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The Story of Evolution by Joseph McCabe

Part 6 out of 6

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nearly as fine as a bodkin--show indisputably that man then had
clothing, but it is curious that the artist nearly always draws
him nude. There is also generally a series of marks round the
contour of the body to indicate that he had a conspicuous coat of
hair. Unfortunately, the faces of the men are merely a few
unsatisfactory gashes in the bone or horn, and do not picture
this interesting race to us. The various statuettes of women
generally suggest a type akin to the wife of the Bushman.

We have, in fine, a race of hunters, with fine stone knives and
javelins. Toward the close of the period we find a single
representation of an arrow, which was probably just coming into
use, but it is not generally known in the Old Stone Age. One of
the drawings seems to represent a kind of bridle on a horse, but
we need more evidence than this to convince us that the horse was
already tamed, nor is there any reason to suppose that the dog or
reindeer had been tamed, or that the ground was tilled even in
the most rudimentary way. Artistic skill, the use of clothing and
fire, and a finer feeling in the shaping of weapons and
implements, are the highest certain indications of the progress
made by the end of the Old Stone Age.

But there was probably an advance made which we do not find
recorded, or only equivocally recorded, in the memorials of the
age. Speech was probably the greatest invention of Magdalenian
man. It has been pointed out that the spine in the lower jaw, to
which the tongue-muscle is attached, is so poorly developed in
Palaeolithic man that we may infer from it the absence of
articulate speech. The deduction has been criticised, but a
comparison of the Palaeolithic jaw with that of the ape on one
hand and modern man on the other gives weight to it. Whatever may
have been earlier man's power of expression, the closer social
life of the Magdalenian period would lead to a great development
of it. Some writers go so far as to suggest that certain obscure
marks painted on pebbles or drawn on the cavern-walls by men at
the close of the Palaeolithic Age may represent a beginning of
written language, or numbers, or conventional signs. The
interpretation of these is obscure and doubtful. It is not until
ages afterwards that we find the first clear traces of written
language, and then they take the form of pictographs (like the
Egyptian hieroglyphics or the earliest Chinese characters).

We cannot doubt, however, that articulate speech would be rapidly
evolved in the social life of the later Magdalenian period, and
the importance of this acquisition can hardly be exaggerated.
Imagine even a modern community without the device of articulate
language. A very large proportion of the community, who are now
maintained at a certain level by the thought of others,
communicated to them by speech, would sink below the civilised
standard, and the transmission and improvement of ideas would be
paralysed. It would not be paradoxical to regard the social life
and developing speech of Magdalenian man as the chief cause of
the rapid advance toward civilisation which will follow in the
next period.

And it is not without interest to notice that a fall in the
temperature of the earth is the immediate cause of this social
life. The building of homes of any kind seems to be unknown to
Magdalenian man. The artist would have left us some sketchy
representation of it if there had been anything in the nature of
a tent in his surroundings. The rock-shelter and the cave are the
homes which men seek from the advancing cold. As these are
relatively few in number, fixed in locality, and often of large
dimensions, the individualism of the earlier times is replaced by
collective life. Sociologists still dispute whether the clan
arose by the cohesion of families or the family arose within the
clan. Such evidence as is afforded by prehistoric remains is
entirely in favour of the opinion of Professor Westermarck, that
the family preceded the larger group. Families of common descent
would now cling together and occupy a common cavern, and, when
the men gathered at night with the women for the roasting and
eating of the horse or deer they had hunter!, and the work of the
artist and the woman was considered, the uncouth muttering and
gesticulating was slowly forged into the great instrument of
articulate speech. The first condition of more rapid progress was
instinctively gained.

Our story of life has so often turned on this periodical lowering
of the climate of the earth that it is interesting to find this
last and most important advance so closely associated with it
that we are forced once more to regard it as the effective cause.
The same may be said of another fundamental advance of the men of
the later Palaeolithic age, the discovery of the art of making
fire. It coincides with the oncoming of the cold, either in the
Mousterian or the Magdalenian. It was more probably a chance
discovery than an invention. Savages so commonly make fire by
friction--rubbing sticks, drills, etc.--that one is naturally
tempted to regard this as the primitive method. I doubt if this
was the case. When, in Neolithic times, men commonly bury the
dead, and put some of their personal property in the grave with
them, the fire-kindling apparatus we find is a flint and a piece
of iron pyrites. Palaeolithic man made his implements of any kind
of hard and heavy stone, and it is probable that he occasionally
selected iron ore for the purpose. An attempt to chip it with
flint would cause sparks that might fall on inflammable material,
and set it alight. Little intelligence would be needed to turn
this discovery to account.

Apart from these conjectures as to particular features in the
life of prehistoric man, it will be seen that we have now a broad
and firm conception of its evolution. From the ape-level man very
slowly mounts to the stage of human savagery. During long ages he
seems to have made almost no progress. There is nothing
intrinsically progressive in his nature. Let a group of men be
isolated at any stage of human evolution, and placed in an
unchanging environment, and they will remain stationary for an
indefinite period. When Europeans began to traverse the globe in
the last few centuries, they picked up here and there little
groups of men who had, in their isolation, remained just where
their fathers had been when they quitted the main road of advance
in the earlier stages of the Old Stone Age. The evolution of man
is guided by the same laws as the evolution of any other species.
Thus we can understand the long period of stagnation, or of
incalculably slow advance. Thus, too, we can understand why, at
length, the pace of man toward his unconscious goal is quickened.
He is an inhabitant of the northern hemisphere, and the northern
hemisphere is shaken by the last of the great geological
revolutions. From its first stress emerges the primeval savage of
the early part of the Old Stone Age, still bearing the deep
imprint of his origin, surpassing his fellow-animals only in the
use of crude stone implements. Then the stress of conditions
relaxes--the great ice-sheet disappears--and again during a vast
period he makes very little progress. The stress returns. The
genial country is stripped and impoverished, and the reindeer and
mammoth spread to the south of Europe. But once more the
adversity has its use, and man, stimulated in his hunt for food,
invigorated by the cold, driven into social life, advances to the
culmination of the Old Stone Age.

