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From the Library of 

Henry Goldman, Ph.D. 



PRIMITIVE CULTURE: Researches into the 
Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, 
Art, and Custom. Third American from the Second 
London edition 2 vols. 8vo. $7.0x5. 

of Mankind, and the Development of Civilization. 
8vo. $3.50. 








D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S. 







THE GESTURE-LANGUAGE . . . '. . . .14 


THE GESTURE-LANGUAGE (continued) 34 


























IN studying the phenomena of knowledge and art, religion and 
mythology, law and custom, and the rest of the complex whole 
which we call Civilization, it is not enough to have in view the 
more advanced races, and to know their history so far as direct 
records have preserved it for us. The explanation of the state 
of things in which we live has often to be sought in the con- 
dition of rude and early tribes ; and without a knowledge of this 
to guide us, we may miss the meaning even of familiar thoughts 
and practices. To take a trivial instance, the statement is true 
enough as it stands, that the women of modern Europe mutilate 
their ears to hang jewels in them, but the reason of their doing 
so is not to be fully found in the circumstances among which we 
are living now. The student who takes a wider view thinks of 
the rings and bones and feathers thrust through the cartilage of 
the nose ; the weights that pull the slit ears in long nooses to 
the shoulder ; the ivory studs let in at the corners of the mouth ; 
the wooden plugs as big as table-spoons put through slits in the 
under lip ; the teeth of animals stuck point outwards through 
holes in the cheeks ; all familiar things among the lower races 
up and down in the world. The modern earring of the higher 
nations stands not as a product of our own times, but as a relic 
of a ruder mental condition, one of the many cases in which the 


result of progress has been not positive in adding something 
new, but negative in taking away something belonging to an 
earlier state of things. 

It is indeed hardly too much to say that Civilization, being a 
process of long and complex growth, can only be thoroughly 
understood when studied through its entire range ; that the past 
is continually needed to explain the present, and the whole to 
explain the part. A feeling of this may account in some 
measure for the eager curiosity which is felt for descriptions of 
the life and habits of strange and ancient races, in Cook's 
Voyages, Catlin's 'North American Indians,' Prescott's 'Mexico' 
imd ' Peru,' even in the meagre details which antiquaries have 
succeeded in recovering of the lives of the Lake-dwellers of 
Switzerland and the Reindeer Tribes of Central France. For 
matters of practical life these people may be nothing to us ; but 
in reading of them we are consciously or unconsciously com- 
pleting the picture, and tracing out the course of life, of what been so well said to be, after all, our most interesting object 
of study, mankind. 

Though, however, the Early History of Man is felt to be an 
attractive subject, and great masses of the materials needed for 
working it out have long been forthcoming, they have as yet 
Lren turned to but little account. The opinion that the use of 
facts is to illustrate theories, the confusion between History and 
Mythology, which is only now being partly cleared up, an undue 
confidence in the statements of ancient writers, whose means of 
information about times and places remote from themselves were 
often much narrower than those which are, ages later, at our own 
command, have been among the hindrances to the growth of sound 
knowledge in this direction. The time for writing a systematic 
treatise on the subject does not seem yet to have come ; certainly 
nothing of the kind is attempted in the present series of essays, 
whose contents, somewhat miscellaneous as they are, scarcely 
come into contact with great part of the most important problems 
involved, such as the relation of the bodily characters of the 
various races, the question of their origin and descent, the 
development of morals, religion, law, and many others. The 
matters discussed have been chosen, not so much for their 


absolute importance, as because, while they are among the easiest 
and most inviting parts of the subject, it is possible so to work 
them as to bring into view certain general lines of argument, 
which apply not only to them, but also to the more complex and 
difficult problems involved in a complete treatise on the History 
of Civilization. These lines of argument, and their relation to 
the different essays, may be briefly stated at the outset. 

In the first place, when a general law can be inferred from 
a group of facts, the use of detailed history is very much super- 
seded. When we see a magnet attract a piece of iron, having 
come by experience to the general law that magnets attract 
iron, we do not take the trouble to go into the history of the 
particular magnet in question. To some extent this direct 
reference to general laws may be made in the study of Civili- 
zation. The four next chapters of the present book treat of the 
various ways in which man utters his thoughts, in Gestures, 
"Words, Pictures, and Writing. Here, though Speech and 
Writing must be investigated historically, depending as they 
do in so great measure on the words and characters which were 
current in the world thousands of years ago, on the other hand 
the Gesture-Language and Picture-Writing may be mostly ex- 
plained without the aid of history, as direct products of the 
human mind. In the following chapter on " Images and 
Names," an attempt is made to refer a great part of the beliefs 
and practices included under the general name of magic, to one 
very simple mental law, as resulting from a condition of mind 
which we of the more advanced races have almost outgrown, 
and in doing so have undergone one of the most notable 
changes which we can trace as having happened to mankind. 
And lastly, a particular habit of mind accounts for a class of 
stories which are here grouped together as " Myths of Obser- 
vation," as distinguished from the tales which make up the 
great bulk of the folk-lore of the world, many of which latter 
are now being shown by the new school of Comparative Mytho- 
logists in Germany and England to have come into existence 
also by virtue of a general law, but a very different one. 

But it is only in particular parts of Human Culture, where 
the facts have not, so to speak, travelled far from their causes, 


that this direct method is practicable. Most of its phenomena 
have grown into shape out of such a complication of events, 
that the laborious piecing together of their previous history is 
the only safe way of studying them. It is easy to see how far 
a theologian or a lawyer would go wrong who should throw 
history aside, and attempt to explain, on abstract principles, 
the existence of the Protestant Church or the Code Napoleon. 
A Romanesque or an Early English cathedral is not to be 
studied as though all that the architect had to do was to take 
stone and mortar and set up a building for a given purpose. 
The development of the architecture of Greece, its passage into 
the architecture of Rome, the growth of Christian ceremony 
and symbolism, are only part of the elements which went to 
form the state of things in which the genius of the builder had 
to work out the requirements of the moment. The late Mr. 
Buckle did good service in urging students to look through 
the details of history to the great laws of Human Develop- 
ment which lie behind; but his attempt to explain, by a few 
rash generalizations, the complex phases of European history, 
is a warning of the danger of too hasty an appeal to first 

As, however, the earlier civilization lies very much out of the 
beaten track of history, the place of direct records has to be 
supplied in great measure by indirect evidence, such as Anti- 
quities, Language, and Mythology. This makes it generally 
difficult to get a sound historical basis to work on, but there 
happens to be a quantity of material easily obtainable, which 
bears on the development of some of the more common and 
useful arts. Thus in the eighth and ninth chapters, the tran- 
sition from implements of stone to those of metal is demon- 
strated to have taken place in almost every district of the 
habitable globe, and a progress from ruder to more perfect 
modes of making fire and boiling food is traced in many dif- 
ferent countries ; while in the seventh, evidence is collected on 
the important problem of the relation which Progress has borne 
to Decline in art and knowledge in the history of the world. 

In the remote times and places where direct history is at 
fault, the study of Civilization, Culture-History as it is conve- 


niently called in Germany, becomes itself an important aid to 
the historian, as a means of re-constructing the lost records 
of early or barbarous times. But its use as contributing to the 


early history of mankind depends mainly on the answering of the 
following question, which runs through all the present essays, 
and binds them together as various cases of a single problem. 

When similar arts, customs, beliefs, or legends are found in 
several distant regions, among peoples not known to be of the 
same stock, how is this similarity to be accounted for ? Some- 
times it may be ascribed to the like working of men's minds 
under like conditions, and sometimes it is a proof of blood 
relationship or of intercourse, direct or indirect, between the 
races among whom it is found. In the one case it has no 
historical value whatever, while in the other it has this value 
in a high degree, and the ever-recurring problem is how to 
distinguish between the two. An example on each side may 
serve to bring the matter into a clearer light. 

The general prevalence of a belief in the continuance of the 
soul's existence after death, does not prove that all mankind 
have inherited such & belief from a common source. It may 
have been so, but the historical argument is made valueless 
by the fact that certain natural phenomena may have suggested 
to the mind of man, while in a certain stage of development, 
the idea of a future state, and this not once only, but again 
and again in different regions and at different times. These 
phenomena may prove nothing of the kind to us, but that is 
not the question. The reasoning of the savage is not to be 
judged by the rules which belong to a higher education; and 
what the ethnologist requires in such a case, is not to know 
what the facts prove to his own mind, but what inference the 
very differently trained mind of the savage may draw from them. 

The belief that man has a soul capable of existing apart 
from the body it belongs to, and continuing to live, for a time 
at least, after the body is dead and buried, fits perfectly in such 
a mind with the fact that the shadowy forms of men and women 
do appear to others, when the men and women themselves are 
at a distance, and after they are dead. We call these appari- 
tions dreams or phantasms, according as the person to whom 


they appear is asleep or awake, and when we hear of their occur- 
rence in ordinary life, set them down as subjective processes 
of the mind. We do not thiiik that the phantom of the dark 
Brazilian who used to haunt Spinoza was a real person; that 
the head which stood before a late distinguished English peer, 
whenever he was out of health, was a material object ; that the 
fiends which torment the victim of delirium tremens, are what 
and where they seem to him to be ; that any real occurrence 
corresponds to the dreams of the old men who tell us they were 
flogged last night at school. It is only a part of mankind, how- 
over, who thus disconnect dreams and visions from the objects 
whose forms they bear. Among the less civilized races, the sepa- 
ration of subjective and objective impressions, which in this, as in 
several other matters, makes the most important difference between 
the educated man and the savage, is much less fully carried out. 
This is indeed true to some extent among the higher nations, 
for no Greenlander or Kaffir ever mixed up his subjectivity with 
the evidence of his senses into a more hopeless confusion than 
the modern spiritualist. As the subject is only brought forward 
here as an illustration, it is not necessary to go at length into 
its details. A few picked examples will bring into view the two 
great theories of dreams and visions, current among the lower 
races. One is, that when a man is asleep or seeing visions, the 
figures which appear to him come from their places and stand 
over against him ; the other, that the soul of the dreamer or 
seer goes out on its travels, and comes home with a remembrance 
of what it has seen. 

The Australians, says Sir George Grey, believe that the 
nightmare is caused by an evil spirit. To get rid of it they 
jump up, catch a lighted brand from the fire, and with various 
muttered imprecations fling it in the direction where they think 
the spirit is. He simply came for a light, and having got it, he 
will go away. 1 Others tell of the demon Koin, a creature who 
has the appearance of a native, and like them is painted with 
pipe-clay and carries a fire- stick. He comes sometimes when 
they are asleep and carries a man off as an eagle does his prey. 
The shout of the victim's companions makes the demon let him 
1 Grey, ' Journals ; ' London, 1841, ToL ii. p. 339. 


drop, or else he carries him off to his fire in the hush. Tho 
unfortunate black tries to cry out, but feels himself all but 
choked and cannot. At daylight Koin disappears, and the native 
finds himself brought safely back to his own fireside. 1 Even in 
Europe, such expressions as being .ridden by a hag, or by the 
devil, preserve the recollection of a similar train of thought. In 
the evil demons who trouble people in their sleep, the Incubi 
and Succubi, the belief in this material and personal character 
of the figures seen in dreams comes strongly out, perhaps 
nowhere more strikingly than among the natives of the Tonga 
Islands. 3 " Whoso seeth me in his sleep," said Mohammed. 
" seeth me truly, for Satan cannot, assume the similitude of m} 

Mr. St. John says that the Dayaks regard dreams as actual 
occurrences. They think that in sleep the soul sometimes re- 
mains in the body, and sometimes leaves it and travels far away, 
and that both when in and out of the body it sees and hears 
and talks, and altogether has a prescience given to it, which, 
when the body is in its natural state, it does not enjoy. 
Fainting fits, or a state of conia, are thought to be caused by 
the departure or absence of the soul on some distant expedition 
of its own. When a European dreams of his distant country, 
the Dayaks think his soul has annihilated space, and paid a 
flying visit to Europe during the night. 3 Very many tribes 
believe in this way that dreams are incidents which happen to 
the spirit in its wanderings from the body, and the idea has 
even expressed itself in a superstitious objection to. waking a 
sleeper, for fear of disturbing his body while his soul is out. 4 
Father Charlevoix found both the theories in question current 
among the Indians of North America. A dream might either 
be a visit from the soul of the object dreamt of, or it might be 
one of the souls of the dreamer going about the world, while the 
other for every man has two stayed behind with the body. 
Dreams, they think, are of supernatural origin, and it is a 

1 Backhouse, ' Visit to the Australian Colonies ; ' London, 1843, p. 555. 

2 Mariner, ' Tonga Islands ; ' 2nd ed., London, 1818, vol. ii. p. 112. 

3 St. John, 'Forests of the Far East ; ' London, 1862, vol. i. p. 189. 

4 Eastiau, 'Der Mensch in der Geschichte ; ' Leipzig, I860, vol. ii. p. 318, etc. 


religious duty to attend to them. That the white men should 
look upon a dream as a matter of no consequence is a thing they 
cannot understand. 1 

How like a dream is to the popular notion of a soul, a shade, 
a spirit, or a ghost, need not be said. But there are facts which 
bring the dream and the ghost into yet closer connection than 
follows from mere resemblance. Thus the belief is found among 
the Finnish races that the spirits of the dead can plague the 
living in their sleep, and bring sickness and harm upon them. 2 
Herodotus relates that the Nasarnones practise divination in the 
following manner: they resort to the tombs of their ancestors, 
and after offering prayers, go to sleep by them, and whatever 
dream appeai-s to them they take for their answer. 3 In modern 
Africa, the missionary Casalis says of the Basuto, "Persons who 
are pursued in their sleep by the image of a deceased relation, 
are often known to sacrifice a victim on the tomb of the defunct, 
in order, as they say, to calm his disquietude." 4 Clearly, then, 
a man who thinks he sees in sleep the apparitions of his dead 
relatives and friends has a reason for believing that their spirits 
outlive their bodies, and this reason lies in no far-fetched induc- 
tion, but in what seems to be the plain evidence of his senses. 
I have set the argument down as belonging especially to the 
lower stages of mental development, though indeed I have been 
startled by hearing it myself urged in sober earnest very far out- 
side the range of savage life. 

It is interesting to read how Lucretius, reasoning against the 
belief in a future life, takes notice of the argument from dreams 
as telling against him, and states, in opposition to it, the doctrine 
that not dreams only, but even ordinary appearances and imagi- 
nations, are caused by film-like images which fly off from the 
surfaces of real objects, and come in contact with our minds and 

" Touching these matters, let me now explain, 
How there are so-called images of things 

1 Charlevoii, 'Hist, et Descr. Gen. de la Nouvelle-France ; ' Paris, 1744, vol. vi. 
p. 78. 

1 CastreX ' Vorlesungen iiber die Finnische Mythologie ;' (Tr. and Ed. Schiefner ;) 
St. Petersburgh, 1853, p. 120. s Herod, iv. 172. Sec Mela, L 8. 

4 Casalis, 'The Basutos ;' London, 1861, p. 245. 


Which, like films torn from bodies' outmost face 
Hither and thither nutter through the air ; 
These scare us, meeting us in waking hours, 
And in our dreams, when oftentimes we see 
Marvellous shapes, and phantoms of the dead 
Which oft have roused us horror-struck from sleep ; 
Lest we should judge perchance that souls escape 
From Acheron, shades flit 'mid living men, 
Or aught of us can after death endure." l 

Never, perhaps, has the train of thought which the Epicurean 
poet so ingeniously comhats been more clearly drawn out than in 
Madge Wildfire's rambling talk of her dead baby, " Whiles I 
think my puir bairn's dead ye ken very weel it's buried but 
that signifies naething. I have had it on my knee a hundred 
times, and a hundred till that, since it was buried and how 
could that be were it dead, ye ken it's merely impossible." 

It appears then, from these considerations, that when we find 
dim notions of a future state current in the remotest regions of 
the world, we must not thence assume that they were all diffused 
from a single geographical centre. The case is one in which any 
one plausible explanation from natural causes is sufficient to bar 
the argument from historical connexion. On the other hand, 
there is nothing to hinder such an argument in the following 
case, which is taken as showing the opposite side of the problem. 

The great class of stories known as Beast Fables have of late 
risen much in public estimation. In old times they were listened 
to by high and low with the keenest enjoyment for their own 
sake. Then they were wrested from their proper nature into 
means of teaching little moral lessons, and at last it came to 
be the most contemptuous thing that could be said of a silly, 

1 Lucret. ' De Rerum Natura,' iv. 29-39 : 

" Nunc agere incipiam tibi, quod vementer ad has rea 
Attinet, esse ea quas rerum simulacra vocamus ; 
Quae, quasi membranze summo de corpore rerum 
Dereptse, volitant ultroque citroque per auras, 
Atque eadem nobis vigilantibus obvia mentes 
Terrificant atque in somnis, cum ssepe figuras 
Contuimur miras simulacraque luce carentum, 
Qua3 nos horrifice langnentis ssepe sopore 
Excierunt ; ne forte animas Acherunte reamur 
Effugere aut umbras inter vivos volitare, 
Neve aliquid nostri post mortem posse relinquL" 


pointless tale, to call it a " cock and bull story." In our own 
day, however, a generation among whom there has sprung up a 
new knowledge of old times, and with it a new sympathy with 
old thoughts and feelings, not only appreciate the beast fables 
for themselves, but find in their diffusion over the world an im- 
portant aid to early history. Thus Dr. Dasent has pointed out 
that popular stories found in the west and south of Africa must 
have come from the same source with old myths current in distant 
regions of Europe. 1 Still later, Dr. Bleek has published a collec- 
tion of Hottentot Fables, 2 which shows that other mythic epi- 
sodes, long familiar in remote countries, have found their way 
among these rude people, and established themselves as house- 
hold tales. 

A Dutchman found a Snake, who was lying under a great 
stone, and could not get away. He lifted up the stone, and set 
her free, but when he had done it she wanted to eat him. The 
Man objected to this, and appealed to the Hare and the Hyena, 
but both said it was right. Then they asked the Jackal, but he 
would not even believe the thing could have happened, unless he 
saw it with his two eyes. So the Snake lay down, and the Man 
put the stone upon her, just to show how it was. " Now let her 
lie there," said the Jackal. This is only a version of the story 
of the Ungrateful Crocodile, which the sage Dublin in the 
Arabian Nights declined to tell the king while the executioner 
was standing ready to cut his head off. It is given by Mr. Lane 
in his Notes, 3 and I am not sure that the simpler Hottentot 
version is not the neater of the two. Again, the name of 
" Reynard in South Africa," given by Dr. Bleek to his Hotten- 
tot tales, is amply justified by their containing familiar episodes 
belonging to the mediaeval " Reynard the Fox." 4 The Jackal 
shams death and lies in the road till the fish-waggon comes by, 
and the waggoner throws him in to make a kaross of his skin, 
but the cunning beast throws a lot of fish out into the road, and 
then jumps out himself. In another place, the Lion is sick, and 

1 Dasent, ' Popular Tales from the Norse,' 2nd ed., Edinburgh, 1859, p. 1. 

2 Bleek, 'Reynard the Fox in South Africa; 'London, 1864, pp. 11-13, 16, 19, 23. 

3 Lane, 'The Thousand and One Nights,' new edit, London, 1S59, vol. i. pp. 84, 

4 Jacob Grimm, ' Keinhart Fuchs ; ' Berlin, 1834, pp. cxxii. 1. 30, cclxxii. 


all the beasts go to see him but the Jackal. His enemy the 
Hyena fetches him to give his advice, so he comes before the 
Lion, and says he has been to ask the witch what was to be 
done for his sick uncle, and the remedy is for the Lion to pull 
the Hyena's skin off over his ears, and put it on himself while it 
is warm. Again, the trick by which Chanticleer gets his head 
out of Reynard's mouth by making him answer the farmer, 
reminds one of -the way in which, in the Hottentot tale, the 
Cock makes the Jackal say his prayers, and when the outwitted 
beast folds his hands and shuts his eyes, flies off and makes his 
escape. Of course these tales, though adapted to native circum- 
stances and with very clever native turns, may be all of very 
recent introduction. Such a story as that which introduces a 
fish-waggon, would be naturally referred to the Dutch boers, 
from whom indeed all the Reynard stories are likely to have 
come. One curious passage tends to show that the stories are 
taken, not from the ancient versions of Reynard, but from some 
interpolated modern rendering. A proof that Jacob Grimm 
brings forward of the independent, secluded course of the old 
German Beast-Saga, is, that it did not take up into itself stories 
long current elsewhere, which would have fitted admirably into 
it, thus, for instance, JEsop's story of the Fox who will not go 
into the Lion's den because he only sees the footsteps going in, 
but none coming out, is nowhere to be found in the medieval 
Reynard. But we find in the Hottentot tales that this very 
episode has found its way in, and exactly into its fitting place. 
" The Lion, it is said, was ill, and they all went to see him in 
his suffering. But the Jackal did not go, because the traces of 
the people who went to see him did not turn back." 

As it happens, we know from other sources enough to explain 
the appearance in South Africa of stories from Reynard and the 
Arabian Nights by referring them to European or Moslem 
influence. But even without such knowledge, the tales them- 
selves prove an historical connexion, near or remote, between 
Europe, Egypt, and South Africa. To try to make such 
evidence stand alone is a more ambitious task. In a chapter 
on the Geographical Distribution of Myths, I have compared a 
series of stories collected on the American Continent with their 


analogues elsewhere, endeavouring thereby to show an historical 
connexion between the mythology of America and that of the rest 
of the world, but with what success the reader must decide. In 
another chapter, some remarkable customs, which are found 
spread over distant tracts of country, are examined in order to 
ascertain, if possible, whether any historical argument may be 
grounded upon them. 

For the errors which no doubt abound in the present essays, 
and for the superficial working of a great subject, a word may 
be said in apology. In discussing questions in which some- 
times the leading facts have never before been even roughly 
grouped, it is very difficult not only to reject the wrong evi- 
dence, but to reproduce the right with accuracy, and the way 
in which new information comes in, which quite alters the face 
of the old, does not tend to promote over-confidence in first re- 
sults. For instance, after having followed other observers in 
setting down as peculiar to the South Sea Islands, in or near 
the Samoan group, an ingenious little drilling instrument which 
will be hereafter described, I found it kept in stock in the 
London tool shops ; mistakes of this kind must be frequent till 
our knowledge of the lower civilization is much more thoroughly 
collected and sifted. More accuracy might indeed be obtained 
by keeping to a very small number of subjects, but our accounts 
of the culture of the lower races, being mostly unclassified, have 
to be gone through as a whole, and up to a certain point it is a 
question whether the student of a very limited field might not 
lose more in largeness of view than he gained by concentration. 
Whatever be the fate of my arguments, any one who collects 
and groups a mass of evidence, and makes an attempt to turn it 
to account which may lead to something better, has, I think, a 
claim to be exempt from any very harsh criticism of mistakes 
and omissions. As the Knight says in the beginning of his 

" I hare, God wot, a large feeld to ere ; 
And wayke ben the oxen in my plough." 

[Note to 2nd Edition, 1870. In renewing some special acknowledgments 
made in 1865 as to the composition of the present work, I cannot pass with a 


simple expression of obligation the name of the late Henry Christy. For the 
ten years during which I enjoyed his friendship, he gave me the benefit of his 
wide and minute knowledge, and I was able to follow all the details of his 
ethnological researches. He died in May, 18G5, while carrying on investigations 
in the ossiferous caverns of Central France with Prof. Edouard Lavtet. The 
' Reliquire Aquitanicse," an elaborate account of these explorations, is the 
principal literary work bearing the name of Henry Christy. But his place in 
the history of Ethnology will be marked by the magnificent collection which 
he bequeathed to the nation, and which, belonging to the British Museum, 
but still kept at his residence, 103, Victoria Street, Westminster, under the 
name of the Christy Collection, has been developed into one of the most 
perfect Ethnological Museums in Europe. 

I am indebted to Dr. W. R. Scott, Director of the Deaf and Dumb Institution 
at Exeter, for much of the assistance which has enabled me to write about the 
Gesture-Language with something of the confidence of an " expert ; " and I 
have to thank Prof. Pott, of Halle, and Prof. Lazarus, of Berlin, for personal 
help in several difficult questions. Among books. I have drawn largely from 
the philological works of Prof. Steinthal, of Berlin, and from the invaluable 
collection of facts bearing on the history of civilization in the " Allgemeine 
Cultur-Geschichte der Menschheit," and " Allgemeine Culturwissenschaft," o 
the late Dr. Gustav Klemm, of Dresden.] 



THE power which man possesses of uttering his thoughts is 
one of the most essential elements of his civilization. "Whether 
he can even think at all without some means of outward expres- 
sion is a metaphysical question which need not be discussed 
here. Thus much will hardly be denied by any one, that mini's 
power of utterance, so far exceeding any that the lower aninuils 
possess, is one of the principal causes of his immense pre-emi- 
nence over them. 

Of the means which man has of uttering or expressing that 
which is in his mind, speech is by far the most important, so 
much so, that when we speak of tittering our thoughts, the 
phrase is understood to mean expressing them in words. But 
when we say that man's power of utterance is one of the groat 
differences between him and the lower animals, we must attach 
to the word utterance a sense more fully conformable to its 
etymology. As Steinthal admits, the deaf-and-dumb man is 
the living refutation of the proposition, that man cannot think 
without speech, unless we allow the understood notion of speech 
as the utterance of thought by articulate sounds to be too nar- 
row. 1 To utter a thought is literally to put it outside us, as to 
express is to squeeze it out. Grossly material as these meta- 
phors are, they are .the best terms we have for that wonderful 
process by which a man, by some bodily action, can not only 
make other men's minds reproduce more or less exactly the 
workings of his own, but can even receive back from the out- 
ward sign an impression similar to theirs, as though not he 
himself but some one else had made it. 

1 Steinthal, ' Ceber die Sprache der Taubstummeri' (in Frutz's 'Deutscbes Museum.' 
Jan. to June, 1851, p. 904, etc.). 


Besides articulate speech, the principal means by which man 
can express what is in his mind are the Gesture-Language, 
Picture -Writing, and Word- Writing. If we knew now, what 
we hope to know some day, how Language sprang up and grew 
in the world, our knowledge of man's earliest condition and 
history would stand on a very different basis from what it now 
does. But we know so little about the Origin of Language, 
that even the greatest philologists are forced either to avoid the 
subject altogether, or to turn themselves into metaphysicians in 
order to discuss it. The Gesture-Language and Picture-Writing, 
however, insignificant as they are in practice in comparison with 
Speech and Phonetic Writing, have this great claim to considera- 
tion, that we can really understand them as thoroughly as 
perhaps we can understand anything, and by studying them we 
can realize to ourselves in some measure a condition of the 
human mind which underlies anything which has as yet been 
traced in even the lowest dialect of Language if taken as a whole. 
Though, with the exception of words in which we can trace the 
effects either of direct emotion, as in interjections, or of imitative 
formation, as in " peewit " and " cuckoo," w r e cannot at present 
tell by what steps man came to express himself by words, we 
can at least see how he still does come to express himself by 
signs and pictures, and so get some idea of the nature of this 
giva; movement, which no lower animal is known to have made 
or shown the least sign of making. The idea that the Gesture- 
Language represents a distinct separate stage of human utter- 
ance, through which man passed before he came to speak, has 
no support from facts. But it may be plausibly maintained, 
that in curly stages of the development of language, while as yet 
the vocabulary was very rude and scanty, gesture had an import- 
ance as an element of expression, which in conditions of highly 
organized language it has lost. 

The Gesture-Language, or Language of Signs, is in great 
part a system of representing objects and ideas by a rude out- 
line-gesture, imitating their most striking features. It is, as 
has been well said by a deaf-and-dumb man, " a picture-lan- 
guage." Here at once its essential difference from speech 
'becomes evident. Why the words stand and go mean what they 


do is a question to \vhich we cannot as yet give the shadow of 
an answer, and if we had been taught to say " stand " where we 
now say " go," and " go " where we now say " stand," it would 
be practically all the same to us. No doubt there was a suffi- 
cient reason for these words receiving the meanings they now 
bear, as indeed there is a sufficient reason for everything; but 
so far as we are concerned, there might as well have been none, 
for we have quite lost sight' of the connexion between the word 
and the idea. But in the gesture-language the relation between 
idea and sign not only always exists, but is scarcely lost sight of 
for a moment. When a deaf-and-dumb child holds his two first 
fingers forked like a pair of legs, and makes them stand and 
walk upon the table, we want no teaching to show us what this 
means, nor why it is done. 

This definition of the gesture-language is, however, not com- 
plete. Such objects as are actually in the presence of the speaker, 
or may be supposed so, are brought bodily into the conversation 
by touching, pointing, or looking towards them, either to indicate 
the objects themselves or one of their characteristics. Thus if 
a deaf-and-dumb man touches his underlip with his forefinger, 
the context must decide whether he means to indicate the lip 
itself or the colour "red," unless, as is sometimes done, he 
shows by actually taking hold of the lip with finger and thumb, 
that it is the lip itself, and not its quality, that he means. 
Under the two classes " pictures in the air " and things brought 
before the mind by actual pointing out, the whole of the sign- 
language may be included. 

It is in Deaf-and-Dumb Institutions that the gesture-language 
may be most conveniently studied, and what slight practical 
knowledge I have of it has been got in this way in Germany and 
in England. In these institutions, however, there are gram- 
matical signs used in the gesture-language which do not fairly 
belong to it. These are mostly signs adapted, or perhaps in- 
vented, by teachers who had the use of speech, to express ideas 
which do not come within the scope of the very limited natural 
grammar and dictionary of the deaf-and-dumb. But it is to be 
observed that though the deaf-and-dumb have been taught to 
understand these signs and use them in school, they ignore them 


in their ordinary talk, and will have nothing to do with them if 
they can help it. 

By dint of instruction, deaf-mutes can be taught to commu- 
nicate their thoughts, and to learn from books and men in 
nearly the same Avay as we do, though in a more limited degree. 
They learn to read and write, to spell out sentences with the 
finger-alphabet, and to Understand words so spelt by others ; and 
besides this, they can be taught to speak in articulate language, 
though in a hoarse and unmodulated voice, and when another 
speaks, to follow the motions of his lips almost as though they 
could hear the words uttered. 

It may be remarked here, once for all, that the general public 
often confuses the real deaf-and-dumb language of signs, in 
which objects and actions are expressed by pantomimic gestures, 
with the deaf-and-dumb finger-alphabet, which is a mere sub- 
stitute for alphabetic writing. It is not enough to say that the 
two things are distinct ; they have nothing whatever to do with 
one another, and have no more resemblance than a picture has 
to a written description of it. Though of little scientific interest, 
the finger-alphabet is of great practical use. It appears to have 
been invented in Spain, to which country the world owes the 
first systematic deaf-and-dumb-teaching, by Juan Pablo Bonet, 
in whose work a one-handed alphabet is set forth, differing but 
little from that now in use in Germany, or perhaps by his pre- 
decessor, Pedro de Ponce. The two-handed or French alphabet, 
generally used in England, is of newer date. 1 

The mother-tongue (so to speak) of the deaf-and-dumb is the 
language of signs. The evidence of the best observers tends to 
prove that they are capable of developing the gesture-language 
out of their own minds without the aid of speaking men. Indeed, 
the deaf-mutes in general surpass the rest of the world in their 
power of using and understanding signs, and for this simple 
reason, that though the gesture-language is the common 
property of all mankind, it is seldom cultivated and developed 
to so high a degree by those who have the use of speech, as by 

1 Bonet, 'Reduction de las Letras, y Arte para ensenar a ablar Jos Mudos ;' Madrid, 
1620 ; pp. 128, etc. Sclimalz, ' Ueber die Taubstummen ; ' Dresden and Leipzig, 
1848 ; pp. 214, 352. 


those who cannot speak, and must therefore have recourse to 
other means of communication. The opinions of two or three 
practical observers may be cited to show that the gesture- 
language is not, like the finger-alphabet, an art learnt in the 
first instance from the teacher, but an independent process 
originating in the mind of the deaf-mute, and developing 
itself as his knowledge and power of "reasoning expand under 

Samuel Heinicke, the founder of deaf-and-dumb teaching in 
Germany, remarks : " He (the deaf-mute) prefers keeping to 
his pantomime, which is simple and short, and comes to him 
fluently as a mother-tongue." 1 Schmalz says : " Not less 
comprehensible are many signs which we indeed do not use in 
ordinary life, but which the deaf-and-dumb child uses, having 
no means of communicating with others but by signs. These 
signs consist principally in drawing in the air the shape of 
objects to be suggested to the mind, indicating their character, 
imitating the movement of the body in an action to be described, 
or the use of a thing, its origin, or any other of its notable pecu- 
liarities." 2 " With regard to signs," says Dr. Scott, of Exeter, 
" the (deaf-and-dumb) child will most likely have already fixed 
upon signs by which it names most of the objects given in the 
above lesson (pin, key, etc.), and which it uses in its intercourse 
with its friends. These signs had always better be retained (by 
the child's family), and if a word has not received such a sign, 
endeavour to get the child to fix upon one. It will do this rnoct 
probably better than you." 3 

The Abbe Sicard, one of the first and most eminent of the 
men who have devoted their lives to the education and "human- 
izing " of these afflicted creatures, has much the same account 
to give. "It is not I," he says, "who am to invent these 
signs. I have only to set forth the theory of them under the 
dictation of their true inventors, those whose language consists 
of these signs. It is for the deaf-and-dumb to make them, and 
for me to tell how they are made. They must be drawn from 
the nature of the objects they are to represent. It is only the 

1 Heinicke, ' Beobachtungen iiber Stumme,' etc. ; Hamburg, 1778, p. 56. 

Schmalz, p. 267. * Scott, ' The Deaf and Dumb ; ' London, 1844, p. 84. 


signs given by the mute himself to express the actions which he 
witnesses, and the objects which are brought before him, which 
can replace articulate language." Speaking of his celebrated 
deaf-and-dumb pupil, Massieu, he says : " Thus, by a happy 
exchange, as I taught him the written signs of our language, 
Massieu taught me the mimic signs of his." " So it must be 
said that it is neither I nor my admirable master (the Abbe de 
1'Epee) who are the inventors of the deaf-and-dumb language. 
And as a foreigner is not fit to teach a Frenchman French, so 
the speaking man has no business to -meddle with the invention 
of signs, giving them abstract values." 1 All these are modern 
statements ; but long before the days of Deaf-and-Dumb Institu- 
tions, Rabelais' sharp eye had noticed how natural and appro- 
priate were the untaught signs made by born deaf-mutes. When 
Panurge is going to try by divination from signs what his 
fortune will be in married life, Pantagruel thus counsels him : 
" Pourtant, vous fault choisir ung mut sourd de nature, affin 
que ses gestes vous soyent naifuement propheticques, non fainctz, 
fardez, ne affectez." 

