir J. W., Fossil Men and Their Modern Representatives, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1883, p.147.
144. Schliemann, Heinrich, reported by Frank S. de Hass in Buried Cities Recovered, Bradley Garretson, Philadelphia, 1884, pp.509, 510. Schliemann's interpretation of the levels may have been misguided, but the reversal of the expected order was never in doubt.

     pg.17 of 22     


unascertained reason. One of the first stone axes in the world, a truly beautiful object, came from one of the lowest levels of Troy. (146) The culture of the Swiss Lake Dwellers during the Stone Age degenerated as time went on. (147) The earliest remains of Eskimo culture in Alaska were often superior to their present achievements, except where contacts with the White Man have inspired or provoked new techniques. (148) As already noted, the finest points in the New World were made at the first, not at the last, just as in Egypt some of the earliest flint weapons were unexcelled and never subsequently approached for technical perfection. Degradation of civilization is amply born out by the gigantic ruins in Java and Cambodia. (149) In Abyssinia and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan there is everywhere evidence of a once high civilization with immense stone structures about which the present inhabitants know nothing. (150) In northeast Kenya, wells and cairns abound which are never made by the present natives. (151) Well-fortified villages are found in West Central Angola, quite beyond the abilities of the present natives there. (152) The Transvaal tells the same story, and so does the coastal region of West Africa, especially near Gambia. (153) In Nigeria in the Bauchi country, (154) there are numerous stone bridges and walled cities but the present inhabitants no longer build with stone at all. In Uganda, Tanganyika, and elsewhere, are ruins of systems of terraced cultivation abandoned probably at least 800 years ago and quite beyond the capabilities of the present inhabitants of these areas. (155) Within the terraced area in Kenya are what appear to be lines of carefully graded ancient roads,  

145. See on this the review by S. Casson of J. S. Pendlebury, "The Archaeology of Crete," in Antiquity, Dec., 1939, pp.482 ff., and in the same issue, "The Volcanic Destruction of Minoan Crete," by Sp. Marinatos, pp.425-439. Also, Pendlebury, Palace of Minos: Knossos, Parrish, London, 1954, p.36.
146. Pictured in a beautiful photograph, illustrating a note, "Battle Axes From Troy," Antiquity, Sept., 1933, p.337.
147. Reported in Science, vol.90, 1939, p.10. Their earlier pottery was "a magnificent product," their later pottery -- and general economy -- was far inferior.
148. Hrdlicka, Ales, "Where Asia and America Meet," in Asia, June, 1939, pp.354 ff.; Rainey, Froelich G., "Discovery of Alaska's Oldest Arctic Town," National Geographic Magazine, Sept., 1942, pp.319 ff.
149. Smith, Sir G. Elliot, In the Beginning, Watts, London, 1946, p.21.
150. Evans-Pritchard, E., "Megalithic Grave-Monuments in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Other Parts of East Africa," Antiquity, June, 1935, pp.151160.
151. Watson, C. B. G., in Man, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1927, p.30.
152. Hambly, W. D., Source Book For African Ethnology, Publication nos.394 and 396, Field Museum, Anthropology Series, Chicago, vol. XXVI, Part 1, p.154.
153. Lowe, C. van Riet, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institutr, 1927, p.227.
154. Justice, J. N., in Man, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1922, p.3.
155. Wilson, G. E. H., in Man, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1932, p.45.

     pg.18 of 22     


but Africans today never make roads except under the influence of and using the White Man's machines. (156)
     In religious beliefs and practices, the same sad story prevails. According to Rivers,
(157) one of the most primitive tribes in India, the Toda, probably arrived in that country with well-defined religious beliefs which have since become completely meaningless to them. Among the Digger Indians of California, (158) ancient fragments of a higher religious faith were preserved until recently without any knowledge of their original meaning, including the putting of shoes at the feet of the dead, a practice which they could no longer explain. Thomas Bridges noted that the Yaghan had a word for "death" which meant "to go up or fly," but by 1870 they had no conscious conception of a hereafter. (159) In South Africa some tribes were reported in 1873 which appeared to have no religious beliefs whatever, yet some of the older men used the word "Morimo," which had apparently been employed by their forefathers to describe the Great Spirit. (160) But these same old men attached no definite idea to it at all. Here we have four primitive cultures, the Toda of India, the Digger Indians of California, the Yaghans of the tip of South America, and certain unnamed primitive people of South Africa (quite possibly Bushmen), all of whom had degenerated in their religious beliefs almost to the point of being without religion at all.
     Now Perry thought that the settlement of the New World was merely one aspect of a very general migration from the original Cultural Center of mankind, which led in due time to the initial peopling of every corner of the globe as the Middle East populations expanded:
(161)

