This etext was prepared by Amy E. Zelmer.
ON SOME FOSSIL REMAINS OF MAN
by Thomas H. Huxley
I HAVE endeavoured to show, in the preceding Essay, that the ANTHROPINI,
or Man Family, form a very well defined group of the Primates, between
which and the immediately following Family, the CATARHINI, there is, in
the existing world, the same entire absence of any transitional form or
connecting link, as between the CATARHINI and PLATYRHINI.
It is a commonly received doctrine, however, that the structural
intervals between the various existing modifications of organic beings
may be diminished, or even obliterated, if we take into account the
long and varied succession of animals and plants which have preceded
those now living and which are known to us only by their fossilized
remains. How far this doctrine is well based, how far, on the other
hand, as our knowledge at present stands, it is an overstatement of the
real facts of the case, and an exaggeration of the conclusions fairly
deducible from them, are points of grave importance, but into the
discussion of which I do not, at present, propose to enter. It is
enough that such a view of the relations of extinct to living beings
has been propounded, to lead us to inquire, with anxiety, how far the
recent discoveries of human remains in a fossil state bear out, or
oppose, that view.
I shall confine myself, in discussing this question, to those
fragmentary Human skulls from the caves of Engis in the valley of the
Meuse, in Belgium, and of the Neanderthal near Dusseldorf, the
geological relations of which have been examined with so much care by
Sir Charles Lyell; upon whose high authority I shall take it for
granted, that the Engis skull belonged to a contemporary of the Mammoth
('Elephas primigenius') and of the woolly Rhinoceros ('Rhinoceros
tichorhinus'), with the bones of which it was found associated; and that
the Neanderthal skull is of great, though uncertain, antiquity.
Whatever be the geological age of the latter skull, I conceive it is
quite safe (on the ordinary principles of paleontological reasoning) to
assume that the former takes us to, at least, the further side of the
vague biological limit, which separates the present geological epoch
from that which immediately preceded it. And there can be no doubt
that the physical geography of Europe has changed wonderfully, since
the bones of Men and Mammoths, Hyaenas and Rhinoceroses were washed
pell-mell into the cave of Engis.
The skull from the cave of Engis was originally discovered by Professor
Schmerling, and was described by him, together with other human remains
disinterred at the same time, in his valuable work, 'Recherches sur les
ossemens fossiles decouverts dans les cavernes de la Province de
Liege', published in 1833 (p. 59, 'et seq.'), from which the following
paragraphs are extracted, the precise expressions of the author being,
as far as possible, preserved.
"In the first place, I must remark that these human remains, which are
in my possession, are characterized like thousands of bones which I
have lately been disinterring, by the extent of the decomposition which
they have undergone, which is precisely the same as that of the extinct
species: all, with a few exceptions, are broken; some few are rounded,
as is frequently found to be the case in fossil remains of other
species. The fractures are vertical or oblique; none of them are
eroded; their colour does not differ from that of other fossil bones,
and varies from whitish yellow to blackish. All are lighter than
recent bones, with the exception of those which have a calcareous
incrustation, and the cavities of which are filled with such matter.
"The cranium which I have caused to be figured, Plate I., Figs. 1, 2, is
that of an old person. The sutures are beginning to be effaced: all the
facial bones are wanting, and of the temporal bones only a fragment of
that of the right side is preserved.
"The face and the base of the cranium had been detached before the skull
was deposited in the cave, for we were unable to find those parts,
though the whole cavern was regularly searched. The cranium was met
with at a depth of a metre and a half [five feet nearly], hidden under
an osseous breccia, composed of the remains of small animals, and
containing one rhinoceros tusk, with several teeth of horses and of
ruminants. This breccia, which has been spoken of above (p. 30), was a
metre [3 1/4 feet about] wide, and rose to the height of a metre and a
half above the floor of the cavern, to the walls of which it adhered
"The earth which contained this human skull exhibited no trace of
disturbance: teeth of rhinoceros, horse, hyaena, and bear, surrounded
it on all sides.
FIG. 22.--The skull from the cave of Engis--viewed from the right side.
'a' glabella, 'b' occipital protuberance, ('a' to 'b'
glabello-occipital line), 'c' auditory foramen.
"The famous Blumenbach* has directed attention to the differences
presented by the form and the dimensions of human crania of different
races. This important work would have assisted us greatly, if the
face, a part essential for the determination of race, with more or less
accuracy, had not been wanting in our fossil cranium.
[footnote] *Decas Collectionis suae craniorum diversarum
gentium illustrata. Gottingae, 1790-1820.
"We are convinced that even if the skull had been complete, it would not
have been possible to pronounce, with certainty, upon a single
specimen; for individual variations are so numerous in the crania of
one and the same race, that one cannot, without laying oneself open to
large chances of error, draw any inference from a single fragment of a
cranium to the general form of the head to which it belonged.
"Nevertheless, in order to neglect no point respecting the form of this
fossil skull, we may observe that, from the first, the elongated and
narrow form of the forehead attracted our attention.
"In fact, the slight elevation of the frontal, its narrowness, and the
form of the orbit, approximate it more nearly to the cranium of an
Ethiopian than to that of an European: the elongated form and the
produced occiput are also characters which we believe to be observable
in our fossil cranium; but to remove all doubt upon that subject I have
caused the contours of the cranium of an European and of an Ethiopian
to be drawn and the foreheads represented. Plate II., Figs. 1 and 2,
and, in the same plate, Figs. 3 and 4, will render the differences
easily distinguishable; and a single glance at the figures will be more
instructive than a long and wearisome description.
"At whatever conclusion we may arrive as to the origin of the man from
whence this fossil skull proceeded, we may express an opinion without
exposing ourselves to a fruitless controversy. Each may adopt the
hypothesis which seems to him most probable: for my own part, I hold it
to be demonstrated that this cranium has belonged to a person of
limited intellectual faculties, and we conclude thence that it belonged
to a man of a low degree of civilization: a deduction which is borne
out by contrasting the capacity of the frontal with that of the
"Another cranium of a young individual was discovered in the floor of
the cavern beside the tooth of an elephant; the skull was entire when
found, but the moment it was lifted it fell into pieces, which I have
not, as yet, been able to put together again. But I have represented
the bones of the upper jaw, Plate I., Fig. 5. The state of the alveoli
and the teeth, shows that the molars had not yet pierced the gum.
Detached milk molars and some fragments of a human skull proceed from
this same place. The Figure 3 represents a human superior incisor
tooth, the size of which is truly remarkable.*
[footnote] *In a subsequent passage, Schmerling remarks upon
the occurrence of an incisor tooth 'of enormous size' from
the caverns of Engihoul. The tooth figured is somewhat
long, but its dimensions do not appear to me to be
"Figure 4 is a fragment of a superior maxillary bone, the molar teeth of
which are worn down to the roots.
"I possess two vertebrae, a first and last dorsal.
"A clavicle of the left side (see Plate III., Fig. 1); although it
belonged to a young individual, this bone shows that he must have been
of great stature.*
[footnote] *The figure of this clavicle measures 5 inches
from end to end in a straight line--so that the bone is
rather a small than a large one.
"Two fragments of the radius, badly preserved, do not indicate that the
height of the man, to whom they belonged, exceeded five feet and a
"As to the remains of the upper extremities, those which are in my
possession consist merely of a fragment of an ulna and of a radius
(Plate III., Figs. 5 and 6).