Xor are we obliged to depend upon the observations ot ordi- 
nary speaking men for our knowledge of the way in which the 
gesture-language develops itself in the mind of the deaf-and- 
dumb. The educated deaf-mutes can tell us from their own 
experience how gesture-signs originate. The following account 
is given by Kruse, a deaf-mute himself, and a well-known 
teacher of deaf mutes, and author of several works of no small 
ability : " Thus the deaf-and-dumb must have a language, 
without which no thought can be brought to pass. But here 
nature soon comes to his help. What strikes him most, or 
what . . . makes a distinction to him between one thing and 
another, such distinctive signs of objects are at once signs by 
which he knows these objects, and knows them again ; they 
become tokens of things. And whilst he silently elaborates 
the signs he has found for single objects, that is, whilst he 
describes their forms for himself in the air, or imitates them 
in thought with hands, fingers, and gestures, he developes for 
himself suitable signs to represent ideas, which serve him as a 

1 Sicard. ' Cours d'Instruction d'un Sourd-muet ; ' Paris, 1803, pp. xlv. 18. 

c 2 


means of fixing ideas of different kinds in his mind and re- 
calling them to his memory. And thus he makes himself a 
language, the so-called gesture-language (Geberdcn-spmche) ; and 
with these few scanty and imperfect signs, a way for thought is 
already broken, and with his thought as it now opens out, the 
language cultivates and forms itself further and further." ] 

I will now give some account of the particular dialect (so to 
speak) of the gesture-language, which is current in the Berlin 
Deaf-and-Dumb Institution. 2 I made a list of about 500 signs, 
taking them down from my teacher, Carl "SVilke, who is himself 
deaf-and-dumb. They talk of 5000 signs being in common use 
there, but my list contains the most important. First, as to 
the signs themselves, the following, taken at random, will give 
an idea of the general principle on which all are formed. 

To express the pronouns " I, thou, he," I push my forefinger 
against the pit of my stomach for " I ; " push it towards the 
person addressed for " thou ; " point with my thumb over my 
right shoulder for "he ; " and so on. 

When I hold my right hand flat with the palm down, at the 
level of my waist, and raise it towards the level of my shoulder, 
that signifies "great;" but if I depress it instead, it means 
" little." 

The sign for " man " is the motion of taking off the hat ; for 
"woman," the closed hand is laid upon the breast; for " child," 
the right elbow is dandled upon the left hand. 

The adverb " hither " and the verb " to come " have the same 
sign, beckoning with the finger towards oneself. 

To hold the first two fingers apart, like a letter V, and dart 
the finger tips out from the eyes, is to "see." To touch the 
ear and tongue with' the fore-finger, is to "hear" and to 
"taste." Whatever is to be pointed out, the fore-finger, so 
appropriately called "index," has to point out or indicate. 

1 Kruse, 'Ueber Tanbstnmmen,' etc. ; Schleswig, 1853, p. 51. 

* Whether the "dialects" of the different deaf-and-dumb institutions have re- 
ceived any considerable proportion of natural signs from one another, as, for instance, 
by the spreading of the system of teaching from Paris, I am unable to say ; but there 
is so much in each that differs from the others in detail, though not in principle, that 
they may, I think, be held as practically independent, except as regards grammatical 


"... atque ipsa videtur 
Protrahere ad gestum pueros infantia linguae 
Quom facit ut digito quae sint prassentia monstrent." ' 

To " speak" is to move the lips as in speaking (all the deaf- 
and-dumb are taught to speak in articulate words in the Berlin 
establishment), and to move the lips thus, while pointing with 
the fore-finger out from the mouth, is "name," or "to name," 
as though one should define it to " point out by speaking." 

The outline of the shape of roof and walls done in the air with 
two hands is " house ; " with a flat roof it is " room. To smell 
as at a flower, and then with the two hands make a horizontal 
circle before one, is " garden." 

To pull up a pinch of flesh from the back of one's hand is 
"flesh" or "meat." Make the steam curling up from it with 
the fore-finger, and it becomes " roast meat." Make a bird's 
bill with two fingers in front of one's lips and flap with the 
arms, and that means " goose ; " put the first sign and these 
together, and we have " roast goose." 

How natural all these imitative signs are. They want no 
elaborate explanation. To seize the most striking outline of 
an object, the principal movement of an action, is the whole 
secret, and this is what the rudest savage can do untaught, 
nay, what is more, can do better and more easily than the edu- 
cated man. " None of my teachers here who can speak," said 
the Director of the Institution, " are very strong in the gesture- 
language. It is difficult for an educated speaking man to get 
the proficiency in it which a deaf-and-dumb child attains to 
almost without an effort. It is true that I can use it perfectly ; 
but I have been here forty years, and I made it my business 
from the first to become thoroughly master of it. To be able 
to speak is an impediment, not an assistance, in acquiring the 
gesture-language. The habit of thinking in words, and trans- 
lating these words into signs, is most difficult to shake off; but 
until this is done, it is hardly possible to place the signs in the 
logical sequence in which they arrange themselves in the mind 
of the deaf-mute." 

As new things come under the notice of the deaf-and-dumb, 

1 Lucretius, v. 1029. 


oi course new signs immediately come up for them. So to 
express "railway" and "locomotive," the left hand makes a 
chimney, and the steam curling almost horizontally out is imi- 
tated with the right fore-finger. The tips of the fingers of the 
half-closed hand coming towards one like rays of light, is " pho- 

But the casual observer, who should take down every sign 
he saw used in class by masters and pupils, as belonging to the 
natural gesture-language, would often get a very wrong idea of 
its nature. Teachers of the deaf-and-dumb have thought it 
advisable for practical purposes, not merely to use the inde- 
pendent development of the language of signs, but to add to it 
and patch it so as to make it more strictly equivalent to their 
own speech and writing. For this purpose signs have to be 
introduced for many words, of which the pupil mostly learns the 
meaning through their use in writing, and is taught to use the 
sign where he would use the word. Thus, the clenched fists, 
pushed forward with the thumbs up, mean "yet." To throw 
the fingers gently open from the temple means "when." To 
move the closed hands with the thumbs out, up and down upon 
one's waistcoat, is to "be." All these signs may, it is true, be 
based upon natural gestures. Dr. Scott, for instance, explains 
the sign "when" as formed in this way. But this kind of 
derivation does not give them a claim to be included in the pure 
gesture-language; and it really does not seem as though it would 
make much difference to the children if the sign for "when" 
were used for " yet," and so on. 

The Abbe Sicard has left us a voluminous account of the sign- 
language he used, which may serve as an example of the curious 
hybrid systems which grow up in this way, by the grafting of 
the English, or French, or German grammar and dictionary on 
the gesture-language. Sicard was strongly impressed with the 
necessity of using the natural signs, and even his most arbitrary 
ones may have been based on such ; but he had set himself to 
make gestures do whatever words can do, and was thereby often 
driven to strange shifts. Yet he either drew so directly from 
his deaf-and-dumb scholars, or succeeded so well in learning to 
think in their way, that it is often very hard to say exactly 


where the influence of spoken or written language comes in. 
For instance, the deaf-mute borrows the signs of space, as we do 
similar words, to express notions of time; and Sicard, keeping 
to these real signs, and only using them with a degree of analysis 
which has hardly been attained to but by means of words, makes 
the present tense of his verb by indicating " here " with the two 
hands held out, palm downward, the past tense by the hand 
thrown back over the shoulder, "behind," the future by putting 
the hand out, "forward." But when he takes on his conjugation 
to such tenses as "I should have carried," he is merely trans- 
lating words into more or less appropriate signs. Again, by the 
aid of two fore-fingers hooked together, to express, I suppose, 
the notion of dependence or connection, he distinguishes be- 
tween moi and me, and by translating two abstract grammatical 
terms from words into signs, he introduces another conception 
quite foreign to the pure gesture-language. If something that 
has been signed is a substantive, he puts the right hand under 
the left, to show that it is that which stands underneath; while 
if it is an adjective, he puts the right hand on the top, to show 
that it is the quality which lies upon or is added to the sub- 
stantive below. 1 

These partly artificial systems are probably very useful in 
teaching, but they are not the real gesture-language, and what is 
more, the foreign element so laboriously introduced seems to 
have little power of holding its ground there. So far as I can 
learn, few or none of the factitious grammatical signs will bear 
even the short journey from the schoolroom to the playground, 
where there is no longer any verb " to be," where the abstract 
conjunctions are unknown, and where mere position, quality, 
action, may serve to describe substantive and adjective alike. 

At Berlin, as in all deaf-and-dumb institutions, there are 
numbers of signs which, though most natural in their character, 
would not be understood beyond the limits of the circle in which 
they are used. These are signs which indicate an object by 
some accidental peculiarity, and are rather epithets than names. 
My deaf-and-dumb teacher, for instance, was named among the 

Sicard, 'The'orie des Signes pour 1'Instruction des Sourds-muets ; ' Paris, 1808, 
vol. ii. p. 562, etc. A really possible distinction appears in " lip,'' "red," ante, p. 16. 


children by the action of cutting off the left arm with the edge 
of the right hand ; the reason of this sign was, not that there 
was anything peculiar ahout his arms, but that he came from 
Spandau, and it so happened that one of the children had been 
at Spandau, and had seen there a man with one arm ; thence 
this epithet of "one-armed" came to be applied to all Spandauers, 
and to this one in particular. Again the Royal residence of 
Charlottenburg was named by taking up one's left knee and 
nursing it, in allusion apparently to the late king having been 
laid up with the gout there. 

In like manner, the children preferred to indicate foreign 
countries by some characteristic epithet, to spelling out their 
names on their fingers. Thus England and Englishmen were 
aptly alluded to by the action of rowing a boat, while the signs 
of chopping off a head and strangling were used to describe 
France and Russia, in allusion to the deaths of Louis XVI. and 
the Emperor Paul, events which seem to have struck the deaf- 
and-dumb children as the most remarkable in the history of the 
two countries. These signs are of much higher interest than 
the grammatical symbols, which can only be kept in use, so to 
speak, by main force, but these, too, never penetrate into the 
general body of the language, and are not even permanent in the 
place where they arise. They die out from one set of children 
to another, and new ones come up in their stead. 

The gesture-language has no grammar, properly so called ; it 
knows no inflections of any kind, any more than the Chinese. 
The same sign stands for "walk," "walkest," "walking," 
"walked," "walker." Adjectives and verbs are not easily 
distinguished by the deaf-and-dumb; "horse-black-handsome- 
trot-canter," would be the rough translation of the signs by 
which a deaf-mute would state that a handsome black horse trots 
and canters. Indeed, our elaborate systems of " parts of 
speech " are but little applicable to the gesture-language, 
though, as will be more fully said in another chapter, it may 
perhaps be possible to trace in spoken language a Dualism, in 
some measure resembling that of the gesture-language, with its 
two constituent parts, the bringing forward objects and actions 
in actual fact, and the mere suggestion of them by imitation. 


It has however a syntax, which is worthy of careful examina- 
tion. The syntax of speaking man differs according to the lan- 
guage he may learn, "equus niger," " a hlack horse; " "hominem 
amo," "j'aime 1'homme." But the deaf-mute strings together 
the signs of the various ideas he wishes to connect, in what 
appears to be the natural order in which they follow one another 
in his mind, for it is the same among the mutes of different 
countries, and is wholly independent of the syntax which may 
happen to belong to the language of their speaking friends. For 
instance, their usual construction is not " black horse," but 
"horse black;" not "bring a black hat," but "hat black bring;" 
not "lam hungry, give me bread," but "hungry me bread give." 
The essential independence of the gesture-language may indeed 
be brought very clearly into view, by noticing that ordinary edu- 
cated men, when they first begin to learn the language of signs, 
do not come naturally to the use of its proper syntax, but, by 
arranging their gestures in the order of the words they think in, 
make sentences which are unmeaning or misleading to a deaf- 
mute, unless he can reverse the process, by translating the ges- 
tures into words, and considering what such a written sentence 
would mean. Going once into a deaf-and-dumb school, and set- 
ting a boy to write words on the black board, I drew in the air 
the outline of a tent, and touched the inner part of my under-lip 
to indicate " red," and the boy wrote accordingly " a red tent." 
The teacher remarked that I did not seem to be quite a beginner 
in the sign-language, or I should have translated my English 
thought verbatim, and put the " red " first. 

The fundamental principle which regulates the order of the 
deaf-mute's signs seems to be that enunciated by Schmalz, " that 
which seems to him the most important he always sets before 
the rest, and that which seems to him superfluous he leaves out. 
For instance, to say, ' My father gave me an apple,' he makes 
the sign for ' apple,' then that for * father,' and that for ' I,' 
without adding that for ' give.' " * The following remarks, sent 
to me by Dr. Scott, seem to agree with this view. "With regard 
to the t\>o sentences you give (I struck Tom with a stick, Tom 
Btruck me with a stick), the sequence in the introduction of the 

Schmalz, p. 274. 


particular parts would, in some measure, depend on the part that 
most attention was wished to be drawn towards. If a mere 
telling of the fact was required, my opinion is that it would be 
arranged so, ' I-Tom-struck-a-stick,' and the passive form in a 
similar manner, with the change of Tom first. But these sen- 
tences are not generally said by the deaf-and-dumb without their 
having been interested in the fact, and then, in coming to tell of 
them, they first give that part they are most anxious to impress 
upon their hearer. Thus if a boy had struck another boy, and 
the injured party came to tell us ; if he was desirous to impress 
us with the idea that a particular boy did it, he would point to 
the boy first. But if he was anxious to draw attention to his 
own suffering, rather than to the person by whom it was caused, 
he would point to himself and make the sign of striking, and 
then point to the boy ; or if he was wishful to draw attention to 
the cause of his suffering, he might sign the striking first, and 
then tell afterwards by whom it was done." 

Dr. Scott has attempted to lay down a set of distinct rules for 
the syntax of the gesture-language. 1 " The subject comes before 
the attribute, . . . the object before the action." A third con- 
struction is common, though not necessary, " the modifier after 
the modified." The first rule, as exemplified in "horse black," 
enables the deaf-mute to make his syntax supply, to some extent, 
the distinction between adjective and substantive, which his 
imitative signs do not themselves express. The other two are 
illustrated by a remark of the Abbe Sicard's. " A pupil, to 
whom I one day put this question, ' Who made God ? ' and who 
replied, ' God made nothing,' left me in no doubt as to this kind 
of inversion, usual to the deaf-and-dumb, when I went on to ask 
him, ' Who made the shoe ? ' and he answered, ' The shoe made 
the shoemaker.' " 2 So when Laura Bridgman, who was blind 
as well as deaf-and-dumb, had learnt to communicate ideas by 
spelling words on her fingers, she would say " Shut door," "Give 
book ; " no doubt because she had learnt these sentences whole ; 
but when she made sentences for herself, she would go back to 
the natural deaf-and-dumb syntax, and spell out "Laura bread 
give, "to ask for bread to be given her, and "water drink Laura," 

1 Scott, 'The Deaf and Dumb,' p. 53. 3 Sicard, ' Theorie,' p. xxviiL 


to express that she wanted to drink water. 1 It is to be observed 
that there is one important part of construction which Dr. Scott's 
rules do not touch, namely, the relative position of the actor and 
the action, the nominative case and the verb. Dr. Schinalz 
attempts to lay down a partial rule for this. " If the deaf-mute 
connects the sign for an action with that for a person, to say that 
the person did this or that, he places, as a general rule, the sign 
of the action before that of the person. For example, to say, ' I 
knitted,' he moves his hands as in knitting, and then points with 
his fore-finger to his breast." 5 Thus, too, Heinicke remarks 
that to say, " The carpenter struck me on the arm," he would 
strike himself on the arm, and then make the sign of planing, 3 
as if to say, " I was struck on the arm, the planing-man did it." 
But though these constructions are, no doubt, right enough as 
they stand, the rule of precedence according to importance often 
reverses them. If the deaf-mute wished to throw the emphasis 
nm upon the knitting, but upon himself, he would probably point 
to himself first. Kruse gives the construction of "The ship sails 
on the water " like our own " ship sail water ; " and of " I must 
go to bed," as "I bed go." 4 

A look of inquiry converts an assertion into a question, and 
fully serves to make the difference between " The master is 
come," and " Is the master come ? " The interrogative pro- 
louns, "who?" "what?" are made by looking or pointing 
ibout in an inquiring manner ; in fact, by a number of unsuc- 

1 ' Account of Laura Bridgman ; ' London, 1845, p. 26. A similar instance, p. 157, 
Jacket Oliver give mother." 

2 Schmalz, pp. 274, 58. 3 Heinicke, p. 56. 

4 Kruse, p. 57. On consulting Mr. E. H. Hebden of Scarborough, a highly- 
ucated deaf-and-dumb gentleman, I find him to disagree with Sicard and Schmalz 
to the natural order of actor and action. Mr. Hebden's order is, 1, object ; 2, 
bject ; 3, action, illustrating it by the gestures "door key open" to express "the 
key opens the door," and " mouse cat kill," to express " cats kill mice." This in no 
way contradicts Dr. Scott's rules. In these questions as to order of signs, it must 
always be borne in mind that the intelligibility of a gesture-sentence (so to speak) 
depends on the whole forming a dramatic picture, while this dramatic effect is very 
imperfectly represented by translating signs into words and placing these one after 
another. Thus when Mr. Hebden expressed in gestures, "I found a pipe on th 
road," the order of the signs was written down as "road pipe I-find," which does not 
Beem a clear construction, but what the gestures actually expressed went far beyond 
this, for he made the spectator realize him as walking along the road and suddenly 
catching sight of a pipe lying on the ground. [Xote to 3rd Edition.] 


cessful attempts to say, " he," " that." The deaf-and-dumb 
child's way of asking, "Who has beaten you?" would be, 
"You beaten; who was it?" Though it is possible to render 
a great mass of simple statements or questions, almost gesture 
for word, the concretism of thought which belongs to the deaf- 
mute whose mind has not been much developed by the use of 
written language, and even to the educated one when he is 
thinking and uttering his thoughts in his native signs, com- 
monly requires more complex phrases to be re-cast. A ques- 
tion so common amongst us as, " What is the matter with 
you ? " would be put, " You crying ? you been beaten ? " and so 
on. The deaf-and-dumb 'child does not ask, " What did you 
have for dinner yesterday ? " but " Did you have soup ? did you 
have porridge ? " and so forth. A conjunctive sentence he ex- 
presses by an alternative or contrast ; " I should be punished 
if I were lazy and naughty," would be put, " I lazy, naughty, 
no ! lazy, naughty, I punished, yes ! " Obligation may be 
expressed in a similar way ; "I must love and honour my 
teacher," maybe put, "teacher, I beat, deceive, scold, no ! I 
love, honour, yes ! " As Steinthal says in his admirable essay, 
it is only the certainty which speech gives to a man's mind in 
holding fast ideas in all their relations, which brings him to the 
shorter course of expressing only the positive side of the idea, 
and dropping the negative. 1 

What is expressed by the genitive case, or a corresponding 
preposition, may have a distinct sign of holding in the gesture- 
language. The three signs to express "the gardener's knife," 
might be the knife, the garden, and the action of grasping the 
knife, pressing it to his breast, putting it into his pocket, or 
something of the kind. But the mere putting together of the 
possessor and the possessed may answer the purpose, as is well 
shown by the way in which a deaf-and-dumb man designates 
his wife's daughter's husband and children in making his will 
by signs. The following account is taken from the "Justice of 
the Peace," October 1, 1864 : 

John Geale, of Yateley, yeoman, deaf, dumb, and unable to 
read or write, died leaving a will which he had executed by 
1 Kruse, p. 56, etc. Steinthal, ' Spr. der T.,' p. 923. 


putting his mark to it. Probate of this will was refused by 
Sir J. P. Wilde, Judge of the Court of Probate, on the ground 
that there was no sufficient evidence of the testator's under- 
standing and assenting to its provisions. At a later date, Dr. 
Spinks renewed the motion upon the following joint affidavit of 
the widow and the attesting witnesses : " The signs by which 
deceased informed us that the will was the instrument which 
was to deal with his property upon his death, and that his wife 
was to have all his property after his death in case she survived 
him, were in substance, so far as we are able to describe the 
same in writing, as follows, viz. : The said John Geale first 
pointed to the said will itself, then he pointed to himself, and 
then he laid the side of his head upon the palm of his right 
hand with his eyes closed, and then lowered his right hand 
towards the ground, the palm of the same hand being upwards. 
These latter signs were the usual signs by which he referred 
to his own death or the decease of some one else. He then 
touched his trousers pocket (which was the usual sign by which 
he referred to his money), then he looked all round and simul- 
taneously raised his arms with a sweeping motion all round 
(which were the usual signs by which he referred to all his 
property or all things). He then pointed to his wife, and 
afterwards touched the ring-finger of his left hand, and then 
placed his right hand across his left arm at the elbow, which 
latter signs were the usual signs by which he referred to his 
wife. The signs by which the said testator informed us that 
his property was to go to his wife's daughter, in case his wife 
died in his lifetime, were ... as follows : He first referred to 
his property as before, he then touched himself, and pointed to 
the ring-finger of his left hand, and crossed his arm as before 
(which indicated his wife) ; he then laid the side of his head on 
the palm of his right hand (with his eyes closed), which indi- 
cated his wife's death; he then again, after pointing to his 
wife's daughter, who was present when the said will was exe- 
cuted, pointed to the ring-finger of his left hand, and then 
placed his right hand across his left arm at the elbow as before. 
He then put his forefinger to his mouth, and immediately touched 
his breast, and moved his arms in such a manner as to indicate 


a child, which were his usual signs for indicating his wife's 
daughter. He always indicated a female hy crossing his sir in, 
and a male person by crossing his wrist. The signs by which 
the said testator informed us that his property was to go to 
William Wigg (his wife's daughter's husband), in case his 
wife's daughter died hi his lifetime, were ... as follows : He 
repeated the signs indicating his property and his wife's daughter, 
then laid the side of his head on the palm of his right hand 
with his eyes closed, and lowered his hand towards the ground 
as before (which meant her death) ; he then again repeated the 
signs indicating his wife's daughter, and crossed his left arm 
at the wrist with his right hand, which meant her husband, the 
said William Wigg. He also communicated to us by signs, 
that the said William Wigg resided in London. The said 
William Wigg is in the employ of and superintends the goods 
department of the North- Western Railway Company at Camden 
Town. The signs by which the said testator informed us that 
his property was to go to the children of his wife's daughter 
and son-in-law, in case they both died in his lifetime, were . . . 
as follows, namely : He repeated the signs indicating the said 
William Wigg and his wife, and their death before him, and 
then placed his right hand open a short distance from the 
ground, and raised it by degrees, and as if by steps, which were 
his usual signs for pointing out their children, and then swept 
his hand round with a sweeping motion, which indicated that 
they were all to be brought in. The said testator always took 
great notice of the said children, and was very fond of them. 
After the testator had in manner aforesaid expressed to us what 
he intended to do by his said will, the said E. T. Dunning, by 
means of the before-mentioned signs, and by other motions and 
signs by which we were accustomed to converse with him, in- 
formed the said testator what were the contents and effect of the 
said will." 

Sir J. P. Wilde granted the motion. 

The deaf-mute commonly expresses past and future time in a 
concrete form, or by implication. To say " I have been ill," 
he may convey the idea of his being ill by looking as though 
he were so, pressing in his cheeks with thumb and finger to 


give himself a lantern-jawed look, putting his hand to his head, 
etc., and he may show that this event was " a day hehind," "a 
week behind," that is to say yesterday or a week ago, and so 
he may say that he is going home " a week forward." That 
he would of himself make the abstract past or future, as the 
Abbe Sicard has it, by throwing the hand back or forward, with- 
out specifying any particular period, I am not prepared to 
say. The difficulty may be avoided by signing " my brother 
sick done " for " my brother has been sick," as to imply that 
the sickness is a thing finished and done with. Or the ex- 
pression of face and gesture may often tell what is meant. 
The expression with which the sign for eating dinner is made 
will tell whether the speaker has had his dinner or is going to 
it. When anything pleasant or painful is mentioned by signs, 
the look will commonly convey the distinction between remem- 
brance of what is past, and anticipation of what is to come.' 

Though the deaf and-clumb has, much as we have, an idea of 
the connexion of cause and eifect, he has not, I think, any direct 
means of distinguishing causation from mere sequence or simul- 
taneity, except a way of showing by his manner that two events 
belong to one another, which can hardly be described in words, 
though if he sees further explanation necessary, he has no 
difficulty in giving it. Thus he would express the statement 
that a man died of drinking, by saying that he "died, drank, 
drank, drank." If the inquiry were made, "died, did he?" he 
could put the causation beyond doubt by answering, " yes, he 
drank, and drank, and drank ! " If he wished to say that the 
gardener had poisoned himself, the order of his signs would be, 
" gardener dead, medicine bad drank." 

To "make" is too abstract an idea for the deaf-mute; to 
show that the tailor makes the coat, or that the carpenter 
makes the table, he would represent the tailor sewing the coat, 
and the carpenter sawing and planing the table. Such a pro- 
position as " Rain makes the land fruitful " would not come into 
his way of thinking ; " rain falls, plants grow," would be his 
pictorial expression. 1 

As an example of the structure of the gesture-language, I 

1 Steintlial, 'Spr. derT.,'p. 923. 


give the words roughly corresponding to the signs by which 
the Lord's Prayer is acted every morning at the Edinburgh In- 
stitution. They were carefully written down for me by the 
Director, and I made notes of the signs by which the various 
ideas were expressed in this school^ " Father " is represented 
in the prayer as " man old," though in ordinary matters he is 
generally " the man who shaves himself; " " name " is, as I have 
seen it elsewhere, touching the forehead and imitating .the 
action of spelling on the fingers, as to say, " the spelling one is 
known by." To "hallow" is to "speak good of" ("good" 
being expressed by the thumb, while "bad" is represented by 
the little finger, two signs of which the meaning lies in the 
contrast of the larger and more powerful thumb with the 
smaller and less important little finger). " Kingdom " is shown 
by the sign for " crown ; " " will," by placing the hand on the 
stomach, in accordance with the natural and wide-spread 
theory that desire and passion are located there, to which 
theory such expressions belong as "to have no stomach to it." 
" Done " is " worked," shown by hands as working. The phrase 
" on earth as it is in heaven " was, I believe, put by signs for " on 
earth " and " in heaven," and then by putting out the two fore- 
fingers side by side, the sign for sameness and similarity all the 
world over, so that the whole would stand " earth on, heaven in, 
just the same." " Trespass " is " doing bad ; " to " forgive " is 
to rub out, as from a slate ; " temptation " is plucking one by 
the coat, as to lead him slily into mischief. The alternative 
" but " is made with the two fore-fingers, not alongside of one 
another as in "like," but opposed point to point, Sicard's sign 
for "against." "Deliver" is to "pluck out," "glory" is 
"glittering," "for ever " is shown by making the fore-fingers 
held horizontally turn round and round one another. 

The order of the signs is much as follows : " Father our, 
heaven in name thy hallowed kingdom thy come will thy 
done earth on, heaven in, as. Bread give us daily trespasses 
our forgive us, them trespass against us, forgive, as. Temp- 
tation lead not but evil deliver from kingdom power glory 
thine for ever." 

"When I write down descriptions in words of the deaf-and- 


dumb signs, they seem bald and weak, but it must be remem- 
bered that I can only write down the skeletons of them. To see 
them is something very different, for these dry bones have to be 
covered with flesh. Not the face only, but the whole body joins 
in giving expression to the sign. Nor are the sober, restrained 
looks and gestures to which we are accustomed in our daily life 
sufficient for this. He who talks to the deaf-and-dumb hi their 
own language, must throw off the rigid covering that the English- 
man wears over his face like a tragic mask, that never changes 
its expression while love and hate, joy and sorrow, come out 
from behind it. 

Religious service is performed in signs in many deaf-and-dumb 
schools. In the Berlin Institution, the simple Lutheran service, 
a prayer, the gospel for the day, and a sermon, is acted every 
Sunday morning in the gesture-language for the children in the 
school and the deaf-and-dumb inhabitants of the city, and it is a 
very remarkable sight. No one could see the parable of the 
man who left the ninety and nine sheep in the wilderness, and 
went after that which was lost, or of the woman who lost the 
one piece of silver, performed in expressive pantomime by a 
master in the art, without acknowledging that for telling a simple 
story and making simple comments on it, spoken language stands 
far behind acting. The spoken narrative must lose the sudden 
anxiety of the shepherd when he counts his flock and finds a 
sheep wanting, his hurried penning up the rest, his running up 
hill and down dale, and spying backwards and forwards, his face 
lighting up when he catches sight of the missing sheep in the 
distance, his carrying it home in his arms, hugging it as he 
goes. We hear these stories read as though they were lists of 
generations of antediluvian patriarchs. The deaf-and-dumb pan- 
tomime calls to mind the " action, action, action ! " of Demos- 



THEEE is another department of the gesture-language which 
has reached nearly as high a development as that in use among 
the deaf-mutes. Men who do not know one another's language 
are to each other as though they were dumb. Thus Sophocles 
uses ayXcoo-o-os, " tongueless," for " harbarian," as contrasted 
with " Greek ; " and the Russians, to this day, call their neigh- 
bours the Germans, " Njemez," that is, speechless, njcmmi 
meaning dumb. When men who are thus dumb to one another 
have to communicate without an interpreter, they adopt all over 
the world the very same method of communication by signs, 
which is the natural language of the deaf-mutes. 

Alexander von Humboldt has left on record, in the following 
passage, his experiences of the gesture-language among the 
Indians of the Orinoco, in districts where it often happens that 
small, isolated tribes speak languages of which even their nearest 
neighbours can hardly understand a word : " ' After you leave 
my mission,' said the good monk of Uruana, ' you will travel 
like mutes.' This prediction was almost accomplished ; and, 
not to lose all the advantage that is to be had from intercourse 
even with the most brutalized Indians, we have sometimes pre- 
ferred the language of signs. As soon as the native sees that 
you do not care to employ an interpreter, as soon as you ask 
him direct questions, pointing the object out to him, he comes 
out of his habitual apathy, and displays a rare intelligence in 
making himself understood. He varies his signs, pronounces 
his words slowly, and repeats them without being asked. His 
amour-propre seems flattered by the consequence you accord to 
him by letting him instruct you. This facility of making him- 


self understood is above all remarkable in the independent Indian, 
and in the Christian missions I should recommend the traveller 
to address himself in preference to those of the natives who have 
been but lately reduced, or who go back from time to time to 
the forest to enjoy their ancient liberty." l 

It is well known that the Indians of North America, whose 
nomade habits and immense variety of languages must continu- 
ally make it needful for them to communicate with tribes whose 
language they cannot speak, carry the gesture-language to a high 
degree of perfection, and the same signs serve as a medium of 
converse from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Several 
writers make mention of this " Indian pantomime," and it has 
been carefully described in the account of Major Long's expedi- 
tion, and more recently by Captain Burton. 2 The latter traveller 
considers it to be a mixture of natural and conventional signs, 
but so far as I can judge from the one hundred and fifty or so 
which he describes, and those I find mentioned elsewhere, I do 
not believe that there is a really arbitrary sign among them. 
There are only about half-a-dozen of which the meaning is not 
at once evident, and even these appear on close inspection to be 
natural signs, perhaps a little abbreviated or conventionalized. 
I am sure that a skilled deaf-and-dumb talker would understand 
an Indian interpreter, and be himself understood at first sight, 
with scarcely any difficulty. The Indian pantomime and the 
gesture-language of the deaf-and-dumb are but different dialects 
of the same language of nature. Burton says that an interpreter 
who knows all the signs is preferred by the whites even to a good 
speaker. " A story is told of a man, who, being sent among 
the Cheyennes to qualify himself for interpreting, returned in a 
week and proved his competence : all that he did, however, was 
to go through the usual pantomime with a running accompani- 
ment of grunts." 

In the Indian pantomime, actions and objects are expressed 

1 Humboldt and Bonpland, 'Voyage ; ' Paris, 1814, etc. vol. ii. p. 278. 

2 Edwin James, 'Major Stephen H. Long's Exped. Rocky Moun.'; Philadelphia, 1823, 
i. p. 378, etc. Capt. R. F. Burton, ' The City of the Saints,' London, 1861, p. 150, 
etc. See also Prinz Maximilian von Wied-Neuwied, ' Voyage dans 1'Interieur de 
1'Amerique du Nord;' Paris, 1840-3, vol. iii. p. 389. Buschmann, 'Spuren der Azt. 
Spr., etc.'; (Abh. der K. Akad. der Wisseusch. 1854) Berlin. 1859, p. 641. 

