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Arthur Nicols.

The puzzle of life, and how it has been put together : a short history of the formation of the earth, with its vegetable and animal life, from the earliest times, including an account of Pre-historic man, his Weapons, Tools, and Works online

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THE

PUZZLE OF LIFE




.BY



j<LR TH UR N7CO L>$



THE



PUZZLE OF LIFE.



LONDON : PRINTED BY

SfWTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
AND PARLIAMENT STREET



THE PUZZLE OF LIFE;

AND

HOW IT HAS BEEN PUT TOGETHER.

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FORMATION OF THE EARTH,

WITH ITS VEGETABLE AND ANIMAL LIFE,

FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES,



INCLUDING AN ACCOUNT OF



PRE-HISTORIC MAN, his WEAPONS, TOOLS, and WORKS.

BY

ARTHUR NICOLS, F.R.G.S.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS by FREDERICK WADDY.
SECOND EDITION.



LONDON :
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

1877.

All rights reserved.



TO
MY YOUNG FRIENDS



BEATRIX, GUY, SYLVIA, MAY, AND GERALD.



THE CHILDREN OF



GEORGE DU MAURI ER.



20P1148



PREFACE

TO

THE SECOND EDITION.



THE favourable reception accorded to the
first edition has induced me to give the pre-
sent a more definite educational character.
Foot-notes are appended, referring to the
position in the British Museum of all the
principal antiquities, fossils, and implements
mentioned in the text ; so that the specimens
can easily be found by any young student
who wishes, with the book in his hand, to
make himself familiar with these -records of
past time. This will probably facilitate the
search for and recognition of specimens by
the reader.



x PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

The additions to the text consist chiefly
of a more extended account of the deposi-
tion of chalk and other deep-sea formations,
founded on the results of the " Challenger "
and " Tuscarora " expeditions, and a sketch of
the earth-works of the Ohio mound-builders
and the stone monuments of Easter Island.
Examples of pre-historic art and lake-dwel-
lings have been added to the illustrations.

A. N.

HAMPSTEAD: March 1877.



PREFACE

TO

THE FIRST EDITION.



HAVING found that children could be inte-
rested in the history of life upon the Earth, and
that it appealed forcibly to their understand-
ing, I considered that a little book upon the
subject might give them the taste for more
extended study in after years. The difficulty
of treating the, to them, novel conclusions of
geology, often founded on abstract reason-
ing, in language simple in form yet stating
clearly the great principles upon which this
reasoning rests, will probably be apparent on
every page. Breadth, rather than minuteness,
has been aimed at, in the belief that a general



PREFACE TO



view, not overcrowded with details, is likely
to be the most impressive. Thus, in the
geological part the leading features of the suc-
cession of strata have been preserved, but
no details of systematic classification entered
into. Similarly, Primeval Man is considered
mainly with reference to gradual progress
from a rude to a more civilized condition.
To have been more explicit, where there is
still much difference of opinion, would have
obscured the main facts of the evidence for
man's great antiquity.

The illustrations are typical examples of
the three arbitrary but convenient divisions of
the history of life the vegetable, the animal,
and the human such as will be most readily
met with in museums. Slight as this sketch
is, the liking for it shown by some intelli-
gent children, who saw it in manuscript, en-
couraged me to believe that there are many
others to whom it might prove interesting.

Some acquaintance with the leading facts
in science is daily becoming more necessary



THE FIRST EDITION.



to those who aspire to liberal culture, and in-
struction in them is a recognised feature in
the curriculum of some public and leading
private schools. Thus, it is hoped that the
present volume may to some extent serve as a
text-book without the severity of such a form.
The best English and foreign authorities have
been consulted, and other trustworthy sources
as papers read before scientific societies
drawn upon, bringing the information down to
the latest time. Though these pages are de-
signed for young persons, other readers, per-
haps, who are not familiar with the subject,
may find some interest in them if they are
not deterred by the necessarily simple style.

My thanks are due to Mr. H. B. WOOD-
WARD, of the Geological Survey of England
and Wales, for some valuable suggestions
made during the progress of the work.

A. N.

HAMPSTEAD : November 1876.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE . . i



THE GEOLOGICAL PART I7

THE VEGETABLE PART -56

THE ANIMAL PART 77

THE HUMAN PART 120

CONCLUSION 168

INDEX I7I



ILLUSTRATIONS.