"Figure 2, Plate IV., represents a metacarpal bone, contained in the
breccia, of which we have spoken; it was found in the lower part above
the cranium: add to this some metacarpal bones, found at very different
distances, half-a-dozen metatarsals, three phalanges of the hand, and
one of the foot.
"This is a brief enumeration of the remains of human bones collected in
the cavern of Engis, which has preserved for us the remains of three
individuals, surrounded by those of the Elephant, of the Rhinoceros,
and of Carnivora of species unknown in the present creation."
From the cave of Engihoul, opposite that of Engis, on the right bank of
the Meuse, Schmerling obtained the remains of three other individuals
of Man, among which were only two fragments of parietal bones, but many
bones of the extremities. In one case a broken fragment of an ulna was
soldered to a like fragment of a radius by stalagmite, a condition
frequently observed among the bones of the Cave Bear ('Ursus
spelaeus'), found in the Belgian caverns.
It was in the cavern of Engis that Professor Schmerling found, incrusted
with stalagmite and joined to a stone, the pointed bone implement,
which he has figured in Fig. 7 of his Plate XXXVI., and worked flints
were found by him in all those Belgian caves, which contained an
abundance of fossil bones.
A short letter from M. Geoffroy St. Hilaire, published in the 'Comptes
Rendus' of the Academy of Sciences of Paris, for July 2nd, 1838, speaks
of a visit (and apparently a very hasty one) paid to the collection of
Professor 'Schermidt' (which is presumably a misprint for Schmerling)
at Liege. The writer briefly criticises the drawings which illustrate
Schmerling's work, and affirms that the "human cranium is a little
longer than it is represented" in Schmerling's figure. The only other
remark worth quoting is this:--"The aspect of the human bones differs
little from that of the cave bones, with which we are familiar, and of
which there is a considerable collection in the same place. With
respect to their special forms, compared with those of the varieties of
recent human crania, few 'certain' conclusions can be put forward; for
much greater differences exist between the different specimens of
well-characterized varieties, than between the fossil cranium of Liege
and that of one of those varieties selected as a term of comparison."
Geoffroy St. Hilaire's remarks are, it will be observed, little but an
echo of the philosophic doubts of the describer and discoverer of the
remains. As to the critique upon Schmerling's figures, I find that the
side view given by the latter is really about 3/10ths of an inch
shorter than the original, and that the front view is diminished to
about the same extent. Otherwise the representation is not, in any
way, inaccurate, but corresponds very well with the cast which is in my
A piece of the occipital bone, which Schmerling seems to have missed,
has since been fitted on to the rest of the cranium by an accomplished
anatomist, Dr. Spring, of Liege, under whose direction an excellent
plaster cast was made for Sir Charles Lyell. It is upon and from a
duplicate of that cast that my own observations and the accompanying
figures, the outlines of which are copied from very accurate Camera
lucida drawings, by my friend Mr. Busk, reduced to one-half of the
natural size, are made.
As Professor Schmerling observes, the base of the skull is destroyed,
and the facial bones are entirely absent; but the roof of the cranium,
consisting of the frontal, parietal, and the greater part of the
occipital bones, as far as the middle of the occipital foramen, is
entire or nearly so. The left temporal bone is wanting. Of the right
temporal, the parts in the immediate neighbourhood of the auditory
foramen, the mastoid process, and a considerable portion of the
squamous element of the temporal are well preserved (Fig. 22).
The lines of fracture which remain between the coadjusted pieces of the
skull, and are faithfully displayed in Schmerling's figure, are readily
traceable in the cast. The sutures are also discernible, but the
complex disposition of their serrations, shown in the figure, is not
obvious in the cast. Though the ridges which give attachment to muscles
are not excessively prominent, they are well marked, and taken together
with the apparently well developed frontal sinuses, and the condition
of the sutures, leave no doubt on my mind that the skull is that of an
adult, if not middle-aged man.
The extreme length of the skull is 7.7 inches. Its extreme breadth,
which corresponds very nearly with the interval between the parietal
protuberances, is not more than 5.4 inches. The proportion of the
length to the breadth is therefore very nearly as 100 to 70. If a line
be drawn from the point at which the brow curves in towards the root of
the nose, and which is called the 'glabella' ('a') (Fig. 22), to the
occipital protuberance ('b'), and the distance to the highest point of
the arch of the skull be measured perpendicularly from this line, it
will be found to be 4.75 inches. Viewed from above, Fig. 23, A, the
forehead presents an evenly rounded curve, and passes into the contour
of the sides and back of the skull, which describes a tolerably regular
The front view (Fig. 23, B) shows that the roof of the skull was very
regularly and elegantly arched in the transverse direction, and that
the transverse diameter was a little less below the parietal
protuberances, than above them. The forehead cannot be called narrow in
relation to the rest of the skull, nor can it be called a retreating
forehead; on the contrary, the antero-posterior contour of the skull is
well arched, so that the distance along that contour, from the nasal
depression to the occipital protuberance, measures about 13.75 inches.
The transverse arc of the skull, measured from one auditory foramen to
the other, across the middle of the sagittal suture, is about 13
inches. The sagittal suture itself is 5.5 inches long.
The supraciliary prominences or brow-ridges (on each side of 'a', Fig.
22) are well, but not excessively, developed, and are separated by a
median depression. Their principal elevation is disposed so obliquely
that I judge them to be due to large frontal sinuses.
If a line joining the glabella and the occipital protuberance ('a', 'b',
Fig. 22) be made horizontal, no part of the occipital region projects
more than 1/10th of an inch behind the posterior extremity of that
line, and the upper edge of the auditory foramen ('c') is almost in
contact with a line drawn parallel with this upon the outer surface of
A transverse line drawn from one auditory foramen to the other
traverses, as usual, the forepart of the occipital foramen. The
capacity of the interior of this fragmentary skull has not been
The history of the Human remains from the cavern in the Neanderthal may
best be given in the words of their original describer, Dr
Schaaffhausen*, as translated by Mr. Busk.
[footnote] *ON THE CRANIA OF THE MOST ANCIENT RACES OF MAN.
By Professor D. Schaaffhausen, of Bonn. (From Muller's
'Archiv'., 1858, pp. 453.) With Remarks, and original
Figures, taken from a Cast of the Neanderthal Cranium. By
George Busk, F.R.S., etc. 'Natural History Review'. April,
"In the early part of the year 1857, a human skeleton was discovered in
a limestone cave in the Neanderthal, near Hochdal, between Dusseldorf
and Elberfeld. Of this, however, I was unable to procure more than a
plaster cast of the cranium, taken at Elberfeld, from which I drew up
an account of its remarkable conformation, which was, in the first
instance, read on the 4th of February, 1857, at the meeting of the
Lower Rhine Medical and Natural History Society, at Bonn.*
[footnote] *'Verhandl. d. Naturhist.' Vereins der preuss.
Rheinlande und Westphalens., xiv. Bonn, 1857.
Subsequently Dr. Fuhlrott, to whom science is indebted for the
preservation of these bones, which were not at first regarded as human,
and into whose possession they afterwards came, brought the cranium
from Elberfeld to Bonn, and entrusted it to me for more accurate
anatomical examination. At the General Meeting of the Natural History
Society of Prussian Rhineland and Westphalia, at Bonn, on the 2nd of
June, 1857,* Dr Fuhlrott himself gave a full account of the locality,
and of the circumstances under which the discovery was made.