We are still very far from civilisation, but the few tens of
thousands of years that separate Magdalenian man from it will be
traversed with relative speed--though, we should always remember,
with a speed far less than the pace at which man is advancing
to-day. A new principle now enters into play: a specifically
human law of evolution is formulated. It has no element of
mysticism, and is merely an expression of the fact that the
previous general agencies of development have created in man an
intelligence of a higher grade than that of any other animal. In
his larger and more plastic brain the impressions received from
the outer world are blended in ideas, and in his articulate
speech he has a unique means of entering the idea-world of his
fellows. The new principle of evolution, which arises from this
superiority, is that man's chief stimulus to advance will now
come from his cultural rather than his physical environment.
Physical surroundings will continue to affect him. One race will
outstrip another because of its advantage in soil, climate, or
geographical position. But the chief key to the remaining and
more important progress of mankind, which we are about to review,
is the stimulating contact of the differing cultures of different

This will be seen best in the history of civilisation, but the
principle may be recognised in the New Stone Age which leads from
primeval savagery to civilisation, or, to be more accurate and
just, to the beginning of the historical period. It used to be
thought that there was a mysterious blank or gulf between the Old
and the New Stone Age. The Palaeolithic culture seemed to come to
an abrupt close, and the Neolithic culture was sharply
distinguished from it. It was suspected that some great
catastrophe had destroyed the Palaeolithic race in Europe, and a
new race entered as the adverse conditions were removed. This was
especially held to be the case in England. The old Palaeolithic
race had never reached Ireland, which seems to have been cut oft
from the Continent during the Ice-Age, and most of the
authorities still believe--in spite of some recent claims--that
it never reached Scotland. England itself was well populated, and
the remains found in the caves of Derbyshire show that even the
artist--or his art--had reached that district. This Palaeolithic
race seemed to come to a mysterious end, and Europe was then
invaded by the higher Neolithic race. England was probably
detached from the Continent about the end of the Magdalenian
period. It was thought that some great devastation--the last
ice-sheet, a submersion of the land, or a plague--then set in,
and men were unable to retreat south.

It is now claimed by many authorities that there are traces of a
Middle Stone (Mesolithic) period even in England, and nearly all
the authorities admit that such a transitional stage can be
identified in the Pyrenean region. This region had been the great
centre of the Magdalenian culture. Its large frescoed caverns
exhibit the culmination of the Old Stone life, and afford many
connecting links with the new. It is, however, a clearly
established and outstanding fact that the characteristic art of
Magdalenian man comes to an abrupt and complete close, and it
does not seem possible to explain this without supposing that the
old race was destroyed or displaced. If we could accept the view
that it was the Eskimo-like race of the Palaeolithic that
cultivated this art, and that they retreated north with the
reindeer and the ice, and survive in our Eskimo, we should have a
plausible explanation. In point of fact, we find no trace
whatever of this slow migration from the south of Europe to the
north. The more probable supposition is that a new race, with
more finished stone implements, entered Europe, imposed its
culture upon the older race, and gradually exterminated or
replaced it. We may leave it open whether a part of the old race
retreated to the north, and became the Eskimo.

Whence came the new race and its culture? It will be seen on
reflection that we have so far been studying the evolution of man
in Europe only, because there alone are his remains known with
any fullness. But the important region which stretches from
Morocco to Persia must have been an equally, if not more,
important theatre of development. While Europe was shivering in
the last stage of the Ice-Age, and the mammoth and reindeer
browsed in the snows down to the south of France, this region
would enjoy an excellent climate and a productive soil. We may
confidently assume that there was a large and stirring population
of human beings on it during the Magdalenian cold. We may, with
many of the authorities, look to this temperate and fertile
region for the slight advance made by early Neolithic man beyond
his predecessor. As the cold relaxed, and the southern fringe of
dreary steppe w as converted once more into genial country, the
race would push north. There is evidence that there were still
land bridges across the Mediterranean. From Spain and the south
of France this early Neolithic race rapidly spread over Europe.

It must not be supposed that the New Stone Age at first goes much
beyond the Old in culture. Works on prehistoric man are apt to
give as features of "Neolithic man" all that we know him to have
done or discovered during the whole of the New Stone Age. We read
that he not only gave a finer finish to, and sometimes polished,
his stone weapons, but built houses, put imposing monuments over
his dead, and had agriculture, tame cattle, pottery, and weaving.
This is misleading, as the more advanced of these accomplishments
appear only late in the New Stone Age. The only difference we
find at first is that the stone axes, etc., are more finely
chipped or flaked, and are frequently polished by rubbing on
stone moulds. There is no sudden leap in culture or intelligence
in the story of man.

It would be supremely interesting to trace the evolution of human
industries and ideas during the few tens of thousands of years of
the New Stone Age. During that time moral and religious ideas are
largely developed, political or social forms are elaborated, and
the arts of civilised man have their first rude inauguration. The
foundations of civilisation are laid. Unfortunately, precisely
because the period is relatively so short and the advance so
rapid, its remains are crushed and mingled in a thin seam of the
geological chronicle, and we cannot restore the gradual course of
its development with any confidence. Estimates of its duration
vary from 20,000 to 70,000 years; though Sir W. Turner has
recently concluded, from an examination of marks on Scottish
monuments, that Neolithic man probably came on foot from
Scandinavia to Scotland, and most geologists would admit that it
must be at least a hundred thousand years since one could cross
from Norway to Scotland on foot. As usual, we must leave open the
question of chronology, and be content with a modest provisional
estimate of 40,000 or 50,000 years.