J) 2 


very much as a deaf-mute would show them. The action of 
beckoning towards oneself represents to " come ; " darting the 
two first fingers from the eyes is to " see ; " describing in the 
air the form of the pipe and the curling smoke is to " smoke ; " 
thrusting the hand under the clothing of the left breast is to 
" hide, put away, keep secret." " Enough to eat " is shown by 
an imitation of eating, and the forefingers and thumb forming 
a C, with the points towards the body, are raised upward as far 
as the neck ; " fear," by putting the hands to the lower ribs, 
and showing how the heart flutters and seems to rise to the 
throat ; " book," by holding the palms together before the face, 
opening and reading, quite in deaf-and-dumb fashion, and as the 
Moslems often do while they are reciting prayers and chapters of 
the Koran. 

One of our accounts says that " fire " is represented by the 
Indian by blowing it and warming his hands at it; the other 
that flames are imitated with the fingers. The latter sign wae 
in use at Berlin, but I noticed that the children in another 
school did not understand it till the sign of blowing was added. 
The Indian and the deaf-mute indicate "rain" by the same sign, 
bringing the tips of the fingers of the partly-closed hand down- 
ward, like rain falling from the clouds, and the Indian makes 
the same sign do duty for "year," counting years by annual 
rains. The Indian indicates " stone," if light, by picking it up, 
if heavy, by dropping it. The deaf-mute taps his teeth with 
his finger-nail to show that it is something hard, and then makes 
the gesture of flinging it. The Indian sign for mounting a horse 
is to make a pair of legs of the two first fingers of the right hand, 
and to straddle them across the left fore-finger ; a similar sign 
among the deaf-and-dumb means to " ride." 

Among the Indians the sign for "brother" or "sister" is, 
according to Burton, to put the two first finger-tips (that is, I 
suppose, the fore-fingers of both hands) into the mouth, to show 
that both fed from the same breast ; the deaf-mute makes the 
mere sign of likeness or equality suffice, holding out the fore- 
fingers of both hands close together, a sign which, according to 
James, also does duty to indicate " husband " or " companion." 
This sign of the two forefingers is understood everywhere, and 


some very curious instances of its use in remote parts of the 
world are given by Marsh 1 in illustration of Fluellen's "But 'tis 
all one, 'tis so like as my fingers is to my fingers." It belongs, 
too, to the sign-language of the Cistercian monks. 

Animals are represented in the Indian pantomime very much 
as the deaf-and-dumb would represent them, by signs charac- 
terizing their peculiar ears, horns, etc., and their movements. 
Thus the sign for " stag " among the deaf-and-dumb, namely, 
the thumbs to both temples, and the fingers widely spread out, 
is almost identical with the Indian gesture. For the dog, how- 
ever, the Indians have a remarkable sign, which consists in 
trailing the two first fingers of the right hand, as if they were 
poles dragged along the ground. Before the Indians had 
horses, the dogs were trained to drag the lodge-poles on the 
march in this way, and in Catlin's time the work was in several 
tribes divided between the dogs and the horses ; but it appears 
that in tribes where the trailing is now done by horses only, the 
sign for " dog " derived from the old custom is still kept up. 

One of the Indian signs is curious as having reflected itself in 
the spoken language of the country. " Water " is represented 
by an imitation of scooping up water with the hand and drinking 
out of it, and " river " by making this sign, and then waving the 
palms of the hands outward, to denote an extended surface. It 
is evident that the first part of the sign is translated in the 
western Americanism which speaks of a river as a " drink," and 
of the Mississippi, par excellence, as the "Big Drink." 2 It need 
hardly be said that spoken language is full of such translations 
from gestures, as when one is said to wink at another's faults, 
an expression which shows us the act of winking accepted as a 
gesture-sign, meaning to pretend not to see. But the Ameri- 
canism is interesting as being caught so near its source. 

I noted down a few signs from Burton as not self-evident, but 
it will be seen that they are all to be explained. They are, 
" yes," wave the hands straightforward from the face ; " no," 
wave the hand from right to left as if motioning away. These 

1 Marsh, 'Lectures on the English Language ; ' London, 1862, p. 486. 

2 J. R. Bartlett, 'Dictionary of Americanisms,' 2nd edit., Boston, 1859, t. V. 


signs correspond with the general practice of mankind, to nod 
for "yes," and shake the head for "no." The idea conveyed 
by nodding seems to correspond with the deaf-and-dumh sign 
for " truth," made by moving the finger straightforward from 
the lips, apparently with the sense of " straightforward speak- 
ing," while the finger is moved to one side to express " lie," as 
" sideways speaking." The understanding of nodding and shaking 
the head as signs of assent and denial appears to belong to 
uneducated deaf-and-dumb children, and even to those who are 
only one degree higher than idiots. In a very remarkable 
dissertation on the art of thrusting knowledge into the minds of 
such children, Schmalz assumes that they can always make and 
understand these signs. 1 It is true they may have learnt them 
from the people who take care of them. 

This explanation is, however, somewhat complicated by the 
Indian signs for "truth," and "lie," given by Burton, who says 
that the fore-finger extended from the mouth means to " tell 
truth," "one- word;" but two fingers mean to "tell lies," 
" double tongue." So to move two fingers before the left breast 
means, " I don't know," that is to say, " I have two hearts." I 
found that deaf-and-dumb children understood this Indian sign 
for " lie " quite as well as their own. 

" Good," wave the hand from the mouth, extending the 
thumb from the index, and closing the other three fingers. 
This is like kissing the hand as a salutation, or what children 
call " blowing a kiss," and it is clearly a natural sign, as it is 
recognized by the deaf-and-dumb language. Dr. James gives 
the Indian sign as waving the hand with the back upward, in a 
horizontal curve outwards, the well-known gesture of benediction. 
At Berlin, a gesture like that of patting a child on the head, 
accompanied, as of course all these signs are, with an approving 
smile, is in use. Possibly the ideas of stroking or patting may 
lie at the bottom of all these signs of approving and blessing. 

" Think," pass the fore-finger sharply across the breast from 
right to left, meaning of course that a thought passes through 
one's heart. 

;< Trade, exchange, swop," cross the fore-fingers of both hands 
1 Schmalz, pp. 267-277. See Wedgwood, p. 91. 


before the breast. This sign is also used, Captain Burton says, 
to denote Americans, or indeed any white men, who are generally 
called by the Indians west of the Rocky Mountains, " shwop," 
from their trading propensities. As given by Burton, the sign 
is hardly intelligible. But Dr. James describes the gesture of 
which this is a sort of abridgment, which consists in holding 
up the two fore-fingers, and passing them by each other trans- 
versely in front of the breast so that they change places, and 
nothing could be clearer than this. 

The sign in the Berlin gesture-language for " day " is made 
by opening out the palms of the hands. I supposed it to be 
an arbitrary and meaningless sign, till I found the Indian sign 
for " this morning " to consist in the same gesture. It refers, 
perhaps to awaking from sleep, or to the opening out of 
the day. 

As a means of communication, there is no doubt that the 
Indian pantomime is not merely capable of expressing a few 
simple and ordinary notions, but that, to the uncultured savage, 
with his few and material ideas, it is a very fair substitute for 
his scanty vocabulary. Stansbury mentions a discourse delivered 
in this way in his presence, which lasted for some hours occupied 
in continuous narration. The only specimen of a connected 
story I have met with is a hunter's simple history of his day's 
sport, as Captain Burton thinks that an Indian would render it 
in signs. The story to be told is as follows : "Early this morn- 
ing, I mounted my horse, rode off at a gallop, traversed a kanyon 
or ravine, then over a mountain to a plain where there, was no 
water, sighted bison, followed them, killed three of them, skinned 
them, packed the flesh upon my pony, remounted, and returned 
home." The arrangement of the signs described is as follows: 
I this morning early mounted my horse galloped a 
kanyon crossed a mountain a plain drink no ! sighted 
bison killed three skinned packed flesh mounted 
hither." There is perhaps nothing which would strike a deaf- 
and-dumb man as peculiar in the sequence of these signs ; but 
it would be desirable for a real discourse, delivered by an Indian 
in signs, to be taken down, especially if its contents were of a 
more complex nature. 


Among the Cistercian monks there exists, or existed, a ges- 
ture-language. As a part of their dismal system of mortifying 
the deeds of the body, they held speech, except in religious 
exercises, to be sinful. But for certain purposes relating to the 
vile material life that they could not quite shake off, communi- 
cation among the brethren was necessary, so the difficulty was 
met by the use of pantomimic signs. Two of their written 
lists or dictionaries are printed in the collected edition of Leib- 
nitz's works, 1 one in Latin, the other in Low German ; they are 
not identical, but appear to be mostly or altogether derived from 
a list drawn up by authority. 

A great part of the Cistercian gesture-signs are either just 
what the deaf-and-dumb would make, or are so natural that they 
would at once understand -them. Thus, to make a roof with the 
fingers is '" house ; " to grind the fists together is " corn ; " to 
" sing" is indicated by beating time ; to " bathe " is to imitate 
washing the breast with the hollow of the hand ; " candle," or 
" fire," is shown by holding up the fore-finger and blowing it 
out like a candle ; a " goat " is indicated by the fingers hanging 
from the chin like a beard ; " salt," by taking an imaginary 
pinch and sprinkling it ; " butter," by the action of spreading it 
in the palm of the hand. The deaf-and-dumb sign used at 
Berlin and other places to indicate " time" by drawing the tip 
of the fore-finger up the arm, is in the Cistercian list "a year ; " 
it is Sicard's sign for " long," and the idea it conveys is plainly 
that of " a length " transferred from space to time. To " go " 
is to make the two first fingers walk hanging in the air (Hengestu 
se dahl und rorest se, betekend Gaheri), while the universal sign 
of the two fore-fingers stands for " like " (Holstu se even thosa- 
men, dat betekent like). The sign for " beer "is to put the 
hand before the face and blow into it, as if blowing off the froth 
(Thustu de hand vor dem anschlahe dat du darin pustest, dat 
bediidt gut Bier). Wiping your mouth with the whole hand 
upwards (cum omnibus digitis terge buccam sursum), means 
a country clown (rusticus). 

To put the fore-finger against the closed lips is " silence," 

1 Leibnitz, Opera Omnia, ed. Dutens ; Geneva, 1768, vol. vl part ii. p. 
207, etc. 


but the finger put in the mouth means a " child." These are 
two very natural and distinct signs ; but then the finger to the 
lips for " silence " may serve also quite fitly to show that a child 
so represented is an infant, that is, that it cannot speak. The 
confusion of the signs of " childhood " and " silence " once led 
to a curious misunderstanding. The infant Horus, god of the 
dawn, was appropriately represented by the Egyp- 
tians as a child with his fingers to his lips, and his 
name as written in the hieroglyphics (Fig. 1) may 
be read Har-(p)-chrot, " Horus-(the)-son." l The 
Greeks mistook the meaning of .the gesture, and 
(as it seems) Grecizing this name into Harpo- 
krates, adopted him as the god of silence. *' * 

To conclude, the Cistercian lists contain a number of signs 
which at first sight seem conventional, but yet a meaning may 
be discerned in most or all of them. Thus, it seems foolish to 
make two fingers at the right side of one's nose stand for 
" friend ; " but when we see that placed on the left side, they 
stand for " enemy," it becomes clear that it is the opposition of 
right and left that is meant. So the little finger to the tip of 
the nose means "fool," which seemingly poor sign is explained 
by the fore-finger being put there for " wise man." The fact of 
such a contrast as wise and foolish being made between the fore- 
finger and the little finger, corresponds with the use of the 
thumb and little finger for " good " and " bad " by the deaf-and- 
dumb, and makes it likely that both pairs of signs may be 
natural, and independent of one another. The sign of grasping 
the nose with the crooked fore-finger for " wine," suggests that 
the thought of a jolly red nose was present even in so unlikely a 
place. The sign for " the devil," gripping one's chin with all 
five fingers, shows the enemy seizing a victim. In a mediaeval 
picture, an angel may be seen taking a man by the chin with 
one hand, and pointing up to heaven with the other. Thus, in 
a Hindoo tale, Old Age in person comes to claim his own. " In 
time then, when 1 had grown grey with years, Old Age took me 

1 Coptic ihroti (ni) = filii, liberi, hroti = cognatus, filius. Old Eg. in Rosetta Ins. 
Compare S. Sharpe, Hist, of Egypt, 4th ed. vol. ii. p. 148. Wilkinson, 'Popular 
Account of the Ancient Egyptians ;' London, 1854 vol. ii, p. 182. 


by the chin, and in his love to me said kindly, ' My son, what 
doest thou yet in the house ? '" l 

There is yet another development of the gesture-language to 
be noticed, the stage performances of the professional mimics of 
Greece and Rome, the pantomime par excellence. To judge by 
two well-known anecdotes, the old mimes had brought their art 
to great perfection. Macrobius says it was a well-known fact 
that Cicero used to try with Roscius the actor, which of them 
could express a sentiment in the greater variety of ways, the 
player by mimicry or the orator by speech, and that these ex- 
periments gave Roscius such confidence in his art, that he wrote 
a book comparing oratory with acting. 2 Lucian tells a story of 
a certain barbarian prince of Pontus, who was at Nero's court, 
and saw a pantomime perform so well, that though he could 
not understand the songs which the player was accompanying 
with his gestures, he could follow the performance from the 
acting alone. When Xero afterwards asked the prince to choose 
what he would have for a present, he begged to have the player 
given to him, saying that it was difficult to get interpreters to 
communicate with some of the tribes in his neighbourhood who 
spoke different languages, but that this man would answer the 
purpose perfectly. 3 

It would seem from these stories that the ancient pantomimes 
generally used gestures so natural that their meaning was self- 
evident, but a remark of St. Augustine's intimates that signs 
understood only by regular playgoers were also used. " For all 
those things which are valid among men, because it pleases 
them to agree that they shall be so, are human institutions. . . . 
So if the signs which mimes make in their performances had 
their meaning from nature, and not from the agreement and 
ordinance of men, the crier in old times would not have given 
out to the Carthaginians at the play what the actor meant to 
express, a thing still remembered by many old men by whom 
we use to hear it said ; which is readily to be believed, seeing 
that even now, if any one who is not learned in such follies goes 

1 ' Mahrchensamnjlung des Somadeva Bbatta' (trans, by Dr. H. Brockhaus); Leipzig, 
1843, ii. p. 96. 

} Macrob. Saturn, lib. ii. c. x. Lucian. De Saltatione, 64. 


into the theatre, unless some one else tells him what the signs 
mean, he can make nothing of them. All men, indeed, desire a 
certain likeness in sign-making, that the signs should be as like 
as may be to that which is signified ; but seeing that things 
may be like one another in many ways, such signs are not 
constant among men, unless by common consent." l 

Knowing what we do of mimic performances from other 
sources, we can, I think, only understand by this that natural 
gestures were very commonly conventionalized and abridged to 
save time and trouble, and not that arbitrary signs were used ; 
and such abridgments, like the simplified sign for trading or 
swopping among the Indians, as well as the whole class of 
epithets and allusions which would grow up among mimics 
addressing their regular set of playgoers, would not be intelli- 
gible to a stranger. Christians, of course, did not frequent such 
performances in St. Augustine's time, but looked upon them as 
utterly abominable and devilish ; nor can we accuse them of 
want of charity for this, when we consider the class of scenes 
that were commonly chosen for representation. 

There seem to have been written lists of signs used to learn 
from, which are now lost. 2 The mimic, it should be observed, 
had not the same difficulties to contend with as an Indian 
interpreter. In the first place, the stories represented were 
generally mythological, very usually love-passages of the gods 
and heroes, with which the whole audience was perfectly fami- 
liar ; and, moreover, appropriate words were commonly sung 
while the mimic acted, so that he could apply all his skill to 
giving artistic illustrations of the tale as it went on. The pan- 
tomimic performances of Southern Europe may be taken as 
representing in some degree the ancient art, but it is likely that 
the mimicry in the modern ballet and the Eastern pantomimic 
plays falls much below the classical standard of excellence. 

I have now noticed what I venture to call the principal dialects 
of the gesture-language. It is fit, however, that, gesture-signs 
having been spoken of as forming a complete and independent 
language by themselves, something should be said of their use 

1 Aug. Doct. Chr. ii. 25. 

2 Grysar, in Ersch and Gruber, art. " Pantomimische Kunst der Alien." 


as an accompaniment to spoken language. We in England 
make comparatively little use of these signs, but they have been 
and are in use in all quarters of the world as highly important 
aids to conversation. Thus, Captain Cook says of the Tahitians, 
after mentioning their habit of counting upon their fingers, that 
"in other instances, we observed taat, when they were convers- 
ing with each other, they joined signs to their words, which 
were so expressive that a stranger might easily apprehend their 
meaning; '" and Charlevoix describes, in almost the same words, 
the expressive pantomime with which an Indian orator accom- 
panied his discourse.* 

Gesticulation goes along with speech, to explain and empha- 
size it, among all mankind. Savage and half-civilized races 
accompany their talk with expressive pantomime much more 
than nations of higher culture. The continual gesticulation of 
Hindoos, Arabs, Greeks, as contrasted with the more northern 
nations of Europe, strikes every traveller who sees them ; and 
the colloquial pantomime of Naples is the subject of a special 
treatise. 3 But we cannot lay down a rule that gesticulation 
decreases as civilization advances, and say, for instance, that a 
Southern Frenchman, because his talk is illustrated with ges- 
tures, as a book with pictures, is less civilized than a German or 
an Englishman. 

We English are perhaps poorer in the gesture -language than 
any other people in the world. We use a form of words to 
denote what a gesture or a tone would express. Perhaps it is 
because we read and write so much, and have come to think and 
talk as we should write, and so let fall those aids to speech 
which cannot be carried into the written language. 

The few gesture- signs which are in common use among our- 
selves are by no means unworthy of examination ; but we have 
lived for so many centuries in a highly artificial state of society, 
that some of them cannot be interpreted with any certainty, and 
the most that we can do is to make a good guess at their original 
meaning. Some, it is true, such as beckoning or motioning 

1 Cook. First Voyage, in Hawkesworth's Voyages ; London, 1773, vol. il p. 228. 

* Charlevoix, vol. i p. 413. 

* Wiseman, ' Essays ;' Loadon, 1853, vol. iii. p. 531. 


away with the hand, shaking the fist, etc., carry their explana- 
tion with them ; and others may he plausibly explained by a 
comparison with analogous signs used by speaking men in other 
parts of the world, and by the deaf-and-dumb. Thus, the sign 
of "snapping- one's fingers" is not very intelligible as we 
generally see it ; but when we notice that the same sign made 
quite gently, as if rolling some tiny object away between the 
finger and thumb, or the sign of flipping it away with the 
thumb-nail and fore-finger, are usual and well-understood deaf- 
and-dumb gestures, denoting anything tiny, insignificant, con- 
temptible, it seems as though we had exaggerated and conven- 
tionalized a perfectly natural action so as to lose sight of its 
original meaning. There is a curious mention of this gesture 
by Strabo. At Anchiale, he writes, Aristobulus says there is a 
monument to Sardanapalus, and a stone statue of him as if 
snapping his fingers, and this inscription in Assyrian letters : 
" Sardanapallus, the son of Anacyndaraxes, built in one day 
Anchiale and Tarsus. Eat, drink, play ; the rest is not worth 
that .' " ' 

Shaking hands is not a custom which belongs naturally to all 
mankind, and we may sometimes trace its introduction into 
countries where it was before unknown. The Fijians, for in- 
stance, who used to salute by smelling or sniffing at one 
another, have learnt to shake hands from the missionaries. 1 
The Wa-nika, near Mombaz, grasp hands ; but they use the 
Moslem variety of the gesture, which is to press the thumbs 
against one another as well, 3 and this makes it all but certain 
that the practice is one of the many effects of Moslem influence 
in East Africa. 

It is commonly thought that the Red Indians adopted the 
custom of shaking hands from the white men." This may be 
true; but there is reason to suppose that the expression of 

1 Strabo, xiv. 5, 9. 

2 Rev. Thos. Williams, 'Fiji and the Fijians,' 2nd ed. ; London, 1860, voL L 
p. 153. 

3 Krapf, 'Travels, etc., in East Africa ; ' London, 1860, p. 138. 

4 H. R. Schoolcraft, ' Historical and Statistical Information respecting the History, 
etc., of the Indian Tribes of the U. S.;' Philadelphia, 1851, etc., part iii. pp. 212, 
241 Burton, 'City of the Saints,' p. 144. But see also Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 263. 


alliance or friendship by clasping hands was already familiar to 
them, so that they would readily adopt it as a form of saluta- 
tion, if they had not used it so before the arrival of the Euro- 
peans. More than a century ago, Charlevoix noticed in the 
Indian j/icture-writing the expression of alliance by the figure of 
two men holding each other by one hand, while each grasped a 
calumet in the other hand. 1 In one of the Indian pictures given 
by Schoolcraft, close affection is represented by two bodies 
united by a single arm (see Fig. 6) ; and in a pictorial message 
sent from an Indian tribe to the President of the United States, 
an cu'4e, which represents a chief, is holding out a hand to the 
President, who also holds out a hand. 3 The last of these pic- 
tured si<*ns may be perhaps ascribed to European influence, but 
hardly the first two. 

We could scarcely find a better illustration of the meaning of 
the gesture of joining hands than in its use as a sign of the 
marriage contract. One of the ceremonies of a Moslem wedding 
consists in the bridegroom and the bride's proxy sitting upon 
the ground, face to face, with one knee on the ground, and 
grasping each other's right hands, raising the thumbs and 
pressing them against each other,* or in the almost identical 
ceremony in the Pacific Islands, in which the bride and bride- 
groom are placed on a large white cloth, spread on the pavement 
of a marae, and join hands/ This as evidently means that the 
man and wife are joined together, as the corresponding ceremony 
in the ancient Mexican and the modern Hindu wedding, in 
which the clothes of the parties are tied together in a knot. 
Among our own Aryan race, the taking hands was a usual cere- 
mony in marriage in the Vedic period. 5 The idea which shaking 
hands was originally intended to convey, was clearly that of 
fastening together in peace and friendship ; and the same 
thought appears in the probable etymology of peace, pax, 
Sanskrit pa?, to bind, and in league from ligare. 

Cowering or crouching is so natural an expression of fear or 

1 Charlevoix, vol. v. p. 440. 2 Schoolcraft, parti, pp. 403, 418. 

* E. W. Lane, ' Modern Egyptians ;' London, 1837, vol. i. p. 219. 

4 Rev. W. Ellis, 'Polynesian Researches ;' London^ 1830, vol. ii. p. 569. 

Ad. Pictet, ' Ojigines Indo-Europeenues ; ' Paris, 1859-63, part ii. p. 336. 


inability to resist, that it belongs to the brutes as well as to 
man. Among ourselves this natural sign of submission is 
generally used in the modified forms of bowing and kneeling ; 
but the analogous gestures found in different countries not only 
give us the intermediate stages between an actual prostration 
and a slight bow, but also a set of gestures and ceremonies 
which are merely suggestive of a prostration which is not actually 
performed. The extreme act of lying with the face in the dust 
is not only usual in China, Siam, etc., but even in Siberia the 
peasant grovels on the ground and kisses the dust before a man 
of rank. The Arab only suggests such a humiliation by bending 
his hand to the ground and then putting it to his lips and fore- 
head, a gesture almost identical with that of the ancient 
Mexican, who touched the ground with his right hand and put 
it to his mouth. 1 Captain Cook describes the way of doing re- 
verence to chiefs in the Tonga Islands, which was in this wise : 
When a subject approached to do homage, the chief had to hold 
up his foot behind, as a horse does, and the subject touched the 
sole with his fingers, thus placing himself, as it were, under the 
sole of his lord's foot. Every one seemed to have the right of 
doing reverence in this way when he pleased ; and chiefs got so 
tired of holding up their feet to be touched, that they would 
make their escape at the very sight of a loyal subject. 2 Other 
developments of the idea are found in the objection made to a 
Polynesian chief going down into the ship's cabin, 3 and to images 
of Buddha being kept there 4 in Siam, namely, that they were in- 
sulted by the sailors walking over their heads, and in the custom, 
also among the Tongans, of sitting down when a chief passed. 5 
The ancient Egyptian may be seen in the sculptures abbreviating 
the gesture of touching the ground, by merely putting one hand 
clown to his knee in bowing before a superior. A slight inclina- 
tion of the body indicates submission or reverence, and becomes 
at last a mere act of politeness, not involving any sense of in- 
feriority at all. This is brought about by that common habit of 

1 A. v. Humboldt, ' Yues des Cordilleres ; ' Paris, 1810, p. 83. 

3 Cook. Third Voyage, 2nd ed. ; London, 1785, vol. i. pp. 267, 409. 
8 Cook, Third Voyage, vol. i. p. 265. 

4 Sir J. Bowring, ' Siam ; ' London, 1857, vol. i. p. 125. 5 Cook, ib. p. 409. 


civilized man, of pretending to a humility that he does not feel, 
which leads the Chinese to allude to himself in conversation as 
" the blockhead " or " the thief," and makes our own high official 
personages write themselves, Sir, your most obedient humble 
sen-ant, to persons whom they really consider their inferiors. 

With regard to the position of the hands in prayer, there 
seems to have been a confusion of gestures distinct in their 
origin. With hands held out as if to touch or embrace a pro- 
tector, to receive a gift, to ward off a blow, to present a helpless 
suppliant, unresisting or even offering his wrists for the cord, 1 
the worshipper has means of expression which, when meaning 
becomes stiff in ceremony, he often misapplies. It is not un- 
natural that mercy or protection should be looked upon as a gift, 
and that the rustic Phidyle should hold out her supine hands to 
ask that her vines should not feel the pestilent south-west wind ; 
but the conventionalizing process is carried much further when 
the hands clasped or with the finger-tips set together can be 
used to ask for a benefit which they cannot even catch hold of 
when it comes. 

It is easy enough to give a plausible reason for the custom of 
taking off the hat as an expression of reverence or politeness, by 
referring it to times when armour was generally worn. To take 
off the helmet would be equivalent to disarming, and would indi- 
cate, in the most practical manner, either submission or peace. 
The practice of laying aside arms on entering a house appears in 
a quotation from the ' Boke of Curtayse,' which shows that in 
the Middle Ages visitors were expected to leave their weapons 
with the porter at the outer gate, and when they came to the 
hall door to take off hoods and gloves. 

" When thou come tho hall dor to, 
Do of thy hode, thy gloves also." 8 

That women are not required to uncover their heads in church 
or on a visit, is quite consistent with such an origin of the 
custom, as their head-dresses were not armour ; and the same 

1 Wedgwood, 'Origin of Language ;' London, 1866, p. 146. Grimm, D. M. p. 
1200.^ Meiners, 'Allg. Geseh. der Keligionen ; ' Hanover, 1806-7, vol. ii. p. 280. 
* Wright, 'History of Domestic Manners,' etc.; London, lbb'2, p. 141. 


consistency may be observed in the practice of ladies keeping 
the glove on in shaking hands, while men very commonly re- 
move it. When a knight's glove was a steel gauntlet, such a 
distinction would be reasonable enough. 

This may indeed be fanciful. The practice of women having 
the head covered in church belongs to the earliest period of 
Christianity, and the reasons for adopting it were clearly speci- 
fied. And the usage of men praying with the head uncovered, 
may have been an intentional reversal of the practice of covering 
the head in offering sacrifice among the Romans, and among the 
Jews in their prayers then and now. It does not seem to have 
been universal, and is even now not followed in the Coptic" and 
Abyssinian churches, in which the Semitic custom of uncovering 
not the head but the feet is still kept up. This latter ceremony 
is of high antiquity, and may be plausibly explained as having 
been done at first merely for cleanliness, as it is now among the 
Moslems in their baths and houses, as well as in their mosques, 
that the ground may not be defiled. 

There are, moreover, a number of practices found in different 
parts of the world, which throw doubt on these off-hand explana- 
tions of the customs of uncovering the head and feet, and would 
almost lead us to include both, as particular cases of a general 
class of reverential uncoverings of the body. Saul strips off his 
clothes to prophesy, and lies down so all that day and night. 1 
Tertullian speaks against the practice of praying with cloaks 
laid aside, as the heathen do. 3 There was a well-known custom 
in Tahiti, of uncovering the body down to the waist in honour of 
gods or chiefs, and even in the neighbourhood of a temple, and 
on the sacred ground set apart for royalty, with which may be 
classed a very odd ceremony, which was performed before Cap- 
tain Cook on his first visit to the island. 3 

The regulations concerning the fow or turban in the Tonga 
Islands are very curious, from their partial resemblance to Euro- 
pean usages. The turban, Mariner says, may only be worn by 
warriors going to battle, or at sham fights, or at night-time by 

1 1 Sam. xix. 24. 2 Tcrt., ' De Oratione,' xii. 

3 Cook, ' First Voy. H.,' vol. ii. pp. 125, 153. Ellis, ' Polyn. Jits.,' vol. ii. pp. 171, 


chiefs and nobles, or by the common people when at work in the 
fields or in canoes. On all other occasions, to wear a head-dress 
would be disrespectful, for although no chief should be present, 
some god might be at hand unseen. If a man were to wear a tur- 
ban except on these occasions, the first person of superior rank 
who met him would knock him down, and perhaps even an equal 
mi^ht do it. Even when the turban is allowed to be worn, it 
must be taken off when a superior approaches, unless in actual 
battle, but a man who is not much higher in rank will say, 
" Toogo ho fow," that is, Keep on your turban. 1 

During the administration of the ordeal by poison in Madagas- 
car, 'Ellis says that no one is allowed to sit on his long robe, nor 
to wear the cloth round the waist, and females must keep their 
shoulders uncovered. 2 A remarkable statement is made by Ibn 
Batuta, in his account of his journey into the Soudan, in the 
fourteenth century. He mentions as an evil thing which he has 
observed in the conduct of the blacks, that women may only 
come unclothed into the presence of the Sultan of Melli, and 
even the Sultan's own daughters must conform to the custom. 
He notices also, that they threw dust and ashes on their heads 
as a sign of reverence, 3 which makes it appear that the stripping 
was also a mere act of humiliation. With regard to the practice 
of uncovering the feet, when we find the Damaras, in South 
Africa, taking off their sandals, before entering a stranger's 
house, 4 the idea of connecting the practice with the ancient 
Egyptian custom, or of ascribing it to Moslem influence, at 
once suggests itself, but the taking off the sandals as a sign 
of respect seems to have prevailed in Peru. No common 
Indian, it is said, dared go shod along the Street of the Sun, 
nor might any one, however great a lord he might be, enter the 
houses of the sun with shoes on, and even the Inca himself went 
barefoot into the Temple of the Sun. ;> 

- Mariner, ' Tonga Islands ; ' vol. L p. 158. 

8 Rv. W. Ellis, ' Hist, of Madagascar ; ' London, 1838, vol. i. p. 44. 
8 Ibn Batuta in 'Journal Asiatique,' 4 me Serie, vol. i. p. 221. Waitz, 'Introd. to 
Anthropology,' E. Tr. ed. by J. F. Collingwood ; part i., London, 1863, p. 301. 
1 C. J. Andersson, 'Lake Ngami,' etc., 2nd ed.; London, 1856, p. 231. 
1 Prescott, 'History of the Conquest of Peru, 1 2nd ed. ; London, 1847, vol. i. pp. 
97, 78. 


In this group of reverential uncoverings, the idea that the 
subject presents himself naked, defenceless, poor, and miserable 
before his lord, seems to be dramatically expressed, and this 
view is borne out by the practice of stripping, or uncovering the 
head and feet, as a sign of mourning, 1 where there can hardly be 
anything but destitution and misery to be expressed. 

The lowest class of salutations, which merely aim at giving 
pleasant bodily sensations, merge into the civilities which we see 
exchanged among the lower animals. Such are patting, stroking, 
kissing, pressing noses, blowing, sniffing, and so forth. The 
often described sign of pleasure or greeting of the Indians of 
North America, by rubbing each other's arms, breasts, and 
stomachs, and their own, 2 is similar to the Central African 
custom, of two men clasping each other's arms with both hands, 
and rubbing them up and down, 3 and that of stroking one's own 
face with another's hand or foot, in Polynesia; 4 and the pattings 
and slappings of the Fuegians belong to the same class. Darwin 
describes the way in which noses are pressed in New Zealand, 
with details which have escaped less accurate observers. 5 It is 
curious that Linnaeus found the salutation by touching noses in 
the Lapland Alps. People did not kiss, but put noses together. 6 
The Andaman Islanders salute by blowing into another's hand 
with a cooing murmur. 7 Charlevoix speaks of an Indian tribe 
on the Gulf of Mexico, who blew into one another's ears ; 8 and 
Du Chaillu describes himself as having been blown upon in 
Africa. 9 Sir S. Baker describes the expression of thanks among 
the Kytch of the White Nile, by holding their benefactor's hand 
and pretending to spit upon it. 10 Natural expressions of joy, 

1 Micah i. 8. Ezekiel xxiv. 17. Herod, ii. 85. Rev. J. Roberts, 'Oriental 
Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures,' 2nd ed. London, 1844, p. 492, etc. 
a Charlevoix, vol. iii. p. 16 ; vol. vi. p. 189, etc. 

3 Burton, 'Lake Regions of Central Africa ; ' London, 1860, vol. ii. p. 69. 
* Cook, ' Third Voy.,' vol. i. p. 179. 

5 Dai-win, 'Journal of Res.,' etc. ; London, 1860, pp. 205, 423. See W.v. Humboldt, 
'Kawi-Spr.' vol. i. p. 77. 

6 Linnaeus, 'Tour in Lapland;' London, 1811, vol. L p. 315. See Kotzebue, 
'Voyage,' vol. i. p. 192 (Esquimaux). 

7 Mouat, ' Andaman Islanders ; ' London, 1863, pp. 279-80. 

8 Charlevoix, vol. iii. p. 16. 

9 Du Chaillu, ' Equatorial Africa ;' London, 1861, pp. 393, 430. 

10 Baker, ' Albert JS'yanza ; ' London, 1866, vol. L p. 72. 

E 2 


guch as clapping hands in Africa, 1 and jumping up and down 
in Tierra del Fuego, 2 are made to do duty as signs of friendship 

or greeting. 