[footnote] *'Ib. Correspondenzblatt. No. 2.
He was of opinion that the bones might be regarded as fossil; and in
coming to this conclusion, he laid especial stress upon the existence
of dendritic deposits, with which their surface was covered, and which
were first noticed upon them by Professor Meyer. To this communication
I appended a brief report on the results of my anatomical examination of
the bones. The conclusions at which I arrived were:--1st. That the
extraordinary form of the skull was due to a natural conformation
hitherto not known to exist, even in the most barbarous races. 2nd.
That these remarkable human remains belonged to a period antecedent to
the time of the Celts and Germans, and were in all probability derived
from one of the wild races of North-western Europe, spoken of by Latin
writers; and which were encountered as autochthones by the German
immigrants. And 3rdly. That it was beyond doubt that these human
relics were traceable to a period at which the latest animals of the
diluvium still existed; but that no proof of this assumption, nor
consequently of their so-termed 'fossil' condition, was afforded by the
circumstances under which the bones were discovered.
FIG. 23.--The Engis skull viewed from above (A) and in front (B).
"As Dr. Fuhlrott has not yet published his description of these
circumstances, I borrow the following account of them from one of his
letters. 'A small cave or grotto, high enough to admit a man, and
about 15 feet deep from the entrance, which is 7 or 8 feet wide, exists
in the southern wall of the gorge of the Neanderthal, as it is termed,
at a distance of about 100 feet from the Dussel, and about 60 feet
above the bottom of the valley. In its earlier and uninjured
condition, this cavern opened upon a narrow plateau lying in front of
it, and from which the rocky wall descended almost perpendicularly into
the river. It could be reached, though with difficulty, from above.
The uneven floor was covered to a thickness of 4 or 5 feet with a
deposit of mud, sparingly intermixed with rounded fragments of chert.
In the removing of this deposit, the bones were discovered. The skull
was first noticed, placed nearest to the entrance of the cavern; and
further in, the other bones, lying in the same horizontal plane. Of
this I was assured, in the most positive terms, by two labourers who
were employed to clear out the grotto, and who were questioned by me on
the spot. At first no idea was entertained of the bones being human;
and it was not till several weeks after their discovery that they were
recognised as such by me, and placed in security. But, as the
importance of the discovery was not at the time perceived, the
labourers were very careless in the collecting, and secured chiefly
only the larger bones; and to this circumstance it may be attributed
that fragments merely of the probably perfect skeleton came into my
"My anatomical examination of these bones afforded the following
"The cranium is of unusual size, and of a long elliptical form. A most
remarkable peculiarity is at once obvious in the extraordinary
development of the frontal sinuses, owing to which the superciliary
ridges, which coalesce completely in the middle, are rendered so
prominent, that the frontal bone exhibits a considerable hollow or
depression above, or rather behind them, whilst a deep depression is
also formed in the situation of the root of the nose. The forehead is
narrow and low, though the middle and hinder portions of the cranial
arch are well developed. Unfortunately, the fragment of the skull that
has been preserved consists only of the portion situated above the roof
of the orbits and the superior occipital ridges, which are greatly
developed, and almost conjoined so as to form a horizontal eminence. It
includes almost the whole of the frontal bone, both parietals, a small
part of the squamous and the upper-third of the occipital. The
recently fractured surfaces show that the skull was broken at the time
of its disinterment. The cavity holds 16,876 grains of water, whence
its cubical contents may be estimated at 57.64 inches, or 1033.24 cubic
centimetres. In making this estimation, the water is supposed to stand
on a level with the orbital plate of the frontal, with the deepest
notch in the squamous margin of the parietal, and with the superior
semicircular ridges of the occipital. Estimated in dried millet-seed,
the contents equalled 31 ounces, Prussian Apothecaries' weight. The
semicircular line indicating the upper boundary of the attachment of
the temporal muscle, though not very strongly marked, ascends
nevertheless to more than half the height of the parietal bone. On the
right superciliary ridge is observable an oblique furrow or depression,
indicative of an injury received during life.*
[footnote] *This, Mr. Busk has pointed out, is probably
the notch for the frontal nerve. The coronal and sagittal
sutures are on the exterior nearly closed, and on the
inside so completely ossified as to have left no traces
whatever, whilst the lambdoidal remains quite open. The
depressions for the Pacchionian glands are deep and
numerous; and there is an unusually deep vascular groove
immediately behind the coronal suture, which, as it
terminates in the foramen, no doubt transmitted a 'vena
emissaria'. The course of the frontal suture is indicated
externally by a slight ridge; and where it joins the
coronal, this ridge rises into a small protuberance. The
course of the sagittal suture is grooved, and above the
angle of the occipital bone the parietals are depressed.
[footnote] *The numbers in brackets are those which I should
assign to the different measures, as taken from the plaster
The length of the skull from the nasal
process of the frontal over the vertex
to the superior semicircular lines of the
occipital measures.............................303 (300) = 12.0".
Circumference over the orbital ridges and
the superior semicircular lines of the
occipital......................................590 (590) = 23.37" or 23".
Width of the frontal from the middle of
the temporal line on one side to the
same point on the opposite.....................104 (114) = 4.1"--4.5".
Length of the frontal from the nasal.
process to the coronal suture..................133 (125) = 5.25"--5".
Extreme width of the frontal sinuses...........25 (23) = 1.0"--0.9".
Vertical height above a line joining the
deepest notches in the squamous border
of the parietals...............................70 = 2.75".
Width of hinder part of skull from one
parietal protuberance to the other.............138 (150) = 5.4"--5.9"
Distance from the upper angle of the
occipital to the superior semicircular
lines..........................................51 (60) = 1.9"--2.4".
Thickness of the bone at the parietal
--at the angle of the occipital................9.
--at the superior semicircular line of
the occipital..................................10 = 0.3"
"Besides the cranium, the following bones have been secured:--
"1. Both thigh-bones, perfect. These, like the skull, and all the
other bones, are characterized by their unusual thickness, and the
great development of all the elevations and depressions for the
attachment of muscles. In the Anatomical Museum at Bonn, under the
designation of 'Giant's-bones,' are some recent thigh-bones, with which
in thickness the foregoing pretty nearly correspond, although they are
Giant's bones. Fossil bones.
Length.....................................542 = 21.4"......438 = 17.4"
Diameter of head of femur.................. 54 = 2.14"..... 53 = 2.0"
" of lower articular end, from
one condyle to the other................ 89 = 3.5"....... 87 = 3.4"
Diameter of femur in the middle............ 33 = 1.2"....... 30 = 1.1"
"2. A perfect right humerus, whose size shows that it belongs to the
Length.....................................312 = 12.3"
Thickness in the middle.................... 26 = 1.0"
Diameter of head........................... 49 = 1.9"
"Also a perfect right radius of corresponding dimensions, and the
upper-third of a right ulna corresponding to the humerus and radius.