     This movement took 3,000 years, more or less, to accomplish its journey, but it can be traced with fair accuracy for thousands of miles. . . .  The distribution of culture can obviously have been the outcome of a great process of growth from the center, the effect of the stimulus growing fainter as the original focus became more remote. . . .
     The demonstrable fact that degradation of culture, and not advance, is the rule in so many of the outlying parts of the world makes it more probable than ever that civilization began in one place. . . .
     Transplantation involves dislocation, the proper workmen are not there, they have not the requisite skill or knowledge and the 

156. Huntingford, G. W. B., in Man, Royal Anthropological Institute, 1932, p.45.
157. Rivers, W. H. R., quoted by G. P. Murdock, Our Primitive Contemporaries, Macmillan, New York, 1951, p.133.
158. Coon, C. S, A Reader in General Anthropology, Holt, New York, 1948, p.77.
159. Ibid., p.98.
160. Stated by a Mr. C. Graham, in the discussion of James Reddie "On Civilization: Moral and Material," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.6, 187273, p.35.
161. Perry, W. J., The Growth of Civilization, Penguin Books, England, 1937 p.123.

     pg.19 of 22     


product is inferior. Even in the country of origin the product is not always maintained at the original level. The Egyptians only made their wonderful stone vessels in their full perfection for a few centuries; the craft was destined to languish. Painted pottery in Susa soon degenerated and finally disappeared. Innumerable instances could be quoted of this process.

     Thus he echoes more forcibly the reluctant admission of Tylor quoted above, and underscores again the fact that such degeneration tends always to accompany migration, especially when it is under pressure from behind and even more particularly when the new environment is harsher than the old. History is full of instances of it. George Rawlinson, for instance, remarked: (162)

     While progress is the more ordinary process or at any rate the one which most catches the eye when it roves at large, there are not wanting indications that the process is reversed occasionally. Herodotus tells us of the Geloni, a Greek people, who having been expelled from the cities on the northern coast of the Euxine, had retired into the interior and there lived in wooden huts and spoke a language half Greek and half Scythian. By the time of Mela this people had become completely barbarous and used the skins of those slain by them in battle as covering for themselves and their horses. A gradual degradation of the Greco-Bactrian people is evident in the series of their coins which is extant and which has been carefully edited by the late H. H. Wilson and by Major Cunningham. The modern Copts are very degraded descendants of the ancient Egyptians, and the Roumans of Wallachia have fallen away very considerably from the level of the Dacian colonists of Trajan.

     Similarly, Dr. W. Cooke, writing some years ago of how separation from the centres of civilization may bring people very rapidly into a state of barbarism, illustrated his point by the following reference: (163)

      The Greenlanders, it is believed, at an early period used metals, but after ceasing to have intercourse with Europeans for about 300 years, sank down to the use of implements of bone and wood and stone. Sir John Lubbock speaking of the Australians, says that in a cave on the West Coast of that country, there are tolerably correct figures of sharks, porpoises, turtles, lizards, canoes, etc., and yet the present natives of the country are incapable not only of producing similar imitations, but even of realizing the most vivid artistic representations as the work of man, and they ascribe the drawings in the cave to diabolic agency.

