Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

The church and science online

. (page 21 of 38)
Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 21 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Neanderthal skull proves that, Even where the evidence


is more satisfactory, the conclusion arrived at can rarely,
if ever, rise to a position of more than very great prob-
ability, though from time to time it reaches one of as ab-
solute certainty as is obtainable with regard to earthly
matters. Thus it is as certain as anything can be that man
has inhabited this earth for an immense period of time,
though it is quite uncertain what actual or approximate
number of years should or can be assigned to that period.

The evidence for the existence of the so-called Neander-
thal race with certain marked physical characteristics, is
unquestionably convincing, yet it would be rash to assign
to this race every skull which presents the characters in
question. Modern individuals and races have been known
to possess them and, therefore, unless there is some other
collateral evidence, no such conclusion can be arrived at
with conviction.

Having thus sketched the foundation ideas of the subject
of prehistoric archaeology we may now turn our attention
to the actual discoveries of human remains which closely
touch the question in which we are interested — namely,
the date of man upon the earth — before discussing what
the Church and Science have to say upon that subject.



IN the present chapter it will first of all be our task to
deal with the earliest, or what are thought to be the
earliest, remains of human beings. This will have to be a
mere sketch, but it will, it is hoped, be sufficient to make
the problems under consideration clear to those who may
not previously have come in contact with them.

The Trinil Remains were discovered in Java by Dubois
in 1891. 1 These remains consist of the top part of a skull,
two molar or " back " teeth, and a thigh bone. These
objects were found, it is true, in the same locality, but as
much as forty-six feet apart from one another. It is thus
clear that they did not form an interment, and it is of course
not possible to prove that they all belonged to the same
individual. It is assumed that they do, but that view must
always remain an assumption, since an expedition fitted
out and financed by Madame Selenka, the widow of a well-
known scientific man, completed and reported upon its
operations. After vast expenditure of labour and the ex-
cavation of a large tract of land the investigators discovered
one more tooth. They erected a monument to the possessor
(or possessors) of the bones and returned to Europe. No
account of the tooth in question has been made public, so
far as the present writer is aware, but it is understood that
it is in every respect human in its characteristics. It cannot
be proved, perhaps it can hardly be claimed, that it belongs
to the same individual as the other bones, assuming that
these all belonged to one person. It may be the tooth of

1 The subjoined account is taken and in large part verbatim from my
paper already referred to.



some quite modern person which has found its way to a
comparatively deep position by falling down an earth-
crack or by some such method. The first -discovered remains
have been assumed to belong to a single individual who has
been, perhaps a little prematurely, named Pithecanthropus

Be that as it may, and apart from the initial difficulty
as to whether all the objects belong to the same skeleton,
there is a further difficulty as to the characters of the skull,
reminding one of the earlier differences of opinion as to the
Neanderthal skull, of which some account will shortly be
submitted. Dr. Munro, a learned writer on subjects of
this nature, 1 gives a list of seven authorities who look upon
the fragment of skull as having belonged to a human being,
of six other authorities who are clear that it was once
possessed by an ape, and of still another group, also seven
in number, who prefer the middle course of believing that
its owner w T as some sort of creature intermediate between
men and apes. What is clear is that whilst there is this
discordance of opinion amongst authorities — and it may at
once be stated that each of these twenty persons has every
claim to that title — the plain man may well suspend his own
judgement and conclude that, until a fundamental question
of this kind is settled with at least some approach to finality
and general consent, it is not much use to begin building
theories, seeing how insecure is their foundation.

Another curious fact connected with these differences of
opinion has been quoted by Dr. Munro from the pages of
de Mortillet, a veteran man of science whose name has already
found a place in these pages. He writes : " Les avis ont ete
on ne peut plus partages. lis se sont tout d'abord parques
par nationalites. Les Anglais, bien que compatriotes de
Darwin, ont fait des grands efforts pour demontrer qu'il ne
s'agit que d'un homme, un homme tres inferieur, mais
d6ja un veritable homme. Les Allemands, au contraire, se
sont froidement ingenies a prouver qu'il ne s'agit que d'un
singe ; Les Francais ont purement et simplement adopt e
les determinations du jeune savant hollandais. C'etait
chose facile pour des compatriotes de Lamarck."