We dimly perceive the gradual advance of human culture in this
important period. During the Old Stone Age man had made more
progress than he had made in the preceding million years; during
the New Stone Age--at least one-fourth as long as the Old--he
made even greater progress; and, we may add, in the historical
period, which is one-fourth the length of the Neolithic Age, he
will make greater progress still. The pace of advance naturally
increases as intelligence grows, but that is not the whole
explanation. The spread of the race, the gathering of its members
into tribes, and the increasing enterprise of men in hunting and
migration, lead to incessant contacts of different cultures and a
progressive stimulation.

At first Neolithic man is content with finer weapons. His stone
axe is so finely shaped and polished that it sometimes looks like
forged or moulded metal. He also drills a clean hole through
it--possibly by means of a stick working in wet sand--and gives
it a long wooden handle. He digs in the earth for finer flints,
and in some of his ancient shafts (Grimes, Graves and Cissbury)
we find picks of reindeer horn and hollowed blocks of chalk in
which he probably burned fat for illumination underground. But in
the later part of the Neolithic--to which much of this finer work
also may belong--we find him building huts, rearing large stone
monuments, having tame dogs and pigs and oxen, growing corn and
barley, and weaving primitive fabrics. He lives in large and
strong villages, round which we must imagine his primitive
cornfields growing and his cattle grazing, and in which there
must have been some political organisation under chiefs.

When we wish to trace the beginning of these inventions we have
the same difficulty that we experienced in tracing the first
stages of new animal types. The beginning takes place in some
restricted region, and our casual scratching of the crust of the
earth or the soil may not touch it for ages, if it has survived
at all. But for our literature and illustrations a future
generation would be equally puzzled to know how we got the idea
of the aeroplane or the electric light. In some cases we can make
a good guess at the origin of Neolithic man's institutions. Let
us take pottery. Palaeolithic man cooked his joint of horse or
reindeer, and, no doubt, scorched it. Suppose that some
Palaeolithic Soyer had conceived the idea of protecting the
joint, and preserving its juices, by daubing it with a coat of
clay. He would accidentally make a clay vessel. This is Mr.
Clodd's ingenious theory of the origin of pottery. The
development of agriculture is not very puzzling. The seed of corn
would easily be discovered to have a food-value, and the
discovery of the growth of the plant from the seed would not
require a very high intelligence. Some ants, we may recall, have
their fungus-beds. It would be added by many that the ant gives
us another parallel in its keeping of droves of aphides, which it
"milks." But it is now doubted if the ant deliberately cultivates
the aphides with this aim. Early weaving might arise from the
plaiting of grasses. If wild flax were used, it might be noticed
that part of it remained strong when the rest decayed, and so the
threads might be selected and woven.

The building of houses, after living for ages in stone caverns,
would not be a very profound invention. The early houses were--as
may be gathered from the many remains in Devonshire and
Cornwall--mere rings of heaped stones, over which, most probably,
was put a roof of branches or reeds, plastered with mud. They
belong to the last part of the New Stone Age. In other places,
chiefly Switzerland, Neolithic man lived in wooden huts built on
piles in the shallow shores of lakes. It is an evidence that life
on land is becoming as stimulating as we find it in the age of
Deinosaurs or early mammals. These pile-villages of Switzerland
lasted until the historical period, and the numerous remains in
the mud of the lake show the gradual passage into the age of

Before the metal age opened, however, there seem to have been
fresh invasions of Europe and changes of its culture. The
movements of the various early races of men are very obscure, and
it would be useless to give here even an outline of the
controversy. Anthropologists have generally taken the relative
length and width of the skull as a standard feature of a race,
and distinguished long-headed (dolichocephalic), short-headed
(brachycephalic), and middle-headed (mesaticephalic) races. Even
on this test the most divergent conclusions were reached in
regard to early races, and now the test itself is seriously
disputed. Some authorities believe that there is no unchanging
type of skull in a particular race, but that, for instance, a
long-headed race may become short-headed by going to live in an
elevated region.

It may be said, in a few words, that it is generally believed
that two races invaded Europe and displaced the first Neolithic
race. The race which chiefly settled in the Swiss region is
generally believed to have come from Asia, and advanced across
Europe by way of the valley of the Danube. The native home of the
wheat and barley and millet, which, as we know, the lake-dwellers
cultivated, is said to be Asia. On the other hand, the Neolithic
men who have left stone monuments on our soil are said to be a
different race, coming, by way of North Africa, from Asia, and
advancing along the west of Europe to Scandinavia. A map of the
earth, on which the distribution of these stone monuments--all
probably connected with the burial of the dead--is indicated,
suggests such a line of advance from India, with a slighter
branch eastward. But the whole question of these invasions is
disputed, and there are many who regard the various branches of
the population of Europe as sections of one race which spread
upward from the shores of the Mediterranean.

It is clear at least that there were great movements of
population, much mingling of types and commercial interchange of
products, so that we have the constant conditions of advance. A
last invasion seems to have taken place some two or three
thousand years before the Christian era, when the Aryans
overspread Europe. After all the controversy about the Aryans it
seems clear that a powerful race, representing the ancestors of
most of the actual peoples of Europe and speaking the dialects
which have been modified into the related languages of the
Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts, Lithuanians, etc., imposed its
speech on nearly the whole of the continent. Only in the Basques
and Picts do we seem to find some remnants of the earlier
non-Aryan tongues. But whether these Aryans really came from
Asia, as it used to be thought, or developed in the east of
Europe, is uncertain. We seem justified in thinking that a very
robust race had been growing in numbers and power during the
Neolithic Age, somewhere in the region of South-east Europe and
Southwest Asia, and that a few thousand years before the
Christian Era one branch of it descended upon India, another upon
the Persian region, and another overspread Europe. We will return
to the point later. Instead of being the bearers of a higher
civilisation, these primitive Aryans seem to have been lower in
culture than the peoples on whom they fell.