There are a number of well-known gestures which are hard 
explain. Such are various signs of hatred and contempt, such 
as lolling out the tongue, which is a universal sign, though it is 
not clear why it should he so, biting the thumb, making the 
sign of the stork's bill behind another's back (ciconiamfacere), 
and the sign known as " taking a sight," which was as common 
at the time of Rabelais as it is now. 

In modern India, as in ancient Rome, only a part of the signs 
we find described are such as can be set down at once to their 
proper origin. 3 One of the common gestures in India, especially, 
has puzzled many Europeans. This is the way of beckoning 
with the hand to call a person, which looks as though it weiv 
the reverse of the movement which we use for the purpose. I 
have heard, on native authority, that the apparent difference 
consists in the palm being outwards instead of inwards, but a 
remark made about the natives of the south of India by Mr. 
Roberts, who seems to have been an extremely good observer, 
suggests another explanation : " The way in which the people 
beckon for a person, is to lift up the right hand to its extreme 
height, and then bring it down with a sudden sweep to the 
ground." 4 It is evident that to make a sort of abbreviation of 
this movement, as by doing it from the wrist or elbow instead of 
from the shoulder, would be a natural sign, and yet would be 
liable to be taken for our gesture of motioning away. It is pos- 
sible that something of this kind has led to the following descrip- 
tion of the way of beckoning in New Zealand : " In signals for 
those some way off to come near, the arm is waved in an exactly 
opposite direction to that adopted by Englishmen for similar 
purposes, and the natives in giving silent assent to anything, 
elevate the head and chin in place of nodding acquiescence." 6 

1 Burton, 'Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 69. 
1 Wilkes, U. 8. Exploring Exp. ; London, 1845, vol. i. p. 127. 
1 Piin. xi. 103. Koberts, 'Oriental lllustr.,' pp. 87, 90, 285, 293, 461, 475, 491. 
4 'Oriental lllustr.' p. 396. 

A. S. Thomson, ' The Story of New Zealand ;' London, 1859, vol. i. p. 209. See 
Cook, 'First Voy. H.,' voL ii. p. 311. 


The contrast between yes and no is variously made by different 
nations. The ancient Greeks used to nod (Karai>evu>, eTrivewo) 
for yes, but to throw back the head (avavevv) for no; these 
signs may still be seen in Italy. 1 The Turk throws his head 
back with a cluck to express no, but can express yes by a 
movement like our shaking the head. 3 The Siamese priest's 
gestures in giving evidence, are raising his hat or fan to express 
yes, and lowering it to express no. 3 

Of signs used to avert the evil eye, some are connected with 
the ancient counter-charms, and others are of uncertain meaning, 
such as the very common one represented in old Greek and 
Eonian amulets, the hand closed all but the fore-finger and little 
finger, which are held out straight. When King Ferdinand I. 
of Naples used to appear in public, he might be seen to put his 
hand from time to time into his pocket. Those who understood 
his ways knew that he was clenching his fist with the thumb 
stuck out between the first and second fingers, to avert the 
effect of a glance of the evil eye that some one in the street might 
have cast on him. 

Enough has now been said to show that gesture-language is 
a natural mode of expression common to mankind in general. 
Moreover, this is true in a different sense to that in which we say 
that spoken language is common to mankind, including under 
the word language many hundreds of mutually unintelligible 
tongues, for the gesture-language is essentially one and the same 
in all times and all countries. It is true that the signs used in 
different places, and by different persons, are only partially the 
same ; but it must be remembered that the same idea may be ex- 
pressed in signs in very many ways, and that it is not necessary 
that all should choose the same. How the choice of gesture- 
signs is influenced by education and habit of life is well shown 
by a story told somewhere of a boy, himself deaf-and-dumb, 
who paid a visit to a Deaf-and-Dumb Asylum. When he 
was gone, the inmates expressed to the master their disgust at 
his ways. He talked an ugly language, they said; when he 

1 Liddell and Scott ; Liebrecht in Heidelb. Jahrb., 1868, p. 325. 

2 Bastian, vol. i. p. 395. 

* Low in Journ. Ind. Arcliip., vol. i. p. 356. 


wanted to show that something was black, he pointed to his 
dirty nails. 

The best evidence of the unity of the gesture -language is the 
ease and certainty with which any savage from any country can 
understand and be understood in a deaf-and-dumb school. A 
native of Hawaii is taken to an American Institution, and begins 
at once to talk in signs with the children, and to tell about his 
voyage and the country he came from. A Chinese, who had 
fallen into a state of melancholy from long want of society, is 
quite revived by being taken to the same place, where he can 
talk in gestures to his heart's content. A deaf-and-dumb lad 
named Collins is taken to see some Laplanders, who were 
carried about to be exhibited, and writes thus to his fellow- 
pupils about the Lapland woman: "Mr. Joseph Humphreys 
told me to speak to her by signs, and she understood me. 
When Cunningham was with me, asking Lapland woman, and 
she frowned at him and me. She did not know we were deaf- 
and-dumb, but afterwards she knew that we were deaf-and-dumb, 
then she spoke to us about reindeers and elks and smiled at us 
much." 1 

The study of the gesture-language is not only useful as giving 
us some insight into the workings of the human mind. We can 
only judge what other men's minds are like by observing their 
outward manifestations, and similarity in the most direct .and 
simple kind of utterance is good evidence of similarity in the 
mental processes which it communicates to the outer world. As, 
then, the gesture-language appears not to be specifically affected 
by differences in the race or climate of those who use it, the 
shape of their skulls and the colour of their skins, its evidence, 
so far as it goes, bears against the supposition that specific 
differences are traceable among the various races of man, at least 
in the more elementary processes of the mind. 

1 Dr. Orpen, ' The Contrast,' p. 177. 



WE know very little about the origin of language, but the 
subject has so great a charm for the human mind that the want 
of evidence has not prevented the growth of theory after theory ; 
and all sorts of men, with all sorts of qualifications, have solved 
the problem, each in his own fashion. We may read, for 
instance, Dante's treatise on the vulgar tongue, and wonder, not 
that, as he lived in mediaeval times, his argument is but a 
mediaeval argument, but that in the ' Paradiso,' seemingly on 
the strength of some quite futile piece of evidence, he should 
have made Adam enunciate a notion which even in this nineteenth 
century has hardly got fairly hold of the popular mind, namely, 
that there is no primitive language of man to be found existing 
on earth. 

" La lingua ch' io parlai fu tatta spenta 

Innanzi che all' ovra inconsumable 

Fosse la gente di Nembrotte attenta. 
Che nullo affetto mai raziocinabile 

Per lo piacere uman che rinnovella, 

Seguendo ! 1 cielo, sempre fu durabile. 
Opera naturale e ch' uom favella : 

Ma cosi, o cosl, natura lascia 

Poi fare a voi secondo che v' abbella. 
Pria ch' io scendessi all' infernale ambascia 

EL s' appellava in terra il sommo Bene 

On^e vien la letizia che mi fascia : 
ELI si chiamo poi : e cio conviene : 

Che 1' uso de' mortali e come fronda 

In ramo, che sen va, ed altra viene." 

In Mr. Pollock's translation : 

" The Language, which 1 spoke, was quite worn out 
Before unto the work impossible 


The race of Nimrod had their labour turned ; 

For no production of the intellect 

Which is renewed at pleasure of mankind, 

Following the sky, was durable for aye. 

It is a natural thing that man should speak ; 

But whether this or that way. nature leaves 

To your election, as it pleases you. 

Ere I descended on the infernal road, 

Upon earth, EL was called the Highest Good, 

From whom the enjoyment flows that me surrounds; 

And was called ELI after ; as was meet : 

For mortal usages are like a leaf 

Upon a bough, which goes, and others come." 

Since Dante's time, how many men of genius have set the 
whole power of their minds against the problem, and to how 
little purpose. Steinthal's masterly summary of these specula- 
tions in his ' Origin of Language ' is quite melancholy reading. 
It may indeed be brought forward as evidence to prove something 
that matters far more to us than the early history of language, 
that it is of as little use to be a good reasoner when there are no 
facts to reason upon, as it is to be a good bricklayer when there 
are no bricks to build with. 

At the root of the problem of the origin of language lies the 
question, why certain words were originally used to represent 
certain ideas, or mental conditions, or whatever we may call 
them. The word may have been used for the idea because it 
had an evident fitness to be used rather than another word, or 
because some association of ideas, which we cannot now trace, 
may have led to its choice. That the selection of words to 
express ideas was^ever purely arbitrary, that is to say, such that 
it would have been consistent with its principle to exchange any 
two words as we may exchange algebraic symbols, or to shake 
up a number of words in a bag and re-distribute them at random 
among the ideas they represented, is a supposition opposed to 
such knowledge as we have of the formation of language. And 
not in language only, but in the study of the whole range of art 
and belief among mankind, the principle is continually coming 
more and more clearly into view, that man has not only a definite 
reason, but very commonly an assignable one, for everything 
that he does and believes. 

In the only departments of language of whose origin we have 


any certain notion, as for instance in the class of pure imitative 
words such as " cuckoo,'" "peewit,'" and the like, the connection 
between word and idea is not only real hut evident. It is true 
that different imitative words may be used for the same sound, 
as for instance the tick of a clock is called also pick in Germany ; 
but both these words have an evident resemblance to the un- 
writeable sound that a clock really makes. So the Tahitian 
word for the crowing of cocks, aaoa, might be brought over as 
a rival to " cock-a-doodle-do ! " There is, moreover, a class of 
words of undetermined extent, which seem to have been either 
chosen in some measure with a view to the fitness of their sound 
to represent their sense, or actually modified by a reflection of 
sound into sense. Some such process seems to have made the 
distinction between to crash, to crush, to crunch, and to craunch, 
and to have differenced ioflif), to flap, to flop, and to flump, out 
of a common root. Some of these words must be looked for in 
dictionaries of "provincialisms," but they are none the less 
English for that. In pure interjections, such as oh ! ah ! the 
connection between the actual pronunciation and the idea which 
is to be conveyed is perceptible enough, though it is hardly 
more possible to define it than it is to convey in writing their 
innumerable modulations of sound and sense. 

But if there was a living connection between word and idea 
outside the range of these classes of words, it seems dead now. 
We might just as well use " inhabitable" in the French sense 
as in that of modern English. In fact Shakspeare and other 
writers do so, as where Norfolk says in ' Kichard the Second,' 

" Even to the frozen ridges of the Alps, 
Or any other ground inhabitable." 

It makes no practical difference to the world at large, that our 
word to " rise " belongs to the same root as Old German risan, 
to fall, French arriser, to let fall, whichever of the two meanings 
may have come first, nor that black, Uanc, bleich, to bleach, to 
blacken, Anglo-Saxon blcec, Wac=black, bldc=pnle, white, come 
so nearly together in sound. It has been plausibly conjectured 
that the reversal of the meaning of to "rise" may have happened 
through a preposition being prefixed to change the sense, and 


dropping off again, leaving the word with its altered meaning, 1 
while if black is related to German blaken, to hum, and has the 
sense of " charred, hurnt to a coal," and blanc has that of 
shining, 2 a common origin may possibly he forthcoming for both 
sets among the family of words which includes blaze, fulf/eo, 
fl<i<iro, <Ae'yo>, <Ao, Sanskrit bhiai), and so fortn. But explana- 
tions of this kind have no hearing on the practical use of such 
words by mankind at "large, who take what is given them and 
ask no questions. Indeed, however much such a notion may 
vex the souls of etymologists, there is a great deal to he said for 
the view that much of the accuracy of our modern languages is 
due to their having so far "lost consciousness" of the derivation 
of their words, which thus become like counters or algebraic 
symbols, good to represent just what they are set down to mean. 
Archeology is a very interesting and instructive study, but when 
it comes to exact argument, it may be that the distinctness of 
our apprehension of what a word means, is not always increased 
by a misty recollection hovering about it in our minds, that it 
or its family once meant something else. For such purposes, 
what is required is not so much a knowledge of etymology, as 
accurate definition, and the practice of checking words by 
realizing the things and actions they are used to denote. 

It is as bearing on the question of the relation between idea 
and word that the study of the gesture-language is of particular 
interest. We have in it a method of human utterance indepen- 
dent of speech, and carried on through a different medium, in 
which, as has been said, the connection between idea and sign 
has hardly ever been broken, or even lost sight of for a moment. 
The gesture-language is in fact a system of utterance to which 
the description of the primaeval language in the Chinese myth 
may be applied ; " Suy-jin first gave names to plants and animals, 
and these names were so expressive, that by the name of a thing 
it was known what it was." 3 

To speak first of the comparison of gesture-signs with words, 

1 Jacob Grimm, ' Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache ; ' Leipzig, 1848, p. 664. 
3 See J. and W. Grimm, ' Deutsches Worterbuch,' s. vv. black, blaken, Hick, etc. 
Diez, Worterb., s. v. bianco. 

3 Goguet, 'De 1'Origine des Loix,' etc.; Paris, 1758, voL iii. p. 322. 


it has been already observed that the gesture-language uses two 
different processes. It brings objects and actions bodily into the 
conversation, by pointing to them or looking at them, and it also 
suggests by imitation of actions, or by " pictures in the air," and 
these two processes may be used separately or combined. This 
division may be clumsy and in some cases inaccurate, but it is 
the best I have succeeded in making. I will now examine more 
closely the first division, in which objects are brought directly 
before the mind. 

When Mr. Lemuel Gulliver visited the school of languages in 
Lagado, he was made acquainted Avith a scheme for improving 
language by abolishing all words whatsoever. Words being only 
names for things, people were to carry the things themselves 
about, instead of wasting their breath in talking about them. 
The learned adopted the scheme, and sages might be seen in the 
streets bending under their heavy sacks of materials for conver- 
sation, or unpacking their loads for a talk. This was found 
somewhat troublesome. " But for short conversations, a man 
may carry implements in his pockets, and under his arms, enough 
to supply him; and in his house, he cannot be at a loss. There- 
fore the room where the company meet who practise this art, is 
full of all things, ready at hand, requisite to furnish matter for 
this kind of artificial converse." 

The traveller records that this plan did not come into general 
use, owing to the ignorant opposition of the women and the 
common people, who threatened to raise a rebellion if they were 
not allowed to speak with their tongues after the manner of their 
forefathers. But this system of talking by objects is in sober 
earnest an important part of the gesture-language, and in its 
early development among the deaf-and-dumb, perhaps the most 
important. Is there then anything in spoken language that can 
be compared with the gestures by which this process is performed? 
Quintilian incidentally answers the question. "As for the hands 
indeed, without which action would be maimed and feeble, one 
can hardly say how many movements they have, when they almost 
follow the whole stock of words; for the other members help the 
speaker, but they, I may almost say, themselves speak." . . . "Do 
they not in pointing out places and persons, fulfil the purpose of 


adrerbs and pronouns ? so that in so great a diversity of tongues 
among all people and nations this seems to me the common lan- 
guage of all mankind?" "Manus vero, sine quibus trunca esset 
actio ac debilis, vix dici potest, quot motus habeant, quum paene 
ipsam verborum copiam persequantur ; nam caeterae partes 
loquentem adjuvant, has, prope est ut dicam, ipsse loquuntur. . 
. . . Non in demonstrandis locis ac pcrsonis adverbiorum atque 
pronominum obtinent vicem ? ut in tanta per omnes gentes 
nationesque linguae diversitate hie mihi omnium hominum com- 
munis sermo videatur." 1 

Where a man stands is to him the centre of the universe, and 
he refers the position of any object to himself, as before or behind 
him, above or below him, and so on; or he makes his fore-finger 
issue, as it were, as a radius from this imaginary centre, and, 
pointing in any direction into space, says that the thing he points 
out is there. He defines the position of an object somewhat as it 
is done in Analytical Geometry, using either a radius vector, to 
which the demonstrative pronoun may partly be compared, or 
referring it to three axes, as, in front or behind, to the right or 
left, above or below. His body, however, not being a point, but 
a structure of considerable size, he often confuses his terms, as 
when he uses here for some spot only comparatively near him, 
instead of making it come towards the same imaginary centre 
whence there started. He can in thought shift his centre of co- 
ordinates and the position of his axes, and imagining himself in 
the place of another person, or even of an inanimate object, can 
describe the position of himself or anything else with respect to 
them. Movement and direction come before his mind as a real 
or imaginary going from one place to another, and such move- 
ment gives him the idea of time which the deaf-and-dumb man 
expresses by drawing a line with his finger along his arm from 
one point to another, and the speaker by a similar adaptation of 
prepositions or adverbs of place. 

I do not wish to venture below the surface of this difficult subject, 

1 Quint., Inst. Orat., lib. xi. 3, 85, xeqq. "Luther fiihrt an das ist mein leib und 
bemerkt (label folgendes, ' das ist ein pronomen und lautet der buchstab a drinnen 
stark und lang, als ware es geschriebeu also, dahas, wie ein schwabisch oder algau- 
wisch daas lautet, und wer es horet, dem ist als stehe ein finger dabei der darauf 
wige'" (Grimm, 'D. W.,' t. v. "der"). 


for an elaborate examination of which I would especially refer to 
the researches of Professor Pott, of Halle. 1 But it may be worth 
\vhile to call attention to an apparent resemblance of two divisions 
of the root-words of our Aryan languages to the two great classes 
of gesture-signs. Professor Max Miiller divides the Sanskrit 
root-forms into two classes, the predicative roots, such as to 
shine, to extend, and so forth; and the demonstrative roots, "a 
small class of independent radicals, not predicative in the usual 
sense of the word, but simply pointing, simply expressive of 
existence under certain more or less definite, local or temporal 
prescriptions." 2 If we take from among the examples given, 
here, there, this, that, thou, he, as types, we have a division of 
the elements of the Sanskrit language to which a division of the 
signs of the deaf-mute into predicative and demonstrative would 
at least roughly correspond. Many centuries ago the Indian 
grammarians made desperate eiforts to bring pronouns and verbs, 
as the Germans say, "under one hat." They deduced the demon- 
strative ta from tan, to stretch, and the relative ya from yag, to 
worship. Unity is pleasant to mankind, who are often ready to 
sacrifice things of more consequence than etymology for it. But 
perhaps, after all, the world may not have been constructed for 
the purpose of providing for the human mind just what it is 
pleased to ask for. Of course, any full comparison of speech 
and the gesture-language would have to go into the hard problem 
of the relation of prepositions to adverbs and pronouns on the 
one hand, and to verb-roots on the other. As to this matter, I 
can only say that the educated deaf-mute puts his right fore- 
finger into the palm of his left hand to say "in," takes it out 
again to say " out," puts his right hand above or below his left 
to say "above " or " below," etc., which are imitative signs, very 
likely learnt from the teacher. But the natural gestures with 
which he shows that anything is " above me," " behind me," 
and so on, are of a more direct character, and are rather demon- 
strative than predicative. 

The class of imitative and suggestive signs in the gesture- 
language corresponds in some measure with the Chinese words 

1 Pott, ' Etymologisclie Forsclmngen,' new ed. ; Lemgo and Detmold, 1859, etc., 
vol. i 2 Miiller, Lectures, 3rd ed. ; London, 1862, p. 272. 


which are neither verbs, substantives, adjectives, nor adverbs, 
but answer the purpose of all of them, as, for instance, ta, 
meaning great, greatness, to make great, to be great, greatly j 1 
or they may be compared with what Sanskrit roots would be if 
they were used as they stand in the dictionaries, without any 
inflections. In the gesture-language there seems no distinction 
between the adjective, the adverb which belongs to it, the sub- 
stantive, and the verb. To say, for instance, " Tho pear is 
green," the deaf-and-dumb child first eats an imaginary pear, 
and then using the back of the flat left hand as a ground, he 
makes the fingers of the right hand grow up on the edge of it 
like blades of grass. We might translate the signs as " pear- 
grass ; " but they have quite as good a right to be classed as 
verbs, for they are signs of eating in a peculiar way, and growing. 
It is not necessary to have recourse to Asiatic languages for 
analogies of this kind with the gesture-language. The sub- 
stantive-adjective is common enough in English, and indeed in 
most other languages. In such compounds as chestnut-horse, 
spoon-bill, iron-stone, feather-grass, we have the substantive put 
to express a quality which distinguishes it. Our own language, 
which has gone so far towards assimilating itself to the Chinese 
by dropping inflection and making syntax do its work, has 
developed to a great extent a concretism which is like that of 
the Chinese, who makes one word do duty for " stick " and " to 
beat with a stick," or of the deaf-mute, whose sign for " butter" 
or the act of " buttering " is the same, the imitation of spreading 
with his finger on the palm of his hand. To butter bread, to 
cudgel a man, to oil machinery, to pepper a dish, and scores of 
such expressions, involve action and instrument in one word, and 
that word a substantive treated as the root or crude form of a 
verb. Such expressions are concretisms, picture-words, gesture- 
words, as much as the deaf-and-dumb man's one sign for 
"butter " and "buttering." To separate these words, and to 
say that there is one butter, a noun, and another butter, a verb, 
may be convenient for the dictionary ; but to pretend that there 
is a real distinction between the words is a mere grammatical 
juggle, like saying that the noun man has a nominative case 

Endlicher, 'Chin. Gramm.'; Vienna, 1845, p. 168. 


man, and an objective case which is also man, and much of the 
rest of the curious system of putting new wine into old bottles, 
and stretching the organism of a live language upon a dead 
framework, which is commonly taught as English Grammar. 

The reference of substantives to a verb-root in the Aryan 
languages and elsewhere is thoroughly in harmony with the 
spirit of the gesture-language. Thus, the horse is the neigher ; 
stone is what stands, is stable : water is that which waves, 
undulates; the mouse is the stealer ; an age is what goes on ; 
the oar is what makes to go ; the serpent is the creeper ; and 
so on ; that is to say, the etymologies of these words lead us 
back to the actions of neighing, standing, waving, stealing, etc. 
Now, the deaf-and-dumb Kruse tells us that even to the mute 
who has no means of communication but signs, " the bird is 
what flies, the fish what swims, the plant what sprouts out of 
the earth." 1 It may be said that action, and form resulting from 
action, form the staple of that part of the gesture-language which 
occupies itself with suggesting to the mind that which it does 
not bring bodily before it. But, though there is so much 
similarity of principle in the formation of gesture-signs and 
words, there is no general correspondence in the particular idea 
chosen to name an object by in the two kinds of utterance. 

In the second place, with regard to the syntax of the gesture- 
language, it is hardly possible to compare it with that of in- 
flected languages such as Latin, which can alter the form of 
words to express their relation to one another. With Chinese 
and some other languages of Eastern Asia, and with English 
and French, etc., where they have thrown off inflection, it may be 
roughly compared, though all these languages use at least gram- 
matical particles which have nothing corresponding to them in 
the gesture-language. Now, it is remarkable to what an extent 
Chinese and English agree in doing just what the gesture- 
language does not. Both put the attribute before the subject, 
pe ma, " white horse ; " shinr/ jin, " holy man ; " both put the 
actor and action before the object, ngo ta ni, " I strike thee," 
tien sang iu, " heaven destroys me." The practice of the 
gasture-language is opposed both to Chinese and English con- 

1 Kruse, p. 53. 


struction, as these examples show. " It seems," says Steinthal, 
" that the speech of the Chinese hastens toward the conclusion, 
and brings the end prominently forward. In the described 
position of the three relations of speech the more important 
member stands last." 1 A more absolute contradiction of the 
leading principle of the gesture-syntax could hardly have been 
formulated in words. 

The theory that the gesture -language was the original lan- 
guage of man, and that speech came afterwards, has been already 
mentioned. We have no foundation to build such a theory upon, 
but there are several questions bearing upon the matter which 
are well worth examining. Before doing so, however, it will be 
well to look a little more closely into the claim of the gesture- 
language to be considered as a means of utterance independent 
of speech. 

In the first place, an absolute separation between the two 
things is not to be found within the range of our experience. 
Though the deaf-mute may not speak himself, yet the most of 
what he knows, he only knows by means of speech, for he learns 
from the gestures of his parents and companions what they 
learnt through words. We speak conventionally of the unedu- 
cated deaf-and-dumb, but every deaf-and-dumb child is educated 
more or less by living among those who speak, and this educa- 
tion begins in the cradle. And on the other hand, no child 
attains to speech independently of the gesture-language, for it 
is in great measure by means of such gestures as pointing, 
nodding, and so forth, that language is first taught. 

In old times, when the mental capacity of the deaf-and-dumb 
was little known, it was thought by the Greeks that they were 
incapable of education, since hearing, the sense of instruction, 
was wanting to them. Quite consistent with this notion is the 
confusion which runs through language between mental stupidity, 
and deafness, dumbness, and even blindness. Surdits means 
"deaf," and also "stupid; " a hollow nut is a deaf-nut, taule. 
Nuss ; KOH/>G'S means dumb, deaf, stupid. " Speechless " (iiifnns, 
being a natural term for a child, in a similar way" 

1 Steinthal, 'Charakteristik der hanptsachlichsten Typen des SpracLbaues ; ' Berlin, 
1860, p. 114, etc. 


"dumb" (tuny), tumb) becomes in old German a common word 
for young, giddy, thoughtless, till at last " dumb and wise " 
come to mean nothing more than " lads and grown men," as 
\vhere in the tournament many a shock is heard of wise and of 
dumb, and the breaking of the lances sounds up towards the sky, 

" Yon iriften und von tumbe-n man horte manegen stoz, 
Da der schefte brechen gein der hoehe doz." * 

Even Kant is to be found committing himself to the opinion, 
so amazing, one would think, to anybody who has ever been 
inside a deaf-and-dumb Institution, that a born mute can never 
attain to more than something analogous to reason (einem 
Analogon der Vernunft). 2 

The evidence of teachers of the deaf-and-dumb goes to prove, 
that in their untaught state, or at least with only such small 
teaching as they get from the signs of their relatives and friends, 
their thought is very limited, but still it is human thought, 
while when they have been regularly instructed and taught to 
read and write, their minds may be developed up to about the 
average cultivation of those who have had the power of speech 
from childhood. Even in a low state of education, the deaf-mute 
seems to conceive general ideas, for when he invents a sign for 
anything, he applies it to all other things of the same class, and 
he can also form abstract ideas in a certain way, or at least he 
knows that there is a quality in which snow and milk agree, and 
he can go on adding other white things, such as the moon and 
whitewash, to his list. He can form a proposition, for he can 
make us understand, and we can make him understand, that 
" this man is old, that man is young." Nor does he seem 
incapable of reasoning in something like a syllogism, even when 
he has no means of communication but the gesture-language, 
and certainly as soon as he has learnt to read that " All men are 
mortal, John is a man, therefore John is mortal," he will show 
by every means of illustration in his power, that he fully 
comprehends the argument. 

There is detailed evidence on record as to the state of mind 

1 Nibel. N6t, 37. 

8 Kant, ' Antliropologie ;' Konigsberg, 179?, p. 49. Schmalz, p. 46. 


of the deaf and dumb who have had no education but what 
comes with mere living among speaking people. Thus Mas- 
sieu, the Abbe Sicard's celebrated pupil, gave an account of 
what he could remember of his untaught state. He loved his 
father and mother much, and made himself understood by them 
in signs. There were six deaf-and-dumb children in the 
family, three boys and three girls. " I stayed," he said, " at 
my home till I was thirteen years and nine months old, and 
never had any instruction ; I had darkness for the letters 
(j'avois tenebres pour les lettres). I expressed my ideas by 
manual signs or gesture. The signs which I used then, to 
express my ideas to my relatives and my brothers and sisters, 
were very different from those of the educated deaf-and-dumb. 
Strangers never understood us when we expressed our ideas to 
them by signs, but the neighbours understood us." He noticed 
oxen, horses, vegetables, houses, and so forth, and remembered 
them when he had seen them. He wanted to learn to read and 
write, and to go to school with the other boys and girls, but was 
not allowed to ; so he went to the school and asked by signs to 
be taught to read and write, but the master refused harshly, and 
turned him out of the school. His father made him kneel at 
prayers with the others, and he imitated the joining ot their 
hands and the movement of their lips, but thought (as other 
deaf-and-dumb children have done) that they were worshipping 
the sky. "I knew the numbers," he said, " before my instruc- 
tion, my fingers had taught me them. I did not know the 
figures; I counted on my fingers, and when the number was 
over ten, I made notches in a piece of wood." When he was 
asked what he used to think people were doing when they looked 
at one another and moved their lips, he replied that he thought 
they were expressing ideas, and in answer to the inquiry why he 
thought so, he said he remembered people speaking about him 
to his father, and than his father threatened to have him 
punished. 1 

Kruse tells a very curious story of an untaught deaf-and-dumb 
boy. He was found by the police wandering about Prague, in 
1805. He could not make himself understood, and they could 

1 Sicard, ' Thcorie,' vol. ii. p. 632, etc. 


find out nothing about him, so they sent him to the deaf-and- 
dumb Institution, where he was taught. When he had been 
sufficiently educated to enable him to give accurate answers to 
questions put to him, he gave an account of what he remem- 
bered of his life previously to his coming to the Institution. 
His father, he said, had a mill, and of this mill, the furniture of 
the house, and the country round it, he gave a precise descrip- 
tion. He gave a circumstantial account of his life there, how 
his mother and sister died, his father married again, his step- 
mother ill-treated him, and he jran away. He did not know his 
own mime, nor what the mill was called, .but he knew it lay 
away from Prague towards the morning. On inquiry being 
made, the boy's statement was confirmed. The police found his 
home, gave him his name, and secured his inheritance for him. 1 

Even Laura Bridgman, who was blind as well as deaf-and- 
dumb, expressed her feelings by the signs we all use, though 
she had never seen them made, and could not tell that the by- 
standers could observe them. She would stamp with delight, 
and shudder at the idea of a cold bath. When astonished, she 
would protrude her lips, and hold up her hands with fingers 
wide spread out, and she might be seen " biting her lips with 
an upward contraction of the facial muscles when roguishly lis- 
tening at the account of some ludicrous mishap, precisely as 
lively persons among us would do." While speaking of a 
person, she would point to the spot where he had been sitting 
when she last conversed with him, and where she still believed 
him to be. 2 

Though, however, the deaf-and-dumb prove clearly to us that 
a man may have human thought without being able to speak, 
they by no means prove that he can think without any means of 
physical expression. Their evidence tends the other way. We 
may read with profit an eloquent passage on this subject by a 
German professor, as, transcendental as it is, it is put in such 
clear terms, that we may almost think we understand it. 

" Herein lies the necessity of utterance, the representation of 

1 Kruse, p. 54. 

2 Lieber, On the Vocal Sounds of Laura Bridgman, in Smitlsonian Contrib., vol. ii. ; 
Washington, 1851. 

V 2 


thought. Thought is not even present to the thinker, till he 
has set it forth out of himself. Man, as an individual endowed 
with sense and with mind, first attains to thought, and at the 
same time to the comprehension of himself, in setting forth out 
of himself the contents of his mind, and in this his free produc- 
tion, he comes to the knowledge of himself, his thinking ' I.' 
He comes first to himself in uttering himself." ] 

This view is not contradicted, but to some extent supported, 
by what we know of the earliest dawnings of thought among 
the deaf-and-dumb. But we must take the word " utterance " 
in its larger sense to include not speech alone, as Heyse seems 
to do, but all ways by which man can express his thoughts. 
Mini is essentially, what the derivation of his name among our 
Aryan race imports, not "the speaker," but he who thinks, he 
who means. 

The deaf-and-dumb Kruse's opinion as to the development of 
thought among his own class, by and together with gesture- 
signs, has been already quoted ; how the qualities which make 
a distinction to him between one thing and another, become, 
when he imitates objects and actions in the air with hands, 
fingers, and gestures, suitable signs, which serve him as a 
means of fixing ideas in his mind, and recalling them to his 
memory, and that thus he makes himself signs, which', scanty 
and imperfect as they may be, yet serve to open a way for 
thought, and these thoughts and signs develope themselves 
further and further. Very similar is Professor Steinthal's 
opinion, which, to some extent, agrees with the theory of the 
manifestation of the Ego adopted by Heyse, but gives a larger 
definition to "utterance." Man, "even when he has no per- 
ception of sound, can yet manifest to himself through any other 
sense that which is contained in his sensible certainty, can set 
forth an object out of himself, and separate himself, his Ego, 
as something permanent and universal, from that which is 
transitory and particular, even if he does not at once compre- 
hend this universal something in the form of the Ego." The 
same writer, after asserting that mind and speech are developed 
together ; that the mind does not originally make speech, but 

1 Heyse, ' System der Sprachwissenschaft ; ' Berlin, 1856, p. 39. 


that it is speech ; that language shapes itself in mind, or mind 
shapes itself in language, goes on to qualify these assertions. 
" We recognise the power of language not so much in the sound, 
as in the inward process. But it is as certain that this goes 
forward in the deaf-mute, as it is that he is a human being, 
flesh of human flesh, and spirit of infinite spirit. But it goes 
forward in him in a somewhat different form," etc. 1 

Whether the human mind is capable of exercising at all any 
of its peculiarly human functions without any means of utter- 
ance, or not, we shall all admit that it could have gone but very 
little way, could only just have passed the line which divides 
beast from man. All experience concurs to prove, that the 
mental powers and the stock of ideas of those human beings 
who have but imperfect means of utterance, are imperfect and 
scanty in proportion to those means. The manner in which we 
can see such persons accompanying their thought with the utter- 
ance which is most convenient to them, shows to how great a 
degree thought- is " talking to oneself." The deaf-and-dumb 
gesticulate as they think. Laura Bridgman's fingers worked, 
making the initial movements for letters of the finger-alphabet, 
not only during her waking thought, but even in her dreams. 