1 " Palaeolithic Man." Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1912.


Apart from these fundamental difficulties it is by no
means certain as to what was the exact geological horizon
to which the remains belonged. Some believe that the
deposit was of Pleistocene, some of Pliocene age, the former
opinion now being, I understand, in the ascendant. It is
a comparatively small point when compared with that
just alluded to, but it adds to the general uncertainty and
to the impossibility of making any very great use of these
remains in respect to theories concerning early man.

It must always be remembered, however, that the state
of uncertainty which at present unquestionably exists may,
as was the case with the Neanderthal skull, come to an end
and the matter be cleared up by further discoveries. But it
seems impossible, however, after Madame Selenka's labours,
to imagine that such discoveries can take place in the same
neighbourhood as that where the original discovery was made.

A parenthetic discussion of a matter which always crops
up in connection with these early skulls may here be

In any description which we read of them we shall un-
doubtedly come across the statement that " the cranial
capacity is estimated as being . . . which is about the
same as that of the . . . race." It will be convenient
here to explain and criticise this statement for the sake
of those who are unfamiliar with the methods of ethnology.
Roughly speaking, the size of the interior of the skull
corresponds to the size of the brain which it once contained,
and, also very roughly speaking, the size of the brain is
generally considered as having some relation to the intel-
lectual position of the former owner of the skull. The
cranial capacity is measured by filling the interior of the
skull with shot or some such thing and pouring it out into
a measure. Anyone who has ever seen a skull can under-
stand that with ordinary care and precautions all this is
an easy enough procedure. But where, as in most cases
of early skulls — in that of the Trinil skull, for example — we
only have a fragment of the original, the matter becomes
one of great difficulty. It is not exactly a matter of guess-
work, but the extraordinarily different conclusions arrived
at by different observers, all trained and experienced


anatomists, at least show the great difficulty and uncer-
tainty which surrounds the process.

In the case of the Neanderthal skull so often quoted, the
earlier measurements were vitiated and the skull made to
be of much smaller capacity than it really was by the fact
that a certain small point in connection with cranial anatomy
was not then fully understood. It is not easy to estimate
the cubic contents of a fragmentary skull ; but suppose
them estimated, how far will that help us ? It must be
conceded that size of brain is not always a safe index of
intellectual capacity. Tiny dwarfs with brains no bigger
than those of a baby have been possessed of intellects sur-
passing those exhibited by many a grown man or woman
who has yet passed a lifetime outside a home for the feeble-
minded. There was a well-known dwarf who died in America
aged about twenty years and measuring about the same
number of inches. She was of Dutch origin and went by
the name of the Princess Paulina. Her brain was, of course,
in size that of a child of her own stature — that is, immeasur-
ably inferior in size to that of the brain of the lowest race
of savage ever seen. Her body-weight was only one hundred
and forty-four ounces, whilst the weight of the brain alone
in an ordinary woman averages about forty-five ounces. If
brain be everything she ought to have had something less
than the intelligence of an ape. Yet the doctor who attended
her in her fatal illness relates that she was " of a good
general education, and speaking four languages — her native
Dutch, French, German, and a little English." It does not
do to stretch the long arm of coincidence too far, but it is
not always the case that a skull of small size was therefore
in possession of a person of inferior or imperfect intellect.
Take, for example, the case of Gambetta, first Prime
Ministerof France after the war of 1870-1, who, whatever may
be said about him or against him, could certainly never be
stigmatised as brainless. Yet Gambetta's brain-weight, as
ascertained by a post-mortem examination, was only two
and a half pounds, whilst the average British brain weighs
about three pounds. In fact, Gambetta's brain was con-
siderably inferior in point of weight to the average brain
of savage tribes Had his skull been discovered and esti-