THE MAMMOTH Frontispiece

I. UPHEAVAL: SUBSIDENCE: DENUDATION to face page 51

II. DIFFERENT KINDS OF PLANTS OF THE

COAL FORESTS ,, 65

III. TRILOBITE 79

IV. FOOTPRINTS OF LABYRINTHODON : FOOT-

PRINTS OF BIRDS, (2) WITH MARKS

OF RAIN-DROPS .... ,, 83

V. FISH-REPTILES ,, 87

VI. BIRD-REPTILES . . . . .. ,, 93

VII. FOSSILS OF THE CHALK .... ,, 97

VIII. GIGANTIC IRISH STAG (CERVUS MEGA-

CEROS) ,, 108

IX. THE MEGATHERIUM ,, 112

X. i. FLINT ARROW-HEAD ; 2. STONE AXE
IN HANDLE ; 3. FLINT KNIFE ; 4.
BONE HARPOON ; 5. BONE NEEDLES ;
6. SCEPTRE MADE OF HORN ; 7.
MARROW SPOON . . . . ,, 129

XI. EXAMPLES OF PRE-HISTORIC DRAWINGS. ,, 135

XII. LAKE-DWELLINGS ,, 148

XIII. THE GUADALOUPE HUMAN FOSSIL . . ,, 159



THE

PUZZLE OF LIFE.

THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

You must often have looked with won-
dering eyes at this World of ours, and
asked yourselves questions about it. How
did it come here ? What is it made of ?
How old is it ? All of them questions not
to be answered without a great deal of
thought and study, and even then not so per-
fectly as we should like. It is easy to say "It
is here," and " It is made of earth," and " It
surely must be old," but that will not satisfy
us. We want to know something more cer-
tain than this, if possible. We can see that
a clock goes with wheels, but we are not very
intelligent people if we do not want to find

B



2 THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

out what makes the clock go. One way of
finding out is to pull things to pieces, but we
cannot exactly do this with the World. We
must think about it, and put together all the
knowledge we can gain from the outside and
inside, and from the other Worlds around us,
which we can see, and when we have done
this we may get something like answers to
our questions.

How did it come here ? But this is not
quite the right way of asking the question,
because the World is never for two moments
together in the same place. It is travelling
in a great circle round the Sun at the rate of
more than sixty thousand miles an hour, and
has been ever since it was formed. That
is a wonderful arrangement by which all
Worlds travel round some other World larger
than themselves, in greater or less circles,
and" we do not know why it is, though we
are certain that it is so. The Moon travels
round us once in about every month, and we
and the Moon together round the Sun once in
every year.

Then again, other planets, with their



THE WORLD'S EARLY HISTORY. 3

moons, such as Jupiter, for instance, travel
round the Sun in much larger circles than our
World, and take many years to do the journey,
while Venus, which is nearer the Sun than we
are, travels in a much smaller circle,, and
takes less time. We do not perceive that
we are moving so fast because everything we
see is moving equally fast with us ; but. there
is no doubt that we are. spinning along at
sixty thousand miles an hour.

If we ask an astronomer how our World
came into existence, he will tell us that it is
probably a mass separated from the Sun, that
it was once red-hot, and that it slowly cooled
down until animals and plants could live upon
it. He will tell us besides, that he can see
mountains and valleys in our Moon> and land
and sea, snow and clouds, on the planet Mars,
with his great telescopes. When he thinks
about the planets and our own World, then
he believes them to be pieces of some much
larger World perhaps the Sun which now
travel round the Sun and receive their light
and heat from it. The World is made of what
we call " earth," and it is of this I mean to

B 2



4 THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

tell you now how it was formed, what
changes have taken place in it, what plants
and animals have lived upon it, and what
reasons there are for thinking that it is an
exceedingly old place, with a long and inter-
esting story to tell.

