Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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certain knowledge all over North America by the Indian
tribes. The tiny and beautiful arrow-heads, for example,
found in Oregon are, though smaller than most of such
objects, otherwise identical with similar implements found
in England, in Ireland, in various parts of Europe, in Japan,
in fact the world over. The common stone axe found in
Australia is the own brother of the same implement found
in Ireland ; the adze-head of stone dredged up from the
Thames differs in no remarkable respect from that found
on the other side of the world. A remarkable example of
this is to be met with in connection with the primitive pot-
tery, made of course on open hearths and not in closed
furnaces. Take a pot manufactured by those very primi-
tive people the Akikuyu, whose country has lately come
into prominence in connection with a strenuous religious
controversy. Place it beside a pot made by the prehistoric
inhabitants of the Wiltshire Downs during the Bronze Age.
No one but an expert could decide which was the ancient
and which the modern product. Such being the case, it is
allowable to conclude that the method of manufacture of
the two articles was not very different, and as we know
step for step the exact method of the manufacture of the
Kikuyu urn we can form a pretty good idea of how the
far-off denizen of what is now Wilts made his domestic
pottery. 1 So that by this comparative study of ancient
and modern artefacts we are not only able to decide as to the
character and uses of the former but also to obtain an accur-

1 The reader will find a most interesting account of the ways and
methods of a primitive race in Mr. and Mrs. Routledge's book " With a
Prehistoric People," which deals with the Akikuyu. London, Arnold & Co.,


ate impression of the very ways in which they were made
and used.

There is another interesting method of study of which
some mention must be made. No important object exists
which is not the result of a certain amount of evolution or
development. Take the modern motor bicycle. Every-
body who has attained to middle age can remember the
" bone-shaker " and how it developed into the high
bicycle, the " Ariel," for example, which again disappeared
to make room for the so-called " safety," the " push-bicycle "
of to-day from which has developed the motor bicycle which
buzzes along our roads. In a similar manner, but in ages
long past, the hollowed-out stone was used as a lamp, with
perhaps a tuft of moss sticking out at one corner for a wick
and fed by sea-blubber or some such kind of fat. Such a
lamp is used by the Esquimaux of to-day, and such a lamp
is to be picked up amongst the remains of prehistoric
habitations. From this was developed the common earthen-
ware lamp, at first open, then closed save for wick and oil-
holes, the kind of lamp often called a Roman lamp, but
really common to the whole Mediterranean shorelands ;
the kind of lamp of which our Saviour was thinking when
He spoke the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In time this be-
came constructed of metal, and we have the Scotch " Cruisie,"
still, I believe, in use in out of the way parts of North Britain.
A derivative is the common brass many-wicked lamp used
in Italy from which comes the old " Moderator " and the
common paraffin lamp used where gas and electricity are
unattainable. What we learn from all these methods of
study is that Man is — and as far back as we can trace him,
Man has always been — Man ; possessed of similar needs
and meeting those needs by similar inventions ; similar —
nay identical — in mental processes.

We may now turn to a third question — the last to be
propounded by our intelligent enquirer. It may thus
be formulated : You tell us that such and such an object
was made ages ago by some long-forgotten prehistoric man
and was not made by nature, and that it was made for
such and such a purpose, and all this you seem to have
made good. But you then proceed to tell us something


about his ideas, and even his religious ideas ; pray what
grounds have you for such conclusions ? The reply to this
most natural question is deducible from what has been
said, and may thus be summed up : Wherever and when-
ever we find him, Man is in all respects the same kind of
individual. We are not for the moment alluding to his
physical characteristics, though, as will shortly appear,
very much the same may be said about them ; what we are
alluding to is his general outlook upon life, his general
response to the common needs of humanity. In all these
matters, right back to the beginning of history, Man is Man
and nothing else : and we are, therefore, entitled to argue
from primitive man of to-day with his remains and his
ideas to primitive man of the earliest ages, whose remains
are so very similar and whose ideas can therefore hardly
have been so very dissimilar.

Let us take the most remarkable example of all, doubly
interesting for the purposes of this book. Prehistoric
archaeology teaches us that there never was a time, from
that of the earliest known interment of the remains of the
dead, when man did not believe in a Future Life, in what
we call the Immortality of the Soul, though his psychological
range did not, we may assume, lead him into any very
great subtilty of consideration in connection with that
matter. How can we prove this statement ? Well, there
is nothing more certain than that savage races, the world
over, bury food, arms, ornaments, and such-like objects
with their dead with one idea only — namely, that the spirit
of the dead person may make use of them in another world.
Further, with a curious kind of logic they sometimes argue
that, since the spirit of the dead person cannot go into the
other world until the person is dead, so neither can the
spirit of the implements accompany their master unless
they also have been killed, and so they are broken as the
surest method of killing them and releasing their spirits.
It is, of course, for this purpose and that they might wait
upon their master in the other world, as they had done in
this, that slaves, horses, and such-like living creatures were
slain at their master's funeral and their remains buried with


