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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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 7 of 8)
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spoke, but they must have been able to tell
their thoughts to one another. It was most
likely a simple language with few words as
names for things and a simple grammar, like


the language of savages, because they had
not so many things to talk about as we have.
The names of animals would perhaps be
imitated from their cries and the noises they
made. These cries would be among the most
familiar sounds to them, and when they
wished to speak of some animal the simplest
way would be to imitate the noise it generally
makes. If we think of our own language, we
shall see how very likely this was. We have
many such words. We teach our children the
names of animals by the sounds they make.
The dog we call " bow-wow," the cow "moo-
moo," the duck " quack-quack," and many
other names of the same kind which you will
think of yourselves. At the present time
even the name by which the Egyptians call
the donkey has almost exactly the same
sound as our " hee-haw." This trick of
doubling or repeating the sound, too, is very
common among savages, who are as far be-
hind us as the pre-historic men were. The
natives of Australia give these double names
to" a great many animals and things, and
sometimes do the same with English words.
They call fish " ningy-ningy," and a certain


tree the " bunya-bunya," and their language
is full of such words. But it is not only the
names of things which have been made in
this way. Verbs as well as nouns have grown
up thus. When we whisper to one another,
that word imitates the low sound we make.

I shall leave you to trace the natural origin
of the following words, and think how much of
man's spoken language is taken from common
sounds. Thus we have roar, shriek, whistle,
hiss, sigh, sing, ring, thump, bump, clash,
clang, bang, twang, clap, smack, slap, smash,
swish, swirl, gong, thong, boom, bellow,
batter, chatter, clatter, snap, snip, whip,
gurgle, shiver, quiver, rumble, roll, rattle,
prattle, and a hundred more. Words thus
derived from familiar sounds abound in all
languages, and they, no doubt, are the easy
steps by which men climbed to a more com-
plicated speech. The earliest men must
have been obliged to pay great attention to
animals and birds, which have voices of their
own; for to hunt and catch them was the
principal occupation of their lives ; therefore,
when speaking of them to one another, they
would naturally call them by names re-


sembling the sounds they made. Our verbs
"to squeak" and "to squeal " are certainly
taken from the cries of animals when in pain ;
but I have said enough to show you how
language grew up among pre-historic people.
We do not know for certain that they had
any musical instruments, but they would hear
the sighing of the wind among the trees, and
it would almost certainly be found out that
blowing down a hollow stick or reed, open at
one end and closed at the other, would make
a whistle ; but if they used any of these
things they would not last like the stone tools,
and have decayed away ; and we do know
that they had begun to draw upon such im-
perishable materials as bone and slate.

There is a very interesting specimen of a
human fossil in the British Museum, which
you ought to go and see, if you can ; but in
case you are not able there is a drawing of it
on page 159.* This specimen was brought
to England about the year 1814. Others
like it have since been found imbedded in the
hard breccia limestone rock at the same place
on the shore of the island of Guadaloupe.

1 At the end of Room VI., opposite the door, North Gallery.


The skeleton most likely was that of a
woman, from the shape of some of the bones,
and most probably was of the race of Caribs,
of whom there are none living now. Perhaps
this was originally a burying place of the
ancient inhabitants of the island, and when
the sea washed the small broken pieces of
shells and corals over it (all of which contain
lime) they hardened into breccia rock, and
the skeleton became completely imbedded in
it. This must have taken a very long time,
at all events ; but I do not think the Guada-
loupe fossils are as old as the people who
lived in the caves in France. Some little
ornaments and articles of human workman-
ship are found with these skeletons, which
show that the people to whom they belonged
were still in the Stone Age. There is very
little to judge from when we wish to get some
idea of the time these fossils have been in
this breccia : but at this particular place
the rock is formed pretty quickly, as we can
see ; and it is quite likely that these skeletons
were buried there long after the mammoth,
, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus died out of
Europe. However, they are the most com-


The Guadaloupe Human Fossil.


plete specimens we have of any fossil human
beings. In looking at the drawing you will
see the leg bones and hips, part of the back,
bone, the ribs of one side, and an arm bone ;
but you see no skull, because the bones of
the skull are very thin, and have become
crushed down into the limestone. In one of
these fossils, which they have in Paris, taken
from near the same place, the bones are
much more distinct, and part of the lower
jaw with some teeth in it can be seen. These
fossil men no doubt lived before the period
of written human history began ; but they
are not considered to be at all the oldest of
pre-historic men.