Little was known thirty or forty years ago
by the most learned men about the age of our
World, and it was thought that the human
race had not lived here very long. It was
indeed known that many large animals, whose
huge bones have been found, must have
lived before man came to inhabit the Earth,
and that even far smaller creatures such as
fishes, and crabs, and insects, and shell-fish
most probably lived for many generations,
and died and left their bones and shells in
the soil long before the first man or the
first tribes of men came to share the World
with them. I hope to be able to tell you some-
thing of the strange and beautiful history of
all these animals, and of man himself, and
to show you what reasons there are now for
thinking that the human race has inhabited
this Earth for a very long time indeed, and



THE PARTS OF THE PUZZLE. 5

how all this knowledge has been gained and
put together piece by piece. It is something
like the different parts of a puzzle-map,
which might be scattered all over the house,
and found at one time or another in different
places, and at last made up altogether.
Some parts of the puzzle have not been
found yet certainly ; but so many have been
collected, and they fit into one another so
well, that we can begin to see its real shape
and size. It will perhaps be a very long time
before some of the missing pieces are found ;
but in the meantime we can go on without
them, and put the framework together, and no
doubt in time we shall see what our puzzle,
the history of life on the Earth, was like.

Before telling you what its parts are, I
ought to say where many of them have been
found, and how they are still being looked
for. They are found upon the ground, under
it, in caves, in rivers, and in the sea. Since
railways have been in use a great many tun-
nels have been made, as well as very deep
cuttings through hills, and some of these are
several miles long. In this way we have



6 THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

come to know something of the Earth below
the surface. Some of these tunnels are bored
right through high hills and even mountains,
and the cuttings are deep enough to hide
high houses if they were put into them.
While digging these the workmen have
found many of the parts of our puzzle, which
are the bones of animals, and fishes, and
shells, and even smaller things such as
insects. These could not possibly have
been put there by anyone, because they were
many, many yards below the surface, and,
until they were dug up, nobody imagined
that they could be there. Many other things
besides have been dug out of these places,
but nearer the surface, such as weapons and
tools made of flint, and stone, and bone, and
metal, and pieces of rough crockery, and
various ornaments, all of which must at
some time or other have been made and
used by people very like ourselves. In
digging canals, too, the same kinds of things
have been found, and some caves are almost
filled up with them. We have other means,
too, of knowing what is under the surface of



WHERE THE PARTS ARE FOUND. ^

the ground we walk upon. Many of the
coal-mines are so deep that the Tower of
London, or St. Paul's Cathedral, or York
Minster, or even the Pyramids of Egypt
could be buried in them ! In digging these
the workmen have had to go through a
great quantity of earth, sometimes chalk,
sand, or gravel, or clay or limestone, layer
upon layer, placed, like a pile of books of
different kinds and different thicknesses, one
upon the other, until they have come to
the coal. In these different layers of earth
parts of the puzzle have been found, and we
shall see by-and-by what parts have been
found in the coal itself. Then again, when
deep mines are made to get the metals, iron
and gold and silver, these layers of earth
have to be dug through ; and when the
beautiful kinds of stone, like marble and lime-
stone, are wanted, they must be dug out of
the sides of the hills, and in doing this still
more pieces of the puzzle come to hand.
But there are other places where Nature
herself seems to have shown us some of
them without the trouble of searching for



8 THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

them. In many parts of the World, by the
sea, and on the banks of rivers, there are
cliffs hundreds of feet high, like the chalk
cliffs at Dover and Ramsgate, and the sandy
cliffs at Folkestone and on the south coast
of Devonshire. These cliffs have been cut
into by the sea very gradually, and a kind
of wall has been left, and from the sides of
the cliffs great numbers of the pieces of the
puzzle, bones, shells, &c., have been col-
lected and taken away to museums. But
the little we can do with our mines and rail-
way tunnels is nothing in comparison with
the work of Nature. In some of the great
mountain chains the Andes, the Himalayas,
and the Alps, for instance parts of the sides
of mountains have fallen down, and rents
many miles long have been left, showing
what had been buried there in the different
kinds of soil ; and where rivers have cut
deep, narrow channels through the earth,
like the Canons of Colorado, these natural
miners have turned out more of the parts of
" the puzzle of life " than we can with all our
labour.



WHERE THE PARTS ARE FOUND.