mated on the cubic capacity lines by some savant in the
future, wholly ignorant of who had been its possessor, it would
almost certainly have been declared to have belonged to a
member of some very inferior race of human beings. Never-
theless it is fair to say that, with all the difficulties and
doubts which must necessarily attach to it, skull capacity
is the best and indeed almost the only measure which we
can have of the intellectual possibilities of an otherwise
unknown race. The fact is that, from the material point of
view, it is possibly the amount of grey cortex or the associa-
tion of fibres, or something of that sort which we cannot
estimate by measurements, which makes the difference
between brains. As we can in many cases estimate the cubic
capacity with accuracy, as it is the only indication or
almost the only indication which we have of the intellectual
position of an extinct race, and as it has a certain corre-
spondence with facts, we can use it and can attach con-
siderable importance to its teachings. But we must always
bear in mind the fact that the method is not infallible in its

After these observations the reader will be in a better
position to estimate the opinions now to be laid before him.

The Trinil skull is in a most imperfect state and it is,
therefore, a matter of the greatest difficulty to estimate
its cubic capacity. Its original discoverer puts it down as
855 cubic centimetres, 1 but Keith thinks that this is an
underestimate, though he does not commit himself to any
definite statement as to the capacity.

The Piltdown Skull, which has lately attracted so much
attention and has been the cause of much controversy, was
found by Mr. Dawson in a flint -bearing gravel overlying the
Wealden (Hastings beds) at Piltdown in Sussex, and was
described by him and by Dr. Smith Woodward. 2 The
objects found in this gravel bed consisted of a fragmentary
skull, a lower jaw, and some flint implements claimed to be

1 It may assist readers to have the following facts before them.
Average capacity European skull 1550 c.c.

„ „ Australian native 1250 c.c.

„ ,, Mousterian (prehistoric) 1620 c.c.

2 In the " Quarterly Journal of the London Geographical Society,"
March, 191 3.


of Chellean, that is, of early Palaeolithic period. Its de-
scribers claim that all the objects belong to one another
and that they " cannot safely be described as being of
earlier date than the first half of the Pleistocene epoch."
The first piece of uncertainty about these objects is
their connection with one another. A difficulty, as will
shortly be seen, arises in connection with the jaw, which
does not seem to harmonise in its characters with the skull
itself. Some, therefore, think that the two bones did not
belong to the same individual. Leaving this point aside
for a moment until we deal with the Heidelberg jaw, let us
pass to the next point of difficulty. It has already been
said that the skull when found was in a very imperfect
condition. Before any attempt could be made to arrive
at an opinion as to what it looked like when complete, it
was necessary to essay what is called " reconstruction " —
that is to say, to make a model of the whole skull, working
from the proportions of the part which is in existence.
Now without going into details, it may at once be said
that no more difficult task can well be attempted, and this
indeed is obvious from the widely divergent results obtained
by undoubted authorities — results which make it quite im-
possible for anyone to found, at least at present, any reliable
theory in the construction of which this fragment of bone
forms a factor.

The first describers of the skull, as a result of their
reconstruction, claim that the cubic capacity is 1070
cubic centimetres, that is, somewhat less than the cubic
capacity of the average Australian native. But, on the
other hand, Professor Keith, 1 an undoubted authority
on craniometry, has also made a reconstruction which
differs most widely from the earlier description, for he
says that the creature thus reconstructed was one which
" could neither breathe nor eat, which was an utterly im-
possible condition." Further, he adds that " the mistake
had been made similar to that in 1887, of putting a chim-

1 Since this was written Professor Keith has produced a book, " The
Antiquity of Man " (London, Williams and Norgate, 1915), which is largely
given up to a consideration of this skull. It is eminently improbable that
this work will end the controversy or that the Professor's conclusions will
be allowed to go unchallenged. The matter must be considered, therefore,
as remaining in a highly unsettled condition.


