Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

across to Turkestan. This again set great movements afoot. The
Magdalenians, last of the Old Stone Age men, pushed northward
with the forests in the wake of the retreating game of the treeless
plains; till eventually, hemmed in between forest and sea, they were
forced to lead a wretched existence as gatherers of shellfish and berries
on the Baltic coast. The descendants of the other Stone Ago peoples,
who had remained behind in North Africa and Spain, evolved what is
called the Caspian Culture; later they too trekked northward and
eventually fetched up in western Asia.
As the open plains shrank before the advance of the forests, big
game grew scarce, and men turned to other sources of food. They
became food-gatherers as well as hunters, eating nuts and berries and
wild grain. This must have seemed a misfortune to those early
hunters. But it was the spur of progress, for from food-gathering to
food-growing, to real agriculture, was a natural step. It seems to have
been somewhere before 5000 B.C., in the Near East, that the art of
agriculture was discovered. Legend has it that Isis, the great goddess,
found corn on Mount Hermon in Syria, and gave it to her sacred son.
The legend may well contain two kernels of truth. It is probable that
women rather than men first hit on the idea of planting grain, for the
men's work would still be afield, hunting; and it is probable that it
was discovered somewhere in Syria or its near neighbourhood. By
5000 B.C. grain-growing had spread round from Palestine to Meso-
potamia, and permanent settlements had come into being. The
polish gained by stone implements used for hoeing probably gave men
the idea of deliberately polishing their tools; if so, agriculture was the
cause of the change to the Neolithic Culture. In any case, agriculture
and polished neolithic stone implements appear at about the same time.
The arts of pottery and weaving were in all probability discovered
about the same time as that of grain-growing, and the first permanent
houses were built. Domestic animals followed soon after; domestica-
tion seems first to have been learned by hunters, but the art spread
rapidly and was extended and improved by the settled agriculturists.
Metal-working was not long behind, though for centuries only copper
and gold were employed—copper for use and gold solely for ornament.
The glacial period did not die steadily away; it left the earth in a
series of spasms or oscillations, a time of rapid retreat being followed
by a standstill or even an advance of the ice, brought about, it would
seem, by an elevation of the land. For a century or so about 4500 B,a,
there was such an elevation. This seems to have had two interesting
consequences. For one thing, the increased snowfall round the Mono*
potamian basin gave rise to such violent spring floods, year after year,
E                                      57