"3. A left humerus of which the upper-third is wanting, and which is so
much slenderer than the right as apparently to belong to a distinct
individual; a left 'ulna', which, though complete, is pathologically
deformed, the coronoid process being so much enlarged by bony growth,
that flexure of the elbow beyond a right angle must have been
impossible; the anterior fossa of the humerus for the reception of the
coronoid process being also filled up with a similar bony growth. At
the same time, the olecranon is curved strongly downwards. As the bone
presents no sign of rachitic degeneration, it may be supposed that an
injury sustained during life was the cause of the anchylosis. When the
left ulna is compared with the right radius, it might at first sight be
concluded that the bones respectively belonged to different individuals,
the ulna being more than half an inch too short for articulation with a
corresponding radius. But it is clear that this shortening, as well as
the attenuation of the left humerus, are both consequent upon the
pathological condition above described.
"4. A left 'ilium', almost perfect, and belonging to the femur: a
fragment of the right 'scapula'; the anterior extremity of a rib of the
right side; and the same part of a rib of the left side; the hinder
part of a rib of the right side; and lastly, two hinder portions and one
middle portion of ribs, which from their unusually rounded shape, and
abrupt curvature, more resemble the ribs of a carnivorous animal than
those of a man. Dr. H. v. Meyer, however, to whose judgment I defer,
will not venture to declare them to be ribs of any animal; and it only
remains to suppose that this abnormal condition has arisen from an
unusually powerful development of the thoracic muscles.
"The bones adhere strongly to the tongue, although, as proved by the use
of hydrochloric acid, the greater part of the cartilage is still
retained in them, which appears, however, to have undergone that
transformation into gelatine which has been observed by v. Bibra in
fossil bones. The surface of all the bones is in many spots covered
with minute black specks, which, more especially under a lens, are seen
to be formed of very delicate 'dendrites'. These deposits, which were
first observed on the bones by Dr. Meyer, are most distinct on the
inner surface of the cranial bones. They consist of a ferruginous
compound, and, from their black colour, may be supposed to contain
manganese. Similar dendritic formations also occur, not unfrequently,
on laminated rocks, and are usually found in minute fissures and cracks.
At the meeting of the Lower Rhine Society at Bonn, on the 1st April,
1857, Prof. Meyer stated that he had noticed in the museum of
Poppelsdorf similar dendritic crystallizations on several fossil bones
of animals, and particularly on those of 'Ursus spelaeus', but still
more abundantly and beautifully displayed on the fossil bones and teeth
of 'Equus adamiticus', 'Elephas primigenius', etc., from the caves of
Bolve and Sundwig. Faint indications of similar 'dendrites' were
visible in a Roman skull from Siegburg; whilst other ancient skulls,
which had lain for centuries in the earth, presented no trace of them.*
[footnote] *'Verh. des Naturhist'. Vereins in Bonn, xiv.
1857. I am indebted to H. v. Meyer for the following
remarks on this subject:--
'The incipient formation of dendritic deposits, which were formerly
regarded as a sign of a truly fossil condition, is interesting. It has
even been supposed that in diluvial deposits the presence of
'dendrites' might be regarded as affording a certain mark of distinction
between bones mixed with the diluvium at a somewhat later period and
the true diluvial relics, to which alone it was supposed that these
deposits were confined. But I have long been convinced that neither
can the absence of 'dendrites' be regarded as indicative of recent age,
nor their presence as sufficient to establish the great antiquity of
the objects upon which they occur. I have myself noticed upon paper,
which could scarcely be more than a year old, dendritic deposits, which
could not be distinguished from those on fossil bones. Thus I possess a
dog's skull from the Roman colony of the neighbouring Heddersheim,
'Castrum Hadrianum', which is in no way distinguishable from the fossil
bones from the Frankish caves; it presents the same colour, and adheres
to the tongue just as they do; so that this character also, which, at a
former meeting of German naturalists at Bonn, gave rise to amusing
scenes between Buckland and Schmerling, is no longer of any value. In
disputed cases, therefore, the condition of the bone can scarcely
afford the means for determining with certainty whether it be fossil,
that is to say, whether it belong to geological antiquity or to the
"As we cannot now look upon the primitive world as representing a wholly
different condition of things, from which no transition exists to the
organic life of the present time, the designation of 'fossil', as
applied to 'a bone', has no longer the sense it conveyed in the time of
Cuvier. Sufficient grounds exist for the assumption that man coexisted
with the animals found in the 'diluvium'; and many a barbarous race
may, before all historical time, have disappeared, together with the
animals of the ancient world, whilst the races whose organization is
improved have continued the genus. The bones which form the subject of
this paper present characters which, although not decisive as regards a
geological epoch, are, nevertheless, such as indicate a very high
antiquity. It may also be remarked that, common as is the occurrence
of diluvial animal bones in the muddy deposits of caverns, such remains
have not hitherto been met with in the caves of the Neanderthal; and
that the bones, which were covered by a deposit of mud not more than
four or five feet thick, and without any protective covering of
stalagmite, have retained the greatest part of their organic substance.
"These circumstances might be adduced against the probability of a
geological antiquity. Nor should we be justified in regarding the
cranial conformation as perhaps representing the most savage primitive
type of the human race, since crania exist among living savages, which,
though not exhibiting, such a remarkable conformation of the forehead,
which gives the skull somewhat the aspect of that of the large apes,
still in other respects, as for instance in the greater depth of the
temporal fossae, the crest-like, prominent temporal ridges, and a
generally less capacious cranial cavity, exhibit an equally low stage
of development. There is no reason for supposing that the deep frontal
hollow is due to any artificial flattening, such as is practised in
various modes by barbarous nations in the Old and New World. The skull
is quite symmetrical, and shows no indication of counter-pressure at
the occiput, whilst, according to Morton, in the Flat-heads of the
Columbia, the frontal and parietal bones are always unsymmetrical. Its
conformation exhibits the sparing development of the anterior part of
the head which has been so often observed in very ancient crania, and
affords one of the most striking proofs of the influence of culture and
civilization on the form of the human skull."
In a subsequent passage, Dr. Schaaffhausen remarks:
"There is no reason whatever for regarding the unusual development of
the frontal sinuses in the remarkable skull from the Neanderthal as an
individual or pathological deformity; it is unquestionably a typical
race-character, and is physiologically connected with the uncommon
thickness of the other bones of the skeleton, which exceeds by about
one-half the usual proportions. This expansion of the frontal sinuses,
which are appendages of the air-passages, also indicates an unusual
force and power of endurance in the movements of the body, as may be
concluded from the size of all the ridges and processes for the
attachment of the muscles or bones. That this conclusion may be drawn
from the existence of large frontal sinuses, and a prominence of the
lower frontal region, is confirmed in many ways by other observations.
By the same characters, according to Pallas, the wild horse is
distinguished from the domesticated, and, according to Cuvier, the
fossil cave-bear from every recent species of bear, whilst, according
to Roulin, the pig, which has become wild in America, and regained a
resemblance to the wild boar, is thus distinguished from the same animal
in the domesticated state, as is the chamois from the goat; and,
lastly, the bull-dog, which is characterised by its large bones and
strongly-developed muscles from every other kind of dog. The estimation
of the facial angle, the determination of which, according to Professor
Owen, is also difficult in the great apes, owing to the very prominent
supra-orbital ridges, in the present case is rendered still more
difficult from the absence both of the auditory opening and of the
nasal spine. But if the proper horizontal position of the skull be
taken from the remaining portions of the orbital plates, and the
ascending line made to touch the surface of the frontal bone behind the
prominent supra-orbital ridges, the facial angle is not found to exceed
56 degrees.* Unfortunately, no portions of the facial bones, whose
conformation is so decisive as regards the form and expression of the
head, have been preserved. The cranial capacity, compared with the
uncommon strength of the corporeal frame, would seem to indicate a small
cerebral development. The skull, as it is, holds about 31 ounces of
millet-seed; and as, from the proportionate size of the wanting bones,
the whole cranial cavity should have about 6 ounces more added, the
contents, were it perfect, may be taken at 37 ounces. Tiedemann
assigns, as the cranial contents in the Negro, 40, 38, and 35 ounces.