The Neolithic Age had meantime passed into the Age of Metal.
Copper was probably the first metal to be used. It is easily
worked, and is found in nature. But the few copper implements we
possess do not suggest a "Copper Age" of any length or extent. It
was soon found, apparently, that an admixture of tin hardened the
copper, and the Bronze Age followed. The use of bronze was known
in Egypt about 4800 B.C. (Flinders Petrie), but little used until
about 2000 B.C. By that time (or a few centuries later) it had
spread as far as Scandinavia and Britain. The region of invention
is not known, but we have large numbers of beautiful specimens of
bronze work--including brooches and hair-pins--in all parts of
Europe. Finally, about the thirteenth century B.C., we find the
first traces of the use of iron. The first great centre for the
making of iron weapons seems to have been Hallstatt, in the
Austrian Alps, whence it spread slowly over Europe, reaching
Scandinavia and Britain between 500 and 300 B.C. But the story of
man had long before this entered the historical period, to which
we now turn.


In the preceding chapters I have endeavoured to show how, without
invoking any "definitely directed variations," which we seem to
have little chance of understanding, we may obtain a broad
conception of the way in which the earth and its living
inhabitants came to be what they are. No one is more conscious
than the writer that this account is extremely imperfect. The
limits of the volume have permitted me to use only a part of the
material which modern science affords, but if the whole of our
discoveries were described the sketch would still remain very
imperfect. The evolutionary conception of the world is itself
undergoing evolution in the mind of man. Age by age the bits of
fresh discovery are fitted into the great mosaic. Large areas are
still left for the scientific artist of the future to fill. Yet
even in its imperfect state the evolutionary picture of the world
is most illuminating. The questions that have been on the lips of
thoughtful men since they first looked out with adult eyes on the
panorama of nature are partly answered. Whence and Why are no
longer sheer riddles of the sphinx.

It remains to be seen if evolutionary principles will throw at
least an equal light on the progress of humanity in the
historical period. Here again the questions, Whence and Why, have
been asked in vain for countless ages. If man is a progressive
animal, why has the progress been confined to some of the race?
If humanity shared at first a common patrimony, why have the
savages remained savages, and the barbarians barbaric? Why has
progress been incarnated so exceptionally in the white section of
the race, the Europeans? We approach these questions more
confidently after surveying the story of terrestrial life in the
light of evolutionary principles. Since the days of the primeval
microbe it has happened that a few were chosen and many were left
behind. There was no progressive element in the advancing few
that was not shared by the stagnant many. The difference lay in
the environment. Let us see if this principle applies to the
history of civilisation.

In the last chapter I observed that, with the rise of human
intelligence, the cultural environment becomes more important
than the physical. Since human progress is a progress in ideas
and the emotions which accompany them, this may seem to be a
truism. In point of fact it is assailed by more than one recent
historical writer. The scepticism is partly due to a
misunderstanding. No one but a fanatical adherent of extreme
theories of heredity will deny that the physical surroundings of
a race continue to be of great importance. The progress of a
particular people may often be traced in part to its physical
environment; especially to changes of environment, by migration,
for instance. Further, it is not for a moment suggested that a
race never evolves its own culture, but has always to receive it
from another. If we said that, we should be ultimately driven to
recognise culture, like the early Chinese, as a gift of the gods.
What is meant is that the chief key to the progress of certain
peoples, the arrest of progress in others, and the entire absence
of progress in others, is the study of their relations with, or
isolation from, other peoples. They make progress chiefly
according to the amount of stimulation they get by contact with a
diverse culture.

Let us see if this furnishes a broad explanation of the position
of the various peoples of the world. The Ethnologist tells us
that the lowest peoples of the earth are the Yahgans of Tierra
del Fuego, the Hottentots, a number of little-understood peoples
in Central Africa, the wild Veddahs of Ceylon, the (extinct)
Tasmanians, the Aetas in the interior of the Philippines, and
certain fragments of peoples on islands of the Indian Ocean.
There is not the least trace of a common element in the
environment of these peoples to explain why they have remained at
the level of primitive humanity. Many of them lived in the most
promising and resourceful surroundings. What is common to them
all is their isolation from the paths of later humanity. They
represent the first wave of human distribution, pressed to the
tips of continents or on islands by later waves, and isolated.
The position of the Veddahs is, to some extent, an exception; and
it is interesting to find that the latest German students of that
curious people think that they have been classed too low by
earlier investigators.

We cannot run over all the peoples of the earth in this way, but
will briefly glance at the lower races of the various continents.
A branch of the second phase of developing humanity, the negroid
stock, spread eastward over the Asiatic islands and Australia,
and westward into Africa. The extreme wing of this army, the
Australian blacks, too clearly illustrates the principle to need
further reference. It has retained for ages the culture of the
middle Palaeolithic. The negritos who penetrated to the
Philippines are another extreme instance of isolation. The
Melanesians of the islands of the Indian and Pacific Ocean are
less low, because those islands have been slowly crossed by a
much higher race, the Polynesians. The Maoris of New Zealand, the
Tongans, Hawaians, etc., are people of our own (Caucasic) stock,
probably diverging to the south-east while our branch of the
stock pressed westward. This not only explains the higher
condition of the Maoris, etc., but also shows why they have not
advanced like their European cousins. Their environment is one of
the finest in the world, but--it lies far away from the highways
of culture.

In much the same way can we interpret the swarming peoples of
Africa. The more primitive peoples which arrived first, and were
driven south or into the central forests by the later and better
equipped invaders from the central zone, have remained the more
primitive. The more northern peoples, on the fringe of, or liable
to invasion from, the central zone, have made more advance, and
have occasionally set up rudimentary civilisations. But the
movements from the north to the south in early historical times
are too obscure to enable us to trace the action of the principle
more clearly. The peoples of the Mediterranean fringe of Africa,
living in the central zone of stimulation, have proved very
progressive. Under the Romans North Africa was at least as
civilised as Britain, and an equally wise and humane European
policy might lead to their revival to-day.