panzee face on a human skull." According to his view the
cubic capacity works out at 1560 cubic centimetres, in
other words, the skull is one of very considerable size, quite
on the large side amongst skulls. Where authorities of this
eminence differ and differ so much it is not for outsiders to
express opinions. This much, however, may be said, that
whichever is right, the skull is clearly the skull of a human
being and presents no characteristics which would prevent
it from being looked upon as the skull of a man of to-day.
The same cannot be said concerning the lower jaw found in
the same gravel, which must now be considered in connection
with the

Heidelberg Jaw, found near the place after which it
was named and first described in 1908. This jaw was found
by itself and without any skull. It is assumed to be human,
as the Piltdown jaw is also assumed by most to be human,
but there is at least the possibility that neither of them
may have been such.

The Piltdown jaw was at first stated to have belonged to
a creature which could not talk, but it is now admitted
that the anatomical character on which this view was
founded does not warrant the conclusion based upon it.
There is no doubt that both of these jaws, and more especially
that from Piltdown, do present highly simian or monkey-
like characteristics and thus depart from the pattern which
obtains amongst mankind to-day. But there is a most
curious feature about the Heidelberg example : this is
that, in spite of the simian character of the jaw-bone, the
teeth which it contains are more like the teeth of the highest
races of to-day, and less like the teeth of monkeys than are
the teeth of some of the lower races of the present time.
To put it briefly ; the jaw is more monkey-like and the
teeth are less monkey-like than the jaws and teeth of people
of to-day ; and it may at once be said that this combina-
tion of characteristics is one of the most puzzling things
to an anatomist. The teeth in the case of the Piltdown
example are also stated to be definitely human. Professor
Osborn in his very valuable book "Men of the Old Stone
Age " (London, G. Bell & Sons, 1916) agrees with the view
recently put forward by Gerrit S. Miller, in what he


describes as "a recent comparative and exhaustive study,"
that the Piltdown Jaw is that of a chimpanzee ; he
states that this view has been adopted by several other
comparative anatomists. It must be admitted that many
are entirely opposed to it, and this being so, the question
must be left in this unsettled state.

The Neanderthal Remains are of the greatest interest
from several points of view. First of all they have been for
a lengthy period before the scientific world and have been
criticized and recriticized, described and redescribed, until
at last opinion has somewhat settled down about them.
They were found in 1857 in a cave in the gorge from which
they are named, which is situated near Diisseldorf. They
were described in the next year by Schaafhausen and were
claimed by Huxley to be the bones of a perfectly new and
very ancient type of man. Virchow, an authority of at
least equal rank, said that they were the bones of a quite
modern man who had suffered from a peculiar disease.
It is almost the case of the Piltdown skull over again. In
1 901 Schwalbe carefully examined the bones and the various
views which had been expressed concerning them. He was
able then to tabulate four distinct and different opinions
with regard to the skull, under each of which were several
sub-opinions. 1 Nothing certainly could appear more un-
certain than the character of the skull. Schwalbe himself
described the individual as Homo primi genius, to distinguish
him from Homo sapiens, the man of to-day : yet we now
know that the Neanderthal bones belong to what is a
well-recognised race. This is the second point of interest
alluded to above ; for the Trinil, Piltdown, and Heidelberg
specimens are so far of a purely isolated character, and being
such cannot give us any certain aid in forming conclusions
of a general character.

We have fairly numerous examples of the Neanderthaloid
type, as to which there is still a curious divergence of
opinion. Keith in 1911 2 did not hesitate to state that in

1 For an account of this matter see a work by the author, " A Century
of Scientific Thought," published by Burns & Oates, London, 1915.