The cranium holds rather more than 36 ounces of water, which
corresponds to a capacity of 1033.24 cubic centimetres. Huschke
estimates the cranial contents of a Negress at 1127 cubic centimetres;
of an old Negro at 1146 cubic centimetres. The capacity of the Malay
skulls, estimated by water, equalled 36, 33 ounces, whilst in the
diminutive Hindoos it falls to as little as 27 ounces."
[footnote] *Estimating the facial angle in the way
suggested, on the cast I should place it at 64 degrees to
67 degrees.--G. B.
After comparing the Neanderthal cranium with many others, ancient and
modern, Professor Schaaffhausen concludes thus:--
"But the human bones and cranium from the Neanderthal exceed all the
rest in those peculiarities of conformation which lead to the
conclusion of their belonging to a barbarous and savage race. Whether
the cavern in which they were found, unaccompanied with any trace of
human art, were the place of their interment, or whether, like the bones
of extinct animals elsewhere, they had been washed into it, they may
still be regarded as the most ancient memorial of the early inhabitants
Mr. Busk, the translator of Dr. Schaaffhausen's paper, has enabled us to
form a very vivid conception of the degraded character of the
Neanderthal skull, by placing side by side with its outline, that of
the skull of a Chimpanzee, drawn to the same absolute size.
Some time after the publication of the translation of Professor
Schaaffhausen's Memoir, I was led to study the cast of the Neanderthal
cranium with more attention than I had previously bestowed upon it, in
consequence of wishing to supply Sir Charles Lyell with a diagram,
exhibiting the special peculiarities of this skull, as compared with
other human skulls. In order to do this it was necessary to identify,
with precision, those points in the skulls compared which corresponded
anatomically. Of these points, the glabella was obvious enough; but
when I had distinguished another, defined by the occipital protuberance
and superior semicircular line, and had placed the outline of the
Neanderthal skull against that of the Engis skull, in such a position
that the glabella and occipital protuberance of both were intersected by
the same straight line, the difference was so vast and the flattening
of the Neanderthal skull so prodigious (compare Figs. 22 and 24, A.),
that I at first imagined I must have fallen into some error. And I was
the more inclined to suspect this, as, in ordinary human skulls, the
occipital protuberance and superior semicircular curved line on the
exterior of the occiput correspond pretty closely with the 'lateral
sinuses' and the line of attachment of the tentorium internally. But on
the tentorium rests, as I have said in the preceding Essay, the
posterior lobe of the brain; and hence, the occipital protuberance, and
the curved line in question, indicate, approximately, the lower limits
of that lobe. Was it possible for a human being to have the brain thus
flattened and depressed; or, on the other hand, had the muscular ridges
shifted their position? In order to solve these doubts, and to decide
the question whether the great supraciliary projections did, or did
not, arise from the development of the frontal sinuses, I requested Sir
Charles Lyell to be so good as to obtain for me from Dr. Fuhlrott, the
possessor of the skull, answers to certain queries, and if possible a
cast, or at any rate drawings, or photographs, of the interior of the
FIG. 24.--The skull from the Neanderthal cavern. A. side, B. front, and
C. top view. One-third the natural size, by Mr. Busk: the details from
the cast and from Dr. Fuhlrott's photographs. 'a' glabella; 'b'
occipital protuberance; 'd' lambdoidal suture.
Dr. Fuhlrott replied with a courtesy and readiness for which I am
infinitely indebted to him, to my inquiries, and furthermore sent three
excellent photographs. One of these gives a side view of the skull,
and from it Fig. 24, A. has been shaded. The second (Fig. 25, A.)
exhibits the wide openings of the frontal sinuses upon the inferior
surface of the frontal part of the skull, into which, Dr. Fuhlrott
writes, "a probe may be introduced to the depth of an inch," and
demonstrates the great extension of the thickened supraciliary ridges
beyond the cerebral cavity. The third, lastly (Fig. 25, B.) exhibits
the edge and the interior of the posterior, or occipital, part of the
skull, and shows very clearly the two depressions for the lateral
sinuses, sweeping inwards towards the middle line of the roof of the
skull, to form the longitudinal sinus. It was clear, therefore, that I
had not erred in my interpretation, and that the posterior lobe of the
brain of the Neanderthal man must have been as much flattened as I
suspected it to be.
In truth, the Neanderthal cranium has most extraordinary characters. It
has an extreme length of 8 inches, while its breadth is only 5.75
inches, or, in other words, its length is to its breadth as 100:72. It
is exceedingly depressed, measuring only about 3.4 inches from the
glabello-occipital line to the vertex. The longitudinal arc, measured
in the same way as in the Engis skull, is 12 inches; the transverse arc
cannot be exactly ascertained, in consequence of the absence of the
temporal bones, but was probably about the same, and certainly exceeded
10 1/4 inches. The horizontal circumference is 23 inches. But this
great circumference arises largely from the vast development of the
supraciliary ridges, though the perimeter of the brain case itself is
not small. The large supraciliary ridges give the forehead a far more
retreating appearance than its internal contour would bear out.
To an anatomical eye the posterior part of the skull is even more
striking than the anterior. The occipital protuberance occupies the
extreme posterior end of the skull, when the glabello-occipital line is
made horizontal, and so far from any part of the occipital region
extending beyond it, this region of the skull slopes obliquely upward
and forward, so that the lambdoidal suture is situated well upon the
upper surface of the cranium. At the same time, notwithstanding the
great length of the skull, the sagittal suture is remarkably short (4
1/2 inches), and the squamosal suture is very straight.
FIG.25.--Drawings from Dr. Fuhlrott's photographs of parts of the
interior of the Neanderthal cranium. A. view of the under and inner
surface of the frontal region, showing the inferior apertures of the
frontal sinuses ('a'). B. corresponding view of the occipital region of
the skull, showing the impressions of the lateral sinuses ('a a').
In reply to my questions Dr. Fuhlrott writes that the occipital bone "is
in a state of perfect preservation as far as the upper semicircular
line, which is a very strong ridge, linear at its extremities, but
enlarging towards the middle, where it forms two ridges (bourrelets),
united by a linear continuation, which is slightly depressed in the
"Below the left ridge the bone exhibits an obliquely inclined surface,
six lines (French) long, and twelve lines wide."
This last must be the surface, the contour of which is shown in Fig. 24,
A., below 'b'. It is particularly interesting, as it suggests that,
notwithstanding the flattened condition of the occiput, the posterior
cerebral lobes must have projected considerably beyond the cerebellum,
and as it constitutes one among several points of similarity between the
Neanderthal cranium and certain Australian skulls.
Such are the two best known forms of human cranium, which have been
found in what may be fairly termed a fossil state. Can either be shown
to fill up or diminish, to any appreciable extent, the structural
interval which exists between Man and the man-like apes? Or, on the
other hand, does neither depart more widely from the average structure
of the human cranium, than normally formed skulls of men are known to
do at the present day?
