SECTION I: ARCHAEOLOGY - INTRODUCTION. ARCHAEOLOGY - PREHISTORY
Archaeology - Savage/Hunter Stage; Pastoral Stage; Agricultural Period
That man has everywhere preceded history is a self-evident truth. So long as no scientific evidence seemed to conflict with a long-accepted chronology in reference to the antiquity assigned to the human race, it remained unchallenged though the like computation had been universally rejected in reference to the earth as the theatre of his history, and we were content to regard the prehistoric era of man as no more than a brief infancy of the race. But the investigations and disclosures of recent years in reference to the whole prehistoric period have involved of necessity a reconsideration of the grounds on which a definite antiquity of comparatively brief duration has been assigned to man; and the tendency at present is rather to exaggerate than to diminish the apparent antiquity of the race. The nature and extent of the evidence which has thus far rewarded intelligent research have been sufficiently indicated above; and as it is still far from complete, the student of archaeology will act wisely in pushing forward his researches, and accumulating and comparing all available evidence, without hastily pronouncing any absolute verdict on this question. But, without attempting to connect with any historic chronology the men of the English drift, or the troglodytes of the mammoth or reindeer periods of France, it may be useful, in concluding this summary of primitive archaeology, to glance at the origin of civilization, and the evidences of the antiquity of what appear to constitute its essential elements.
Everywhere man seems to have passed through the same progressive stages: First, that of the savage or purely hunter state; a condition of precarious instability, in which man is most nearly in the state of a mere animal subsisting on its prey. It is the condition of nomad life, incompatible with a numerous or settled population ; exhausting the resources of national being in the mere struggle for existence, and therefore inimical to all accumulation of the knowledge and experience on which human progress depends. In this primitive state, man is disclosed to us by the evidence with which the archaeologist now deals. He appears everywhere in this first stage as the savage occupant of a thinly-peopled continent, warring with seemingly inadequate means against gigantic carnivora, the contemporary existence of which is known to us only by the disclosures of geological strata or ossiferous caves, where also the remains of still more gigantic herbivora confirm the idea of man's exhaustive struggle for existence. The nearest analogy to such a state of life is that of the modern Esquimaux, warring with the monstrous polar bear, and making a prey of the gigantic cetaceae of Arctic seas. Through how many ages this unhistoric night of European man may have preceded the dawn of civilization it is at present vain to speculate. But this is noticeable, that there is no inherent element of progress in a people in the condition of the Esquimaux. To all appearance, if uninfluenced by external impulse, or unaffected by any great amelioration of climate, they are likely to prolong the mere struggle for existence through unnumbered centuries, armed, as now, with weapons and implements ingeniously wrought of bone, ivory, and stone, the product of the Neolithic arts of this 19th century.
To this succeeds the second or pastoral state, with its flocks and herds, its domesticated animals, and its ideas of personal property, including in its earlier stages that of property in man himself. It pertains to the open regions and warmer climates of the temperate zone, and to the elevated stepped and valleys of semi-tropical, countries, where the changing seasons involve of necessity the wandering life of the shepherd. This accordingly prevents the development of the arts of settled life, especially those of architecture; and precludes all idea of personal property in the soil. But the conditions of pastoral life are by no means incompatible with frequent leisure, reflection, and consequent intellectual progress. Astronomy has its origin assigned to the ancient shepherds of Asia; and the contemplative pastoral life of the patriarchs, Job and Abraham has had its counterpart in many an Arab chief of later times.
The third or agricultural stage is that of the tillers of the soil, the Aryans, the ploughers and lords of the earth, among whom are developed the elements of settled social life involved in the personal homestead and all the ideas of individual property in land. The process was gradual. The ancient Germans, according to the description of Tacitus, led the life of agricultural nomads; and such was the state of the Visigoths and Ostrogoths of later centuries. But this was in part due to the physical conditions of trans-Alpine Europe in those earlier centuries. Long ages before that, as the ancient Sanscrit language proves, the great Aryan family, of which those are offshoots, had passed from the condition of agricultural nomads to that of lords of the soil among a settled agricultural people. They had followed up the art of ploughing the soil with that of shipbuilding and "ploughing" the waves. They were skilled in sewing, in weaving, in the potter's art, and in masonry. Their use of numbers was carried as high at least as a hundred before they settled down from their nomad life. They had domesticated the cow, the sheep, the horse, and the dog; and their pasu or feeders already constituted their pecus, their wealth, before the pecunia assumed its later forms of currency. They had also passed through their bronze and into their iron period; for t heir language shows that they were already acquainted with the most useful metals as well as with the most valuable grains.
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Archaeology - Table of Contents