2 " Ancient Types of Man," Harpers, 191 1. In this little book and in
Duckworth's " Prehistoric Man," Cambridge University Press, 1912, will
be found succinct accounts of all the finds of prehistoric bones made up
to the date of their publication.


his opinion " the Neanderthal type represents the stock
from which all modern races have arisen." In a more
recent work, however, 1 he takes up a diametrically opposite
opinion, stating that the races of man known as Neander-
thal have completely died out. In this view he is followed
by Dr. Spurrell in his very interesting book ; 2 but other
authorities such as Sollas seem to be of a totally different
opinion, and in spite of the confident statement of the two
writers just quoted the matter must be considered to be
completely unsettled. It is recognised that his cranial
capacity, thought by Huxley and others of that period to
have been very low, was, on the contrary, quite respectably
high in the catalogue of capacities.

This change of opinion arose from a trifling though im-
portant discovery to which allusion has previously been
made and which may be more fully explained at this point .

If the reader will pass his hand over the back of his head
at the point where the neck-muscles are attached to the
skull, he will feel a more or less prominent knob of
bone, known to anatomists as the inion. In modern
races this corresponds with the line of division between
cerebellum and cerebrum — the great brain and the lesser
brain, to use the more popular terms. In Neanderthal
man it is now known that this was not the case, but that
the knob in question is from twenty to twenty-five milli-
metres above the upper limit of the cerebellum. The failure
to recognise this fact had thrown out all the measurements
of the earlier observers, and this shows how cautious one
must be in accepting conclusions and how very easily
the most distinguished observers can go wrong even over a
vital matter of this kind. " The size of the cranial cavity
in the Neanderthal type was much under-estimated. In
place of being 1230 c.c, as Huxley supposed, it is over
1500 c.c, as Manouvrier and Boule have estimated. It is a
striking fact that the brain had reached, as regards size,
more than a modern degree of development in the Neander-
thal type ; indeed, 1480 c.c. is usually accepted as an average
for modern man." 3

1 "The Antiquity of Man," 1915.

* "Modern Man and his Forerunners," London, G. Bell & Sons, 191 7.

8 Keith, "Ancient Types of Man," p. 105.


From this point onwards we have fairly complete series
of human skulls. We are no longer obliged to rely on the
imperfect and uncertain evidence of fragments and single
examples, but have groups of skulls which we can compare
and correlate with one another. Thus though there are, and
there must probably always be, a great many difficulties to
be cleared up concerning the now fairly numerous remains
of prehistoric man which have come to light, we know enough
to draw some important and tolerably certain generalisa-
tions. We can more than tentatively divide them into
races, such as those of Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, and others.
We can place them in periods such as Mousterians, Aurig-
nacians, Magdalenians. All this we can do with tolerable
certainty. Further, we can quite definitely say about all
these races that those who belonged to them were in every
sense of the word — Men. They had the skulls of men, and
what is more, they had the hands of men, the skilful hands
of the mechanic — man the tool-maker, not a whit less skilful
than the tool-makers of to-day. At a later date than the
Mousterian, but still during the Palaeolithic period, man
revealed the fact that he had an intensely artistic nature
coupled with great artistic powers. This we learn from those
of his drawings and carvings, and they are surprisingly
numerous, which have come down to us. Finally, we know,
as has already been said, that he had one religious belief
which exists to-day, the belief in another life. The earliest
known interment, that at the Chapelle-aux-Saints, of Mous-
terian — that is of very early Palaeolithic — age, exemplifies
all these facts. The bones are those of a young man — a
man, not an intermediate creature. The tools with him have
been skilfully made, and the fact that they are there shows
the belief in another world held by those who survived him
and laid him in his grave.


IN the present chapter it will be well to assemble the
facts which have just been under consideration into
some form of classification, after which it will be possible,
in the succeeding chapter, to attempt an account of the
Glacial Period and the relation of the races to be described
in this chapter to it. In these chapters there must needs
be a certain amount of overlapping and repetition which
may be excused on the ground that its object is to bring
the points in question more clearly and forcibly before
the minds of readers. All these accounts lead up to the
really important point, namely, the Age of the Earth, and
far more important, the period during which it has been
occupied by Man. These considerations will form the
subject matter of a further chapter.

Let us now set down the periods of prehistoric time with
their leading features.

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 21 of 38)