It is impossible to form any opinion on these questions, without some
preliminary acquaintance with the range of variation exhibited by human
structure in general--a subject which has been but imperfectly studied,
while even of what is known, my limits will necessarily allow me to
give only a very imperfect sketch.
The student of anatomy is perfectly well aware that there is not a
single organ of the human body the structure of which does not vary, to
a greater or less extent, in different individuals. The skeleton varies
in the proportions, and even to a certain extent in the connexions, of
its constituent bones. The muscles which move the bones vary largely
in their attachments. The varieties in the mode of distribution of the
arteries are carefully classified, on account of the practical
importance of a knowledge of their shiftings to the surgeon. The
characters of the brain vary immensely, nothing being less constant
than the form and size of the cerebral hemispheres, and the richness of
the convolutions upon their surface, while the most changeable
structures of all in the human brain, are exactly those on which the
unwise attempt has been made to base the distinctive characters of
humanity, viz. the posterior cornu of the lateral ventricle, the
hippocampus minor, and the degree of projection of the posterior lobe
beyond the cerebellum. Finally, as all the world knows, the hair and
skin of human beings may present the most extraordinary diversities in
colour and in texture.
So far as our present knowledge goes, the majority of the structural
varieties to which allusion is here made, are individual. The ape-like
arrangement of certain muscles which is occasionally met with* in the
white races of mankind, is not known to be more common among Negroes or
Australians: nor because the brain of the Hottentot Venus was found to
be smoother, to have its convolutions more symmetrically disposed, and
to be, so far, more ape-like than that of ordinary Europeans, are we
justified in concluding a like condition of the brain to prevail
universally among the lower races of mankind, however probable that
conclusion may be.
[footnote] *See an excellent Essay by Mr. Church on the
Myology of the Orang, in the 'Natural History Review', for
We are, in fact, sadly wanting in information respecting the disposition
of the soft and destructible organs of every Race of Mankind but our
own; and even of the skeleton, our Museums are lamentably deficient in
every part but the cranium. Skulls enough there are, and since the
time when Blumenbach and Camper first called attention to the marked and
singular differences which they exhibit, skull collecting and skull
measuring has been a zealously pursued branch of Natural History, and
the results obtained have been arranged and classified by various
writers, among whom the late active and able Retzius must always be the
Human skulls have been found to differ from one another, not merely in
their absolute size and in the absolute capacity of the brain case, but
in the proportions which the diameters of the latter bear to one
another; in the relative size of the bones of the face (and more
particularly of the jaws and teeth) as compared with those of the
skull; in the degree to which the upper jaw (which is of course
followed by the lower) is thrown backwards and downwards under the
fore-part of the brain case, or forwards and upward in front of and
beyond it. They differ further in the relations of the transverse
diameter of the face, taken through the cheek bones, to the transverse
diameter of the skull; in the more rounded or more gable-like form of
the roof of the skull, and in the degree to which the hinder part of
the skull is flattened or projects beyond the ridge, into and below
which, the muscles of the neck are inserted.
In some skulls the brain case may be said to be 'round,' the extreme
length not exceeding the extreme breadth by a greater proportion than
100 to 80, while the difference may be much less.* Men possessing such
skulls were termed by Retzius 'brachycephalic,' and the skull of a
Calmuck, of which a front and side view (reduced outline copies of which
are given in Figure 26) are depicted by Von Baer in his excellent,
"Crania selecta," affords a very admirable example of that kind of
skull. Other skulls, such as that of a Negro copied in Fig. 27 from
Mr. Busk's 'Crania typica,' have a very different, greatly elongated
form, and may be termed 'oblong.' In this skull the extreme length is
to the extreme breadth as 100 to not more than 67, and the transverse
diameter of the human skull may fall below even this proportion.
People having such skulls were called by Retzius 'dolichocephalic.'
[footnote] *In no normal human skull does the breadth of the
brain-case exceed its length.
The most cursory glance at the side views of these two skulls will
suffice to prove that they differ, in another respect, to a very
striking extent. The profile of the face of the Calmuck is almost
vertical, the facial bones being thrown downwards and under the forepart
of the skull. The profile of the face of the Negro, on the other hand,
is singularly inclined, the front part of the jaws projecting far
forward beyond the level of the fore part of the skull. In the former
case the skull is said to be 'orthognathous' or straight-jawed; in the
latter, it is called 'prognathous,' a term which has been rendered,
with more force than elegance, by the Saxon equivalent,--'snouty.'
Various methods have been devised in order to express with some accuracy
the degree of prognathism or orthognathism of any given skull; most of
these methods being essentially modifications of that devised by Peter
Camper, in order to attain what he called the 'facial angle.'
But a little consideration will show that any 'facial angle' that has
been devised, can be competent to express the structural modifications
involved in prognathism and orthognathism, only in a rough and general
sort of way. For the lines, the intersection of which forms the facial
angle, are drawn through points of the skull, the position of each of
which is modified by a number of circumstances, so that the angle
obtained is a complex resultant of all these circumstances, and is not
the expression of any one definite organic relation of the parts of the
FIG. 26.--Side and front views of the round and orthognathous skull of a
Calmuck, after Von Baer. One-third the natural size.
I have arrived at the conviction that no comparison of crania is worth
very much, that is not founded upon the establishment of a relatively
fixed base line, to which the measurements, in all cases, must be
referred. Nor do I think it is a very difficult matter to decide what
that base line should be. The parts of the skull, like those of the
rest of the animal framework, are developed in succession the base of
the skull is formed before its sides and roof; it is converted into
cartilage earlier and more completely than the sides and roof: and the
cartilaginous base ossifies, and becomes soldered into one piece long
before the roof. I conceive then that the base of the skull may be
demonstrated developmentally to be its relatively fixed part, the roof
and sides being relatively moveable.
Fig. 27.--Oblong and prognathous skull of a Negro; side and front views.
One-third of the natural size.
The same truth is exemplified by the study of the modifications which
the skull undergoes in ascending from the lower animals up to man.
FIG. 28.--Longitudinal and vertical sections of the skulls of a Beaver
('Castor Canadensis'), a Lemur ('L. Catia'), and a Baboon
('Cynocephalus Papio'), 'a b', the basicranial axis; 'b c', the
occipital plane; 'i T', the tentorial plane; 'a d', the olfactory plane;
'f e', the basifacial axis; 'c b a', occipital angle; 'T i a',
tentorial angle; 'd a b', olfactory angle; 'e f b', cranio-facial angle;
'g h', extreme length of the cavity which lodges the cerebral
hemispheres or 'cerebral length.' The length of the basicranial axis
as to this length, or, in other words, the proportional length of the
line 'g h' to that of 'a b' taken as 100, in the three skulls, is as
follows:--Beaver 70 to 100; Lemur 119 to 100; Baboon 144 to 100. In an
adult male Gorilla the cerebral length is as 170 to the basicranial
axis taken as 100, in the Negro (Fig. 29) as 236 to 100. In the
Constantinople skull (Fig. 29) as 266 to 100. The cranial difference
between the highest Ape's skull and the lowest Man's is therefore very
strikingly brought out by these measurements. In the diagram of the
Baboon's skull the dotted lines 'd1 d2', etc., give the angles of the
Lemur's and Beaver's skull, as laid down upon the basicranial axis of
the Baboon. The line 'a b' has the same length in each diagram.