Two periods in the life of mankind fol-
lowed all these long-lost and forgotten people,
and they are called the Bronze Age and the
Iron Age ; but now history comes in, and
there are plenty of old records and books to
tell you about these. Bronze is a mixed
metal of copper and tin, and it was used by
the oldest nations who have left any histories
the Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Ro-
mans. It was better than stone because it
could be made sharper and would not chip,



and swords and armour, vases, axes, hammers,
needles, &c., were made of it. 1

The Stone Age is beyond all history, the
Bronze begins with it, and the Iron Age
began at some distant time before the dawn of
authentic history. Thus we are told, in Genesis
iv. 22, that Tubal Cain taught people to make
it. It was used also by the Egyptians for per-
haps 2,000 years before the Christian era ;
but the real Iron Age is that in which we are
living now. We can, indeed, make all metals
much better than any of the older nations.

But there is a wide gap between the time
when people left off using stone and dis-
covered bronze and iron ; and if one of the
Druids could come to life he might help us to
fill it up, because those old British priests had
many secrets, which they told to one another
from generation to generation.

If the Spanish conquerors had not de-
stroyed the civilization of Mexico and Peru, we
might know something of the discovery of
the metals there, and the people of India and
China must have used them long ago ; but

1 See examples in the Bronze Room, upper floor, British


the first use of metal in any country where it
was found out would most likely be before
the people had begun to put their language
into any kind of writing, so that the time would
be forgotten among the many scraps of lost
knowledge which we have tried to collect from
the remains of the industry of pre-historic man.

We have seen how much these ancient
people differed from us in their civilization,
and how far they were behind us in every-
thing ; but we must not suppose that they
were very different in bodily size and shape.
Some of their skulls might have belonged to
a philosopher, or they might have contained
the thoughtless brains of a savage. The
skulls from the Cromagnon and Engis caves
are quite equal in size and shape to those of
several uncivilized, and even of some civi-
lized races of the present time, and there are
people in all large cities whose heads are not
better formed. Though the outward signs of
their civilization then were so different from
ours, it is not certain that their mental
capacity was much less.

A race possessing considerable civiliza-
tion may, we know, pass away, as the



Assyrians and the Pyramid builders have.
In one of the Pacific islands Easter Island
a thousand miles from the nearest land,
there are hundreds of carved images of
stone, fifty or sixty feet high, and weighing
perhaps a hundred tons each. The people
who made these must have been very
numerous and must have had considerable
skill. Yet they have passed away. The arts
of Nineveh and Babylon have only lately
become known, so that, you see, the works of
a race may easily become hidden from us
who follow. Quite lately, too, the works of a
partly civilized people have been discovered
in Ohio in America. There are there
hundreds of mounds and earth embank-
ments forming fortified camps. Some of
them are several miles round, and they could
only have been made by a very numerous
and intelligent people who knew something
about geometry ; for the circles, squares, and
angles of these earthworks are quite as
correct as we could make them. Among the
multitude of things found here are copper
tools made by hammering, ornamental
pottery, silver beads, plates of mica with


scrolls and designs engraved on them, and
carefully carved pieces of stone. These
carvings are most curious and excellently
finished. They represent human heads and
many animals, such as the bear, otter, wolf,
beaver, raccoon, frog, rattlesnake, heron, crow,
&c. A people, then, who could do these
things and took pleasure in doing them must
have possessed great intelligence and a
knowledge of things far beyond a simple
state. They even had religious ideas, such
as they were, for they had places for sacrifice.
All their works are now overgrown by forests,
but it is impossible to mistake them ; yet the
native Indians of Ohio living now have no
idea that such a people lived in their country
before them, and no tradition at all about a
people whose civilization was so far superior
to their own.

We may come nearer to our own times*
and look at the Assyrians and Egyptians.
Until quite recently nothing was known about
the Assyrians except what could be learned
from the few references made to them in
Scripture and some ancient writers ; but Mr.
Layard dug up their cities, and found that


they possessed the arts of building, sculpture,
working in metals, and a written language.
All this was buried under the sand of a
desert ! Then there is the great Pyramid
of Egypt, built in a way that we could not
surpass, and with much knowledge of geo-
metry and other sciences. 1 The men who
designed and constructed these works could
not have lived among a half-barbarous people ;
and as these are the highest works of the
people, how much there must have been
that went before, of which there is no trace
now, when Assyria and Egypt were in their
age of stone axes and flint arrow-heads.