     In 1787 The Bounty under Captain Blight set sail for the Island Tahiti in the South Seas, to transplant food-bearing trees to uninhabited islands in the same group in order to make them more habitable, and so to add to the King's dominions. After a voyage of 

162. Rawlinson, George, The Origin of Nations, Scribners, New York, 1878, p.4.
163. Cooke, W., The Alleged Antiquity of Man, Hamilton Adams, 1872, p.99.

     pg.20 of 22     


ten months, the ship arrived at her destination and a further six months were spent collecting bread-fruit palm saplings. The sailors meanwhile, had formed strong attachments with the native girls and, upon receiving the order to embark, they mutinied, sent the captain and a few men adrift in an open boat, and returned to the island. Captain Blight, however, survived his ordeal and eventually arrived home in England from whence a punitive expedition was sent out which captured fourteen of the mutineers. But nine had transferred to another island where they formed a new colony. Here, in the language of the Encyclopedia Britannica, they degenerated so rapidly and became so fierce as to make the life of the colony a hell on earth. Quarrels, orgies, and murders were a common feature of their life. Finally all the native men and all the white men except one were killed or had died off. Alexander Smith alone was left with a crowd of native women and half-breed children. So quickly can the cultural influences of a society be lost.
     In the 17th Century, the Dutch held Formosa for 38 years until driven out by the pirate Coxinga, who in turn had to cede it to the Chinese.
(164) It is said that during their stay the Dutch "civilized" the aboriginal tribes, but when they left the latter returned to a worse savagery than ever, even to cannibalism, resembling thenceforth the Dyaks of Borneo and the Malay Polynesians. This is a remarkable commentary on 2 Peter 2:22. Some of these people were even taught to read and write, but they entirely lost the art within about a hundred years. What deeds and contracts remained came to be treasured very greatly, though completely unintelligible to the owners. (165)
     Evidently piracy contributed not a little to the degenerative process by disrupting long established cultures. According to Tylor the very primitive Orang Samba,
(166) who have no agriculture and no boats (though they live near the sea), give a remarkable account of themselves that they are descendants of shipwrecked Malays from the Bugis country, but were so harassed by pirates that they gave up civilization and cultivation, and vowed not to eat fowls because they betrayed their presence by crowing. So they plant nothing, but eat wild fruit and vegetables, and all animals but the fowl. "This," observed Tylor, "if at all founded on fact, is an interesting case of degeneration."
     The same authority records another striking instance of comparatively recent degeneration:
(167)

164. "Formosa and Its Pirate Chief," in Times, London, Feb. 9, 1885.
165. Allen, F. A., "On the Evolution of Savages by Degradation," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.19, 188586, p.140.
166. Tylor, E. B., Primitive Culture, Murray, London, 2nd edition, 1891, vol.1, p.52.
167. Ibid., p.47.

     pg.21 of 22     


     The degradation of the Cheyenne Indians is a matter of history. Persecuted by their enemies the Sioux, and dislodged at last even from their fortified village, the heart of the tribe was broken. Their numbers were thinned, they no longer dared to establish themselves in a permanent abode, they gave up the cultivation of the soil, and became a tribe of wandering hunters, with horses for their only valuable possession, which every year they bartered for a supply of corn, beans, pumpkins, and European merchandise, and then returned into the heart of the prairies. When in the Rocky Mountains, Lord Milton and Dr. Cheadle came upon an outlying fragment of the Shushwap race without horses or dogs, sheltering themselves under rude temporary slants of bark or matting, falling year by year into lower misery, and rapidly dying out; this is another example of the degeneration which no doubt has lowered or destroyed many a savage people.

     How far can man degenerate? How much further could some of these tribes conceivably go? How long is the process likely to take? In some of the more recent historically attested cases it was a matter of one or two generations only. Is it likely that useful arts will be lost? It seems so: indeed, in a few instances almost the only thing left to distinguish man from the lower animals has been the retention of the powers of speech, since no tribe has ever been known to lack a full and sufficient means of verbal communication.
     If one further question should be asked: In what circumstances is this degenerative process most likely to occur? the answer seems clear enough: emigration, under pressure, into an unfamiliar environment, of a people who once have known a high civilization. Each of these factors is a specific component in the total picture. Each of these factors was almost inevitably in operation if the early history of mankind was as recorded in Scripture.
     Surely in the face of the evidence, it is difficult to see how civilization could ever have evolved at all if early man was to all intents and purposes like our primitive contemporaries; situated in an environment that was no less hostile and may have been much colder. If man had not been originally provided with special endowments of a high order by his Creator, could he ever have survived? 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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