There is no contesting these facts, nor has anyone ever
desired to contest them, since the evidence is overwhelming.
Now we find precisely the same facts obtaining with regard
to prehistoric man. The very earliest interment so far
discovered is that of Chapelle-aux-Saints in France, of
which more will be said in another chapter. In this inter-
ment, dating back no one can say how many thousand
years, we find precisely the same conditions obtaining.
With him, too, were buried the " Grave-goods " or " Accom-
panying Gifts," in this case flint knives and bones, which
were provided by those who survived him for the use of
his spirit in another world. The idea of that other world
is no doubt crude enough, but it is there, and its conception
is on a level with the conceptions which in all probability
these people formed concerning other matters. For example,
pieces of red ochre were placed with the remains above
alluded to. It is a common habit for savage races to decorate
their bodies with this substance, no doubt a foolish and
perhaps even unbecoming habit, but not so very far removed
from the rouge and powder of persons who would regard
themselves as the dernier cri of civilisation. We may feel
quite clear that in the case of prehistoric man the ochre
was placed with the dead body in order that its former
owner might not appear undecorated in the spirit land.
Further, bones were placed over the head — in fact, as Pro-
fessor Sollas 1 observes, " this was evidently a ceremonial
interment, accompanied by offerings of food and imple
ments for the use of the deceased in the spirit world." Nor
will anyone be disposed to cavil at the way in which he
comments on these facts when he says, "It is almost with
a shock of surprise that we discover this well-known custom,
and all that it implies, already in existence during the last
episode of the Great Ice Age."

The following instance is a curious example of the simi-
larity of ideas amongst ancient and modern savages. In
a tumulus in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, was found the skull
of a dog, as well as the bones of a child. Now it is a fact
that certain North American Indians are in the habit of
burying a dog with the remains of a child for the touching

1 " Ancient Hunters," London, Macmillan & Co., 191 1, p. 146.


reason that the child might not be able to find its way to
the realm of spirits, but that the dog, which can always
find its way home, will lead it along the right path.

We are, it may again be claimed, entitled to argue from
the modern savage and his customs and ideas to those of
the ancient savage whom we only know by his remains ;
and when we compare what we know of the oldest and the
latest we shall often be startled by the similarity of their
methods and presumably of their ideas.

From what has gone before it will be understood that
many of the most important facts that we have learnt
concerning prehistoric man have been gathered from a
study of his burying-places. With regard to these inter-
ments, and indeed with regard to the question of the exact
position of prehistoric objects in the scale of what we shall
speak of as Archaeological Time, many difficulties arise which
will have to be studied in the next chapter.

Meanwhile, it may be convenient to point out that so far
as man's handicraft goes, so far back as we know anything
about him, it is the handicraft of a true man made by a
skilled man's hand. This may be proved for himself by
any person who will take up two lumps of flint and try to
make for himself a copy of the implements laid with the
dead body of the man of the Chapelle aux Saints. He will
retire from the task, probably with barked knuckles, and
certainly with a greater respect than he has previously
entertained for Prehistoric Man.




AT this point it is absolutely necessary to devote some
l\ considerable amount of our space to the very important
question of chronology, as to which the wildest and, in some
cases at least, the most absurd statements are made day
after day, and that not merely in the pages of the daily
papers where we might expect them (though, of course, they
flourish there) but even in manuals purporting to give
the latest and most definite views of science. These wild
statements very largely arise from a want of ( omprehension
of what is meant by chronology, and that again arises from
a want of clear thinking on the subject. Fcr example, we
often read some such statement as this — " Hundreds of thou-
sands of years ago " [the brighter intellects do not hesitate
to say " millions "] " man made these implements or carved
these figures," or whatever may be the matter under con-
sideration ; and this with the same assurance and con-
viction as it might be stated that the Declaration of
Independence was signed on the fourth of July, 1776.
Those who have any knowledge of the subject know quite
well that this sum of years, as applied to prehistoric man,
is nothing more than a picturesque or rhetorical statement,
just exactly on a par with the children's " once upon a
time " ; but the general reader cannot be expected to know
this and is hopelessly misled. The object of this chapter
is to put him right in this matter, so that he may in future
be able to estimate at their correct value statements of the
kind alluded to.

When we talk about " Time " we talk about an entity
which may more or less arbitrarily be divided into days and



weeks and years, or again, and also arbitrarily, into epochs
which may or may not be correlated with a known number
of years in each case. For example, it is quite common
to talk about the Victorian period and even to speak of
things being " Early Victorian " or " Middle Victorian."
To these, or at least to the first of them, it is perfectly pos-
sible to assign actual dates, since we know quite well that
the late Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 and
died in 1901. But there are many other cases, as will
shortly appear, where no such correlation is possible, yet
where such correlation is not merely attempted but actually
stated as established fact. All this will be more readily
understood when we come, as we shall shortly do, to con-
crete cases.