I do not think that the Stone-Age men
of Europe were nearly so civilized. At all
events, they have not left any such imperish-
able monuments as the gigantic images of
Easter Island, the earthworks of the Ohio
people, or the sculptures, writings, and build-
ings of the Assyrians and Egyptians ; but they
might have been more civilized than they
seem to have been from their simple weapons
and tools. They might have made many

1 Built of nummulitic limestone, composed of shells of
foraminifera. See Case 15, Room V., North Gallery.


things which were perishable, and have been
destroyed by time things which would have
given us a higher belief in their intelligence
and civilization.

The past history of the human race may
be compared to the rise and fall of the tide.
Wave after wave has risen higher and higher
on the everlasting shore of Time, and when
the tide was at its highest it has fallen again
slowly, to rise again and again in the same
way through many ages. We know that
man may rise slowly from a simple condition
to much civilization and power, and may
again sink back almost to barbarism, as has
been the case with the people of whom we
have been speaking, and then again a new
civilization may grow up. It is possible that
all now savage nations are the sinking de-
scendants of some, in comparison, once civi-
lized people. Modern nations are taking up
the ground of savages all over the world, and
soon there will be no trace of these simple
people. Thus it may have been with man-
kind throughout all the time during which
they have occupied the earth, and so it may
be perhaps again.



I HAVE now put " The Puzzle of Life " to-
gether as well as I can, and there is not much
more to say. You must do the rest for your-
selves by going to the Museums, where all
the pieces are collected, and seeing them with
your own eyes. When you stand before
these silent witnesses to the great age of our
Earth, and all that is on it, you will feel how
wonderful the story they tell is. They have
no words to speak to you, but there is a power
in your own minds which interprets their his-
tory through your own thoughts. They are
only lumps of rock and lifeless bones, but
they seem to say to you, " We are living again
now, because we are teaching you a lesson
which the great Builder of this Universe
wishes you to learn from us. There is not a
stone or fossil among us but it has its tale
to tell a tale of time and tide, and long past


ages, and innumerable changes, and a life that
was, and progress from a lower to a higher
existence. We have obeyed the same eter-
nal laws of one Creator from the beginning,
as all things will to the end of time. We
have opened the great Book of Nature from
the first page of the ' life-dawn animal ' to the
last, on which the hand of the Almighty has
written the name of Man his most perfect
work. We, you, and all things which have
lived and will live, have bodies made of
particles which will be returned to the Earth,
no single atom of which has been destroyed
since the first, but has been fashioned over
and over again into innumerable forms of
tree and flower, of gossamer-winged insect
and towering mammoth, throughout the long
ages in which our Globe has known day and
night, cold and heat, summer and winter."

There is nothing sad, if we look at it
rightly, in this constant succession of life and
death. It is

A moulding

Of forms, and a wondrous birth,
And a growing and fair unfolding
Of life from life, and life from death.


For death, a mother benign,
Transformeth but destroyeth not,
And the new thing fair of the old is wrought.

Is it not worth while then to listen to these
stories of the Earth to spell them out for
ourselves ? They are written everywhere,
in the mountains and valleys, the rivers and
seas, on the hard faces of granite cliffs, on the
rounded pebbles of the sea beach, and even
in the finest dust of the roads. We have not
to go far to hear them : every foot-step on
the ground covers a chapter great or small in
the universal history, and the stone walls of
our houses could speak with ten thousand
tongues of all they witnessed in their long
life on the floor of an ancient ocean.

We can scarcely have a more pleasant
occupation and greater interest than in search-
ing for and putting together the pieces of this
wonderful and beautiful puzzle, and in doing
our utmost to " Summon from the shadowy
Past the forms that once have been."


