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Thus one of the most eminent of English geologists, Professor Phillips, speaking at the meeting of the British Association in 1863, when this subject was discussed, while admitting that the discovery in the Somme valley proved the co-existence of man and the extinct mammals, added that he thought he could explain the fact that the deposits in which the proofs of this co-existence were found lie from 30 to 100 feet above the present river bed, without postulating such a long period of time as Lyell. Further, we find the following quotation in a criticism of Lyell's book, published in an English periodical, and apparently written by a scientific man. “An estimate or conjecture of the greater antiquity of the gravels as compared with the peat may be formed on two grounds. First, by their elevation above the level of the valley which contains the peat, for this implies cither an excavation of the valley below the level of the gravels since the date of their deposition by the waters of the Somme, or the elevation of what was once the river bed to the actual height of the plateau of St. Acheul. Either of these events, if we are to judge by what is now going on in the valley of the Somme, would require a period so long as to be practically incalculable. The river Somme could never excavate such a valley, nor is there any proof of upward or downward movement now in progress in its whole course. This method of observation obviously yields no other result but the rejection of all estimates which are founded upon the actual measures of natural forces in their vicinity. ... Such confused gravel heaps prove, indeed, the force
1 Athenæum, 19th September 1863.
and agitation of the water, but not the length of time consumed in the accumulation. Nor can a sure mode of computation be founded on the position which is occupied by the gravels, elevated as they are 80 or 100 feet above the river. If the river formerly ran at this high level and deposited the gravel there, and has since cut its way down to the actual channel, its action must have been formerly incomparably more violent than now, or the time to be allowed must be absolutely beyond all belief. But, in fact, if we may trust observations at St. Acheul, there is no necessity for supposing that it did cut down the valley ; on the contrary, the gravel, sand, and loam appear to have been uplifted by an angular movement which affected the whole valley of the Somme, a movement which is part of a system of disturbances of late date parallel to and between the anticlinal axes of Boulogne and the Pays de Brai. . . . Nor is the problem of the age of the gravels thus rendered definite. For, as these movements were partial and irregular, they cannot be computed by the only formula yet prcposed, viz. that deduced from the general and gradual elevation of Scandinavia.”] Therefore the age of the deposits in the Somme valley also cannot be given in figures.
I will conclude by quoting an observation from a lecture “on the method of prehistoric inquiry,” given at the Anthropological Congress in Copenhagen in 1869 by Schaaffhausen. “One of the most important, but at the same time most difficult of our tasks is the computation of time, and we cannot deny that even the estimates of the antiquity of certain discoveries or certain epochs which some eminent savants have attempted, have no scientific value. We have no certain measure of time with which to estimate these ages. The statement that the fragments of pottery found at a depth of 72 feet in the Nile mud are 24,000 years old, or Dowler's assertion that a human skeleton in the Mississippi Delta is 57,600 years old, or Agassiz', that human remains in the coral reef of Florida are 10,000 years old, even Steenstrup's calculation that the Scandinavian stone age is 4000 years old, all these rest on the most uncertain assumptions."
1 Quarterly Review, October 1863, pp. 400, 416. Cf. Fraas, Die alten Höhlenbewohner, Berlin 1873, p. 25 ; Archir für Anthr. v. 478, viii. p. 268.
The view that the antiquity of the human race goes back many thousand years is connected by some savants with the theory that man is developed from the “anthropoids” or from the apes who were the common ancestors of those of men. No doubt if man was not created by God as a being endowed with reason, but was evolved from the ape according to the laws laid down by Darwin, at least 100,000 years would be necessary in order to explain the difference between man as he exists now and his ancestors. After what I have said in a previous lecture I need not waste another word on this argument for an antiquity of many thousand years for the human race. Lyell, no doubt, does not quote this argument in his Antiquity of Man, but we find the following amongst his “geological” proofs :1 Many thousands of years must have been required to raise man from his original barbarous and savage condition to the stage of civilisation to which the old Egyptian monuments, for instance, bear witness. Now this proof, if it is a proof at all, of the high antiquity of the human race, is at best historical, and not geological. I have already discussed in its general aspects the theory, that man
1 See p. 413 seq.
existed originally in a condition of barbarism resembling that of the animals. Another theory is, however, connected with this one, and this I must now discuss more in detail, because it has been brought forward very prominently in illustrating Primæval History, or Prehistoric Archæology, during recent years : I mean the distinction of a stone age, a bronze age, and an iron age.”
The Danish savant, E. C. Thomsen, who in the year 1837 brought into use this method of classifying northern antiquities,' is not its inventor. The Roman poet Lucretius declared that man first of all used stones as weapons, then bronze, and lastly began to work iron." Several antiquaries in the last century believed that the stone, bronze, and iron ages followed each other, but they attached no great importance to it. The theory of the existence of these three periods has attracted more attention in recent years, because implements of stone have been found and recognised in greater number and variety, and this was greatly due to the French savant Boucher de Perthes.
He announced in 1847, in a book on Celtic and
i See above, p. 175.
3 Leitfaden zur nordischen Alterthumskunde, Copenhagen 1837, p. 58. Cf. Archiv für Anthr. viii. 289. 4 De rerum natura, v, 1282:
Arma antiqua manus, ungues dentesque fuerunt
Quo facilis magis est natura et copia major. 5 In the year 1752, Goguet distinguished between the stone, bronze, and iron ages in his book, Origine della leggi, etc. This, however, was not noticed again until 1863. Cf. G. Pigorini, Le abitazioni lacustri, Nuova Antologia, vol. xiii. 1870, p. 102.