Table of Contents
Part II: Primitive Cultures: The Problem
of their Historical Origin
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).
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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:
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.
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
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.,
105. Holmyard, E. J., "The Future of Man," Endeavour,
Imperial Chemical Industry, London, Jan., 1946, p.2.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
114. Sinanthropus' tools: on this point see Marcellin Boule and
Henri V. Vallois, Fossil Men, Dryden, New York, 1957,
p.145, footnote 45.
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"
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,
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,
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."
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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."
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.
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,
133. Adam, Leonard, Primitive Art, Penguin Books, England,
134. Dixon, R. B., The Building of Cultures, Scribners,
New York, 1928, p.147.
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
140. MacCurdy, George G., reviewing Le Neolithique Lacustre
Ancien, in American Journal of Archaeology, July-Sept.,
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.
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,
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,
150. Evans-Pritchard, E., "Megalithic Grave-Monuments in
the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Other Parts of East Africa,"
Antiquity, June, 1935, pp.151‹160.
151. Watson, C. B. G., in Man, Royal Anthropological Institute,
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,
155. Wilson, G. E. H., in Man, Royal Anthropological Institute,
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, 1872‹73, p.35.
161. Perry, W. J., The Growth of Civilization, Penguin
Books, England, 1937 p.123.
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.
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:
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.
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,
166. Tylor, E. B., Primitive Culture, Murray, London,
2nd edition, 1891, vol.1, p.52.
167. Ibid., p.47.
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.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next
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?