When we turn to Asia we encounter a mass of little-understood
peoples and a few civilisations with obscure histories, but we
have a fairly clear application of the principle. The northern,
more isolated peoples, are the more primitive; the north-eastern,
whose isolation is accentuated by a severe environment, are most
primitive of all. The Eskimo, whether they are the survivors of
the Magdalenian race or a regiment thrown off the Asiatic army as
it entered America, remain at the primitive level. The American
peoples in turn accord with this view. Those which penetrate
furthest south remain stagnant or deteriorate; those which remain
in the far north remain below the level of civilisation, because
the land-bridge to Asia breaks down; but those which settle in
Central America evolve a civilisation. A large zone, from Mexico
to Peru, was overspread by this civilisation, and it was
advancing steadily when European invaders destroyed it, and
reduced the civilised Peruvians to the Quichas of to-day.

There remain the civilisations of Asia, and here we have a new
and interesting aspect of the question. How did these
civilisations develop in Asia, and how is it that they have
remained stagnant for ages, while Europe advanced? The origin of
the Asiatic civilisations is obscure. The common idea of their
vast antiquity has no serious ground. The civilisation of Japan
cannot be traced back beyond about the eighth century B.C. Even
then the population was probably a mixed flotsam from
neighbouring lands-- Ainus, Koreans, Chinese, and Malays. What
was the character of the primitive civilisation resulting from
the mixture of these different cultures we do not know. But the
chief elements of Japanese civilisation came later from China.
Japan had no written language of any kind until it received one
from China about the sixth century of the Christian Era.

The civilisation of China itself goes back at least to about 2300
B.C., but we cannot carry it further back with any confidence.
The authorities, endeavouring to pick their steps carefully among
old Chinese legends, are now generally agreed that the primitive
Chinese were a nomadic tribe which slowly wandered across Asia
from about the shores of the Caspian Sea. In other words, they
started from a region close to the cradle of western
civilisation. Some students, in fact, make them akin to the
Akkadians, who founded civilisation in Mesopotamia. At all
events, they seem to have conveyed a higher culture to the
isolated inhabitants of Western Asia, and a long era of progress
followed their settlement in a new environment. For more than two
thousand years, however, they have been enclosed in their walls
and mountains and seas, while the nations of the remote west
clashed unceasingly against each other. We need no other
explanation of their stagnation. To speak of the
"unprogressiveness" of the Chinese is pure mysticism. The next
generation will see.

The civilisation of India is also far later than the civilisation
of the west, and seems to be more clearly due to borrowing from
the west. The primitive peoples who live on the hills about
India, or in the jungles, are fragments, apparently, of the Stone
Age inhabitants of India, or their descendants. Their culture may
have degenerated under the adverse conditions of dislodgement
from their home, but we may fairly conclude that it was never
high. On these primitive inhabitants of the plains of India there
fell, somewhere about or before 1000 B.C., the Asiatic branch of
the Aryan race.

A very recent discovery (1908) has strongly confirmed and
illumined this view of the origin of Indian civilisation.
Explorers in the ruins of the ancient capital of the Hittite
Empire (in North Syria and Cappadocia) found certain treaties
which had been concluded, about 1300 B.C., between the Hittites
and the king of the Aryans. The names of the deities which are
mentioned in the treaties seem to show that the Persian and
Indian branches of the Aryan race were not yet separated, but
formed a united kingdom on the banks of the Euphrates. They seem
to have come from Bactria (and possibly beyond), and introduced
the horse (hitherto unknown to the Babylonians) about 1800 B.C.
It is surmised by the experts that the Indian and Persian
branches separated soon after 1300 B.C., possibly on account of
religious quarrels, and the Sanscrit-speaking branch, with its
Vedic hymns and its Hinduism, wandered eastward and northward
until it discovered and took possession of the Indian peninsula.
The long isolation of India, since the cessation of its commerce
with Rome until modern times, explains the later stagnation of
its civilisation.

Thus the supposed "non-progressiveness" of the east, after once
establishing civilisation, turns out to be a question of
geography and history. We have now to see if the same
intelligible principles will throw light on the "progressiveness"
of the western branch of the Aryan race, and on the course of
western civilisation generally.*

* In speaking of Europeans as Aryans I am, of course, allowing
for an absorption of the conquered non-Aryans. A European nation
is no more Aryan, in strict truth, than the English are

The first two centres of civilisation are found in the valley of
the Nile and the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates; the
civilisations of Egypt and Babylon, the oldest in the world.
There is, however, a good deal of evidence by which we may bring
these civilisations nearer to each other in their earliest
stages, so that we must not confidently speak of two quite
independent civilisations. The civilisation which developed on
the Euphrates is found first at Susa, on the hills overlooking
the plains of Mesopotamia, about 6000 B.C. A people akin to the
Turkish or Chinese lives among the hills, and makes the vague
advance from higher Neolithic culture to primitive civilisation.
About the same time the historical or dynastic civilisation
begins in Egypt, and some high authorities, such as Mr. Flinders
Petrie, believe that the evidence suggests that the founders of
this dynastic civilisation came from "the mountainous region
between Egypt and the Red Sea." From the northern part of the
same region, we saw, the ancestors of the Chinese set out across

We have here a very suggestive set of facts in connection with
early civilisation. The Syro-Arabian region seems to have been a
thickly populated centre of advancing tribes, which would be in
striking accord with the view of progress that I am following.
But we need not press the disputed and obscure theory of the
origin of the historic Egyptians. The remains are said to show
that the lower valley of the Nile, which must have been but
recently formed by the river's annual deposit of mud, was a
theatre of contending tribes from about 8000 to 6000 B.C. The
fertile lands that had thus been provided attracted tribes from
east, west, and south, and there is a great confusion of
primitive cultures on its soil.