In such a mammal as a Beaver (Fig. 28), a line ('a b'.) drawn through
the bones, termed basioccipital, basisphenoid, and presphenoid, is very
long in proportion to the extreme length of the cavity which contains
the cerebral hemispheres ('g h'.). The plane of the occipital foramen
('b c'.) forms a slightly acute angle with this 'basicranial axis,'
while the plane of the tentorium ('i T'.) is inclined at rather more
than 90 degrees to the 'basicranial axis'; and so is the plane of the
perforated plate ('a d'.), by which the filaments of the olfactory nerve
leave the skull. Again, a line drawn through the axis of the face,
between the bones called ethmoid and vomer--the "basifacial axis" ('f
e'.) forms an exceedingly obtuse angle, where, when produced, it cuts
the 'basicranial axis.'
If the angle made by the line 'b c'. with 'a b'., be called the
'occipital angle,' and the angle made by the line 'a d'. with 'a b'. be
termed the 'olfactory angle,' and that made by 'i T'. with 'a b'. the
'tentorial angle,' then all these, in the mammal in question, are nearly
right angles, varying between 80 degrees and 110 degrees. the angle 'e
f b'., or that made by the cranial with the facial axis, and which may
be termed the 'cranio-facial angle,' is extremely obtuse, amounting, in
the case of the Beaver, to at least 150 degrees.
But if a series of sections of mammalian skulls, intermediate between a
Rodent and a Man (Fig. 28), be examined, it will be found that in the
higher crania the basicranial axis becomes shorter relatively to the
cerebral length; that the 'olfactory angle' and 'occipital angle'
become more obtuse; and that the 'cranio-facial angle' becomes more
acute by the bending down, as it were, of the facial axis upon the
cranial axis. At the same time, the roof of the cranium becomes more
and more arched, to allow of the increasing height of the cerebral
hemispheres, which is eminently characteristic of man, as well as of
that backward extension, beyond the cerebellum, which reaches its
maximum in the South America Monkeys. So that, at last, in the human
skull (Fig. 29), the cerebral length is between twice and thrice as
great as the length of the basicranial axis; the olfactory plane is 20
degrees or 30 degrees on the 'under' side of that axis; the occipital
angle, instead of being less than 90 degrees, is as much as 150 degrees
or 160 degrees; the cranio-facial angle may be 90 degrees or less, and
the vertical height of the skull may have a large proportion to its
It will be obvious, from an inspection of the diagrams, that the
basicranial axis is, in the ascending series of Mammalia, a relatively
fixed line, on which the bones of the sides and roof of the cranial
cavity, and of the face, may be said to revolve downwards and forwards
or backwards, according to their position. The arc described by any
one bone or plane, however, is not by any means always in proportion to
the arc described by another.
Now comes the important question, can we discern, between the lowest and
the highest forms of the human cranium anything answering, in however
slight a degree, to this revolution of the side and roof bones of the
skull upon the basicranial axis observed upon so great a scale in the
mammalian series? Numerous observations lead me to believe that we must
answer this question in the affirmative.
The diagrams in Figure 29 are reduced from very carefully made diagrams
of sections of four skulls, two round and orthognathous, two long and
prognathous, taken longitudinally and vertically, through the middle.
The sectional diagrams have then been superimposed, in such a manner,
that the basal axes of the skulls coincide by their anterior ends, and
in their direction. The deviations of the rest of the contours (which
represent the interior of the skulls only) show the differences of the
skulls from one another, when these axes are regarded as relatively
The dark contours are those of an Australian and of a Negro skull: the
light contours are those of a Tartar skull, in the Museum of the Royal
College of Surgeons; and of a well developed round skull from a
cemetery in Constantinople, of uncertain race, in my own possession.
It appears, at once, from these views, that the prognathous skulls, so
far as their jaws are concerned, do really differ from the
orthognathous in much the same way as, though to a far less degree
than, the skulls of the lower mammals differ from those of Man.
Furthermore, the plane of the occipital foramen ('b c') forms a
somewhat smaller angle with the axis in these particular prognathous
skulls than in the orthognathous; and the like may be slightly true of
the perforated plate of the ethmoid--though this point is not so
clear. But it is singular to remark that, in another respect, the
prognathous skulls are less ape-like than the orthognathous, the
cerebral cavity projecting decidedly more beyond the anterior end of the
axis in the prognathous, than in the orthognathous, skulls.
It will be observed that these diagrams reveal an immense range of
variation in the capacity and relative proportion to the cranial axis,
of the different regions of the cavity which contains the brain, in the
different skulls. Nor is the difference in the extent to which the
cerebral overlaps the cerebellar cavity less singular. A round skull
(Fig. 29, 'Const'.) may have a greater posterior cerebral projection
than a long one (Fig. 29, 'Negro').
Until human crania have been largely worked out in a manner similar to
that here suggested--until it shall be an opprobrium to an ethnological
collection to possess a single skull which is not bisected
longitudinally--until the angles and measurements here mentioned,
together with a number of others of which I cannot speak in this place,
are determined, and tabulated with reference to the basicranial axis as
unity, for large numbers of skulls of the different races of Mankind, I
do not think we shall have any very safe basis for that ethnological
craniology which aspires to give the anatomical characters of the crania
of the different Races of Mankind.
At present, I believe that the general outlines of what may be safely
said upon that subject may be summed up in a very few words. Draw a
line on a globe from the Gold Coast in Western Africa to the steppes of
Tartary. At the southern and western end of that line there live the
most dolichocephalic, prognathous, curly-haired, dark-skinned of
men--the true Negroes. At the northern and eastern end of the same
line there live the most brachycephalic, orthognathous,
straight-haired, yellow-skinned of men--the Tartars and Calmucks. The
two ends of this imaginary line are indeed, so to speak, ethnological
antipodes. A line drawn at right angles, or nearly so, to this polar
line through Europe and Southern Asia to Hindostan, would give us a
sort of equator, around which round-headed, oval-headed, and
oblong-headed, prognathous and orthognathous, fair and dark races--but
none possessing the excessively marked characters of Calmuck or
FIG.29.--Sections of orthognathous (light contour) and prognathous (dark
contour) skulls, one-third of the natural size. 'a b', Basicranial
axis; 'b c, b1 c1', plane of the occipital foramen; 'd d1', hinder end
of the palatine bone; 'e e1', front end of the upper jaw; 'T T1',
insertion of the tentorium.
It is worthy of notice that the regions of the antipodal races are
antipodal in climate, the greatest contrast the world affords, perhaps,
being that between the damp, hot, steaming, alluvial coast plains of
the West Coast of Africa and the arid, elevated steppes and plateaux of
Central Asia, bitterly cold in winter, and as far from the sea as any
part of the world can be.
From Central Asia eastward to the Pacific Islands and subcontinents on
the one hand, and to America on the other, brachycephaly and
orthognathism gradually diminish, and are replaced by dolichocephaly
and prognathism, less, however, on the American Continent (throughout
the whole length of which a rounded type of skull prevails largely, but
not exclusively)* than in the Pacific region, where, at length, on the
Australian Continent and in the adjacent islands, the oblong skull, the
projecting jaws, and the dark skin reappear; with so much departure, in
other respects, from the Negro type, that ethnologists assign to these
people the special title of 'Negritoes.'