It will net be easy at first to understand
all the wonders I have to show you, but, when
we get further on, you will see them one
by one, and there will be very little diffi-
culty. You know now where these things
are to be found : principally in the ground
you walk upon, without knowing all there is
beneath you. The creatures here are much
more wonderful than any of the monsters of
fairy tale or fable, because the works of God
are greater than the imagination of men who
have invented the stories of flying dragons
and griffins, and trees which grew up into the
skies ; but I cannot help thinking that this
imagination shows what men thought might
once have been, and we shall see that " truth
is stranger than fiction." Creatures really did
live on this Earth of such strange shapes and
great size that the imaginations of those
who wrote the fairy tales did not exaggerate
much ; and, though we know that no flying
serpents or immense birds like the Roc are
living now, and that there is no beanstalk
which grows up into the sky while we are
asleep, we shall see that there were lizards as



io THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

large as whales, and birds taller than ele-
phants, and great sloths stronger than the
rhinoceros or hippopotamus, and ferns as
high as oak trees, and mosses as large as
gooseberry bushes ; and that perhaps these
animals and plants grew much faster than
they do now, and that their dead bodies form
a very large part of the earth of our World.
This is not imagination, and when you go to
a museum you can see all these wonders for
yourselves, just as they were taken out of
the earth ; but of course the bones only of
the animals are there. The flesh has long
since gone away, and some of the stalks and
fronds (leaves) only of the ferns remain to
show us how large they must have been
when they were alive and growing.

It will be necessary to use a few scientific
names, most of which are borrowed from the
Greek and Latin languages, but I will ex-
plain the meaning of them all, so that they
will be easily remembered. First of all,
then, the pieces of the puzzle are called fos-
sils, and the name comes from a Latin word
meaning " dug out ; " because they have been



THE PARTS ARE CALLED FOSSILS. n

dug out of the ground either by man in making
railways and mines, or by Nature in the many
ways in which she works by cutting down
cliffs and scooping out valleys. These fossils
are bones of animals and fishes, the skins,
shells, and wings of insects, and the stalks
and leaves of plants, some of which have
lain so very long in the ground that they have
become as hard and heavy as stone. But
the shape of them always remains, and the
moment you look at them you see that they
once belonged to living creatures.

I shall give you pictures of some of these
fossils ; and no doubt you will be able to find
some like them in the chalk and sands of the
seaside beautiful shells and bones of fishes.
You may pick these out of the cliffs, and then
go to the pools of salt water left among the
rocks by the ebbing tide, and compare your
fossils with the living shell-fish, and see how
nearly those inhabitants of the ancient oceans
resemble the creatures we find now, sporting
in the water, just as these fossils did when
the sand and chalk cliffs were under the sea.
Of course all the bright colours are gone



12 THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

from the fossils, for the colour of animals
fades away soon after they die, and the flesh
does not last long ; but the hard parts the
.bones and shells are not easily destroyed,
because they are made of the same material
as rocks. And when we look at the fossil
plants we see the same thing. The colours
of the green stems and leaves have quite
faded, but the delicate shapes of the leaves
and branches, and the grain of the wood, can
still be seen, and you will have no doubt that
they once lived and bore flowers and fruit, and
died, as plants are living and dying every day.
You have got so far now that you know
what fossils are, and where they may be
found. You know that they are the small
and large pieces of the " puzzle of life " of all
sorts of different shapes and sizes and you
know that they are scattered about the Earth,
deep down in coal-mines, on the tops of
mountains, at the bottoms of rivers, in deep
caves, and under the sea. The patience and
industry of clever men have been well spent
in gathering together all they can find, and
arranging them in museums for our instruc-



THE SIGNS OF PAST LIFE. 13

tion, and making a history of them which is
more wonderful than the Arabian Nights,
and more beautiful because it is all true.
And, though you may think it strange that
I promise to show you creatures more mar-
vellous than those of the fairy tales, I shall
keep that promise faithfully. We shall find
no Genii with wonderful lamps and magic
rings, because they never really lived, though
it gave us much pleasure and amusement to
read about them ; but we shall see what God,
the greatest Genius of all, has done by means
of His magicians the laws of Nature.
These magicians have built up high moun-
tains and dug out valleys, and sent mighty
rivers sweeping down to the sea, and even
filled up oceans with sand and chalk, and
buried ancient forests deep down under sea
and land. They worked with fire, and air,
and water ; not quickly, but with such
strength that nothing could resist them, and
they gradually moulded the Earth into the
beautiful thing it is, so that

In contemplation of created things,

By steps we may ascend to God. Milton.



H THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

But, lovely as the Earth is, we should not
perhaps have thought so much of it if there
had been nothing to discover. We see that
it has been prepared for us an immensely
long time ago ; and when we know a little,
we want to search further and find out what
the whole plan of Creation is, so far as we
can. You will be surprised when you know
how many signs of past life there are around
you many more than you can see with the
eye. The Earth is one great burying-place
of creatures which have passed away. You
are walking over their dead and fossil bodies
at almost every step. They are built into
the walls of our houses, and there are
millions of them in some of the commonest
stones of the pavement. Those round,
smooth pebbles, called flint stones, which we
pick out of the gravel walks, were once partly
such soft tender things as sponges ; but time
has hardened them, and they have been
rolled together in seas and rivers by the
always moving water until they have become
quite different to look at from the rough blue
flints they were when they were washed out



THE SIGNS OF PAST LIFE. 15

of the chalk beds. When you are walking
along the sands of some seacoasts, you are
treading on little specks of these small flints
which have been ground down fine in that
great mill, the ocean. The sponges, then,
did some part in the building up of the
Earth. The very chalk you draw with is
composed of the shells of sea-animals. Your
slates and slate pencils were once a fine mud
at the bottom of the sea, since become so
hard that it is used for covering the roofs of
our houses, and in this mud lived myriads
of small shell-fish which have sometimes left
their frail houses in the slate beds to tell us
how they were made. That slate is the
hardened mud of an old sea bottom, there is
no doubt at all.

There are many other things in common
use which show us the life that was.

Perhaps you did not know that coals are
compressed plants, and that we are now
burning the vegetation of the past time !
But these will be described in their right
places by-and-by, and you will see how
certain it is that some of the commonest



1 6 THE FRAMEWORK OF THE PUZZLE.

things we use were living creatures and
graceful plants.

Here is " the framework " of the puzzle,
and I think you will agree with me that we
shall have pleasure in putting it together
with all the queerly-shaped pieces we shall
find in the following chapters. We have
fossil plants to show us what grew upon the
Earth, fossil bones to tell us what animals
lived here, and thousands of different kinds
of fossil shells and fishes to show us that
the seas in the long past time were crowded
with life ; and besides, though there are no
written histories of the men whom we shall
read about, they, too, have left many things
which they used in the caves where they lived
and in their graves, to make us feel certain
that they were some of the oldest people that
ever lived. With all these things to help us, it
will be strange if we cannot make out a great
deal of the history of life upon our Earth.



THE GEOLOGICAL PART. 17



THE GEOLOGICAL PART.

You will have learned from other books
something about the size and shape of our
World : for instance, that it is a great round
body, or rather more like an orange, a little
flatter one way than the other, and about
8,000 miles through, from one side to the
other, and that it turns round once in every
twenty-four hours ; but I have only to tell
you now what it is made of. The material
is called rock, earth, or soil ; and there are
many kinds of it, such as granite, gravel,
clay, sand, chalk, mud, and so on ; and we
shall see that many of these different soils
contain different fossils.

It is supposed that a very long time
passed while these were being laid one upon
another, and before many plants or animals
lived here, and there are good reasons for

c



i8 THE GEOLOGICAL PART.

thinking that underneath these soils the
Earth is very hot, perhaps in a melting state,
because we know that volcanoes like Vesuvius
and .^Etna throw out flame and smoke and
lava, which is melted earth and rock ; and
that this lava has run down the sides of the
mountains for miles, in a great stream of
liquid material, and covered up and destroyed
whole villages and towns. You have heard
of earthquakes, when the ground shakes and
cracks, and houses are thrown down, as they
have often been in Spain, Italy, and South
America. This convinces us that the inside
of the earth must be very different from the out-
side. Two or three years ago Mount Vesuvius
was boiling up, and the people of Naples feared
that it would throw out some of the terrible
lava and red-hot cinders, and burn up their
vineyards and perhaps injure their city ; and
during the last two or three years many
people have been killed by earthquakes in
South America. These things seldom hap-
pen in the North of Europe, and when they
do they are only slightly felt, and people are
not killed, neither are houses thrown down.



VOLCANOES AND EARTHQUAKES. 19

Still, this shows that there must be some
great force underneath us, and very much
heat. We see nothing of this when we
look upon the green fields, and we should
scarcely think it possible if there were not
histories about these eruptions, as they are


1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryArthur NicolsThe puzzle of life, and how it has been put together : a short history of the formation of the earth, with its vegetable and animal life, from the earliest times, including an account of Pre-historic man, his Weapons, Tools, and Works → online text (page 1 of 8)