Spoken language, though by no means the exclusive medium 
of thought and expression, is undoubtedly the best. In default 
of this, it is only by means of a substitute for it, namely, alpha- 
betic writing, that we succeed in giving more than a very low 
development to the minds of the deaf-and-dumb ; and they of 
course connect the idea directly with the written word, not as we 
do, the writing with the sound, and then the sound with the idea. 
When they think in writing, as they often do, the image of the 
written words which correspond to their ideas, must rise up 
before them in the " mind's eye." The Germans, who are strong 
advocates of the system of teaching the deaf-and-dumb to articu- 
late, believe that the power of connecting ideas with actual or 
imaginary movements of the organs of speech, gives an enormous 
increase of mental power, which I am, however, inclined to tMink 
is a good deal exaggerated. Heinicke gives a description of the 
results of his teaching his pupils to articulate, their delight at 
1 Steinthal, Spr. der T. pp. 907, 909. 


being able to communicate their ideas in this new way, and the 
increased intelligence which appeared in the expression of their 
faces. As soon, he says, as the born-mute is sufficiently taught 
to enable him to increase his stock of ideas by the power of 
naming them, he begins to talk aloud in his sleep, and when 
this happens, it shows that the power of thinking in words has 
taken root. 1 Heinicke was, however, an enthusiast for his 
system of teaching, and in practice it is I believe generally 
found that articulation does not displace gesture-signs and 
written language as a medium of thought ; and certainly, the 
deaf-and-dumb who can speak, very much prefer the sign 
language for practical use among themselves. Of course, no 
one doubts that it is desirable that the children should be taught 
to speak, and to read from the lips, especially when the deaf- 
ness is not total : but the question whether it is worth while to 
devote to this object a large proportion of the few years' instruc- 
tion which is given to the poorer pupils, is not yet a settled one 
among instructors. It is asserted in Germany, that a want of 
the natural use of the lungs promotes the tendency to consump- 
tion, which is very common among the deaf-and-dumb, and that 
teaching them to articulate tends to counteract this. This 
sounds probable enough, though I do not find, even in Schmalz, 
any sufficient evidence to prove it, but at any rate, there is no 
doubt that the deaf-and-dumb should be encouraged to use 
their lungs in shouting at their play, as they naturally do. 

It is quite clear that the loss of the powers of hearing and 
speech is a loss to the mind which no substitute can fully 
replace. Children who have learnt to speak and afterwards 
become deaf, lose the power of thinking in inward language, and 
become to all intents and purposes the same as those who could 
never hear at all, unless great pains are taken to keep up and 
increase their knowledge by other means. " And thus even 
those who become hard of hearing at an age when they can 
already speak a little, by little and little lose all that they have 
learnt. Their voices lose all cheerfulness and euphony, every 
day wipes a word out of the memory, and with it the idea of 
which it was the sign." 2 

1 Heinicke. p. 103. etc. gdmuj^ pp . 2, 32. 


Spoken words appear to be, in the minds of the deaf-mutes 
who have been artificially taught to speak, merely combined 
movements of the throat and other vocal organs, and the initial 
movement made by them in calling words to mind has been 
compared to a tickling in the throat. People wanting a sense 
often imagine to themselves a resemblance between it and one 
of the senses which they possess. The old saying of the blind 
man, that he thought scarlet was like the sound of the trumpet, 
is somewhat like a remark made by Kruse, that though he is 
" stock- deaf " he has a bodily feeling of music, and different 
instruments have different effects upon him. Musical tones 
seem to his perception to have much analogy with colours. 
The sound of the trumpet is yellow to him, that of the drum 
red ; while the music of the organ is green, and of the bass-viol 
blue, and so on. Such comparisons are, indeed, not confined to 
those whose senses are incomplete. Language shows clearly 
that men in general have a strong feeling of such analogies 
among the impressions of the different senses. Expressions 
such as " schreiend roth," and the use of " loud," as applied to 
colours and patterns, are superficial examples of analogies which 
have their roots very deep in the human mind. 

It is a very notable fact bearing upon the problem of the Origin 
of Language, that even born-mutes, who never heard a word 
spoken, do of their own accord and without any teaching make 
vocal sounds more or less articulate, to which they attach a 
definite meaning, and which, when once made, they go on using 
afterwards in the same unvarying sense. Though these sounds 
are often capable of being written down more or less accurately 
with our ordinary alphabets, their effect on those who make 
them can, of course, have nothing to do with the sense of hear- 
ing, but must consist only in particular ways of breathing, 
combined with particular positions of the vocal organs. 

Teuscher, a deaf-mute, whose mind was developed by educa- 
tion to a remarkable degree, has recorded that, in his uneducated 
state, he had already discovered the sounds which were inwardly 
blended with his sensations (innig verschmolzen mit meiner 
Empfindungsweise). So, as a child, he had affixed a special 
sound to persons he loved, his parents, brothers and sisters, to 


animals, and things for which he had no sign fas water) ; and 
called any person he wished with one unaltered voice. 1 Heinicke 
gives some remarkable evidence, which we may, I think, take 
as given in entire good faith, though the reservation should be 
made, that through his strong partiality for articulation as a 
means of educating the deaf-and-dumb, he may have given a 
definiteness to these sounds in writing them down which they 
did not really possess. The following are some of his remarks : 
" All mutes discover words for themselves for different things. 
Among over fifty whom I have partly instructed or been ac- 
quainted with, there was not one who had not uttered at least a 
few spoken names, which he had discovered himself, and some 
were very clear and well defined. I had under my instruction a 
born deaf-mute, nineteen years old, who had previously invented 
many writeable words for things, some three, four, and six 
syllables long." For instance, he called to eat " mumm," to 
drink " schipp," a child " tutten," a dog " beyer," money 
" patten." He had a neighbour who was a grocer, and him he 
called " patt " [a name, no doubt, connected with his name for 
money, for buying and selling is indicated by the deaf-and-dumb 
by the action of counting out coin] . The grocer's son he called 
by a simple combination " pattutten." For the two first 
numerals, he had words 1, " ga ; " 2, " schuppatter." In his 
language, "riecke" meant " I will not ; " and when they wanted 
to force him to do anything, he would cry "naffet riecke schito." 
An exclamation which he used was " heschbefa," in the sense 
of God forbid. 2 

Some of these sounds, as " mumm " and " schipp," for eat- 
ing and drinking, and perhaps " beyer," for the dog, are mere 
vocalizations of the movements of the mouth, which the deaf- 
and-dumb make in imitating the actions of eating, drinking, and 
barking, in their gesture-language. Besides, it is a common 
thing for even the untaught deaf-and-dumb to speak and under- 
stand a few words of the language spoken by their associates. 
Though they cannot hear them, they imitate the motions of the 
lips and teeth of those who speak, and thus make a tolerable 
imitation of words containing labial and dental letters, though 
1 Steinthal, Spr. der T., p. 917. ' 2 Heinicke, p. 137, etc. 


the gutturals, being made quite out of sight, can only be im- 
parted to them by proper teaching, and then only with difficulty 
and imperfectly. It is scarcely necessary to say that when the 
deaf-and-dumb are taught to speak in articulate language, this 
is done merely by developing and systematizing the lip-imitation 
which is natural to them. As instances of the power which deaf- 
mutes have of learning words by sight without any regular 
teaching, may be given the cases mentioned by Schmalz of 
children born stone-deaf, who learnt in this way to say " papa," 
"mamma," " muhme " (cousin), "puppe" (doll), " bitte " 
(please). 1 All the sounds in these words are such as deaf 
persons may imitate by sight. 

An extraordinary story of this kind is told by Eschwege, who 
was a scientific traveller of high standing, and upon whom the 
responsibility for the truth of the narrative must rest. The 
scene is laid in a place in the interior of Brazil, where he rested 
on a journey, and his account is as follows : " I was occupied 
the rest of the day in quail-hunting, and in making philoso- 
phical observations on a deaf-and-dumb idiot negro boy about 
thirteen years old, with water on the brain, and upon whom 
nothing made any impression except the crowing of a cock, 
whose voice he could imitate to the life. Just as people teach 
the deaf-and-dumb to speak, so this beast-man, by observing 
and imitating the movements of the neck and tongue of the 
cock, had in time learnt to crow, and this seemed the only 
pleasure he had beyond the satisfaction of his natural wants. 
He lay most part of the day stark naked on the ground, and 
crowed as if for a wager against the cock." 2 

Returning to the list of words given by Heinicke, it does not 
seem easy to set down any of them as lip-imitations, unless it 
be " heschbefa " " Gott bewahre ! " in which befa may be an 
imitation of bewahre. We have, then, left several articulate 
sounds, such as " patten," money, " jbutten," child, etc., which 
seem to have been used as real words, but of which it seems 
impossible to say why the dumb lad selected them to bear the 
meanings which he gave them. 

The vocal sounds used by Laura Bridgman are of great 
1 Schmalz, p. 216 a. 2 Eschwege, ' Brasilien ; ' Brunswick, 1830, part i. p. 59. 


interest from the fact that, being blind as well as deaf-and- 
dumb, she could not even have imitated words by seeing them 
made. Yet she would utter sounds, as " ho-o-ph-ph " for 
wonder, and a sort of chuckling or grunting as an expression 
of satisfaction. When she did not like to be touched, she 
would say// Her teachers used to restrain her from making 
inarticulate sounds, but she felt a great desire to make them, 
and would sometimes shut herself up and " indulge herself in 
a surfeit of sounds." But this vocal faculty of hers was chiefly 
exercised in giving what may be called name-sounds to persons 
whom she knew, and which she would make when the persons 
to whom she had given them came near her, or when she 
wanted to find them, or even when she was thinking of them. 
She had made as many as fifty or sixty of these name-sounds, 
some of which have been written down, as foo, too, pa,jij, pig, 
ts, but many of them were not capable of being written down 
even approximately. 

Even if Laura's vocal sounds are not classed as real words, a 
distinction between the articulate sounds used by the deaf-and- 
dumb for child, water, eating and drinking, etc., and the words 
of ordinary language, could not easily be made, whether the 
deaf-mutes invented these sounds or imitated them from the 
lips of others. To go upon the broadest ground, the mere fact 
that teachers can take children who have no means of uttering 
their thoughts but the gesture-language, and teach them to 
articulate words, to recognise them by sight when uttered by 
others, to write them, and to understand them as equivalents 
for their own gestures, is sufficient to bridge over the gulf 
which lies between the gesture-language and, at least, a rudi- 
mentary form of word-language. These two kinds of utterance 
are capable of being translated with more or less exactness into 
one another ; and it seems more likely than not that there may 
be a similarity between tlje process by which the human mind 
first uttered itself in speech, and that by which the same mind 
still utters itself in gestures. 

To turn to another subject. We have no evidence of man 
ever having lived in society without the use of spoken language ; 
but there are some myths of such races, and, moreover, state- 


ments have been made by modern writers of eminence as to an 
intermediate state between gesture-language and word-language, 
which deserve careful examination. 

In Ethiopia, across the desert, says the geographer Pom- 
ponius Mela, there dwell dumb people, and such as use gestures 
instead of language ; others, whose tongues give no sound ; 
others, who have no tongues (muti populi, et quibus pro eloquio 
nutus est ; alii sine sono linguae ; alii sine linguis, etc.). 1 Pliny 
gives much the same account. Some of these Ethiopian tribes 
are said to have no noses, some no upper lips, some no tongues. 
Some have for their language nods and gestures (quibusdam 
pro sermone nutus motusque membrorum est). 2 

To go thoroughly into the discussion of these stories would 
require an investigation of the whole subject of the legends of 
monstrous tribes ; but an off-hand rationalizing explanation may 
be sufficient here. The frequent use of the gesture-language by 
savage tribes in intercourse with strangers may combine with 
the very common opinion of uneducated men that the talk of 
foreigners is not real speech at all, but a kind of inarticulate 
chirping, barking, or grunting. Moreover, from using the 
words "speechless," "tongueless," with the sense of "foreigner," 
"barbarian," and talking of tribes who have no tongue (no lingo, 
as our sailors would say), to the point-blank statement that 
there are races of men without speech and without tongues, is a 
transition quite in the spirit of mythology. 

In modern times we hear little of dumb races, at least from 
authors worthy of credit ; but we find a number of accounts of 
people occupying as it were a half-way house between the 
mythic dumb nations and ourselves, and having a speech so 
imperfect that even if talking of ordinary matters they have 
to eke it out by gestures. To begin in the last century, Lord 
Monboddo says that a certain Dr. Peter Greenhill told him that 
there was a nation east of Cape Palm as in Africa, who could not 
understand one another in the dark, and had to supply the 
wants of their language by gestures. 3 Had Lord Mouboddo 

1 Mela, iii. 9. 2 PHn. vi. 35. 

3 Lord ilonboddo, 'Origin and Progress of Language,' 2nd. ed.; Edinburgh, 1774, 
vol. i. p. 253. 


been the only or the principal authority for stories of this class, 
we mighj have left his half-languaged men to keep company 
with hi 5 human apes and tailed men in the regions of my- 
thology : hut in this matter it will he seen that, right or wrong, 
he is in very good company. 

Describing the Puris and Coroados of Brazil, Spix and 
Martins, having remarked that different tribes converse in signs, 
and explained the difficulty they found in making them under- 
stand by signs the objects or ideas for which they wanted the 
native names, go on to say how imperfect and devoid of inflexion 
or construction these languages are. Signs with hand or mouth, 
they say, are required to make them intelligible. To say, " I 
will go into the wood," the Indian uses the words " wood-go," 
and points his mouth like a snout in the direction he means. 1 
Madame Pfeiffer,too, visited the Puris, and says that for "to-day," 
" to-morrow," and " yesterday," they have only the word "day; " 
the rest they express by signs. For " to-day " they say " day," 
and touch themselves on the head, or point straight upward ; for 
"to-morrow" they say also "day," pointing forward with the 
finger; and for "yesterday," again "day," pointing behind them. 2 

Mr. Mercer, describing the low condition of some of the 
Veddah tribes of Ceylon, stated that not only is their dialect 
incomprehensible to a Singhalese, but that even their communi- 
cations with one another are made by signs, grimaces, and 
guttural sounds, which bear little or no resemblance to distinct 
words or systematized language. 3 

Dr. Milligan, speaking of the language of Tasmania, and the 
rapid variation of its dialects, says, " The habit of gesticulation, 
and the use of signs to eke out the meaning of monosyllabic 
expressions, and to give force, precision, and character to vocal 
sounds, exerted a further modifying effect, producing, as it did, 
carelessness and laxity of articulation, and in the application 
and pronunciation of words." " To defects in orthoepy the 
aborigines added short-comings in syntax, for they observed no 
settled order or arrangement of words in the construction of 

1 Spix and Martius, 'Reise in Brasilien ;' Munich, 1823, etc., vol. i. p. 385, etc. 

2 Ida Pfeiffer, ' Eine Frauenfahrt urn die Erde ;' Vienna, 1850, p. 102. 

8 Sir J. Emerson Tennent, 'Cevlon,' 3rd ed. ; London, 1859, vol. ii. p. 441. 


their sentences, but conveyed in a supplementary fashion by 
tone, manner, and gesture those modifications of meaning, which 
we express by mood, tense, number, etc." 1 

We find a similar remark made about a tribe of North 
American Indians, by Captain Burton. " Those natives who, 
like the Arapahos, possess a very scanty vocabulary, pronounced 
in a quasi-unintelligible way, can hardly converse with one 
another in the dark ; to make a stranger understand them they 
must always repair to the camp-fire for ' pow-wow.' " 8 

In South Africa, the same is said of the Bushmen : " So 
imperfect, indeed, is the language of the Bosjesmans, that even 
those of the same horde often find a difficulty in understanding 
each other without the use of gesture; and at night, when a 
party of Bosjesmans are smoking, dancing, and talking, they are 
obliged to keep up a fire so as to be able by its light to see the 
explanatory gestures of their companions." 3 

The array of evidence in favour of the existence of tribes whose 
language is incomplete without the help of gesture-signs, even 
for things of ordinary import, is very remarkable. The matter 
is important ethnologically, for if it may be taken as proved 
that there are really people whose language does not suffice to 
speak of the common subjects of every-day life without the aid 
of gesture, the fact will either furnish about the strongest case 
of degeneration known in the history of the human race, or 
supply a telling argument in favour of the theory that the 
gesture-language is part of the original utterance of mankind 
which speech has more or less fully superseded among different 
tribes. Unfortunately, however, the evidence is in every case 
more or less defective. Spix and Martius make no claim to 
having mastered the Puri and Coroado languages. The Coroado 
words for "to-morrow" and "the day after to-morrow," viz., 
herinanta and hino herinanta, make it unlikely that their neigh- 
bours the Puris, who are so nearly on the same level of civiliza- 
tion, have no such words. Mr. Mercer seems to have adopted 
the common view of foreigners about the Veddahs, but it has 

1 Milligan, in Papers and Proc. of Roy. Soc. of Tasmania, 1859 ; Tol. iii. part ii. 
3 Burton, ' City of the Saints,' p. 151. See Schoolcraft, part i. p. 564. 
8 J. G. Wood, ' Nat. Hist, of Man ; ' vol. i. p. 266. 


happened here, as in many other accounts of savage trihes, that 
closer acquaintance has shown them to have been wrongly ac- 
cused. Mr. Bailey, who has had good opportunities of studying 
them, contradicts their supposed deficiency in language with the 
remark, " I never knew one of them at a loss for words suffi- 
ciently intelligible to convey his meaning, not to his fellows only, 
but to the Singhalese of the neighbourhood, who are all, more 
or less, acquainted with the Veddah patois." 1 Dr. Milligan is, 
I believe, our best authority as to the Tasmanians and their 
language, but he probably had to trust in this matter to native 
information, which is far from being always safe. 2 Lastly, 
Captain Burton only paid a flying visit to the Western Indians, 
and his interpreters could hardly have given him scientific infor- 
mation on such a subject. 

The point in question is one which it is not easy to bring to a 
perfectly distinct issue, seeing that all people, savage and civilised, 
do use signs more or less. As has been remarked already, many 
savage tribes accompany their talk with gestures to a great 
extent, and in conversation with foreigners, gestures and words 
are usually mixed to express what is to be said. It is extremely 
likely that Madame Pfeiffer's savages suffered the penalty of 
being set down as wanting in language, for no worse fault than 
using a combination of words and signs in order to make what 
they meant as clear as possible to her comprehension. But the 
existence of a language incomplete, even for ordinary purposes, 
without the aid of gesture-signs, could only be proved by the 
evidence of an educated man so familiar with the language in 
question, as to be able to say from absolute personal knowledge 
not only what it can, but what it cannot do, an amount of ac- 
quaintance to which I think none of the writers quoted would 
lay claim. In the case of languages spoken by very low races, 
like the Puris and the Tasmanians, the difficulty of deciding 

1 J. Bailey, in Tr. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1863, p. 300. 

2 Tbe objection to trusting native information as to grammatical structure, may be 
seen in the difficulty, so constantly met with in investigating the languages of rude 
tribes, of getting a substantive from a native without a personal pronoun tacked to it. 
Thus in Dr. Milligan's vocabulary, the expressions puygan neena, noanalmeena, ghen 
for "husband" and "father," seem really to mean "your husband," "my father," 
or something of the kind. 


sncli a point must be very great. The strongest fact bearing 
upon the matter of which I am aware, is that savage tribes 
whose numeral words do not go beyond some low number, as , 
five or ten, are well known to be able to reckon much farther on 
their fingers and toes, here distinctly using gesture-language 
where word-language fails. 1 

There is a point of some practical importance involved in the 
question, whether gestures or words are, so to speak, most 
natural. If signs form an easier means for the reception and 
expression of ideas .hin words, then idiots ought to learn to 
understand and use gestures more readily than speech. I have 
only been able to get a distinct answer to the question, whether 
they do so or not, from one competent judge in such a matter, 
Dr. Scott, of Exeter, who assures me that semi-idiotic children, 
to whom there is no hope of teaching more than the merest 
rudiments of speech, are yet capable of receiving a considerable 
amount of knowledge by means of signs, and of expressing them- 
selves by them. It is well known that a certain class of children 
are dumb from deficiency of intellect, rather than from want of 
the sense of hearing, and it is to these that the observation 
applies. 2 

The idea of solving the problem of the origin of language by 
actual experiment, must have very often been started. There 
are several stories of such an experiment having been tried. 
One is Herodotus's well-known tale of Psammitichus, King of 
Egypt, who had the two children brought up by a silent keeper, 
and suckled by goats. The first word they said, bekos, meaning 
bread in the Phrygian language, of course proved that the 
Phrygians were the oldest race of mankind. It is a very trite 
remark that there is nothing absolutely incredible in the story, 
and that bck, Ick, is a good imitative word for bleating, as in 
/3AjX'tM at . M'/ K "M at > blokcn, meeker n, etc. But the very name 
of Psammitichus, who has served as a lay-figure for so many 
tales to be draped upon, is fatal to any claim to the historical 

1 For further remarks on such mixed expression by gesture and word, as bearing 
on development of language, see the author's ' Primitive Culture,' chap. v. and vii. 
[Xote to 3rd Edition]. 

2 See \V. R. Scott, 'Remarks on the Education of Idiots ;' London, 1847. 


credibility of such a story. He sounds the springs of the Nile 
with a cord thousands of fathoms long, and finds no bottom ; he 
accomplishes the prediction of one oracle by pouring a libation 
out of a brazen helmet, and of another, concerning cocks, by 
leading an army of Carians, with crested helmets, against 
Tementhes, king of Egypt, and he figures in the Greek version 
of the story of Cinderella's slipper. Another account is related 
in the life of James IV. of Scotland. " The King also caused 
tak ane dumb voman, and pat her in Inchkeith, and gave hir 
tuo bairnes with hir, and gart furnisch hir in all necessares 
thingis perteaning to thair nourischment, desiring heirby to 
knaw quhat languages they had when they cam to the aige of 
perfyte speach. Some sayes they spak guid Hebrew, but I 
knaw not by authoris rehearse," etc. 1 Another story is told of 
the great Mogul, Akbar Khan. It is mentioned by Purchas, 
only twenty years after Akbar's death, and told in detail by 
the Jesuit Father Catrou, as follows : " Indeed it may be said 
that desire of knowledge was Akbar's ruling passion, and his 
curiosity induced him to try a very strange experiment. He 
wished to ascertain what language children would speak without 
teaching, as he had heard that Hebrew was the natural language 
of those who had been taught no other. To settle the question, 
he had twelve children at the breast shut up in a castle six 
leagues from Agra, and brought up by twelve dumb nurses. A 
porter, who was dumb also, was put in charge and forbidden on 
pain of death to open the castle door. When the children were 
twelve years old [there is a decided feeling for duodecimals in 
the story], he had them brought before him, and collected in his 
palace men skilled in all languages. A Jew who was at Agra 
was to judge whether the children spoke Hebrew. There was 
no difficulty in finding Arabs and Chaldeans in the capital. On 
the other hand the Indian philosophers asserted that the children 
would speak the Hanscrit [i.e. Sanskrit] language, which takes 
the place of Latin among them, and is only in use among the 
learned, and is learnt in order to understand the ancient Indian 

1 Herod, ii. c. 2. Lindsay of Pitscottic, 'Chronicles of Scotland,' vol. i. p. 249. 
For other European legends, see De Brosses, ' Traite des Langues,' vol. ii. p. 7 ; 
Farrar, ' Chapters on Language, ' p. 13. 


books of Philosophy and Theology. When however the children 
appeared before the Emperor, every one was astonished to find 
that they did not speak any language at all. They had learnt 
from their nurses to do without any, and they merely expressed 
their thoughts by gestures which answered the purpose of words. 
They were so savage and so shy that it was a work of some 
trouble to tame them and to loosen their tongues, which they 
had scarcely used during their infancy." l 

There may possibly be a foundation of fact for this story, 
which fits very well with what is known of Akbar's unscrupulous 
character, and his greediness for knowledge. Moreover it tells 
in its favour, that had a story-teller invented it, he would hardly 
have brought it to what must have seemed to him such a lame 
and impotent conclusion, as that the children spoke no language 
at all. 

1 'Purchas, His Pilgrimes ;' London, 1625-6, vol. v. (1626) p. 516. Catrou, Hist. 
Gen. cle 1'Enipire du Mogol ;' Paris, 1705, p. 259, etc. A Singhalese legend in Hardy, 
' Eastern Konarchism, ' p. 192. 



THE art of recording events, and sending messages, by means 
of pictures representing the things or actions in question, is 
called Picture- Writing. 

The deaf-and-dumb man's remark, that the gesture -language 
is a picture-language, finds its counterpart in an observation of 
"\Vilhelm von Humboldt's, that "In fact, gesture, destitute of 
sound, is a species of writing." There is indeed a very close 
relation between these two ways of expressing and communi- 
cating thought. Gesture can set forth thought with far greater 
speed and fulness than picture-writing, but it is inferior to it in 
having to place the different elements of a sentence in succession, 
in single file, so to speak ; while by a picture the whole of an 
event may be set in view at one glance, and that permanently, 
so as to serve as a message to a distant place or a record to a 
future time. But the imitation of visible qualities as a means 
of expressing ideas is common to both methods, and both belong 
to similar conditions of the human mind. Both are found in 
very distant countries and times, and spring up naturally under 
favourable circumstances, provided that a higher means of 
supplying the same wants has not already occupied the place 
which they can only fill very partially and rudely. 

There being so great a likeness between the conditions which 
cause the use of the gesture-language and of picture-writing, it 
is not surprising to find the natives of North America as 
proficients in the one as in the other. Their pictures, as drawn 
and interpreted by Schoolcraft and other writers, give the best 
information that is to be had of the lower development of the art. 1 

1 Figs. 2 to 7, and their interpretat.kns, are fron> Schoolcraft ' Indian Tribes,' 



Fig. 2 is an Indian record on a blazed pine-tree (to blaze a 
tree is to wound (blesser) its side with an axe, so as to mark it 
with a conspicuous 
white patch). On 
the right are two 
canoes (2 and 4), 
with a catfish (1) 
in one of them, and 
a fabulous animal, 
known as the cop- 
per-tailed bear (3), 
in the other. On 
the left are a bear 

Fig. 2. 

and six catfish ; and the sense of the picture is simply that 
two hunters, whose names, or rather totems or clan-names, were 
"Copper-tailed Bear" and "Catfish," went out on a hunting 
expedition in their canoes, and took a bear and six cat-fish. 

Fig. 3. 

Fig. 3 is a picture on the face of a rock on the shore of Lake 
Superior, and records an expedition across the lake, which was 
led by Myeengun, or " Wolf," a celebrated Indian chief. The 
canoes with the upright strokes in them represent the force of 
the party in men and boats, and "Wolf's chief ally, Kishkemuna- 
see, that is, " Kingfisher," goes in the first canoe. The arch 
with three circles below it shows that there were three suns 

part i. See also the ' Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner,' 
edited by Edwin James, 1830, from which many of Schoolcraft's pictures and inter- 
pretations seem taken. 

G 2 


Fig. 4. 

under heaven, that is, that the voyage took three days. The 
tortoise seems to indicate their getting to land, while the re- 
presentation of the chief himself on horseback shows that the 
expedition took place 'since the time when horses were intro- 
duced into Canada. 

The Indian grave-posts, Fig. 4, tell their story in the same 
child-like manner. Upon one is a tortoise, the dead warrior's 

totem, and a figure beside 
it representing a head- 
less man, which shows he 
is dead. Below are his 
three marks of honour. 
On the other post there 
is no separate sign for 
death, but the chief's to- 
tem, a crane, is reversed. 
Six marks of honour are 
awarded to him on the 
right, and three on the 
left. The latter represent three important general treaties of 
peace which he had attended ; the former would seem to stand 
for six war-parties or battles. The pipe and hatchet are symbols 
of influence in peace and war. 

The great defect of this kind of record is that it can only be 
understood within a very limited circle. It does not tell the story 
at length, as is done in explaining it in words ; but merely suggests 
some event, of which it only gives such details as are required to 
enable a practised observer to construct a complete picture. It 
may be compared in this respect to the elliptical forms of ex- 
pression which are current in all societies whose attention is 
given specially to some narrow subject of interest, and where, as 
all men's minds have the same frame-work set up in them, it is 
not necessary to go into an elaborate description of the whole 
state of things ; but one or two details are enough to enable the 
hearer to understand the whole. Such expressions as " new 
white at 48," " best selected at 92," though perfectly understood 
in the commercial circles where they are current, are as unintel- 
ligible to any one who is not familiar with the course of events 


in those circles, as an Indian record of a war-party would be to 
an ordinary Londoner. 

Though, however, familiarity with the picture-writing of the 
Indians, as well as with their hahits and peculiarities, might 
enable the student to make a pretty good guess at the meaning 
of such documents as the above, which are meant to be under- 
stood by strangers, there is another class of picture-writings, 
used principally by the magicians or medicine-men, which cannot 
be even thus interpreted. The songs and charms used among 
the Indians of North America are repeated or sung by memory, 
but, as an assistance to the singer, pictures are painted upon 
sticks, or pieces of birch-bark or other material, which serve to 
suggest to the mind the successive verses. Some of these docu- 
ments, with the songs to which they refer, are given in School- 
craft, and one or two examples will show sufficiently how they 
are used, and make it evident that they can only convey their 
full meaning to those who know by heart already the composi- 
tions they refer to. They are mere Samson's riddles, only to be 
guessed by those who have ploughed with his heifer. 
Thus, a drawing of a man with two marks on his 
breast and four on his legs (Fig. 5) is to remind the 
singer that at this place comes the following verse: 

" Two days must you sit fast, my friend, 
Four days must you sit still." 

Fig. 5. 

Fig. 6 is the record of a love-song (1) represents the lover ; 
in (2) he is singing, and beating a magic drum ; in (3) he sur- 
rounds himself with a secret lodge, denoting the effects of his 



necromancy ; in (4) he and his mistress are shown joined by a 
single arm, to indicate the union of their affections, in (5) she 
is shown on an island ; in (6) she is asleep, and his voice is 
shown, while his magical powers are reaching her heart ; and 
the heart itself is shown in (7). To each of these figures a 
verse of the song corresponds. 

1. It is my painting that makes me a god. 

2. Hear the sounds of my voice, of my song ; it is my voice. 

3. I cover myself in sitting down by her. 

4. I can make her blush, because I hear all she says of me. 

5. Were she on a distant island, I could make her swim over. 

6. Though she were far off, even on the other hemisphere. 

7. I speak to your heart. 

Fig. 7. 

Fig. 7 is a war-song. The warrior is shown in (1) ; he is 
drawn with wings, to show that he is active and swift of foot. 
In (2) he stands under the morning star ; in (3) he is standing 
under the centre of heaven, with his war-club and rattle ; in (4) 
the eagles of carnage are flying round the sky ; in (5) he lies 
slain on the field of battle ; and in (6) he appears as a spirit iu 
the sky. The words are these : 

1. I wish to have the body of the swiftest bird. 

2. Every day I look at you ; the half of the day I sing my song. 

3. I throw away my body. 

4. The birds take a flight in the air. 

5. Full happy am I to be numbered with the slain. 

6. The spirits on high repeat my name. 

Catlin tells how the chief of the Kickapoos, a man of great 


ability, generally known as the " Shawnee Prophet," having-, as 
was said, learnt the doctrines of Christianity from a missionary, 
taught them to his tribe, pretending to have received a super- 
natural mission. He composed a prayer, which he wrote down 
on a flat stick, "in characters somewhat resembling Chinese 
letters." When Catlin visited the tribe, every man, woman, 
and child used to repeat this prayer morning and evening, 
placing the fore-finger under the first character, repeating a 
sentence or two, and so going on to the next, till the prayer, 
which took some ten minutes to repeat, was finished. 1 I do not 
know whether any of these curious prayer- sticks are now to be 
seen, but they were probably made on the same principle as the 
suggestive pictures used for the native Indian songs. 

Picture-writing is found among savage races in all quarters of 
the globe, and, so far as we can judge, its principle is the same 
everywhere. The pictures on the Lapland magic drums, of 
which we have interpretations, serve much the same purpose as 
the American writing. Savage paintings, or scratchings, or 
carvings on rocks, have a family likeness, whether we find them 
in North or South America, in Siberia or Australia. The inter- 
pretation of rock-pictures, which mostly consist of few figures, 
is in general a hopeless task, unless a key is to be had. Many 
are, no doubt, mere pictorial utterances, drawings of animals 
and things without any historical sense ; some are names, as the 
totems carved by those who sprang upon the dangerous leaping- 
rock at the Red Pipestone Quarry. 2 Dupaix noticed in Mexico 
a sculptured eagle, apparently on the boundary of Quauhnahuac, 
" the place near the eagle," now called Cuernavaca, 3 and the fact 
suggests that rock-sculptures may often be, like this, symbolic 
boundary marks. But there is seldom a key to be had to the 
reading of rock-sculptures, which the natives generally say were 
done by the people long ago. I have seen them in Mexico on 
cliffs where one can hardly imagine how the savage sculptors can 
have climbed. When Humboldt asked the Indians of the 

1 Catlin, 'North American Indians,' 7th ed. ; London, 1848, vol. ii. p. 98. 

2 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 170. 

s Lo.d Kingsborough, 'Antiquities of Mexico ;' London, 1830, etc., voL iv. part i., 
no. 31, and vol.' v. ExpL 


Oronoko who it was that sculptured the figures of animals and 
symbolic signs high up on the face of the crags along the river, 
they answered with a smile, as relating a fact of which only a 
stranger, a white man, could possibly be ignorant, " that at the 
time of the great waters their fathers went up to that height in 
their canoes." 1 

As the gesture-language is substantially the same among 
savage tribes all over the world, and also among children who 
cannot speak, so the picture-writings of savages are not only 
similar to one another, but are like what children make untaught 
even in civilized countries. Like the universal language of 
gestures, the art of picture-writing tends to prove that the mind 
of the uncultured man works in much the same way at all times 
and everywhere. As an example of the way in which it is 
possible for an observer who has never realised this fact to be 
led astray by such a general resemblance, the celebrated " Livre 
des Sauvages " may be adduced. 