It is not certain that the race which eventually conquered and
founded the historical dynasties came from the mountainous lands
to the east. It is enough for us to know that the whole region
fermented with jostling peoples. Why it did so the previous
chapters will explain. It is the temperate zone into which men
had been pressed by the northern ice-sheet, and from Egypt to the
Indian Ocean it remained a fertile breeding-ground of nations.

These early civilisations are merely the highest point of
Neolithic culture. The Egyptian remains show a very gradual
development of pottery, ornamentation, etc., into which copper
articles are introduced in time. The dawn of civilisation is as
gradual as the dawn of the day. The whole gamut of
culture--Eolithic, Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and civilised--is
struck in the successive layers of Egyptian remains. But to give
even a summary of its historical development is neither necessary
nor possible here. The maintenance of its progress is as
intelligible as its initial advance. Unlike China, it lay in the
main region of human development, and we find that even before
6000 B.C. it developed a system of shipping and commerce which
kept it in touch with other peoples over the entire region, and
helped to promote development both in them and itself.

Equally intelligible is the development of civilisation in
Mesopotamia. The long and fertile valley which lies between the
mountainous region and the southern desert is, like the valley of
the Nile, a quite recent formation. The rivers have gradually
formed it with their deposit in the course of the last ten
thousand years. As this rich soil became covered with vegetation,
it attracted the mountaineers from the north. As I said, the
earliest centre of the civilisation which was to culminate in
Babylon and Nineveh is traced at Susa, on the hills to the north,
about 6000 B.C. The Akkadians (highlanders) or Sumerians, the
Turanian people who established this civilisation, descended upon
the rivers, and, about 5000 B.C., set up the early cities of
Mesopotamia. As in the case of Egypt, again, more tribes were
attracted to the fertile region, and by about 4000 B.C. we find
that Semitic tribes from the north have superseded the Sumerians,
and taken over their civilisation.

In these ancient civilisations, developing in touch with each
other, and surrounded by great numbers of peoples at the high
Neolithic level from which they had themselves started, culture
advanced rapidly. Not only science, art, literature, commerce,
law, and social forms were developed, but moral idealism reached
a height that compares well even with that of modern times. The
recovery in our time of the actual remains of Egypt and Babylon
has corrected much of the libellous legend, which found its way
into Greek and European literature, concerning those ancient
civilisations. But, as culture advances, human development
becomes so complex that we must refrain from attempting to
pursue, even in summary, its many outgrowths. The evolution of
morality, of art, of religion, of polity, and of literature would
each require a whole volume for satisfactory treatment. All that
we can do here is to show how the modern world and its
progressive culture are related to these ancient empires.

The aphorism that "all light comes from the east" may at times be
pressed too literally. To suggest that western peoples have done
no more than receive and develop the culture of the older east
would be at once unscientific and unhistorical. By the close of
the Neolithic age a great number of peoples had reached the
threshold of civilisation, and it would be extremely improbable
that in only two parts of the world the conditions would be found
of further progress. That the culture of these older empires has
enriched Europe and had a great share in its civilisation, is one
of the most obvious of historical truths. But we must not seek to
confine the action of later peoples to a mere borrowing of arts
or institutions.

Yet some recent historical writers, in their eagerness to set up
indigenous civilisations apart from those of Egypt and
Mesopotamia, pass to the opposite extreme. We are prepared to
find civilisation developing wherever the situation of a people
exposes it to sufficient stimulation, and we do find advance made
among many peoples apart from contact with the great southern
empires. It is uncertain whether the use of bronze is due first
to the southern nations or to some European people, but the
invention of iron weapons is most probably due to European
initiative. Again, it is now not believed that the alphabets of
Europe are derived from the hieroglyphics of Egypt, though it is
an open question whether they were not derived, through
Phoenicia, from certain signs which we find on ancient Egyptian

If we take first a broad view of the later course of civilisation
we see at a glance the general relation of east and west. Some
difficulty would arise, if we pressed, as to the exact stage in
which a nation may be said to become "civilised," but we may
follow the general usage of archaeologists and historians. They
tell us, then, that civilisation first appears in Egypt about
8000 B.C. (settled civilisation about 6000 B.C.), and in the
Mesopotamian region about 6000 B.C. We next find Neolithic
culture passing into what may be called civilisation in Crete and
the neighbouring islands some time between 4000 and 3000 B.C., or
two thousand years after the development of Egyptian commerce in
that region. We cannot say whether this civilisation in the
AEgean sea preceded others which we afterwards find on the
Asiatic mainland. The beginning of the Hittite Empire in Asia
Minor, and of Phoenician culture, is as yet unknown. But we can
say that there was as yet no civilisation in Europe. It is not
until after 1600 that civilisation is established in Greece
(Mycenae and Tiryns) as an offshoot of AEgean culture. Later
still it appears among the Etruscans of Italy--to which, as we
know, both Egyptian and AEgean vessels sailed. In other words,
the course of civilisation is very plainly from east to west.

But we must be careful not to imagine that this represents a mere
transplantation of southern culture on a rude northern stock. The
whole region to the east of the Mediterranean was just as fitted
to develop a civilisation as the valley of the Nile. It swarmed
with peoples having the latest Neolithic culture, and, as they
advanced, and developed navigation, the territory of many of them
became the high road of more advanced peoples. A glance at the
map will show that the easiest line of expansion for a growing
people was westward. The ocean lay to the right of the
Babylonians, and the country north and south was not inviting.
The calmer Mediterranean with its fertile shores was the
appointed field of expansion. The land route from Egypt lay, not
to the dreary west in Africa, but along the eastern shore of the
Mediterranean, through Syria and Asia Minor. The land route from
Babylon lay across northern Syria and Asia Minor. The sea route
had Crete for its first and most conspicuous station. Hence the
gradual appearance of civilisation in Phoenicia, Cappadocia,
Lydia, and the Greek islands is a normal and natural outcome of
the geographical conditions.