Let us begin by remembering that we have to do with
three categories of what is called " Time." These are : —

Historical Time (which is stated in actual years).

Archaeological Time ) Neither of which can be thus

Geological Time j stated.

Let us consider each of these separately and then in
relation to one another.

Historical Time deals with more or less well-established

It informs us as to the year in which we and other im-
portant persons were born, when different battles were
fought, when other great historical events took place ; it
is in fact the skeleton and framework of history and comes
into existence with it, very nebulous and uncertain at its
commencement, more definite later on — in all important
events during more recent periods practically unchallenge-
able. For example, no one will challenge the statement
as to the date of the Declaration of Independence, nor will
anyone hesitate to admit that the battle commonly known
as that of Hastings was fought in 1066. In less critical
days we used to see it laid down — on the dictum, by the way,
of the Protestant Bishop Ussher — that the world was created
in B.C. 4004, a statement to which few, if any, would now
subscribe ; and this is an example of the impossibility of
assigning exact dates to a time before history, which is the
custodian of dates, had come into existence. The question


of Biblical chronology may be left for the moment while
we turn to consider how far back we can go with any safety
in connection with actual numerical chronology. Dealing
with such records as we have, the discoveries made in
Babylonia and in Egypt seem to afford us the greatest
amount of information, and it is probably true to say that
Egypt supplies us with surer and more definite information
than any other yet attainable. 1

Now in the history of Egypt we can tread with security
as far back as the conquest of Alexander (b.c. 332). But
that period, need it be said, is only as yesterday in the
long history of this earth, or even of the history of the men
who have lived upon it.

From Alexander backwards to the commencement of
what is known as the First Dynasty, our path becomes less
certain. There is indeed a kind of chronology, but how
uncertain and indefinite that is may be gathered from the
fact that the dates assigned for the commencement of the
First Dynasty vary from 3315 B.C. to 5510 B.C., and that
Professor Flinders Petrie, perhaps the greatest authority
on Egyptology, who in 1894 fixed the date as 4777, has
felt himself compelled by further evidence to change his
opinion, and to assign 5510 B.C. as the proper date, the latter
statement being made in 1906. It is right to say that the
distinguished authority in question has on all occasions set
forth his statements tentatively, with all reserve and for
the use of scholars who are in a position to estimate the
value and meaning of his findings, thus differing widely
from the authors of the rash statements above referred to.

Yet even the more distant of the two periods just quoted,
or any date resembling it, is only as the day before yesterday
in the history of the globe or even of its human inhabitants.

So then we may safely say of Historical Time that of the
events of to-day and yesterday we are tolerably sure, and
as to those of the day before yesterday we can make reason-
able guesses. Of those of the days before that we know
nothing, though we can (and do) make many surmises as
to them.

1 From this point I think it permissible to quote, with slight alterations
from articles of my own on " The Earliest Men " which appeared in " The
Catholic World," January and February, 1914.


ArchcBological Time may be defined, for the present pur-
pose, as commencing with that uncertain epoch when man
first made his appearance on this earth. It merges into
Historical Time on the one hand — indeed all Archaeology
which is not Prehistoric belongs of course to History as
well as to Archaeology : and both kinds are, equally of
course, co-existent with Geological Time.

In very large part and at its earliest periods almost
entirely, as we shall see, Archaeological Time depends for
its estimate on Geological Time, since it is almost only by
the stratigraphical character of early remains or objects
that we can arrive at any conclusion as to their actual
and their relative chronological positions. Thus whilst we
are safe in assigning at present certain Periods to Arch-
aeological Time and are more or less safe in assigning
certain objects to them, we are very far from being certain
as to the dates which can be assigned to any of these periods—
indeed, as will shortly appear, we can form no real con-
ception of them in actual terms of years. Before dealing
with this point it will be well to refer again to the matter of
Geological Time, as to which most of that which has to be
said has already been said in earlier chapters. It need only
be repeated that, whilst we can obtain a very vivid idea of
the immense ages which must have rolled by whilst the
earth was becoming what she is to-day geologically, and may
even form some kind of comparative scale of the lengths
of time assignable to each period, it is wholly impossible
to assign to any of them such definite dates as we can
assign, for example, to the Stuart and Tudor periods in
English History.

We may now turn our attention to the periods of Archaeo-
logical Time and subsequently see how they fit in with
geological facts. To begin with, mankind, as far as we
know about him in all parts of the world, passed through
an early period during which he was ignorant of the know-
ledge of metals and their importance and usefulness to his
race. During this period such things as stones and sticks,
fragments of bone and of horn, were the implements which
he used or the materials out of which he fashioned these


As stone of various kinds, but far most commonly and
most importantly flint, was the chief material employed,
these times have come to be known as the Stone Age, a
term which does not exclude the use of other materials
save those of a metallic character.