AGE of bronze, 161 ; of iron, 161 ;

of reptiles, 81
ALEPH, 125
ANIMAL PART, the, 77 ; animals of

coal period, 71
ANTS, white, 61

ARCTIC climate, 67 ; expedition, 67
AUSTRALIAN savages, 127

BABYLON and Nineveh, 164, 165
BEAR, grisly, 106
BEGINNING of life, 58
BIRD forms, earliest, 89 ; reptiles, 85
BOULDERS carried by ice, 48
BOILING springs, 54
BRONZE, age of, 161, 162 ; imple-
ments in British Museum, 162
BRIGHTON Downs, gg
BURNING mountains, 19


CANONS of Colorado, 8

CAVES of Engis and Cromagnon,
163 ; near Belfort and of Switzer-
land, 141 ; of the Vezere, 139


CHALK, nature of, 26 ; pits, 20 ; am-
monites and foraminifera in, 27 ;
period, 95 ; under the ocean, 29, 99

" CHALLENGER " expedition, 27

CHANGES have been gradual, 43

CISSBURY camp, 134

CLAY, London, 21, 22 ; and mud,


CLIMATE, Arctic, and of coal for-
mations, 67



COAL beds, 31 ; in Arctic regions, 67 ;
plants of the, 63 ; is fossil wood,
73 ; is sunlight compressed, 30

COLORADO, the people in, 142





CREATION, the plan of, 117

CRETACEOUS period, 96

CROMAGNON and Engis, caves of,

DAWN of life, 56 ; plant, 59


DINORNIS, specimens of, in British

Museum, 116


DRAWINGS, pre-historic, 135
DWELLINGS and food of men, 137

EARLY histories, 123 ; plant life, 59
EARTH, early history of, i, 2, 3 ; in-
terior of, 1 8 ; intense heat of, 24 ;
climate of, 48 ; not yet fit for man,
75 ; ' foraminifera earth,' 39



EARTHWORKS of Ohio, 165
EASTER island monuments, 164
EGYPT, monuments of, 266
EOZOON, 57, 77

FIRST weapons, 121


FISHES, fossil, 71

FLINT, origin of, 14 ; in chalk, 96 ;
weapons, where found, 131 ; tool
manufactory, 134

FORAMINIFERA, 2O ; ' foraminifera
earth, ' 30 ; drawings of, 97 ; spe-
cimens of, in British Museum, 99

FORESTS under the sea, 75, 76

FOSSIL, derivation of, 10 ; plants,
6 1 ; sunlight, 73 ; footprints, 83 ;
human, 157, 159

FOOD and dwellings, 137

FOOTPRINTS, fossil, 83

FLYING reptiles, 89

GEOLOGY, derivation of, 19

GIGANTIC animals, 101 ; birds, 115
GLACIERS and icebergs, 47
GRANITE, raised, 23 ; appearance

of, 24

GRAVEL, &c., 35
GREAT IRISH STAG, drawing, &c.,

of, 107
GUADALOUPE human fossil, 157

HEAT of the Earth, 3, 18
HEBREW letters, 125
HIPPOPOTAMUS in England, 105
HISTORIES, early, 123
HUMAN part, the, 120 ; fossils, 157

ICE age, 45 ; more than one, 48
ICEBERGS and glaciers, 47
IMPLEMENTS, flint and stone, in
British Museum, 131 ; bronze, 162
INDIA, elephants in, 145

INSECTS in coal forests, 64

IRISH stag, 107

ISLANDS appear and disappear, 39

JET, 69
JURASSIC age, 89

KANGAROO, fossil, 115
KITCHEN middens, 152


LAKE dwellers, 146 ; dwellings in
Europe, Africa, Asia, and New
Guinea, 149

LANGUAGE, origin of ; and of pre-
historic man, 155

LAURENTIAN rocks, 57

LENA river, mammoth found, 102

LIFE, the dawn of, 56 ; ' life-dawn
animal,' 57


LION, English sabre-toothed, 106


MAMMOTH, 49, 102-3 < bones of, in
Siberia, Asia, North America, &c. ;
drawing of, on ivory, 135 ; in Es-
sex, 104 ; skull of, in British Mu-
seum, 104

MAN and his works, 121 ; his
earliest inventions, 122 ; mam-
moth, mastodon, reindeer, &c.,
contemporary with, 116 ; pre-his-
toric, 127, 131 ; dwellings and
food of, 137

MARSUPIAL animal, 95

MASTODON, 102 ; in Europe, Ame-
rica, India, &c., 104 ; in Missouri,
128 ; skeleton of, in British Mu-
seum, 104


MEGATHERIUM, in South America,
no ; drawing of,- 112 ; account of,
113 ; skeleton of, in British Mu-
seum, 113