But we must dismiss the later Asiatic civilisations, whose
remains are fast coming to light, very briefly. Phoenicia
probably had less part in the general advance than was formerly
supposed. Now that we have discovered a powerful civilisation in
the Greek islands themselves, we see that it would keep Tyre and
Sidon in check until it fell into decay about 1000 B.C. After
that date, for a few centuries, Phoenicia had a great influence
on the development of Europe. The Hittites, on the other hand,
are as yet imperfectly known. Their main region was Cappadocia,
where, at least as far back as 1500 B.C., they developed so
characteristic a civilisation, that its documents or inscriptions
are almost undecipherable. They at one time overran the whole of
Asia Minor. Other peoples such as the Elamites, represent similar
offshoots of the fermenting culture of the region. The Hebrews
were probably a small and unimportant group, settled close round
Jerusalem, until a few centuries before the Christian Era. They
then assimilated the culture of the more powerful nations which
crossed and recrossed their territory. The Persians were, as we
saw, a branch of the Aryan family which slowly advanced between
1500 and 700 B.C., and then inherited the empire of dying

The most interesting, and one of the most recently discovered, of
these older civilisations, was the AEgean. Its chief centre was
Crete, but it spread over many of the neighbouring islands. Its
art and its script are so distinctive that we must recognise it
as a native development, not a transplantation of Egyptian
culture. Its ruins show it gradually emerging from the Neolithic
stage about 4000 B.C., when Egyptian commerce was well developed
in its seas. Somewhere about 2500 B.C. the whole of the islands
seem to have been brought under the Cretan monarchy, and the
concentration of wealth and power led to a remarkable artistic
development, on native lines. We find in Crete the remains of
splendid palaces, with advanced sanitary systems and a great
luxuriance of ornamentation. It was this civilisation which
founded the centre at Mycenae, on the Greek mainland, about the
middle of the second millennium B.C.

But our inquiry into the origin of European civilisation does not
demand any extensive description of the AEgean culture and its
Mycenaean offshoot. It was utterly destroyed between 1500 and
1000 B.C., and this was probably done by the Aryan ancestors of
the later Greeks or Hellenes. About the time when one branch of
the Aryans was descending upon India and another preparing to
rival decaying Babylonia, the third branch overran Europe. It
seems to have been a branch of these that swept down the Greek
peninsula, and crossed the sea to sack and destroy the centres of
AEgean culture. Another branch poured down the Italian peninsula;
another settled in the region of the Baltic, and would prove the
source of the Germanic nations; another, the Celtic, advanced to
the west of Europe. The mingling of this semi-barbaric population
with the earlier inhabitants provided the material of the nations
of modern Europe. Our last page in the story of the earth must be
a short account of its civilisation.

The first branch to become civilised, and to carry culture to a
greater height than the older nations had ever done, was the
Hellenes. There is no need for us to speculate on the "genius" of
the Hellenes, or even to enlarge on the natural advantages of the
lower part of the peninsula which they occupied. A glance at the
map will explain why European civilisation began in Greece. The
Hellenes had penetrated the region in which there was constant
contact with all the varied cultures of the older world. Although
they destroyed the AEgean culture, they could not live amidst its
ruins without receiving some influence. Then the traders of
Phoenicia, triumphing in the fall of their AEgean rivals, brought
the great pacific cultural influence of commerce to bear on them.
After some hundreds of years of internal trouble, barbaric
quarrels, and fresh arrivals from the north, Greece began to wear
an aspect of civilisation. Many of the Greeks passed to Asia
Minor, as they increased, and, freed from the despotism of
tradition, in living contact with the luxury and culture of
Persia, which had advanced as far as Europe, they evolved the
fine civilisation of the Greek colonies, and reacted on the
motherland. Finally, there came the heroic struggle against the
Persian invaders, and from the ashes of their early civilisation
arose the marble city which will never die in the memory of

The Romans had meantime been advancing. We may neglect the older
Italian culture, as it had far less to do with the making of
Italy and Europe than the influence of the east. By about 500
B.C. Rome was a small kingdom with a primitive civilisation, busy
in subduing the neighbouring tribes who threatened its security,
and unconsciously gathering the seeds of culture which some of
them contained. By about 300 B.C. the vigour of the Romans had
united all the tribes of Italy in a powerful republic, and wealth
began to accumulate at Rome. Not far to the east was the
glittering civilisation of Greece; to the south was Carthage, a
busy centre of commerce, navigation, and art; and from the
Mediterranean came processions of ships bringing stimulating
fragments and stories of the hoary culture of the east. Within
another two hundred years Rome annihilated Carthage, paralysed
and overran Greece, and sent its legions over the Asiatic
provinces of the older empires. By the beginning of the Christian
Era all that remained of the culture of the old world was
gathered in Rome. All the philosophies of Greece, all the
religions of Persia and Judea and Egypt, all the luxuries and
vices of the east, found a home in it. Every stream of culture
that had started from the later and higher Neolithic age had
ended in Rome.

And in the meantime Rome had begun to disseminate its heritage
over Europe. Its legions poured over Spain and Gaul and Germany
and Britain. Its administrators and judges and teachers followed
the eagles, and set up schools and law-courts and theatres and
baths and temples. It flung broad roads to the north of Britain
and the banks of the Rhine and Danube. Under the shelter of the
"Roman Peace" the peoples of Europe could spare men from the
plough and the sword for the cultivation of art and letters. The
civilisations of Britain, France, Germany, Spain, North Africa,
and Italy were ushered into the calendar of mankind, and were
ready to bear the burden when the mighty city on the Tiber let
the sceptre fall from its enfeebled hands.