At first the implements constructed from stone were
rough, rough that is by comparison with the more finished
implements of a later date though nevertheless wonderful
enough in their execution. To this period is given the
name of the Old Stone or Palaeolithic Period. It may have
been preceded by an Eolithic Period and, at least in certain
parts of the world, it faded into the next era through what
is called the Mesolithic Period.

In that next era, though metal was still unknown and the
materials remained the same, the process of manufacture
had so much improved that the epoch is spoken of as the
New Stone or Neolithic Age.

At the end of this man discovered the use of metals :
but before we come to that important landmark in history
it will be necessary to say something more about this Stone
Age. As already mentioned, all the peoples of the world
seem to have gone through a Stone Age, but it would be
the greatest possible mistake to suppose that this age was
synchronous in all parts of the world.

There was a time, no doubt, when the whole of what is
now Europe was in the Stone Age : there was almost cer-
tainly a time when part of it was in the Stone and another
part in the Metallic Age. There can be no manner of doubt
that whilst Europe was enjoying the advantages, such as
they are, of the Iron Age in which we now live, Australia,
for example, was still in her Stone Period.

As to want of complete synchronism at the earlier pre-
historic periods we have no very exact data, but facts seem
quite undoubtedly to point in that direction. As to the
later want of synchronism there can, of course, be no sort
of doubt.

Another point to be borne in mind is this, that whilst
man ceased, at the end of the Stone Age, to rely solely
upon non-metallic substances as the raw material for his
implements, he by no means ceased to use wood and stone,


bone and horn, in the manufacture of tools — in fact, as we
very well know, he uses every one of them to this day in
countless ways. He added something to his possibilities,
just as when he substituted iron for bronze as the material
of his weapons of war he added a further possibility. All
this is so obvious that it hardly needs stating, but other
very illuminating facts are by no means so obvious.

For example, there seems to be but little doubt that in
England at any rate stone arrow-heads were used during a
great part if not the entire of the succeeding period, which,
as we shall shortly learn, is known as the Bronze Age.
Nay, more, it is quite likely that the most skilfully fashioned
of these objects belong to the Bronze Age and not to the
Stone Period.

The reason of this is not far to seek, for we may quite
well understand that bronze must have been a much more
costly material to use than stone. Time was not as valuable
as it is now, and anyway the experts of the period prob-
ably made even well-shaped arrow-heads much more rapidly
than we imagine, so that it was much cheaper to use stone
than metal in the case of implements which must have been
constantly getting lost.

But even beyond this we know from history that many
of the Saxon warriors fought at the Battle of Hastings with
stone mauls — that is to say, with stone-headed clubs not very
unlike those used at least in Neolithic times. It is probable
that they were bored axe-heads, indeed it seems quite
probable that the knowledge of how to bore stones may not
have been acquired during what are properly called Stone
Ages, and that all the numerous implements of that kind
which have been found really belong to the Metallic times.
At any rate the fact that we have to bear in mind is that
there was here, as in the case of other periods, a consider-
able overlap of materials and that man did not wholly turn
away from his old friends because he had discovered others
in some ways more useful and even tractable.

At some period, unassignable to any particular date, man —
almost certainly first of all in the Mediterranean basin, but
perhaps more or less contemporaneously in different places —
made the discovery that copper could be melted and run


into moulds. It is surmised that this was due to a fire
having been lit on a rock containing a very large proportion
of exposed copper ore. If this were the case, as it may
well have been, there is no sort of reason, rather the
reverse, why the discovery should not have been made in
various parts of the world, even in various parts of Europe,
at much the same time. At any rate a Copper period, or
^neolithic Age, seems to have existed in many places — in
Cyprus, for example, which some have looked upon as the
original centre of the knowledge of metals, and in Ireland,
to mention but two places out of many. What seems cer-
tain about it is that its existence was brief.

At any rate the next period — one, it need hardly be said of
enormous importance — was ushered in by a discovery on
the part of some genius as unknown as the discoverer
of fire, the discoverer of iron, and other benefactors
of the human race. This discoverer, in some manner as to
which we can form no idea, ascertained that an admixture
of something like ten per cent of tin with the pure copper
made a much more useful metal : and a knowledge of Bronze
became the property of the world. Whether the knowledge
of this combination of metals arose independently in different
places, or was spread from a centre or centres to distant
regions is doubtful, but there can be little doubt that in a
comparatively short time the knowledge of how to make
bronze had spread over the whole of Europe at any rate.

Then another discovery was made, which at least mini-
mised the importance of bronze : this was the discovery

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 19 of 38)