MEXICAN writings, 124

MIDDENS, kitchen, 152-4 ; makers,
life of, 153

MOA, 115-16

MONKEYS, fossil, 102 ; at Gibraltar,



MONUMENTS of Easter Island, 164 ;

of Egypt and Assyria, 166
MOUNTAINS, burning, and covered

with snow, 19
MORESBY, Captain, in New Guinea,

NEW GUINEA, stone age of, 143
NEW ZEALAND dinornis, 115 ; moa,

116 ; stone age of, 143
NINEVEH and Babylon, ruins, &c., of,

164, 165
NORWAY, raised terraces of, 38

OHIO, earthworks of, 165
OOLITE, 41, 86
ORIGIN of language, 155

PAPYRUS writings, 125

PARIS, built of shells, 100

PARTS, the, are called fossils, n

PAST life, the signs of, 13

PEAT, 70

PLAN of creation, 117

PLANTS of coal forests, 63


POTTERY, 141, 142

PRE-HISTORIC art, 133 ; drawings,

135 ; man, 127, 131 ; weapons and

tools, 129
PTERODACTYL, derivation of, 89 ;

description of, 90
PUZZLE, the framework of, 1-16 ;

parts of, where found, 5
PYRENEES, when raised, roo

RAiN-drops, marks of, 84
REINDEER, drawing of, on slate, 135
REPTILES, the age of, 81
RHINOCEROS in England, 105

ROCKS, raising of the ; how placed,
21, 25 ; carried by ice, 48

SANDSTONE, formation of, 25, 26 ;

Old Red, 62, 8 1 ; New Red, 77
SLATE hardened mud, 15
SPONGES, 15, 78

STAR-fish, 78

STONE age, 128 ; first stone age, 137 ;

second, 138 ; of New Guinea and

New Zealand, 143, 145

SUCCESSION of formations, 41, 42
SUNLIGHT, fossil, 73

TERTIARY period, 34, 100
TIME, the work of, 167
TOOLS, polished and rough, 139

UPHEAVAL and depression, 36, 38

VEGETABLE part, the, 56


VOLCANOES and earthquakes, 19

WATER, a powerful tool of Nature,

34, 45 ; thrown out of the earth,

WEAPONS, early, 121 ; and tools,

where found, 131
WORLD, early history of the, 3, 4 ;

size and shape, 17 ; materials of,

17 ; heat of, 18
WORK, the, of time, 167
WRITING, origin of, 123 ; Mexican

Egyptian, and Assyrian, 124, 125 ;

on papyrus, 125 ; by signs, 125




1 The present little work, which is specially addressed to children,
is written in so pleasant and easy a style, and its descriptions of
life on the earth are on the whole so simple and accurate, that we
can heartily recommend it to the attention of those who seek such
a guide. The illustrations are good, and the general appearance of
the book such that it may compare most favourably with other
primers of geology.' GEOLOGICAL MAGAZINE.

'Written in clear and simple style, especially attractive to
children. It includes an account of pre-historic man, and shows in
many other ways that the writer is familiar with some of the
latest phases of geological thought.' ACADEMY.

' The avowed object of this charming little book is to place the
results of these researches within the grasp of children, by presenting

them in language at once clear, simple, and winning In this

hard task Mr. NICOLS has succeeded admirably, without resorting
to that base subterfuge the attempt to clothe instruction in the

guise of fiction This is true education, for it teaches children

first to observe and then to reason Though the style of this

delightful book is simple and childlike, it is as far as possible
removed from being childish.' PALL MALL GAZETTE.

' The language is plain, the descriptions are lucid, the illustrations
apt, and uie broad facts of the science are very correctly stated.

The work, too, is free from all attempts at fine writing We

wish the book success as at any rate an attempt to lay before the
young fact instead of fiction.'


' The book is a successful attempt to explain the simplest facts
of geology, and of the succession of life on the earth.'


' The idea is a happy one, and will recommend itself to children ;
and we are bound to say that Mr. NICHOLS has carried out his idea
remarkably well, and produced a work which will do much to spread
sound notions upon the gradual development of our earth and its

inhabitants to the condition in which we now see them We

can safely recommend Mr. NICHOL'S little book as one that will
have a most beneficial effect in opening the minds of its young

OPINIONS of the PRESS continued.

1 This is a good little book, cleverly written by an able geologist,
and well adapted for children. We can recommend the volume as
a present to any intelligent boy or girl.' LANCET.

' This book appears to be, in style, language, and scope, eminently
adapted for its purpose, which is to awaken among the little folks
an interest " in the history of life upon the earth," and "give them

1 2 3 4 5 7

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 7 of 8)