Rome fell. The more accurate historians of our time correct the
old legend of death from senile decay or from the effect of
dissipation. Races of men, like races of animals, do not die;
they are killed. The physical deterioration of the citizens of
Rome was a small matter in its fall. Fiscal and imperial blunders
loosed the frame of its empire. The resources were still there,
but there was none to organise and unify them. The imperial
system--or chaos--ruined Rome. And just when the demoralisation
was greatest, and the Teutonic tribes at the frontiers were most
numerous and powerful, an accident shook the system. A fierce and
numerous people from Asia, the Huns, wandered into Europe, threw
themselves on the Teutonic tribes, and precipitated these tribes
upon the Empire. A Diocletian might still have saved the Empire,
but there was none to guide it. The northern barbarians trod its
civilisation underfoot, and Europe passed into the Dark Ages.

One more application of the evolutionary principle, and we close
the story. The "barbarians"--the Goths and Vandals and their
Germanic cousins--were barbaric only in comparison with the art
and letters of Rome. They had law, polity, and ideals. European
civilisation owes elements to them, as well as to Rome. To say
simply that the barbarians destroyed the institutions of Rome is
no adequate explanation of the Dark Ages. Let us see rather how
the Dark Ages were enlightened.

It is now fully recognised that the reawakening of Europe in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries was very largely due to a fresh
culture-contact with the older civilisations. The Arabs had, on
becoming civilised, learned from the Nestorians, who had been
driven out of the Greek world for their heresies, the ancient
culture of Greece. They enshrined it in a brilliant civilisation
which it inspired them to establish. By the ninth century this
civilisation was exhibited in Spain by its Moorish conquerors,
and, as its splendour increased, it attracted the attention of
Europe. Some Christian scholars visited Spain, as time went on,
but the Jews were the great intermediaries in disseminating its
culture in Europe. There is now no question about the fact that
the rebirth of positive learning, especially of science, in
Europe was very largely due to the literature of the Moors, and
their luxury and splendour gave an impulse to European art.
Europe entered upon the remarkable intellectual period known as
Scholasticism. Besides this stimulus, it must be remembered, the
scholars of Europe had at least a certain number of old Latin
writers whose works had survived the general wreck of culture.

In the fifteenth century the awakening of Europe was completed.
The Turks took Constantinople, and drove large numbers of Greek
scholars to Italy. Out of this catastrophe issued the great
Renaissance, or rebirth, of art, science, and letters in Italy,
and then in France, Germany, and England. In the new intellectual
ferment there appeared the great artists, great thinkers and
inventors, and great navigators who led the race to fresh
heights. The invention of printing alone would almost have
changed the face of Europe. But it was accompanied by a hundred
other inventions and discoveries, by great liberating and
stimulating movements like the Reformation, by the growth of free
and wealthy cities, and by the extension of peace over larger
areas, and the concentration of wealth and encouragement of art
which the growth and settlement of the chief European powers
involved. Europe entered upon the phase of evolution which we
call modern times.

. . . . . .

The future of humanity cannot be seen even darkly, as in a glass.
No forecast that aspires beyond the immediate future is worth
considering seriously. If it be a forecast of material progress,
it is rendered worthless by the obvious consideration that if we
knew what the future will do, we would do it ourselves. If it is
a forecast of intellectual and social evolution, it is inevitably
coloured by the intellectual or social convictions of the
prophet. I therefore abstain wholly from carrying the story of
evolution beyond realities. But I would add two general
considerations which may enable a reflective reader to answer
certain questions that will arise in his mind at the close of
this survey of the story of evolution.

Are we evolving to-day? Is man the last word of evolution? These
are amongst the commonest questions put to me. Whether man is or
is not the last word of evolution is merely a verbal quibble. Now
that language is invented, and things have names, one may say
that the name "man" will cling to the highest and most
progressive animal on earth, no matter how much he may rise above
the man of to-day. But if the question is whether he WILL rise
far above the civilisation of to-day, we can, in my opinion, give
a confident answer. There is no law of evolution, but there is a
fact of evolution. Ten million years ago the highest animal on
the earth was a reptile, or, at the most, a low, rat-like
marsupial. The authorities tell us that, unless some cosmic
accident intervene, the earth will remain habitable by man for at
least ten million years. It is safe to conclude that the man of
that remote age will be lifted above the man of to-day as much as
we transcend the reptile in intelligence and emotion. It is most
probable that this is a quite inadequate expression of the future
advance. We are not only evolving, but evolving more rapidly than
living thing ever did before. The pace increases every century. A
calm and critical review of our development inspires a conviction
that a few centuries will bring about the realisation of the
highest dream that ever haunted the mind of the prophet. What
splendours lie beyond that, the most soaring imagination cannot
have the dimmest perception.

And the last word must meet an anxiety that arises out of this
very confidence. Darwin was right. It is--not exclusively, but
mainly--the struggle for life that has begotten higher types.
Must every step of future progress be won by fresh and sustained
struggle? At least we may say that the notion that progress in
the future depends, as in the past, upon the pitting of flesh
against flesh, and tooth against tooth, is a deplorable illusion.
Such physical struggle is indeed necessary to evolve and maintain
a type fit for the struggle. But a new thing has come into the
story of the earth--wisdom and fine emotion. The processes which
begot animal types in the past may be superseded; perhaps must be
superseded. The battle of the future lies between wit and wit,
art and art, generosity and generosity; and a great struggle and
rivalry may proceed that will carry the distinctive powers of man
to undreamed-of heights, yet be wholly innocent of the
passion-lit, blood-stained conflict that has hitherto been the
instrument of progress.

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