This book of pictures had been lying for many years in a 
Paris library, before the Abbe Domenech unearthed it and 
published it in facsimile, as a native American document of 
high ethnological value. It contains a number of rude drawings 
done in black lead and red chalk, in great part enormously in- 
decent, though perhaps not so much with the grossness of the 
savage as of the European blackguard. Many of the drawings 
represent Scripture scenes, and ceremonies of the Roman 
Catholic church, often accompanied by explanatory German 
words in the cursive hand, one or two of which, as the name 
" Maria " written close to the rude figure of the Virgin Mary, 
the Abbe succeeded in reading, though most of them were a 
deep mystery to him. There are an evident Adam and Eve in the 
garden, with " betruger " (deceiver) written against them ; 
Adam and Eve sent out of Paradise, with the description 
" gebant " (banished) ; a priest offering mass ; figures with the 
well-known rings of bread in their hands, explained as "fassdag " 
(fast-day), and so on. There is no evidence of any connexion 
with America in the whole matter, except that the document is 
said to have come into the hands of a collector, in company with 

1 Humboldt and Boni'land, voL ii. p. 239. 


an Iro-juois dictionary, and that the editor says it is written on 
Canadian paper, but he gives no reason for thinking so. So far 
as one can judge from the published copy, it may have been 
done by a German boy in his own country. One of the drawings 
shows a man with what seems a mitre on his head, speaking to 
three figures standing reverently before him. This personage is 
entitled "grosshud" (great-hat), a common term among the 
German Jews, who speak of their rabbis, in all reverence, as tho 
" great hats." 

The Abbe Domenech had spent many years in America, and 
was, no doubt, well acquainted with Indian pictures. Moreover, 
the resemblance which struck him as existing between the pic- 
tures he had been used to see among the Indians, and those in 
the " Book of the Savages," is quite a real one. A great part of 
the pictures, if painted on birch-bark or deer-skins, might pass as 
Indian work. The mistake he made was that his generalization 
was too narrow, and that he founded his argument on a likeness 
which was only caused by the similarity of the early development 
of the human mind. 

Map-making is a branch of picture-writing with which the 
savage is quite familiar, and he is often more skilful in it than 
the generality of civilized men. In Tahiti, for instance, the 
natives were able to make maps for the guidance of foreign 
visitors. 1 Maps made with raised lines are mentioned as in use 
in Peru before the Conquest,* and there is no doubt about the 
skill of the North American Indians and Esquimaux in the art, 
as may be seen by a number of passages in Schoolcraft and else- 
where. 3 The oldest map known to be in existence is the map of 
the Ethiopian gold-mines, dating from the time of Sethos L, 
the father of Eameses II., 4 long enough before the time of the 
bronze tablet of Aristagoras, on which was inscribed the circuit 
of the whole earth, and all the sea and all rivers. 5 

1 Gustav Klemm, ' Allgemeine Cultur-Geschichte der Menschheit;' Leipzig, 1843- 
5-2, vol. iv. p. 396. 

- Ilivero and v. Tschucli, 'AntigiiedadesPeruanas;' Vienna, 1851, p. 124. Prescott, 
'Peru ;' vol. i. p. 116. 

3 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 334, 353 ; part iii. pp. 256, 485. Harmon, ' Journal ; 
Andover, 1820, p. 371. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. pp. 189, 280. 

4 liirch, in ' Archaeologia,' vol. xxxiv. p. 382. * Herod, v. 49. 


The highest development of the art of picture-writing is to be 
found among the ancient Mexicans. Their productions of this 
kind are far better known than those of the Bed Indians, and are 
indeed much more artistic, as well as being more systematic and 
copious. Some of the most characteristic specimens hare been 
drawn and described by Alexander von Humboldt, and Lord 
Kingsborough's great work contains a huge mass of them, which 
he published in facsimile in support of his views upon that 
philosopher's stone of ethnologists, the Lost Tribes of Israel. 

The bulk of the Mexican paintings are mere pictures, directly 
representing migrations, wars, sacrifices, deities, arts, tributes, 
and such matters, in a way not differing in principle from that 
of the lowest savages. But in the historical records and calen- 
dars, the events are accompanied by a regular notation of years, 
and sometimes of divisions of years, which entitles them to be 
considered as regularly dated history. The art of dating events 
was indeed not unknown to the Northern Indians. A resident 
among the Kristinaux (generally called for shortness, Crees), 
who knew them before they were in their present half-civilized 
state, says that they had names for the moons which make up 
the year, calling them " whirlwind moon," " moon when the 
fowls go to the south," " moon when the leaves fall off from the 
trees," and so on. When a hunter left a record of his chase 
pictured on a piece of birch-bark, for the information of others 
who might pass that way, he would draw a picture which showed 
the name of the month, and make beside it a drawing of the 
shape of the moon at the time, so accurately, that an Indian 
could tell within twelve or twenty-four hours the month and the 
day of the month, when the record was set up. 1 

It is even related of the Indians of Virginia, that they re- 
corded time by certain hieroglyphic wheels, which they called 
"Sagkokok Quiacosough," or "record of the gods." These 
wheels had sixty spokes, each for a year, as if to mark the 
ordinary age of man, and they were painted on skins kept by 
the principal priests in the temples. They marked on each 
spoke or division a hieroglyphic figure, to show the memorable 
events of the year. John Lederer saw one in a village culled 

1 flarmon, p. 371. 


Pommacomek, on which the year of the first arrival of the 
Europeans was marked by a swan spouting fire and smoke from 
its ruouth. The white plumage of the bird and its living on the 
water indicated the white faces of the Europeans and their 
coming by sea, while the fire and smoke coming from its mouth 
meant their firearms. 1 Thus the ancient Mexicans (as well as 
the civilized nations of Central America, who used a similar 
system) can only claim to have dated their records more gene- 
rally and systematically than the ruder North American tribes. 

The usual way of recording series of years among the Mexi- 
cans has been often described. It consists in the use of four 
symbols tochtli, acatl, tecpatl, calli, i.e. rabbit, cane, cutt'utij- 
stone, house, each symbol being numbered by dots from 1 to 13, 
making thus 52 distinct signs. Each year of a cycle of 52 has 
thus a distinct numbered symbol belonging to it alone, the 
numbering of course not going beyond 13. These numbered 
symbols are, however, not arranged in their reasonable order, 
but the signs change at the same time as the numbers, till all 
the 52 combinations are exhausted, the order being 1 rabbit, 
2 cane, 3 knife, 4 house, 5 rabbit, 6 cane, and so on. I have 
pointed out elsewhere the singular coincidence of a Mexican 
cycle with an ordinary French or English pack of playing-cards, 
which, arranged on this plan, as for instance ace of hearts, 2 of 
spades, 3 of diamonds, 4 of clubs, 5 of hearts again, and so on, 
forms an exact counterpart of an Aztec cycle of 52 years. The 
account of days was kept by series combined in a similar way, 
but in different numbers. - 

The extraordinary analogy between the Mexican system of 
reckoning years in cycles, and that still in use over a great part 
of Asia, forms the strongest point of Humboldt's argument for 
the connexion of the Mexicans with Eastern Asia, and the re- 
markable character of the coincidence is greatly enforced by the 
fact, that this complex arrangement answers no useful purpose 
whatever, inasmuch as mere counting by numbers, or by signs 

1 ' Journal des Scavans,' 1681, p. 46. Sir W. Talbot, ' The Discoveries of John 
Lederer ; ' London, 1672, p. 4. Humboldt, ' Vues des Cordilleres ; ' Paris, 1810-12, 
pi. xiii. 

2 Tjlor, ' Mexico and the Mexicans ; ' London, IStil, p. 239. 


numbered in regular succession, would have been a far better 
arrangement. It may perhaps have been introduced for some 
astrological purpose. 

The historical picture-writings of the Mexicans seem for the 
most part very bare and dull to us, who know and care so little 
about their history. They consist of records of wars, famines, 
migrations, sacrifices, and so forth, names of persons and places 
being indicated by symbolic pictures attached to them, as King 
Itzcoatl, or " knife-snake," by a serpent with stone knives on its 
back; Tzompanco, or "the place of a skull," now Zumpango, 
by a picture of a sknll skewered on a bar between two upright 
posts, as enemies' skulls used to be set up ; Chapultepec, or 
" grasshopper hill," by a hill and a grasshopper, and so on, or 
by more properly phonetic characters, such as will be presently 
described. The positions of footprints, arrows, etc., serve as 
guides to the direction of marches and attacks, in very much the 
same way as may be seen in Catlin's drawing of the pictured 
robe of Ma-to-toh-pa, or " Four Bears." The mystical paint- 
ings which relate to religion and astrology are seldom capable of 
any independent interpretation, for the same reasons which make 
it impossible to read the pictured records of songs and charms 
used further north, namely, that they do not tell their stories in 
full, but only recall them to the minds of those who are already 
acquainted with them. The paintings which represent the 
methodically arranged life of the Aztecs from childhood to old 
age, have more human interest about them than all the rest put 
together. In judging the Mexican picture-writings as a means 
of record, it should be borne in mind that though we can under- 
stand them to a considerable extent, we should have made very 
little progress in deciphering them, were it not that there are a 
number of interpretations, made in writing from the explanations 
given by Indians, so that the traditions of the art have never 
been wholly lost. Some few of the Mexican pictures now in 
existence may perhaps be original documents made before the 
arrival of the Spaniards, and great part of those drawn since are 
certainly copied, wholly or in part, from such original pictures. 

It is to M. Aubin, of Paris, a most zealous student of Mexi- 
can antiquities, that we owe our first clear knowledge of a phe- 


nomenon of great scientific interest in the history of writing 
This is a well-defined system of phonetic characters, which 
Clavigero and Humboldt do not seem to have been aware of, as 
it does not appear in their descriptions of the art. 1 Humholdt 
indeed speaks of vestiges of phonetic hieroglyphics among the 
Aztecs, but the examples he gives are only names in which 
meaning, rather than mere sound, is represented, as in the pic- 
tures of a face and water for Axayacatl, or " Water-Face," five 
dots and a flower for Macuilxochitl, or "Five-Flowers." So 
Clavigero gives in his list the name of King Itzcoatl, or " Knife- 
Snake," as represented by a picture of a snake with stone knives 
upon its back, a more genuine drawing of which is given here 
(Fig. 8), from the Le Tellier Codex. This is mere picture-writ- 
ing, but the way in which 
the same king's name is 
written in the Vergara Co- 
dex, as shown in Fig. 9, 
is something very different. 
Here the first syllable, itz, Fig> 8 ' Fig> 9 ' 

is indeed represented by a weapon armed with blades of obsidian, 
itz(tli) ; but the rest of the word, coatl, though it means snake, 
is written, not by a picture of a snake, but by an earthen pot, 
co(mitl), and above it the sign of water, a(tl). Here we have 
real phonetic writing, for the name is not to be read, according 
to sense, "knife-kettle-water," but only according to the sound 
of the Aztec words, Itz-co-atl. Again, in Fig. 10, in the name 
of Teocaltitlan, which means "the place of the 
god's house," the different syllables (with the 
exception of the ti, which is only put in for 
euphony) are written by (b) lips, (c) a path 
(with footmarks on it), (a) a house, (d) teeth. 
What this combination of pictures means is 
only explained by knowing that lips, path, 
house, teeth, are called in Aztec, ten(tli), o(tli), 
cal(li), tlan(tli), and thus come to stand for the word Te-o-cal- 
(ti)-tlan. The device is perfectly familiar to us in what is called 

1 Clavigero, 'Storia Antica del Messico ; ' Cesena, 1780-1, voL ii. pp. 191, etc., 
248, etc. Huinboldt, ' Vues des Cord.,' pi. xiii. 


a " rebus," as where Prior Burton's name is sculptured in St. 
Saviour's Church as a cask with a thistle on it, " burr-tun." 
Indeed, the puzzles of this kind in children's books keep alive 
to our own day the great transition stage from picture-writing 
to word-writing, the highest intellectual effort of one period in 
our history coming down, as so often happens, to be the child's 
play of a later time. 

M. Aubin may be considered as the discoverer of these pho- 
netic signs in the Mexican pictures, or at least he is the first 
who has worked them out systematically and published a list of 
them. 1 But the ancient written interpretations have been stand- 
ing for centuries to prove their existence. Thus, in 
the Mendoza Codex, the name of a place, pictured 
as in Fig. 11 by a fishing-net and teeth, is in- 
terpreted Matlatlan, that is " Net-Place." Now, 
m-itki(tl) means a net, and so far the name is a pic- 
ture, but the teeth, tlan(tli), are used, not pictorially 
but phonetically, for tlan, place. Other more com- 
plicated names, such as Acolma, Quauhpanoayan, etc., are written 
in like manner in phonetic symbols in the same document. 2 

There is no sufficient reason to make us doubt that this 
purely phonetic writing was of native Mexican origin, and after 
the Spanish Conquest they turned it to account in a new and 
curious way. The Spanish missionaries, when embarrassed l>y 
the difficulty of getting the converts to remember their Ave 
Marias and Paternosters, seeing that the words were of course 
mere nonsense to them, were helped out by the Indians them- 
selves, who substituted Aztec words as near in sound as might 
be to the Latin, and wrote down the pictured equivalents for 
these words, which enabled them to remember the required 
formulas. Torquemada and Las Casas have recorded two in- 
stances of this device, that Pater noster was written by a flag 
(pantli) and a prickly pear (nochtli), while the sign of water, 
a(tl), combined with that of aloe, me(tl), made a compound word 

1 Aubin, in ' Revue Orientale et .Am^ricaine,' vole, iii.-v. Brasseur, ' Hist, des 
Nat. Civ. du Mexiqr.e et de 1'Ameriqne Centrale;' Paris, 1857-9, vol. i. An attempt 
to prove the existence of something more nearly approaching alphabetic signs (^Rev., 
vol. iv. p. 276-7 ; Brasseur, p. Ixviii. ) requires much clearer evidence. 

* Kingstorough, vol. i., and Exj.1. in vol. vi. 


ametl, which would mean " water-aloe," but in sound made 
a very tolerable substitute for Amen. 1 But M. Aubin has 
actually found the beginning of a Paternoster of this kind in the 
metropolitan library of Mexico (Fig. 12), made with a fla<*, 
pan(tli}, a stone, te(tl), a prickly 
pear, noch(tli), and again a stone, 
te(tl), and which would read Pa- 
te noch-te, or perhaps Pa-tctl P a ' te noch - <* 
noch-tetl. 2 Fig - 12 ' 

After the conquest, when the Spaniards were hard at work 
introducing their own religion and civilization among the con- 
quered Mexicans, they found it convenient to allow the old 
picture-writing still to be used, even in legal documents. It 
disappeared in time, of course, being superseded in the long-run 
by the alphabet ; but it is to this transition-period that we owe 
many, perhaps most, of the picture-documents still preserved. 
Copies of old historical paintings were made and continued to 
dates after the arrival of Cortes, and the use of records written 
in pictures, or in a mixture of pictures and Spanish or Aztec 
words in ordinary writing, relating to lawsuits, the inheritance 
of property, genealogies, etc., were in constant use for many 
years later, and special officers were appointed under government 
to interpret such documents. To this transition-period, the 
writing whence the name of Teocaltitlan (Fig. 10) is taken, 
clearly belongs, as appears by the drawing of the house with its 
arc-lied door. 

A genealogical table of a native family in the Christy Museum 
is as good a record of this time of transition as could well be 
cited. The names in it are written, but are accompanied by 
male and female heads drawn in a style that is certainly Aztec. 
The names themselves tell the story of the change that was 
going on in the country. One branch of the family, among 
whom are to be read the names of Citlalmecatl, or " Star-Xeck- 
lace," and Cohuacihuatl, or " Snake- Woman," ends in a lady 
with the Spanish name of Justa ; while another branch, begin- 
ning with such names as Tlapalxilotzin and Xiuhcozcatzin, 
finishes with Juana and her children Andres and Francisco. 
1 Brasseur, vol. i. p. xli. 2 Aubin, Rev. 0. and A., vol. iii. p. 255. 


The most thoroughly native thing in the whole is a figure 
referring to an ancestor of Justa's, and connected with his name 
by a line of footprints to show how the line is to he followed, in 
true Aztec fashion. The figure itself is a head drawn in native 
stvle, with the eye in full front, though the face is in profile, in 
much the same way as an Egyptian would have drawn it, and it 
is set in a house as a symbol of dignity, having written over 
against it the high title of Ompamozcaltitotzaqualtzinco, which, 
if I may trust the imperfect dictionary of Molina, and my own 
weak knowledge of Aztec, means "His excellency our twice skilful 

The importance of this Mexican phonetic system in the 
History of the Art of Writing may he perhaps made clearer 
by a comparison of the Aztec pictures with the Egyptian 

Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions consist of figures of objects, 
animate and inanimate, men and animals, and parts of them, 
plants, the heavenly bodies, and an immense number of different 
weapons, tools, and articles of the most miscellaneous character. 
These figures are arranged in upright columns or horizontal 
bands, and are to be read in succession, but they are not all 
intended to act upon the mind in the same way. When an 
ordinary inscription is taken to pieces, it is found that the figures 
composing it fall into two great classes. Part of them are to be 
read and understood as pictures, a drawing of a horse for " horse," 
a branch for " wood," etc., upon the same principle as in any 
savage picture-writing. The other part of the figures are pho- 
netic. How they came to be so, seems plain from cases where 
we find the same picture sometimes used to stand for the object 
it represents, and sometimes for the sound of that object's name, 
after the manner just described of the rebus. Thus the picture 
of a star may represent a star, called in Egyptian sba, and the 
picture of a kid may stand for a kid, called in Egyptian ab ; but 
these pictures may also be brought in to help in the spelling of 
the words sba, "door," and ab, " thirst," so that here they have 
passed into phonetic signs. 1 It is not always possible to dis- 
tinguish whether a hieroglyph is used as a syllable or a letter. 
* Eenouf, ' Elementary Grammar of the Ancient Egyptian Language,' London, 1875. 


But it is clear that from an early period the Egyptians had 

v JL O*/- JL 

chosen a number of hieroglyphs to be used as vowels and con- 
sonants to write words with, that is to say, they had invented 
alphabetic writing. Their use of hieroglyphs in all these stages, 
picture, syllable, letter, is of great interest in the history of writ- 
ing, as giving the whole course of development by which a picture, 
of a mouth for instance, meant first simply mouth, then the name 
of mouth ro, and lastly dropped its vowel and became the letter r. 
Of these three steps, the Mexicans made the first two. 

In Egyptian hieroglyphics, special figures are not always set 
apart for phonetic use. At least, a number of signs are used 
sometimes as letters, and sometimes as pictures, in which 
latter case they are often marked with a stroke. Thus the 
mouth, with a stroke to it, is usually (though not always) 
pictorial, as it were, " one mouth," while without the stroke it 
is r or ro, and so on. The words of a sentence are frequently 
written by a combination of these two methods, that is, by 
spelling the word first, and then adding a picture sign to re- 
move all doubt as to its meaning. Thus the letters read as 
fnli in an inscription, followed by a drawing of a worm, mean 
"worm" (Coptic, fent], and the letters kk, followed by the 
picture of a star hanging from heaven, mean " darkness " (Cop- 
tic, kake). There may even be words written in ancient hiero- 
glyphics which are still alive in English. Thus hbn, followed 
by two signs, one of which is the determinative for wood, is 
ebony; and tb, followed by the drawing of a brick, is a sun- 
dried brick, Coptic tube, tobf, which seems to have passed into 
the Arabic tob, or with the article, attob, thence into Spanish 
through the Moors, as a<lob<>, in which form, and as tlobie, it is 
current among the English speaking population of America. 

The Egyptians do not seem to have entirely got rid of their 
determinative pictures even in the latest form of their native 
writing, the demotic character. How it came to pass that, 
having come so early to the use of phonetic writing, they were 
later than other nations in throwing off the crutches of picture- 
signs, is a curious question. No doubt the poverty of their 
language, which expressed so many things by similar combina- 
tions of consonants, and the indefmiteness of their vowels, had 


to do with it, just as we see that poverty of language, and the 
consequent necessity of making similar words do duty for many 
different ideas, has led the Chinese to use in their writing de- 
terminative signs, the so-called keys or radicals, which were 
originally pictures, though now hardly recognizahle as such. 
Nothing proves that the Egyptian determinative signs were not 
mere useless lumber, so well as the fact that if there had been 
none, the deciphering of the hieroglyphics in modern times 
could hardly have gone a step beyond the first stage, the 
spelling out of the kings' names. 

We thus see that the ancient Egyptians and the Aztecs made 
in much the same way the great step from picture-writing to 
word-writing. To have used the picture of an object to repre- 
sent the sound of the root or crude-form of its name, as the 
Mexicans .did in drawing a hand, ma(itl), to represent, not a 
hand, but the sound ma; and teeth, tlan(tli), to represent, not 
teeth, but the sound tlan, though they do not seem to have 
applied it to anything but the writing of proper names and 
foreign words, is sufficient to show that they had started on 
the road which led the Egyptians to a system of syllabic, and 
to some extent of alphabetic writing. There is even evidence 
that the Maya nation of Yucatan, the ruins of whose temples 
and palaces are so well known from the travels of Catherwood 
and Stephens, not only had a system of phonetic writing, but 
used it for writing ordinary words and sentences. A Spanish 
MS., "Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan," bearing the date of 
1561, and the name of Diego de Landa, Bishop of Merida, has 
been published by the Abbe Brasseur, 1 and contains not only 
a set of chronological signs resembling the figures of the 
Central American sculptures and the Dresden Codex, but a 
list of over thirty characters, some alphabetic, as a, i, m, n ; 
some syllabic, as ku, ti ; and a sentence, ma in knti, "I will 
not," written with them. The genuineness of this information, 
and its bearing on the interpretation of the inscriptions on the 
monuments, are matters for future investigation. 

Yet another people, the Chinese, made the advance from 

1 Brasseur, ' Relation dee Choses de Yucatan de Diego de Landa, ' etc. ; Paris and 
London, 1864. 


pictures to phonetic writing, and it was perhaps because of tho 
peculiar character of their spoken language that they did it in 
so different a way. The whole history of their art of writing 
still lies open to us. They began by drawing the plainest 
outlines of sun, moon, tortoise, fish, boy, hatchet, tree, dog, 
and so forth, and thus forming characters which are still extant, 
and are known as the Ku-ican, or "ancient pictures." 1 Such 
pictures, though so much altered that, were not their ancient 
forms still to be seen, it would hardly be safe to say they had 
ever been pictures at all, are still used to some extent in Chinese 
writing, as in the characters for man, sun, moon, tree, etc. 
There are also combined pictorial signs, as water and eye for 
"tears," and other kinds of purely symbolic characters. But 
the great mass of characters at present in use are double, con- 
sisting of two signs, one for sound, the other for sense. They 
are called hing-shing, that is, " pictures and sounds." In one 
of the two signs the transition from the . picture of the object 
to the sound of its name has taken place ; in the other it has 
not, but it is still a picture, and its use (something like that of 
the determinative in the Egyptian hieroglyphics) is to define 
which of the meanings belonging to the spoken word is to be 
taken. Thus a ship is called in Chinese chow, so a picture of a 
ship stands for the sound chow. But the word chow means 
several other things ; and to show which is intended in any 
particular instance, a determinative sign or key is attached to 
it. Thus the ship joined with the sign of water stands for 
choir, " ripple," with that of speech for chow, " loquacity," 
with that of fire, for chow , " flickering of flame ; " and so on for 
"waggon-pole," "fluff," and several other things, which have 
little in common but the name of choir. If we agreed that 
pictures of a knife, a tree, an 0, should be determinative signs 
of things which have to do with cutting, with plants, and with 
numbers, we might make a drawing of a pear to do duty, with 
the assistance of one of these determinative signs, for pare, pear, 
pair. In a language so poverty-stricken as the Chinese, which 
only allows itself so small a stock of words, and therefore has 

1 J. M. Gallery, ' Systema Phonetician Scripturas Sinicae, ' parti.; Macao, 1841, p. 29. 
Endlicher, Chin. Gramm., p. 3, etc. 

H 2 


to make the same sound stand for so many different ideas, ths 
use of such a system needs no explanation. 

Looking now at the history of purely alphabetical writing, it 
has heen shown that there is one alphabet, that of the Egyptian 
hieroglyphics, the development of which (and of course of its 
derived forms) is clearly to be traced from the stage of pure 
pictures to that of pure letters. It was long ago noticed that 
gome of the old Egyptian hieratic characters have been directly 
retained in use in Egypt. The Coptic Christians still keep up 
in their churches their sacred language, which is a direct de- 
scendant of the ancient Egyptian ; and the Coptic alphabet, in 
which it is written and printed, was formed in early Christian 
times by adding to the Greek alphabet certain new characters 
to express articulations not properly belonging to the Greek. 
Among these additional letters, at least four are clearly seen to 
be taken from the old hieroglyphics, probably from their hieratic 
or cursive form, and thus to preserve an unbroken tradition at 
once from the period of picture-writing to that of the alphabet, 
and from times earlier than the building of the pyramids up to 
the present day. 

It has long been known that the great family of alphabets to 
which the Roman letters belong with the Greek, the Gothic, 
the Northern Runes, etc., are to be traced back into connection 
with the Phoenician and Old Hebrew characters, the very word 
alphabet (alpha-beta, aleph-beth) being an acknowledgment of 
the derivation from Semitic writing. But sufficient proof was 
wanting as to how these ancient Semitic letters came to be 
made. The theory maintained by Gesenius, that the Phoenician 
and Old Hebrew letters are rude pictures of Aleph the Ox, 
Beth the House, Gimel the Camel, etc., rested on resemblances 
which are mostly slight and indefinite. Also the supposition 
that the names of the letters date from the time when these 
letters were first formed, and thus record the very process of 
their formation, is a very bold one, considering that we know 
by experience how slight the bond is which may attach names 
to letters. Two alphabets, which are actually descended from 
that which is also represented by the Phoenician and Hebrew, 
have taken to themselves new sets of names belonging to the 


languages they were used to write, simply choosing for each 
letter a word which began with it. The names of our Anglo- 
Saxon K unes are Feoh (cattle, fee), Ur (urus, wild ox), Thorn 
(thorn), Hiigl (hail), Nead (need), and so on, for F, U, Th, H, 
N, etc., this English list corresponding in great measure with 
those belonging to the Scandinavian and German forms of the 
Runic alphabet. Again, in the old Slavonic alphabet, the 
names of Dobro (good), Zemlja (land), Liodc (people), Slovo 
(word), are given to D, Z, L, S. Even if it be granted 
that there is an amount of resemblance between the letters 
and their names in the old Phoenician and Hebrew alpha- 
bets, which is wanting in these later ones, it does not follow 
from thence that the shape of the Hebrew letters was taken 
from their names. Letters may be named in two ways, acro- 
stically, by names chosen because they begin with the right 
letters, or descriptively, as when we speak of certain characters 
as pothooks and hangers. A combination of the two methods, 
by choosing out of the words beginning with the proper letter 
such as had also some suitability to describe its shape, would 
produce much such a result as we see in the names of the 
Hebrew letters, and- would moreover serve a direct object in 
helping children to learn them. It is easy to choose such 
names in English, as Arch or Arrowhead for A, Bow or 
Butterfly for B, Curve or Crescent for C; and we may even 
pick out of the Hebrew lexicon other names which fit about as 
well as the present set. Thus, though the list of names of 
letters, Aleph, Beth, Gimel, and the rest, is certainly a very 
ancient and interesting record, its value may lie not in its 
taking us back to the pictorial origin of the Hebrew letters, but 
in its preserving for us among the Semitic race the earliest 
known version of the " A was an Archer." 

After the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, it was 
seen to be probable that not only were the ancient Egyptians 
the first inventors of alphabetic writing, but that the Phoenician 
and Hebrew alphabet was itself borrowed from the Egyptian 
hieroglyph-alphabet. Mr. Samuel Sharpe made the attempt to 
bring together the Egyptian hieroglyphs in their pictorial form 
with the square Hebrew characters. The Yicomte de Route's 


comparison, left for years unpublished, of the Egyptian hieratic 
characters with the old Phoenician letters, confirms Mr. Sharpe's 
view as to the letters Vav and Shin (/ and sh), and on the 
whole, though identifying several characters on the strength of 
too slight a resemblance, it lays what seems a solid foundation 
for the opinion that the main history of alphabetic writing is 
open to us, from its beginning in the Egyptian pictures to the 
use of these pictures to express sounds, which led to the forma- 
tion of the Egyptian mixed pictorial, syllabic, and alphabetic 
writing, from which was derived the pure alphabet known to us 
in its early Phoenician, Moabite, and Hebrew stages, \\hence 
the Greek, Latin, and numerous other derived forms come down 
to modern times. 1 

It remains to point out the possibility of one people getting 
the art of writing from another, without taking the characters 
they used for particular letters. Two systems of letters, or 
rather of characters representing syllables, have been invented in 
modern times, by men who had got the idea of representing 
sound by written characters from seeing the books of civilized 
men, and applied it in their own way to their own languages. 
Some for.y years ago a half breed Cherokee Indian, nanud 
Sequoyah (otherwise George Guess), invented an ingenious 
system of writing his language in syllabic' signs, which were 
adopted by the missionaries, and came into common use. In 
the table given by Schoolcraft there are eighty-five such signs, 
in great part copied or modified from those Sequoyah had 
learnt from print ; but the letter D is to be read a ; the letter 
M, lu ; the figure 4, se ; and so on through E, T, i, A, and a 
number more. 2 The syllabic system invented by a West African 
negro, Momoru Doalu Bukere, was found in use in the Tei 
country, about fifteen years since. 3 When Europeans inquired 

1 Sharpe, 'Egyptian Hieroglyphics;' London, 1861, p. 17. "Vte. Em. de Rouge", 
' Memoire snr I'Origine Egyptienne tie 1' Alphabet Fhenicien,' Paris, 1874. In former 
editions of the present work, the Egyptian origin of the alphabet was only treated as 
a likely supposition. In consequence of the appearance of M. de Rouge's argument 
since, the text has been altered to embody the now more advanced position of the 
subject. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 

' Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 228. Bastian, vol. i.-p. 423. 

3 Koelle, ' Grammar of the Vei Language ; ' London, 1854, p. 229, etc. J. L. 
Wilson, 'Western Africa ;' London, ISob', p. 95. 


into its origin, Doalu said that the invention was revealed to him 
in a dream by a tall venerable white man in a long coat, who 
said he was sent by other white men to bring him a book, and 
who taught him some characters to write words with. Doalu 
awoke, but never learnt what the book was about. So he called 
his friends together, and one of them afterwards had another 
dream, in which a white man appeared to him, and told him 
that the book had come from God. It appears that Doalu, 
when he was a boy, had really seen a white missionary, and had 
learnt verses from the English Bible from him, so that it is 
pretty clear that the sight of a printed book gave him the 
original idea which he worked out into his very complete and 
original phonetic system. It is evident from Fig. 13 that some 
part of the characters he adopted were taken, of course without 
any reference to their sound, from the letters he had seen in 
print. His system numbers 162 characters, representing mostly 
syllables, as a, be, bo, dso, fen, gba ; but sometimes longer 
articulations, as scli, sediya, taro. Though it is almost entirely 
and purely phonetic, it is interesting to observe that it includes 
three genuine picture-signs, oo gba, "money; " Ini, " gun," 
(represented by bullets,) and *~x~ chi, " water," this last sign 
being identical with that which stands for water in the Egyptian 

B &T, K 

le /en aba ale 

Fig. 13. 

It appears from these facts that the transmission of the art of 
writing does not necessarily involve a detailed transmission of 
the particular signs in use, and the difficulty in tracing the 
origin of some of the Semitic characters may result from their 
having been made in the same way as these American and 
African characters. If this be the case, there is an end of all 
hope of tracing them any further. 

In conclusion, it may be observed that the art of picture- 
writing soon dwindles away in all countries when word-writing 


is introduced, yet there are a few isolated forms in which it 
holds its own, in spite of writing and printing, at this very 
d .y. The so-called Roman numerals are still in use, and | 1 1 
1 1 1 are as plain and indisputable picture-writing as any sign 
on an Indian scroll of birch-bark. Why V and X mean five 
and ten is not so clear, but there is some evidence in favour of 
the view that it may have come by counting fingers or strokes 
up to nine, and then making a stroke with another across to 
mark it, somewhat as the deaf-and-dumb Massieu tells us that, 
in his untaught state, his fingers taught him to count up to 
ten, and then he made a mark. Loskiel, the Moravian 
missionary, says of the Iroquois, " They count up to ten, and 
make a cross ; then ten again, and so on, till they have 
finished ; then they take the tens together, and make with 
them hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands." l A. 
more modern observer says of the distant tribe of the Creeks, 
that they reckon by tens, and that in recording on grave-posts 
the years of age of the deceased, the scalps he has taken, or 
the war-parties he has led, they make perpendicular strokes for 
units, and a cross for ten. 2 The Chinese character for ten is 
an upright cross ; and in an old Chinese account of the life of 
Christ, it is said that " they made a very large and heavy 
machine of wood, resembling the character ten," which he 
carried, and to which he was nailed. 3 The Egyptians, in their 
hieroglyphic character, counted by upright strokes up to nine, 
and then made a special sign for ten, in this respect resembling 
the modern Creek Indians, and the fact that the Chinese only 
count | || 1 1 1 in strokes, and go on with an X for four, and 
then with various other symbols till they come to -f- or ten, 
does not interfere with the fact, that in three or four systems 
of numeration, so far as we know independent of one another, 
in Italy, China, and North America, more or less of the earlier 
numerals are indicated by counted strokes, and ten by a crossed 
stroke. Such an origin for the Roman X i g quite consistent 
with a half X or V being used for five, to save making a 

1 Loskiel, Gesch. der Mission der evangelischen Briider ; Barby, 1789, p. 39. 
3 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 273. 
Davis The Chinese ; ' Loudon, 1851, vol. ii. p. 176. 


number of strokes, which would be difficult to count at a 
glance. 1 

However this may be, the pictorial origin of | 1 1 1 1 1 is be- 
yond doubt. And in technical writing, such terms as ~J~-square 
and S-hook, and phrases such as " O before clock 4 min.," and 
"D rises at 8h. 35m.," survive to show that even in the midst 
of the highest European civilization, the spirit of the earliest and 
rudest form of writing is not yet quite extinct. 