[footnote] *See Dr. D. Wilson's valuable paper "On the
supposed prevalence of one Cranial Type throughout the
American aborigines."--'Canadian Journal', vol. ii., 1857.
The Australian skull is remarkable for its narrowness and for the
thickness of its walls, especially in the region of the supraciliary
ridge, which is frequently, though not by any means invariably, solid
throughout, the frontal sinuses remaining undeveloped. The nasal
depression, again, is extremely sudden, so that the brows overhang and
give the countenance a particularly lowering, threatening expression.
The occipital region of the skull, also, not unfrequently becomes less
prominent; so that it not only fails to project beyond a line drawn
perpendicular to the hinder extremity of the glabello-occipital line,
but even, in some cases, begins to shelve away from it, forwards,
almost immediately. In consequence of this circumstance, the parts of
the occipital bone which lie above and below the tuberosity make a much
more acute angle with one another than is usual, whereby the hinder
part of the base of the skull appears obliquely truncated. Many
Australian skulls have a considerable height, quite equal to that of
the average of any other race, but there are others in which the cranial
roof becomes remarkably depressed, the skull, at the same time,
elongating so much that, probably, its capacity is not diminished. The
majority of skulls possessing these characters, which I have seen, are
from the neighbourhood of Port Adelaide in South Australia, and have
been used by the natives as water vessels; to which end the face has
been knocked away, and a string passed through the vacuity and the
occipital foramen, so that the skull was suspended by the greater part
of its basis.
FIG. 30.--An Australian skull from Western Port, in the Museum of the
Royal College of Surgeons, with the contour of the Neanderthal skull.
Both reduced to one-third the natural size.
Figure 30 represents the contour of a skull of this kind from Western
Port, with the jaw attached, and of the Neanderthal skull, both reduced
to one-third of the size of nature. A small additional amount of
flattening and lengthening, with a corresponding increase of the
supraciliary ridge, would convert the Australian brain case into a form
identical with that of the aberrant fossil.
And now, to return to the fossil skulls, and to the rank which they
occupy among, or beyond, these existing varieties of cranial
conformation. In the first place, I must remark, that, as Professor
Schmerling well observed ('supra', p. 300) in commenting upon the Engis
skull, the formation of a safe judgment upon the question is greatly
hindered by the absence of the jaws from both the crania, so that there
is no means of deciding with certainty, whether they were more or less
prognathous than the lower existing races of mankind. And yet, as we
have seen, it is more in this respect than any other, that human skulls
vary, towards and from, the brutal type--the brain case of an average
dolichocephalic European differing far less from that of a Negro, for
example, than his jaws do. In the absence of the jaws, then, any
judgment on the relations of the fossil skulls to recent Races must be
accepted with a certain reservation.
But taking the evidence as it stands, and turning first to the Engis
skull, I confess I can find no character in the remains of that cranium
which, if it were a recent skull, would give any trustworthy clue as to
the Race to which it might appertain. Its contours and measurements
agree very well with those of some Australian skulls which I have
examined--and especially has it a tendency towards that occipital
flattening, to the great extent of which, in some Australian skulls, I
have alluded. But all Australian skulls do not present this flattening,
and the supraciliary ridge of the Engis skull is quite unlike that of
the typical Australians.
On the other hand, its measurements agree equally well with those of
some European skulls. And assuredly, there is no mark of degradation
about any part of its structure. It is, in fact, a fair average human
skull, which might have belonged to a philosopher, or might have
contained the thoughtless brains of a savage.
The case of the Neanderthal skull is very different. Under whatever
aspect we view this cranium, whether we regard its vertical depression,
the enormous thickness of its supraciliary ridges, its sloped occiput,
or its long and straight squamosal suture, we meet with ape-like
characters, stamping it as the most pithecoid of human crania yet
discovered. But Professor Schaaffhausen states ('supra', p. 308), that
the cranium, in its present condition, holds 1033.24 cubic centimetres
of water, or about 63 cubic inches, and as the entire skull could hardly
have held less than an additional 12 cubic inches, its capacity may be
estimated at about 75 cubic inches, which is the average capacity given
by Morton for Polynesian and Hottentot skulls.
So large a mass of brain as this, would alone suggest that the pithecoid
tendencies, indicated by this skull, did not extend deep into the
organization; and this conclusion is borne out by the dimensions of the
other bones of the skeleton given by Professor Schaaffhausen, which
show that the absolute height and relative proportions of the limbs
were quite those of an European of middle stature. The bones are
indeed stouter, but this and the great development of the muscular
ridges noted by Dr. Schaaffhausen, are characters to be expected in
savages. The Patagonians, exposed without shelter or protection to a
climate possibly not very dissimilar from that of Europe at the time
during which the Neanderthal man lived, are remarkable for the
stoutness of their limb bones.
FIG. 31.--Ancient Danish skull from a tumulus at Borreby: one-third of
the natural size. From a camera lucida drawing by Mr. Busk.
In no sense, then, can the Neanderthal bones be regarded as the remains
of a human being intermediate between Men and Apes. At most, they
demonstrate the existence of a man whose skull may be said to revert
somewhat towards the pithecoid type--just as a Carrier, or a Pouter, or
a Tumbler, may sometimes put on the plumage of its primitive stock, the
'Columba livia'. And indeed, though truly the most pithecoid of known
human skulls, the Neanderthal cranium is by no means so isolated as it
appears to be at first, but forms, in reality, the extreme term of a
series leading gradually from it to the highest and best developed of
human crania. On the one hand, it is closely approached by the
flattened Australian skulls, of which I have spoken, from which other
Australian forms lead us gradually up to skulls having very much the
type of the Engis cranium. And, on the other hand, it is even more
closely affined to the skulls of certain ancient people who inhabited
Denmark during the 'stone period,' and were probably either
contemporaneous with, or later than, the makers of the 'refuse heaps,'
or 'Kjokkenmoddings' of that country.
The correspondence between the longitudinal contour of the Neanderthal
skull and that of some of those skulls from the tumuli at Borreby, very
accurate drawings of which have been made by Mr. Busk, is very close.
The occiput is quite as retreating, the supraciliary ridges are nearly
as prominent, and the skull is as low. Furthermore, the Borreby skull
resembles the Neanderthal form more closely than any of the Australian
skulls do, by the much more rapid retrocession of the forehead. On the
other hand, the Borreby skulls are all somewhat broader, in proportion
to their length, than the Neanderthal skull, while some attain that
proportion of breadth to length (80:100) which constitutes
In conclusion, I may say, that the fossil remains of Man hitherto
discovered do not seem to me to take us appreciably nearer to that
lower pithecoid form, by the modification of which he has, probably,
become what he is. And considering what is now known of the most
ancient races of men; seeing that they fashioned flint axes and flint
knives and bone-skewers, of much the same pattern as those fabricated
by the lowest savages at the present day, and that we have every reason
to believe the habits and modes of living of such people to have
remained the same from the time of the Mammoth and the tichorhine
Rhinoceros till now, I do not know that this result is other than might
Where, then, must we look for primaeval Man? Was the oldest 'Homo
sapiens' pliocene or miocene, or yet more ancient? In still older
strata do the fossilized bones of an Ape more anthropoid, or a Man more
pithecoid, than any yet known await the researches of some unborn
Time will show. But, in the meanwhile, if any form of the doctrine of
progressive development is correct, we must extend by long epochs the
most liberal estimate that has yet been made of the antiquity of Man.