1 A dactylic origin of V, as being a rude figure of the open hand, with thumb 
stretched out, and fingers close together, succeeding the | || l|| |||l, made with the 
upright fingers, has been propounded by Grotefend, and has occurred to others. It 
is plausible, but wants actual evidence. 



THE trite comparison of savages to " grown-up children " is 
in the main a sound one, though not to be carried out too strictly. 
In the uncivilized American or Polynesian, the strength of body 
and force of character of a grown man are combined with a mental 
development in many respects not beyond that of a young child 
of a civilized race. It has been already noticed how naturally 
children can appreciate and understand such direct expressions 
of thought as the gesture-language and picture-writing. In like 
manner, the use of dolls or images as an assistance to the opera- 
tions of the mind is familiar to all children, though among those 
who grow up under the influences of civilized society it is mostly 
superseded and forgotten in after life. Few educated Europeans 
ever thoroughly realize the fact, that they have once passed 
through a condition of mind from which races at a lower state of 
civilization never fully emerge ; but this is certainly the case, 
and the European child playing with its doll furnishes the key 
to several of the mental phenomena which distinguish the more 
highly cultivated races of mankind from those lower in the scale. 

"When a child plays with a doll or plaything, the toy is com- 
monly made to represent in the child's mind some imaginary 
object which is more or less like it. Wooden soldiers, for in- 
stance, or the beasts in a Noah's ark, have a real resemblance 
which any one would recognise at once to soldiers and beasts, 
and all that the child has to do is to suppose them bigger, and 
alive, and to consider them as walking of themselves when they 
are pushed about. But an imaginative child will be content 
with much less real resemblance than this. It will bring in a 
larger subjective element, and make a dog do duty for a horse, or 


a soldier for a shepherd, till at last the objective resemblance 
almost disappears, and a bit of wood may be dragged about, re- 
presenting a ship on the sea, or a coach on the road. Here the 
likeness of the bit of wood to a ship or a coach is very slight 
indeed ; but it is a thing, and can be moved about in an appro- 
priate manner, and placed in a suitable position with respect to 
other objects. Unlike as the toy may be to what it represents 
in the child's mind, it still answers a purpose, and is an evident 
assistance to the child in enabling it to arrange and develop its 
ideas, by working the objects and actions and stories it is ac- 
quainted with into a series of dramatic pictures. Of how much 
use the material object is in setting the mind to work, may be 
seen by taking it away and leaving the child with nothing to play 

At an early age, children learn more from play than from teach- 
ing ; and the use of toys is very great in developing their minds 
by giving them the means of, as it were, taking a scene or an 
event to pieces, and putting its parts together in new combina- 
tions, a process which immensely increases the definiteness of 
the children's ideas and their power of analysis. It is because 
the use of toys is principally in developing the subjective side of 
the mind, that the elaborate figures and models of which the toy- 
shops have been full of late years are of so little use. They are 
carefully worked out into the nicest details ; but they are models 
or pictures, not playthings, and children, who know quite well 
what it is they want, tire of them in a few hours, unless, indeed, 
they can break them up and make real toys of the bits. What 
a child wants is not one picture, but the means of making a 
thousand. Objective knowledge, such as is to be gained from 
the elaborate doll's houses and grocer's shops with their appur- 
tenances, may be got in plenty elsewhere by mere observation ; 
but toys, to be of value in early education, should be separate, so 
as to allow of their being arranged in any variety of cornbii at'.on, 
and not too servile and detailed copies of objects, so that they 
may not be mere pictures, but symbols, which a child can make 
to stand for many objects with the aid of its imagination. 

In later years, and among highly educated people, the mental 
process which goes on in a child playing with wooden soldiers 


and horses, though it never disappears, must be sought for in 
the midst of more complex phenomena. Perhaps nothing in 
after life more closely resembles the effect of a doll upon a child, 
than the effect of the illustrations of a tale upon a grown-up 
reader. Here the objective resemblance is very indefinite : two 
artists would make pictures of the same scene that were very 
unlike one another, the very persons and places depicted are 
imaginary, and yet what reality and definiteness is given to the 
scene by a good picture. But in this case the direct action of 
an image on the mind complicates itself with the deepest pro- 
blems of painting and sculpture. The comparison of the work- 
ings of the mind of the uncivilized man, and of the civilized 
child, is much less difficult. 

Mr. Backhouse one day noticed in Van Diemen's Land a native 
woman arranging several stones that were flat, oval, and about 
two inches wide, and marked in various directions with black 
and red lines. These he learned represented absent friends, and 
one larger than the rest stood for a fat native woman on Flinders 
Island, known by the name of Mother Brown. 1 Similar practices 
are found among far higher races than the ill-fated Tasmanians. 
Among some North American tribes, a mother who has lost a 
child keeps its memory ever present to her by filling its cradle 
with black feathers and quills, and carrying it about with her for 
a year or more. "When she stops anywhere, she sets up the 
cradle and talks to it as she goes about her work, just as she 
would have done if the dead baby had been still alive within it. 3 
Here we have no image ; but in Africa we find a rude doll, re- 
presenting the child, kept as a memorial. It is well known that 
over a great part of Africa the practice prevails, that whenever 
twin children are born, one or both of them are immediately 
killed. Among the Wanyamwezi, one of the two is always killed ; 
and, strange to say, " the universal custom amongst these tribes, 
is for the mother to wrap a gourd or calabash in skins, to place 
it to sleep with, and feed it like, the survivor." 3 Bastian saw 
Indian women in Peru, who had lost an infant, carrying about 

1 Backhouse, 'Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies;' London, 1843, 
p. 104 . 

2 C.ttlin, vol. ii. p. 133. s Burton, 'Central Africa,' voL ii. p. 23. 


on their backs a wooden doll to represent it. 1 Among the Be- 
clmanas, it is a custom for married women to carry a doll with 
them till they have a child, when the doll is discarded. There 
is one of these dolls in the London Missionary Museum, consist- 
ing simply of a long calabash, like a bottle, wound round with 
strings of beads. The Basuto women use clay dolls in the same 
way, giving them the names of tutelary deities, and treating 
them as children. 2 Among the Ostyaks of Eastern Siberia, there 
is found a still more instructive case, in which we see the tran- 
sition from the image of the dead man to the actual idol. When 
a man dies, they set up a rude wooden image of him, which 
receives offerings and has honours paid to it, and the widow 
embraces and caresses it. As a general rule, these images are 
buried at the end of three years or so, but sometimes the image of 
a shaman 3 is set up permanently, and remains as a saint for ever. 4 

The principal use of images to races in the lower stages of 
civilization is that to which their name of " the visible," flbahov, 
idol, has come to be in great measure restricted in modern lan- 
guage. The idol answers to the savage in one province of 
thought the same purpose that its analogue the doll does to 
the child. It enables him to give a definite existence and a 
personality to the vague ideas of higher beings, which his mind 
can hardly grasp without some material aid. How these ideas 
came into the minds of even the lowest savages, need not be 
discussed here ; it is sufficient to know that, so far as we have 
accurate information, they seem to be present everywhere in 
at least a rudimentary state. 

It does not appear that idols accompany religious ideas down 
to the lowest levels of the human race, but rather that they 
belong to a period of transition and growth. At least this seems 
the only reasonable explanation of the fact, that in America, for 
instance, among the lowest races, the Fuegians and the Indians 

1 Bastian, vol. ii. p. 376. 2 Casalis, p. 251. 

3 A a/iaman is a native sorcerer or medicine-man. His name is corrupted from 
Sanskrit gramana, a Buddhist ascetic, a term which is one of the mar.y relics of 
Buddhism in Northern Asia, having been naturalized into the grovelling fetish-worship 
of the Ostyaks and Tunguzes. See Weber, 'Indische Skizzen,' p. 66. 

4 Erman, ' Reise urn die Erde ; ' Berlin, 1833-43, vol. ii. p. 677. 'Vojiiges au 
Kord,' vol. viii. p. 415. 


of the southern forests, we hear little or nothing of idols. Among 
the so-called Red Indians of the North, we sometimes find idols 
worshipped and sacrificed to, but not always, while in Mexico 
and Peru the whole apparatus of idols, temples, priests, and 
sacrifices is found in a most complex and elaborate form. It 
does not seem, indeed, that the growth of the use of images may 
be taken as any direct measure of the growth of religious ideas, 
which is complicated with a multitude of other things. Image- 
worship depends in considerable measure on the representation 
of ideal beings. In so far as this symbolical element is con- 
cerned, it seems that when man has got some way in developing 
the religious element in him, he begins to catch at the device of 
setting a puppet or a stone as the symbol and representative of 
the notions of a higher being which are floating in his mind. 
He sees' in it, as a child does in a doll, a material form which 
his imagination can clothe with all the attributes of a being 
which he has never seen, but of whose existence and nature he 
judges by what he supposes to be its works. He can lodge it in 
the place of honour, cover it up in the most precious garments, 
propitiate it with offerings such as would be acceptable to him- 
self. The Christian missionary goes among the heathen to teach 
the doctrines of a higher religion, and to substitute for the cruder 
theology of the savage a belief in a God so far beyond human 
comprehension, that no definition of the Deity is possible to man 
beyond vague predications, as of infinite power, duration, know- 
ledge, and goodness. It is not perhaps to be wondered at, that 
the missionary should see nothing in idol-worship but hideous 
folly and wickedness, and should look upon an idol as a special 
invention of the devil. He is strengthened, moreover, in such a 
view by the fact that by the operation of a certain law of the 
human mind (of which more will be said presently), the idol,, 
which once served a definite and important purpose in the educa- 
tion of the human race, has come to be confounded with the 
idea of which it was the symbol, and has thus become the parent 
of the grossest superstition and delusion. But the student who 
occupies himself in tracing the early stages of human civilization, 
can see in the rude image of the savage an important aid to early 
religious development, while it often happens that the missionary 


is as unable to appreciate the use and value of an idol, as the 
grown-up man is to realize the use of a doll to a child. 

Man being the highest living creature that can be seen and 
imitated, it is natural that idols should mostly be imitations, 
more or less rude, of the human form. To show that the beings 
they represent are greater and more powerful than man, they 
are often huge in size, and sometimes, by a very natural expe- 
dient, several heads and pairs of arms and legs show that they 
have more wisdom, strength, and swiftness than man. The sun 
and moon, which in the physical system of the savage are 
o '-en held to be living creatures of monstrous power, are repre- 
sented by images. The lower animals, too, are often raised to 
the honour of personating supernatural powers, a practice which 
need not surprise us, when we consider that the savage does not 
set the lower animals at so great a depth below him as the 
civilized man does, but allows them the possession of language, 
and after his fashion, of souls, while we perhaps err in the oppo- 
site direction, by stretching the great gap which separates the 
lowest man from the highest animal, into an impassable gulf. 
Moreover, as animals have some powers which man only possesses 
in a less degree, or not at all, these powers may be attributed to 
a deity by personating him under the forms of the animals which 
possess them, or by giving to an image of human form parts of 
such animals ; thus the feet of a stag, the head of a lion, or the 
wings of a bird, may serve to express the swiftness or ferocity of 
a god, or to show that he can fly into the upper regions of the 
air, or, like the goat's feet of Pan, they may be mere indications 
of his character and functions. 

It is not necessary that the figure of a deity should have the 
characteristics of the race who worship it ; the figure of another 
race may seem fitter for the purpose. Mr. Catlin, for instance, 
brought over with him a tent from the Crow Indians, which he 
describes as having the Great or Good Spirit painted on one side 
of it, and the Bad Spirit on the other. His drawing, unfortu- 
nately, only shows clearly one figure, in the unmistakable uniform 
of a white soldier with a musket in the one hand and a pipe in 
the other, 1 and this may very likely be the figure of the Good 

1 Catlin, vol. i. p. 44. 


Spirit, for the pipe is a known symbol of peac3. ; But the white 
man stands also to the savage painter for the portrait of the Evil 
Demon, especially in Africa, where we find the natives of 
Mozambique drawing their devil in the likeness of a white man, 3 
while Romer, speaking of the people of the Guinea coast, says 
that they say the devil is white, and paint him with their 
whitest colours. The pictures of him are lent on hire for a 
week or so by the old woman who makes them, to people whom 
the devil visits at night. When he sees his image, he is so 
terrified that he never comes back. 3 This impersonation need 
not, however, be intended by any means as an insult to the 
white man. As Captain Burton says of his African name of 
Muzungu Mbaya, " the wicked white man," it would have been 
but a sorry compliment to have called him a good white man. 
Much of the reverence of the savage is born rather of fear than 
of love, and the white colonist has seldom failed to make out 
that title to the respect of the savage, which lies in the power, 
not unaccompanied by the will, to hurt him. 

The rudeness and shapelessness of some of the blocks and 
stones which serve as idols among many tribes, and those not 
always the lowest, is often surprising. There seems to be 
mostly, though not always, a limit to the shapelessness of an 
idol which is to represent the human form ; this is the same 
which a child would unconsciously apply, namely, that its 
length, breadth, and thickness must bear a proportion not too 
far different from the proportions of the human body. A wooden 
brick or a cotton-reel, set up or lying down, will serve well 
enough for a child to represent a man or woman standing or 
lying, but a cube or a ball would not answer the purpose so well, 
and if put for a man, could hardly be supposed even by the 
imagination of a child to represent more than position and 
movement, or relative size when compared with larger or smaller 
objects. Much the same test is applied by the uncivilized man 

1 SirQ. Simpson, ' Narrative of a Journey round the World' ; London, 1847, vol. i. 
p. 75. 

2 Pnrchas, vol. v. p. 768. See Livingstone, ' Missionary Travels, etc., in South 
Africa ;' London, 18o7, p. 465. See also Marco Polo, in Finkerton, vol. vii. p. 163. 

1 L. F. Romer, 'Nachr. von derKu-ite Guinea's'; Copenhagen, Leipzig, 1769, p. 43. 
See Waitz, voL ii. p. 503. 


in a particular class of myths or legends, which come to be made 
oil this wise. We all have more or less of the power of seeing 
forms of men and animals in inanimate objects, which sometimes 
have in fact a considerable likeness of outline to what they 
suggest, but which, in some instances, have scarcely any other 
resemblance to the things into which fancy shapes them than 
a rough similarity in the proportions of their longer and shorter 
diameters. Myths which have been applied to such fancied 
resemblances, or have grown up out of them, may be collected 
from all parts of the world, and from races high and low in the 
scale of culture. 

Among the Biccaras, there was once a young Indian who was 
in love with a girl, but her parents refused their consent to the 
marriage, so the youth went out into the prairie, lamenting his 
fate, and the girl wandered out to the same place, and the faith- 
ful dog followed his master. There they wandered with nothing 
to live on but the wild grapes, and at last they were turned into 
stone, first their feet, and then gradually the upper part of their 
bodies, till at last nothing was left unchanged but a bunch of 
grapes, which the girl holds in her hand to this day. And all 
this story has grown out of the fancied likeness of three stones 
to two human figures and a dog. Theje are many grapes grow- 
ing near, and the Biccaras venerate these figures, leaving little 
offerings for them when they pass by. 1 So the Seneca Indians 
affirm that the rounded head-like pebbles on the shore of Lake 
Canandaigua are the petrified skulls of the devoured tribe dis- 
gorged by the great snake in its death-agony. 2 

There was a Maori warrior named Hau, and his wife Wairaka 
deserted him. So he followed her, going from one river to the 
next, and at last he came to one where he looked out slyly from 
the corner of his eye to see if he could discover her. He 
breathed hard when he reached the place where Wairaka was 
sitting with her paramour. He said to her, " Wairaka, I am 
thirsty, fetch me some water." She got up and walked down to 
the sea with a calabash in each hand. He made her go on until 
the waves flowed over her shoulders, when he repeated a charm, 

1 Lewis and Clarke, Expedition; Phikdelphia, 1SH, p. 107. 
* Schooleraft, part iii. p. 323. 


which converted her into a rock that still bears her name. Then 
he went joyfully on his way. 1 

So the figure of the weeping Niobe turned into a rock, might 
be seen on Mount Sipylus. 2 The groups of upright stones, set 
up by old inhabitants in Africa and India, are now giants, men, 
flocks and herds changed into stone ; the avenues of monoliths 
at Karnak are petrified battalions ; the stone-circles on English 
downs have suggested other fanciful legends, as where for in- 
stance the story has shaped itself that such a ring was a party 
of girls who were turned into stone for dancing carols on a 
Sunday. 3 There is a tradition, probably still current in Pales- 
tine, of a city between Petra and Hebron, whose inhabitants were 
turned into stone for their wickedness. Seetzen, the traveller, 
visited the spot where the remains of the petrified inhabitants 
of the wicked city are still to be seen, and, just as in the 
American tale, he found their heads a number of stony concre- 
tions, lying scattered on the ground. 4 The imagination which 
could work on these rude objects could naturally discover in 
stone statues the result of such a transformation. Statues sculp- 
tured by a higher Peruvian race at Tiahuanaco, seemed to 
the ruder Indians petrified men, 5 and the clumsy stone busts 
on Asiatic steppes are, to the rude Turanians who worship 
them, as it were fossilized deities. 6 Especially the Jewish and 
Moslem iconoclastic mind thinks ancient statues men trans- 
formed by enchantment or judgment, and here we have the 
source of the Arabian Nights' tale of the infidel city, 
found with its inhabitants turned to lifelike counterfeits in 
stone. 7 

The myths of footprints stamped into the rock by gods or 
mighty men are hot the least curious of this class, not only from 

1 W. B. Baker, On Maori Popular Poetry, Trans. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1861, p. 49. 

2 Pausanias, i. 21. 

1 See Forbes-Leslie, 'Early Races of Scotland ;' Edinburgh, 13^6, vol. i. p. 191. 
William of Malmesbury, ii. 174 ; see Liebrecht in Heidelberger Jahrbiicher, 1SOS, p 

4 Kenrick, ' Essay on Primaeval History ;' London, 1846, p. 41. 

* Cieza de Leon, Travel^ (tr. and ed. by Markham), Hakluyt Soc. 1864, p. 378. 

* Latham, ' Descriptive Ethnology ; ' vol. i. p. 360. 

7 Lane, 'Thousand and One Nights,' vol. iii. p. 141. M. A. Walker, 'Macedonia, 
London, 1864, p. 48. 


the power of imagination required to see footprints in mere 
round or long cavities, but also from the unanimity with which 
Egyptians, Greeks, Brahmans, Buddhists, Christians, and 
Moslems have adopted them as relies, each from their own point 
of view. The typical case is the sacred footprint of Ceylon, 
which is a cavity in the rock, 5 feet long by 2 feet wide, at the 
top of Adam's Peak, made into something like a huge footstep 
by mortar divisions for the toes. Brahmans, Buddhists, and 
Moslems still climb the mountain to do reverence to it ; but to 
the Brahman it is the footstep of Siva, to the Buddhist of the 
great founder of his religion, Gautama Buddha, and to the 
Moslem it is the spot where Adam stood when he was driven 
from Paradise ; while the Gnostics have held it to be the foot- 
print of leu, and Christians have been divided between the 
conflicting claims of St. Thomas and the Eunuch of Candace, 
Queen of Ethiopia. 1 The followers of these different faiths have 
found holy footprints in many countries of the Old World, and 
the Christians have carried the idea into various parts of Europe, 
where saints have left their footmarks ; while, even in America, 
St. Thomas left his footsteps on the shores of Bahia, as a record 
of his mythic journey. 2 

For all we know, the whole mass of the Old "World footprint- 
myths may have had but a single origin, and have travelled from 
one people to another. The story is found, too, in the Pacific 
Islands, for in Samoa two hollow places, near six feet long, in a 
rock, are shown as the footprints of Tiitii, where he stood when 
he pushed the heavens up from the earth. 3 But there are reasons 
which may make us hesitate to consider the whole Polynesian 
mythology as independent of Asiatic influence. In North 
America, at the edge of the Great Pipestone Quarry, where the 
Great Spirit stood when the blood of the buffalos he was devour- 
ing ran down upon the stone and turned it red, there his footsteps 
are to be seen deeply marked in the rock, in the form of the 
track of a great bird ; 4 while Mexican eyes could discern in the 

1 Tennent, ' Ceylon ; ' vol. ii. p. 132. Scherzer, Voy. of the Novara, E. Tr. ; 
London, 1861, etc. ? vol. i. p. 413. 

2 Southey, 'History of Brazil ;' London, 1822, vol. i.; Sup. p. xx. 

8 Rev. G-. Turner, ' Nineteen Years in Polynesia ; ' London, 1801, p. 245. 

4 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 165, etc. 

I 2 


solid rock at Tlanepa^ttla the mark of hand and foot left by the 
mighty Quetzalcoatl. 1 

There are three kinds of prints in the rock which may have 
served as a foundation for such tales as these. In many parts 
of the world there are fossil footprints of birds and beasts, many 
of huge size. The North American Indians also, whose attention 
is specially alive to the footprints of men and animals, very 
often carve them on rocks, sometimes with figures of the animals 
to which they belong. These footprints are sometimes so 
naturally done as to be mistaken for real ones. The rock of 
which Andersson heard hi South Africa, " in which the tracks of 
all the different animals indigenous to the country are distinctly 
visible," 2 is probably such a sculptured rock. Thirdly, there 
are such mere shapeless holes as those to which most or all of 
the Old World myths seem to be attached. Now the difficulty 
in working out the problem of the origin of these myths is this, 
that if the prints are real fossil ones, or good sculptures, stories 
of the beings that made them might grow up independently any- 
where ; but one can hardly fancy men in many different places 
coming separately upon the quaint notion of mere hollows, six 
feet long, being monstrous footprints, unless the notion of mon- 
strous footprints being found elsewhere were already current. 
At the foot of the page are references to some passages relating 
to the subject. 3 

It has just been remarked that there is a certain process of 
the human mind through which, among men at a low level of 
education, the use of images leads to gross superstition and 
delusion. No one will deny that there is an evident connexion 
between an object, and an image or picture of it ; but we 
civilized men know well that this connexion is only subjective, 
that is, in the mind of the observer, while there is no objcctire 
connexion between them. By an objective connexion, I mean 

1 J. Q. Miiller, ' Amerikanische Urreligionen ; ' Basle, 1855, p. 578, see 272. 

1 C. J. Andersson, Lake Ngami, etc., p. 327. 

1 Lyell, Second Visit to U. S.; London, 1850, vol. ii. p. 313. C. Hamilton Smith, 
Nat. Hist, of Human Species ; Edinburgh, 1848, p. 35. Schoolcraft, part iii. \>. 74. 
Burton, ' Central Africa ; ' voL i. p. 288. Squier and Davis, Anct. Mon. of Mssi. 
Valley, ToL L of Smithsonian Contr.; Washington, 1848, p. 293. Bawlinson, 
Herodotus ; book ii. 91. IT. 82. 


such a connexion as there is between the bucket in the well aiul 
the hand that draws it up, when the hand stops, the bucket 
stops too ; or between a man and his shadow, when the man 
moves, the shadow moves too ; or between an electro-magne* 
and the iron filings near jt, when the current passes through 
the coil, a change takes place in the condition of the iron filings. 
These are, of course, crude examples ; but if more nicety is 
necessary, it might be said that the connexion is in some degree 
what a mathematician expresses in saying that y is a function 
of a-, when, if x changes, y changes too. The connexion between 
a man and his portrait is not objective, for what is done to the 
man has no effect upon the portrait, and vice versa. 

To an educated European nowadays this sounds like a mere 
truism, so self-evident that it is not necessary to make a formal 
statement of it ; but it may nevertheless be shown that this is 
one of the cases in which the accumulated experience and the 
long course of education of the civilized races have brought 
them not only to reverse the opinion of the savage, but com- 
monly to think that their own views are the only ones that could 
naturally arise in the mind of any rational human being. It 
needs no very large acquaintance with the life and ways of 
thought of the savage, to prove that there is to be found all over 
the world, especially among races at a low mental level, a view 
as to this matter which is very different from that which a more 
advanced education has impressed upon us. Man, in a low 
stage of culture, very commonly believes that between the object 
and the image of it there is a real connexion, which does not 
arise from a mere subjective process in the mind of the observer, 
and that it is accordingly possible to communicate an impression 
to the original through the copy. We may follow this erroneous 
belief up into periods of high civilization, its traces becoming 
fainter as education advances, and not only is this confusion of 
subjective and objective relations connected with many of the 
delusions of idolatry, but even so seemingly obscure a subject as 
magic and sorcery may be brought in great measure into clear 
daylight, by looking at it as evolved from this process of the 

It is related by an early observer of the natives of Australia, 


that in one of their imitative dances they made use of a grass- 
figure of a kangaroo, and the ceremony was held to give them 
power over the real kangaroos in the bush. 1 In North America, 
when an Algonquin wizard wishes to kill a particular animal, 
he makes a grass or clpth image of it, and hangs it up in his 
wigwam. Then he repeats several times the incantation, " See 
how I shoot," and lets fly an arrow at the image. If he drives 
it in, it is a sign that the animal will be killed next day. Again, 
while an arrow touched by the magical medawin, and afterwards 
fired into the track of an animal, is believed to arrest his course, 
or otherwise affect him, till the hunter can come up, a similar 
virtue is believed to be exerted, if but the figure of the animal 
sought be drawn on wood or bark, and afterwards submitted to 
the influences of the magic medicine and incantation. In their 
picture-writings, a man or beast is shown to be under magic 

influence by drawing a line from the 
mouth to the heart, as in the annexed 
figure, which represents a wolf under 
the charm of the magician, and corre- 
sponds to the incantation sung by 
the medicine-rnan, " Run, wolf, your 
body's mine." 5 Writing in the last 
Fi 14 century, Charlevoix remarks that the 

Illinois and some other tribes make 
little marmouzets or puppets to represent those whose lives 
they wish to shorten, and pierce these images to the heart. 3 

We find thus among the Indians of North America one of 
the commonest arts of magic practised in Europe in ancient 
and medieval tunes. The art of making an image and melting 
it away, drying it up, shooting at it, sticking pins or thorns 
into it, that some like injury may befall the person it is to 
represent, is too well known to need detailed description here, 4 
and it is still to be found existing in various parts of the world. 

1 Collins, 'New South Wales;' London, 1793, vol. i. p. 569. 
* Schoolcraft, parti, pp. 372, 380-382, part ii. p. 180. See 'Narrative of John 
Tanner, part ii. 

3 Charlevoix, voL vi. p. 88. See Waitz, 'Anthropologie,' vol. iii. p. 214. 

4 Jacob Grimm, 'Deutsche Mythologie,' Gottingen, 3rd Edit.; 1854, p. 1045, etc. 
Brand, 'Popular Antiquities,' Eohns Series ; London, 1555, vol. iii. pp. 10, 52, 141. 


Thus the Peruvian sorcerers are said still to make rag dolls and 
stick cactus-thorns into them, and to hide them in secret holes 
in houses, or in the wool of beds or cushions, thereby to cripple 
people, or turn them sick or mad. 1 In Borneo the familiar 
European practice still exists, of making a wax figure of th 
enemy to be bewitched, whose body is to waste away as the 
image is gradually melted, 2 as in the story of Margery Jordane's 
waxen image of Henry VI. The old Roman law punished by 
the extreme penalty the slaying of an absent person by means of 
a wax figure. The Hindoo arts are thus described by the Abbe 
Dubois : " They knead earth taken from the sixty-four most 
unclean places, with hair, clippings of hair, bits of leather, etc., 
and with this they make little figures, on the breasts of which 
they write the name of the enemy ; over these they pronounce 
magical words and mantrams, and consecrate them by sacrifices. 
No sooner is this done, than the graJtas, or planets, seize the 
hated person, and inflict on him a thousand ills. They some- 
times pierce these figures right through with an awl, or cripple 
them in different ways, with the intention of killing or crippling 
in reality the object of their vengeance." 3 Again, the Karens 
of Burmah model an image of a person from the earth of his 
footprints, and stick it over with cotton seeds, intending thereby 
to strike the person represented with dumbness. 4 Here we 
have the making of the figure combined with the ancient 
practice in Germany known as the " earth-cutting" (erdsclmitt), 
cutting out the earth or turf where the man who is to be 


destroyed has stood, and hanging it in the chimney, that he 
may perish as his footprint dries and shrivels. 5 

In these cases the object in view is to hurt the original 
through the image, but it is also possible to make an image, 
transfer to it the evil spirit of the disease which has attacked 
the person it is to represent, and then send it out like a scape- 
goat into the wilderness. They conjure devils into puppets in 

1 Rivero and Tschudi, p. 181. 2 St. John, vol ii. p. 260. 

8 Dubois, 'Miturs, etc., des Peuples de 1'Inde ; ' Paris, 1825, vol. ii. p. 63. 

4 Mrs. Mason, ' Civilizing Mountain Men ; ' London, 1862, p. 121. See Mason in 
Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, part ii. 1865, p. 224. 

5 Grimm, D. M., p. 1047. Wuttke, 'Ueutsche Volksaberglaube ;' Hamburg, 1860, 
pp. 102, 120. 


West Africa ; l in Siam the doctor makes an image of clay, 
sends his patient's disease into it, and then takes it away to the 
woods and buries it; 2 while the Tunguz cures his leg or his 
heart hy wearing a carved model of the part affected about him. 3 
The transfer of life or the qualities of a living being to an 
image may be made by giving it a name, or by the performance 
of a ceremony over it. Thus, at the festival of the Durga Puja, 
the officiating Brahman touches the cheeks, eyes, breast, and 
forehead of each of the images that have been prepared, and 
says, " Let the soul of Durga long continue in happiness in this 
image." Till life is thus given to them, they may not be 
worshipped. 4 But the mere making of the image of a living 
creature is very commonly sufficient to set up at once its con- 
nexion with life, among races who have not thoroughly passed 
out of the state of mind to which these practices belong. 
Looking at the matter from a very different point of view, and 
yet with the same feeling of a necessary connexion between life 
and the image of the living creature, the Moslem holds that he 
who makes an image in this world will have it set before him 
on the day of judgment, and will be called upon to give it life, 
but he will fail to finish the work he has thus left half done, 
and will be sent to expiate his offence in hell. 

With such illustrations to show how widely spread and 
deeply rooted is the belief that there is a real connexion be- 
tween a being and its image, we can see how almost inevitable 
it is, that man at a low stage of education should come to 
confound the image with that which it was made to represent. 
The strong craving of the human mind for a material support 
to the religious sentiment has produced idols and fetishes over 
most parts of the world, and at most periods in its history ; and 
while the more intelligent, even among many low tribes, have 
often clearly enough taken the images as mere symbols of 
superhuman beings, the vulgar have commonly believed that 
the idols themselves had life and supernatural powers. Mission- 

1 Hutchinson. in Tr. Eth. Soc.; London, 1861, p. 336. 

* Bowring, 'Siam ;' London, 1857, vol. i. p. 139. 

' Ravenstein, ' The Russians on the Amur ; ' London, 1861, p. 351. 

4 Coleman, 'The Mythology of the Hindus ; ' London, 1832, p. 83. 


aries have remarked this difference in the views of more and 
less intelligent members of the same tribe ; and it is emphati- 
cally true of a large part of Christendom, that the images and 
pictures, which, to the more instructed, serve merely as a help 
to realise religious ideas and to suggest devotional thoughts, 
are looked upon by the uneducated and superstitious crowd as 
beings endowed not only with a sort of life, but with miraculous 
influences. 1 

The line between the cases in which the connexion between 
object and figure is supposed to be real, and those in which it is 
known to be imaginary, is often very difficult to draw. Thus 
idols and figures of saints are beaten and abused for not granting 
the prayers of their worshippers, which may be a mere expression 
of spite towards their originals, but then two rival gods may be 
knocked together when their oracles disagree, that the one which 
breaks first may be discarded, and here a material connexion 
must certainly be supposed to exist. To the most difficult class 
belong the symbolic sacrifices of models of men and animals in 
Italy and Greece, and the economical paper-offerings of Eastern 
Asia. The Chinese perform the rite of burning money and 
clothes for the use of the dead ; but the . real things are too 
valuable to be wasted by a thrifty people, so paper figures do 
duty for them. Thus they set burning junks adrift as sacrifices 
to get a favourable wind, but they are only paper ones. Perhaps 
the neatest illustration of this kind of offerings, and of the state 
of mind in which the offerer makes them, is to be found in Hue 
and Gabet's story of the Tibetan lamas, who sent horses flying 
from the mountain-top in a gale of wind, for the relief of worn- 
out pilgrims who could get no further on their way. The horses 
were bits of paper, with a horse printed on each, saddled, bridled, 
and galloping at full speed. 2 

Hanging and burning in effigy is a proceeding which, in 
civilized countries at any rate, at last comes fairly out into pure 
symbolism. The idea that the burning of the straw and rag 

1 For discussion of image-worship or idolatry, where the image is considered to bo 
actually animated by a human soul or divine spirit which has taken up its abode in it 
as a body, see Tylor, 'Primitive Culture,' chap. xiv. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 

2 Hue and Gabet, ' Voy. dans la Tartarie, etc.;' Paris, 1850, vol. ii. p. 136. 


body should act upon the body of the original, perhaps hardly 
comes into the mind of any one who assists at such a perform- 
ance. But it is not easy to determine how far this is the case 
with the New Zealanders, whose minds are full of confusion 
between object and image, as we may see by their witchcraft, 
and who also hold strong views about their effigies, and fero- 
ciously revenge an insult to them. One very curious practice 
has come out of their train of thought about this matter. They 
were very fond of wearing round their necks little hideous figures 
of green jade, with their heads very much on one side, which 
are called tiki, and are often to be seen in museums. It seems 
likely that they are merely images of Tiki, creator of man and 
god of the dead. They are carried as memorials of dead friends, 
and are sometimes taken off and wept and sung over by a circle 
of natives ; but a tiki commonly belongs, not to the memory of 
a single individual, but of a succession of deceased persons who 
have worn it in their tune, so that it cannot be considered as 
having in it much of the nature of a portrait. 1 Some New 
Zealanders, however, who were lately in London, were asked 
why these tikis usually, if not always, have but three fingers on 
their hands, and they replied that if an image is made of a man, 
and any one should insult it, the affront would have to be re- 
venged, and to avoid such a contingency the tikis were made 
with only three fingers, so that, not being any one's image, no 
one was bound to notice what happened to them. 

In medicine, the notion of the real connexion between object 
and image has manifested itself widely in both ancient and 
modern times. Pliny speaks of the folly of the magicians in 
using the catanance (KararayKq, compulsion) for love-potions, 
because it shrinks in drying into the shape of the claws of a 
dead kite (and so, of course, holds the patient fast) ; but it does 
not strike him that the virtues of the lithospermum or " stone- 
seed" in curing calculus were no doubt deduced in just the 
same way. 2 In more modern times, such notions as these were 
elaborated into the old medical theory known as the " Doctrine 

1 Hale, in U. S. Exploring Exp.; Philadelphia, vol. vi., 1846, p. 23. W. Tate. 
'Account of New Zealand ;' London, 1835, p. 151; K,. Taylor, ' .New Zealand and its 
Inhabitants, ' 2nd ed., London, Io7o, cLap. vi. 3 Plin. xxvii. 35, 1\. 


of Signatures," which supposed that plants and minerals indi- 
cated by their external characters the diseases for which nature 
had intended them as remedies. Thus the Euphrasia or eye- 
bright was, and is, supposed to be good for the eyes, on the 
strength of a black pupil-like spot in its corolla, the yellow 
turmeric was thought good for jaundice, and the blood-stone is 
probably used to this day for stopping blood. 1 By virtue of a 
similar association of ideas, the ginseng, which is still largely 
used in China, was also employed by the Indians of North 
America, and in both countries its virtues were deduced from 
the shape of the root, which is supposed to resemble the human 
body. Its Iroquois name, abesoutchenza, means " a child," 
while in China it is called jin-seng, that is to say, " resemblance 
of man." 2 

Such cases as these bring clearly into view the belief in a real 
and material connexion existing between an object and its image. 
By virtue of their resemblance, the two are associated in thought, 
and being thus brought into connexion in the mind, it conies to 
be believed that they are also in connexion in the outside world. 
Now the association of an object with its name is made in a very 
different way, but it nevertheless produces a series of very simi- 
lar results. Except in imitative words, the objective resem- 
blance between thing and word, if it ever existed, is not dis- 
cernible now. A word cannot be compared to an image or a 
picture, which, as everybody can see, is like what it stands for ; 
but it is enough that idea and word come together by habit in the 
mind, to make men think that there is some real bond of con- 
nexion between the thing, and the name which belongs to it 
in their mother-tongue. Professor Lazarus, in his "Life of 
the Soul," tells a good story of a German who went to the Paris 
Exhibition, and remarked to his companion what an extra- 
ordinary people the French were, " For bread, they say du 
pain!" "Yes," said the other, "and we say bread." "To 
be sure," replied the first, " but it is bread, you knou:" 3 

1 Paris, ' Pharmacologia ;' London, 1843, p. 47. 

'- Cliarlevoix, vol. vi. p. 24. For a similar case, see the 'Penny Cyclopredia,' art. 
"Atropa Mandragora " (mandrake). 
3 Lazarus, 'Leben der Seele ;' Berlin, 1856-7, vol. ii. p. 77. 


As, then, men confuse the word and the idea, in much the 
same way as they confuse the image with that which it repre- 
sents, there springs up a set of practices and beliefs concerning 
names, much like those relating to images. Thus it is thought 
that the utterance of a word ten miles off has a direct effect on 
the object which that word stands for. A man may be cursed 
or bewitched through his name, as well as through his image. 
You may lay a smock-frock on the door-sill, and pronounce 
over it the name of the man you have a spite against, and then 
when you beat that smock, your enemy will feel every blow as 
well as if he were inside it in the flesh. 1 Thus, too, when the 
root of the dead-nettle was plucked to be worn as a charm 
against intermittent fevers, it was necessary to say for what 
purpose, and for whom, and for whose son it was pulled up, 
and other magical plants required also a mention of the 
patient's name to 'make them work. 2 

How the name is held to be part of the very being of the man 
who bears it, so that by it his personality may be carried away, 
and, so to speak, grafted elsewhere, appears in the way in which 
the sorcerer uses it as a means of putting the life of his victim 
into the image upon which he practises. Thus King James in 
his ' Daemonology,' says that " the devil teacheth how to make 
pictures of wax or clay, that by roasting thereof, the persons 
that they bear the name of may be continually melted or dried 
away by continual sickness." 3 A mediaeval sermon speaks of 
baptizing a "wax" to bewitch with; and in the eleventh 
century, certain Jews, it was believed,- made a waxen image of 
Bishop Eberhard, set about with tapers, bribed a clerk to bap- 
tize it, and set fire to it on that sabbath, the which image 
burning away at the middle, the bishop fell grievously sick and 

A similar train of thought shows itself in the belief, that the 
utterance of the name of a deity gives to man a means of direct 
communication with the being who owns it, or even places in 
his hands the supernatural power of that being, to be used at 

1 Kuhn, 'Die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Gottertranks;' Berlin, 1859, p. 227. 
Wuttke, pp. 16, 67. 3 Plin., xxii. 16, 24 ; xxiii. 54. 

3 Brand, voL iii. p. 10. Grimm, D. M., p. 1047. 


his will. The Moslems hold that the "great name" of God 
(not Allah, which is a mere epithet), is known only to prophets 
and apostles, who, by pronouncing it, can transport themselves 
from place to place at will, can kill the living, raise the dead, 
and do any other miracle. 1 

The concealment of the name of the tutelary deity of Rome, 
for divulging which Valerius Soranus is said to have paid the 
penalty of death, is a case in point. As to the reason of its 
being kept a secret, Pliny says that Verrius Flaccus quotes 
authors whom he thinks trustworthy, to the effect that when the 
Romans laid siege to a town, the first step was for the priests to 
summon the god under whose guardianship the place was, and 
to offer him the same or a greater place or worship among the 
Romans. This practice, Pliny adds, still remains in the ponti- 
fical discipline, and it is certainly for this reason that it has been 
kept secret under the protection of what god Rome itself has 
been, lest its enemies should use a like proceeding. 2 

Moreover, as man puts himself into communication with 
spirits through their names, so they know him through his 
name. In Borneo, they will change the name of a sickly child 
to deceive the evil spirits that have been tormenting it. 3 In 
South America, among the Abipones and Lenguas, when a man 
died, his family and neighbours would change their own names 4 
to cheat Death when he should come to look for them. As 
examples of beliefs connected with personal names among more 
civilized races, may be mentioned the custom in Tonquin of 
giving young children horrid names to frighten the demons 
from them, 5 the Jewish superstition that a man's destiny may be 
changed by changing his name, and the Abyssinian concealment 
of the child's real name, lest the Budas should bewitch him 
through it. 6 

It is perhaps a falling off from these extreme instances of the 

1 Lane, Mod. Eg., vol. i. p. 361. 

Piin., xxviii. 4. Plut., Q. 11. Macrob., Sat., iii. 9. See Bayle, art. "Soranua." 
8 St. John, 'Borneo,' vol. i. p. 197. 

4 Dobrizhoffer, 'The Abipones,' E. Tr. ; London, 1822, vol. ii. p. 273. Soutliey, 
'History of Brazil ; ' London, 1819, vol. iii. p. 394. 

5 Richard, ' Tonqiiin, ' in Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 734. 

Eisenmenger, part-i. p. 489. Parkyns, 'Abyssinia,' vol. ii. p. 14tf. 


intimacy with which name and object have grown together in the 
savage mind, to cite the practice of exchanging names, which was 
found in the West Indies at the time of Columbus, 1 and in the 
South Seas by Captain Cook, who was called Oree, while his 
friend Oree went by the name of Cookee. 2 But Cadwallader 
Colden's account of his new name is admirable evidence of what 
there is in a name in the mind of the savage. " The first Time 
I was among the Mohawks, I had this Compliment from one of 
their old Sachems, which he did, by giving me his own Name, 
Cayenderonrjiie. He had been a notable Warrior ; and he told 
me, that now I had a Eight to assume to myself all the Acts of 
Valour he had performed, and that now my Name would echo 
from Hill to Hill over all the Five Nations." When Golden 
went back into the same part ten or twelve years later, he found 
that he was still known by the name he had thus received, and 
that the old chief had taken another. 3 

Taking a still wider stretch, the power of association grasps 
not only the spoken word, but its written representative. It has 
been seen how the Hindoo sorcerers wrote the name of their 
victim on the breast of the image made to personate him. A 
Chinese physician, if he has not got the drug he requires for 
his patient, will write the prescription on a piece of paper, 
and let the sick man swallow its ashes, or an infusion of the 
writing, in water. 4 This practice is no doubt very old, and 
may even descend from the time when the picture-element in 
Chinese writing, now almost effaced, was still clearly distin- 
guishable, so that the patient would at least have the satisfac- 
tion of eating a picture, not a mere written word. Whether the 
Moslems got the idea from them or not, I do not know, but 
among them a verse of the Koran washed off into water and 
drunk, or even water from a cup in which it is engraved, is 

1 'Letters of Columbus' (Hakluyt Soc.); London, 1847, p. 217. Rochefort, 'lies 
Antilles ;' Rotterdam, KJ58, p. 458. 

2 Cook, First Voy. H, vol. ii. p. 251. Second Voyage; London, 2nd edit., 
1777, vol. i. p. 167. See Dumont d'Urville, 'Voy. de 1'Astrolabe,' vol. i. p. 189 

8 Colden, 'His*, of the Five Indian Nations of Canada ; ' London, 1747, part i 
p. 10. 
* Davis, voL ii. p. 215. 


*m efficacious remedy. 1 Here the connexion between the two 
ends of the chain is very remote indeed. The arbitrary cha- 
racters, which represent the sound of the word, which represents 
the idea, have to do duty for the idea itself. The example is a 
striking one, and will serve to measure the strength of the 
tendency of the uneducated mind to give an outward material 
reality to its own inward processes. 

This confusion of objective with subjective connexion, which 
shows itself so uniform in principle, though so various in details, 
in the practices upon images and names done with a view of 
acting through them on their originals or their owners, may be 
applied to explain one branch after another of the arts of the 
sorcerer and diviner, till it almost seems as though we were 
coming near the end of his list, and might set down practices 
not based on this mental process as exceptions to a general rule. 

"When a lock of hair is cut off as a memorial, the subjective 
connexion between it and its former owner, is not severed. In 
the mind of the friend who treasures it up, it recalls thoughts 
of his presence, it is still something belonging to him. We 
know, however, that the objective connexion was cut by the 
scissors, and that what is done to that hair afterwards, is not 
felt by the head on which it grew. But this is exactly what the 
savage has not come to know. He feels that the subjective bond 
is unbroken in his own mind, and he believes that the objective 
bond, which his mind never gets clearly separate from it, is 
unbroken too. Therefore, in the remotest parts of the world, 
the sorcerer gets clippings of the hair of his enemy, parings of 
his nails, leavings of his food, and practises upon them, that 
their former possessor may fall sick and die. This is why 
South Sea Island chiefs had servants always following them 
with spittoons, that the spittle might be buried in some secret 
place, where no sorcerer could find it, and why even brothers 
and sisters had their food in separate baskets. In the island of 
Tanna, in the New Hebrides, there was a colony of disease- 
makers who lived by their art. They collected any nahak or 
rubbish that had belonged to any one, such as the skin of a 

1 Lane, Mod. Eg., vol. i. p. 347-8. Petherick, Egypt, etc. ; Edinburgh, 1861, 
p. 221. 


banana he had eaten, -wrapped it in a leaf like a cigar, and burn! 
it slowly at one end. As it burnt, the owner got worse and 
worse, and if it was burnt to the end, he died. When a man 
fell ill, he knew that some sorcerer was burning his rubbish, and 
shell-trumpets, which could be heard for miles, were blown to 
signal to the sorcerers to stop, and wait for the presents which 
would be sent next morning. Night after night, Mr. Turner 
used to hear the melancholy too-tooing of the shells, entreating 
the wizards to stop plaguing their victims. And when a disease- 
maker fell sick himself, he believed that some one was burning 
his rubbish, and had his shells too blown for mercy. 1 It is not 
needful to give another description after this, the process is so 
perfectly the same in principle wherever it is found, all over 
Polynesia, 2 in Africa, 3 in India, 4 in North and South America, 5 
in Australia. 6 Superstitions of this kind as to hair and nails 
belong to Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Moslem lore. They are alive 
to this day in Europe, where, for instance, the German who 
walks over nails hurts their former owner, and the Italian does 
not like to trust a lock of his hair in the hands of any one, lest 
he should be bewitched or enamoured against his will. 7 

One of the best accounts we have of the art of procuring 
death by sorcery, is given in Sir James Emerson Tennent's 
work on Ceylon. It is not that there is much that is peculiar 
in the processes it describes, but just the contrary ; its import- 
ance lies in its presenting, among a somewhat isolated race, 
a system of sorcery, which is quite a little museum of the arts 
practised among the most dissimilar tribes in the remotest 
regions of the world. The account is as follows :< " The vidahu 

1 Turner, 'Polynesia,' pp. 18, 89, 424. 

3 Polack, ' Manners and Customs cf the New Zealandere ;' London, 1840, vol. i. 
p. >-'. Ellis, voL ii. p. 228. Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. L p. 249. Purcbas, vol. ii. 
p. 1652, etc. 

3 Casalis, p. 276. J. L. "Wilson, p. 215. D. & C. Livingstone, ' Exp. to Zambesi ; ' 
London, 1865, p. 46. 

4 Roberts, Or. Illustr., p. 47C. 

5 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 168. Fitz Roy, in Tr. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1861, p. 5. 
Forbes in Journ. Eth. ioc. vol. ii. p. 236. 

Stanbridge, id. p. 299. 

" See Lipschiitz, ' De Communi Humani Generis Origine ; ' Hamburg, 1864, p. f>9, 
etc.; Lane, Thousand and One N., voL ii. p. 215 ; fctory, Rola di Roma, vol. ii. 
p. 342. 


stated to the magistrate that a general belief existed among the 
Tamils [of Ceylon] in the fatal effects of a ceremony, performed 
with the skull of a child, with the design of producing the death 
of an individual against whom the incantation is directed. The 
skull of a male child, and particularly of a first-born, is preferred, 
and the effects are regarded as more certain if it be killed 
expressly for the occasion ; but for ordinary purposes, the head 
of one who had died a natural death is presumed to be sufficient. 
The form of the ceremony is to draw certain figures and caba- 
listic signs upon the skull, after it has been scraped and denuded 
of the flesh ; adding the name of the individual upon whom the 
charm is to take effect. A paste is then prepared, composed of 
sand from the footprints of the intended victim, and a portion of 
his hair moistened with his saliva, and this, being spread upon 
a leaden plate, is taken, together with the skull, to the graveyard 
of the village, where for forty nights the evil spirits are invoked 
to destroy the person so denounced. The universal belief of the 
natives is, that as the ceremony proceeds, and the paste dries up 
on the leaden plate, the sufferer will waste away and decline, and 
that death, as an inevitable consequence, must follow." 1 Here 
we have at once the name, the earth-cutting, the hair and saliva, 
the cursing, and the drying up. The use of the skull lies in its 
association with death, and we shall presently find it used in the 
same way in a very different place. 

Even the spirits of the dead may be acted on through the 
remains of their bodies. Though the savage commonly holds 
that after death the soul goes its own way, for the most part 
independently of the body to which it once belonged, yet in his 
mind the soul and the body of his enemy or his friend are in- 
separably associated, and thus he comes to hold, in his inconsis- 
tent way, that a bond of connexion must after all survive be- 
tween thorn. Therefore, the African fastens the jaw of his slain 
enemy to a tabor or a horn, and his skull to the big drum, that 
every crash and blast may send a thrill of agony through the 
ghost of their dead owner. 2 

The connexion between a cut lock of hair and its former owner 

1 Tennent, 'Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 545. 

s Rimer, 'Guinea,' p. 112. Klemm, C. 0., vol. iii. p. 352. 


is, in the mind at least, much closer than is necessary for theso 
purposes. As has been seen, the remains of a person's food are 
sufficient to bewitch him by. In a witchcraft case in the seven- 
teenth century, the supposed sorceress confessed that " there was 
a glove of the said Lord Henry buried in the ground, and as 
that glove did rot and waste, so did the liver of the said lord rot 
and waste." 1 Indeed, any association of ideas in a man's mind, 
the vaguest similarity of form or position, even a mere coinci- 
dence in time, is sufficient to enable the magician to work from 
association in his own mind, to association in the material 
world. Nor is there any essential difference in the process, 
whether his art is that of the diviner or of the sorcerer, that is, 
whether his object is merely to foretell something that will happen 
to a person, or actually to make that something happen ; or 
if he is only concerned with the searching out of the hidden 
past, the process remains much the same, the intention only is 

Out of the endless store of examples, I will do no more than 
take a few typical cases. They hang up charms in the Pacific 
Islands to keep thieves and trespassers out of plantations ; a 
few cocoa-nut leaves, plaited into the form of a shark, will cause 
the thief who disregards it to be eaten by a real one ; two sticks, 
set one across the other, will send a pain right across his body, 
and the very sight of these tabus will send thieves and trespassers 
off in terror. 2 In Kamchatka, when something had been stolen, 
and the thief could not be discovered, they would throw nerves 
or sinews into the fire, that as they shrank and wriggled with 
the heat, the like might happen to the body of the thief. 3 In 
New Zealand, when a male child had been .baptized in the native 
manner, and had received its name, they thrust small pebbles, 
the size of a large pin's head, down its throat, to make its heart 
callous, hard, and incapable of pity. 4 Eound the neck of a 
Basuto child in South Africa, one may see hanging a kite's foot 
to give swiftness, a lion's claw for security, or an iron ring to 

1 Brand, voj. iii. p. 29. 2 Turner, p. 294. 

Kracheninnikow, Descr. du Kamtcliatka ; Paris, 1768, p. 22. Klemm, C. G., 
Tol. ii. p. 297. 
4 Yate, p. 83. 


give a power of iron resistance. 1 The Red Indian hunter wears 
ornaments of the claws of the grizzly bear, that he may be 
endowed with its courage and ferocity, 2 a simpler charm than 
that whereby the magicians made men invincible in Pliny's time, 
in which the head and tail of a dragon, marrow of a lion and 
hair from his forehead, foam of a victorious racehorse, and claws 
of a dog, were bound together in a piece of deerskin, with 
alternate sinews of a deer and a gazelle. 3 The Tyrolese hunter 
still wears tufts of eagle's down in his hat, to gain the eagle's 
keen sight and courage. 4 Many of the food prejudices of savage 
races depend on the belief which belongs to this class of super- 
stitions, that the qualities of the eaten pass into the eater. 
Thus, among the Dayaks, young men sometimes abstain from 
the flesh of deer, lest it should make them timid, and before a 
pig-hunt they avoid oil, lest the game should slip through their 
fingers, 5 and in the same way the flesh of slow-going and 
cowardly animals is not to be eaten by the warriors of South 
America ; but they love the meat of tigers, stags, and boars, for 
courage and speed. 6 An English merchant in Shanghai, at the 
time of the Taeping attack, met his Chinese servant carrying 
home a heart, and asked him what he had got there. He said 
it was the heart of a rebel, and that he was going to take it 
home and eat it to make him brave. The very same thing is 
recorded in Ashanti, where the chiefs ate the heart of Sir Charles 
M'Carthy, to obtain his courage. 7 

When a Maori war-party is to start, the priests set up sticks in 
the ground to represent the warriors, and he whose stick is blown 
down is to fall in the battle. 8 In the Fiji Islands, the diviner 
will shake a bunch of dry cocoa-nuts to see whether a sick child 
will die ; if all fall off, it will recover ; if any remain on, it will 
die. He will spin a cocoa-nut, and decide a question according 
to where the eye of the nut looks towards when at rest again, 
or he will sit on the ground and take omens from his legs ; if 
the right leg trembles first, it is good ; if the left, it is evil ; or 

1 Casalis, p. 271. 2 Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 69. 

3 Plin., xxix. 20. 4 Wuttke, p. 188. 

5 St. John, vol. i. p. 176. Dobrizhoffer, vol. i. p. 258. Rochefort, p. 410. 
7 J. L. Wilson, p. 168. 8 Polack, vol. i. p. 270. 

K 2 


he will decide by whether a leaf tastes sweet or bitter, or 
whether he bites it clean through at once, or whether drops of 
water will run down his arm to the wrist, and give a good 
answer, or fall off by the way and give a bad one. 1 In British 
Guiana, when young children are betrothed, trees are planted 
by the respective parties in witness of the contract, and if either 
tree should happen to wither, the child it belongs to is sure to 
die. 2 A slightly different idea appears north of the Isthmus, 
in the Central American tale, where the two brothers, starting 
on their dangerous journey to the land of Xibalba, where their 
father had perished, plant each a cane in the middle of their 
grandmother's house, that she may know by its flourishing or 
withering whether they are alive or dead. 3 And again, to take 
stories from the Old World, when Devasmita would not let 
Guhasena leave her to go with his merchandise to the land of 
Cathay, Siva appeared to them in a dream, and gave to each a 
red lotus that would fade if the other were unfaithful ; 4 and so, 
in the German tale, when the two daughters of Queen Wilo- 
witte were turned into flowers, the two princes who were their 
lovers had each a sprig of his mistress's flower, that was to stay 
fresh while their love was true. 5 

On this principle of association, it is easy to understand how, 
in the Old World, the names of the heavenly bodies, and their 
position at the time of a man's birth, should have to do with 
his character and fate ; while, in the astrology of the Aztecs, 
the astronomical signs have a similar connexion with the parts 
of the human body, so that the sign of the Skull has to do with 
the head, and the sign of the Flint with the teeth. 6 Why fish 
may be caught in most plenty when the Sun is in the sign of 
Pisces, is as clear as the reason why trees are to be felled, or 
vegetables gathered, or manure used, while the moon is on the 

1 Williams, 'Fiji, 'p. 228. 

1 Rev. J. H. Bernau, 'Missionary Labours in British Guiana;' London, 1847, 
p. 59. 

3 Brasseur, 'Popol Yuh : ' Paris, 1861, p. 141. 

4 Somadeva Bhatta, vol. i. p. 139. 

* J. and W. Grimm, ' Kinder und Hausmarchen ; ' Gottingen, 1857-6, vol. i. 
p. 427, vol. iii. pp. 145, 328. See also Bastiaii, vol. iii. p. 19^ ^Papuans) ; Dumont 
d'Urville, vol. v. p. 444 (New Zealand). 

Kingsborough, Vatican MS., vol. ii. pi. 75 ; vols. v. and vi. 


wane, for these things have to fall, or be consumed, or rot ; 
while, on the other hand, grafts are to be set while the moon is 
waxing, 1 and it is only lucky to begin an undertaking when the 
moon is on the increase, as has been held even in modern times. 
It is as clear why the Chinese doctor should administer tne 
heads, middles, and roots of plants, as medicine for the heads, 
bodies, and legs of his patients respectively, and why passages 
in books looked at while some thought is in the reader's mind, 
should be taken as omens, from Western Europe to Eastern 
Asia, in old times and new. When it is borne in mind that 
the Tahitians ascribe their internal pains to demons who are 
inside them, tying their intestines in knots, it becomes easy to 
understand why the Laplanders, under certain circumstances, 
object to knots being tied in clothes, and how it comes to pass 
that in Germany witches are still believed to tie magic knots, 
which bring about a corresponding knotting inside their victims' 
bodies. And so on from one phase to another of witchcraft and 

It would be quite intelligible on this principle, that the sor- 
cerer should think it possible to impress his own mind upon the 
outer world, even without any external link of communication. 
The mere presence of the thought in his mind might be enough 
to cause, as it were by reflection, a corresponding reality. He 
is usually found, however, working his will by some material 
means, or at least by an utterance of it into the world. This 
seems to be the case with the rainmaker, or weather-changer, 
wherever he is met with, that is to say, among most races of 
man below the highest culture. Sometimes he works by clear 
association of ideas, as the Samoan rainmakers with their 
sacred stone, which they wet when they want rain, and put to 
the fire to dry when they want to dry the weather, 2 or the 
Lapland wizards, with the winds they used to sell to our sea- 
captains in a knotted cord, to be let out by untying it knot by 
knot. In the notable practice of killing an enemy by prophesy- 
ing that he will die, or by uttering a wish that he may, the 
outward act of speech comes between the thought and the reality, 
but perhaps a mere unspoken wish may be held sufficient. This 
1 Plin.,ix. 35 ; xviii. 75 ; xvii. 24. 2 Turner, p. 047, and see p. 423. 


kind of bewitching is found over almost as wide a range as the 
practices of the rainmaker, and extends like them into the upper 
regions of our race. 

" There dwalt a weaver in Moffat toun, 
That said the minister wad dee sune ; 
The minister dee'd ; and the fouk o' tho toun, 
They brant the weaver wi' the wudd o' his lume, 
And ca'd it weel-wared on the warlock loon." 1 

As has been so often said, these two arts are encouraged by 
the unfailing test of success, if they have but time enough, and 
the latter justifies itself by killing the patient through his own 
imagination. When he hears that he has been " wished," he 
goes home and takes to his bed at once. It is impossible to 
realize the state of mind into which the continual terror of witch- 
craft brings the savage. It is held by many tribes to be the 
necessary cause of death. Over great part of Africa, in South 
America and Polynesia, when a man dies, the question is at once, 
" who killed him ? " and the soothsayer is resorted to to find the 
murderer, that the dead man may be avenged. The Abipones 
held that there was no such thing as natural death, and that if it 
were not for the magicians and the Spaniards, no man would die 
unless he were killed. The notion that, after all, a man might 
perhaps die of himself, comes out curiously in the address of an 
old Australian to the corpse at a funeral, " If thou comest to the 
other black fellows and they ask thee who killed thee, answer, 
'No one, but I died.'" 2 

There are of course branches of the savage wizard's art that 
are not connected with the mental process to which so many of 
his practices may be referred. He is often a doctor with some 
skill in surgery and medicine, and an expert juggler ; and often, 
though knavery is not the basis of his profession, a cunning 
knave. One of the most notable superstitions of the human 
race, high and low, is the belief in the Evil Eye. Knowing, 
as we all do, the strange power which one mind has of working 
upon another through the eye, a power which is not the less 
certain for being wholly unexplained, it seems not unreasonable 

1 R. Chambers, ' Popular Rhymes of Scotland ; ' Edinburgh, 1826, p. 23. 
* Lang, 'Queensland ;' London, 1861, p. 360. 


to suppose that the helief in the mysterious influences of the 
Evil Eye flows from the knowledge of what the eye can do as an 
instrument of the will, while experience has not yet set such 
limits as we recognize to the range of its action. The horror 
which savages so often have of being looked full in the face, is 
quite consistent with this feeling. You may look at him or his, 
but you must not stare, and above all, you must not look him 
full in the face, that is to say, you must not do just what the 
stronger mind does when it uses the eye as an instrument to 
force its will upon the weaker. 

It is clear that the superstitions which have been cursorily 
described in this chapter, are no mere casual extravagances of 
the human mind. The way in which the magic arts have taken 
to themselves the verb to "do," as claiming to be " doing," par 
excellence, sometimes gives us an opportunity of testing their 
importance in the popular mind. A in Madagascar sorcerers 
and diviners go by the name of mpiasa, and in British Columbia 
of ooshtuk-yu, both terms meaning "workers," 1 so words in the 
languages of our Aryan race show a like transition. In Sanskrit, 
magic has possessed itself of a whole family of words derived 
from AT, to "do," krtya, sorcery, krtvan, enchanting, (literally, 
working,) kdrmana, enchantment (from karman, a deed, work), 
and so on, while Latin facere has produced in the Komance 
languages Italian fattura, enchantment, old French faiture, 
Portuguese feit';o (whence fetish), and a dozen more, and 
Grimm holds that the most probable derivation of zauber, Old 
High German zoupar, is from zouwan, Gothic tdnjan, to do, 
as modern German anthun means to bewitch, and other like 
etymologies are to be found. 2 The belief and practices to which 
such words refer form a compact and organic whole, mostly 
developed from a state of mind in which subjective and objective 
connexions are not yet clearly separated. "What then does this 
mass of evidence show from the ethnologist's point of view; 
what is the position of sorcery in the history of mankind ? 

When Dr. Martius, the Bavarian traveller, was lying one 

1 Ellis, 'Madagascar ; ' vol. i. p. 73. Sproat, 'Scenes of Savage Life,' p. 169. 

2 Pictet, 'Origines ;' part ii. p. 641. Diez, Worterb. s. r. "fattizio." Grimm, 
D. M. p. 9J4, etc. See Diefenbach, Vergl. Wurterb. i. 12 ; ii. 6^9. 


night in his hammock in an Indian hut in South America, and 
all the inhabitants seemed to he asleep, each family in its own 
place, his reflexions were interrupted by a strange sight. " In a 
dark corner there arose an old woman, naked, covered with dust 
and ashes, a miserable picture of hunger and wretchedness ; it 
was the slave of my hosts, a captive taken from another tribe. 
She crept cautiously to the hearth and blew up the fire, brought 
out some herbs and bits of human hair, murmured something in 
an earnest tone, and grinned and gesticulated strangely towards 
the children of her masters. She scratched a skull, threw herbs 
and hair rolled into balls into the fire, and so on. For a long 
while I could not conceive what all this meant, till at last 
springing from my hammock and corning close to her, I saw by 
her terror and the imploring gesture she made to me not to 
betray her, that she was practising magic arts to destroy the 
children of her enemies and oppressors." " This," he continues, 
" was not the first example of sorcery I had met with among the 
Indians. When I considered what delusions and darkness must 
have been working in the human mind before man could come 
to fear and invoke dark unknown powers for another's hurt, 
when I considered that so complex a superstition was but the 
remnant of an originally pure worship of nature, and what a 
chain of complications must have preceded such a degradation," 
etc. etc. 1 

I cannot but think that Dr. Martius's deduction is the abso- 
lute reverse of the truth. Looking at the practices of sorcery 
among the lower races as a whole, they have not the appearance 
of mutilated and misunderstood fragments of a higher system of 
belief and knowledge. Among savage tribes we find families of 
customs and superstitions in great part traceable to the same 
principle, the confusion of imagination and reality, of subjective 
and objective, of the mind and the outer world. Among the 
higher races we find indeed many of the same customs, but tli^y 
are scattered, practised by the vulgar with little notion of their 
meaning, looked down upon with contempt by the more in- 
structed, or explained as mystic symbolisms, and at last dropped 

1 Dr. v. Martius, ' Vergangenheit und Zukunft der Amerikanischen Menschlitit ; ' 
1839. But see below, chap, xiii., as to this eminent ethnologist's change of opinion. 


off one by one as the world grows wiser. There is a curious 
handful of plain savage superstitions among the rules to which 
the Roman Flamen Dialis had to conform. He was not only 
prohibited from touching a dog, a she-goat, raw meat, beans, 
and ivy, but he might not even name them, he might not have 
a knot tied in his clothes, and the parings of his nails and the 
clippings of his hair were collected and buried under a lucky 
tree. 1 So little difference does the mere course of time make in 
such things as these, that a modern missionary to a savage tribe 
may learn to understand them better than the Romans who 
practised them two thousand years ago. 

It is quite true that there are anomalies among the supersti- 
tious practices of the lower races, proceedings of which the 
meaning is not clear, signs of the breaking-down or stiffening 
into formalism of beliefs carried down by tradition to a distance 
from their source ; and besides, the rites of an old religion, car- 
ried down through a new one, may mix with such practices as 
have been described here, while the adherents of one religion 
are apt to ascribe to magic the beliefs and wonders of another, 
as the Christians held Odin, and the Romans Moses, to have 
been mighty enchanters of ancient times. But when we see the 
whole system of sorcery and divination comparatively compact 
and intelligible among savage tribes, less compact and less 
intelligible among the lower civilized races, and still less among 
ourselves, there seems reason to think that such imperfection 
and inconsistency as are to be found among this class of super- 
stitions in the lower levels of our race, are signs of a degenera- 
tion (so to speak) from a system of error that was more perfect 
and harmonious in a yet lower condition of mankind, when man 
had a less clear view of the difference between what was in him 
and what was out of him, than the lowest savages we have ever 
studied, when his life was more like a long dream than even 
the life that the Puris are leading at this day, deep in the forests 
of South America. 

There is a remarkable peculiarity by which the sorcery of the 
savage seems to repudiate the notion of its having come down 
from something higher, and to date itself from the childhood of 

1 Aulus Gellius, 'Socles Atticw,' x. 15 Plut., Q. R., cix. etc. 


the human race. There is one musical instrument (if the name 
may be allowed to it) which we give over to young children, who 
indeed thoroughly appreciate and enjoy it, the rattle. 

" Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law. 
Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw." 

When the dignity of manhood is to be conferred on a Siamese 
prince by cutting his hair and giving him a new dress, they 
shake a rattle before him as he goes, to show that till the 
ceremony is performed, he is still a child. As if to keep us 
continually in mind of his place in history, the savage magician 
clings with wonderful pertinacity to the same instrument. It 
is a bunch of hoofs tied together, a blown bladder with peas in 
it, or, more often than anything else, a calabash with stones or 
shells or bones inside. It is his great instrument in curing the 
sick, the accompaniment of his medicine-songs, and the symbol 
of his profession, among the Red Indians, among the South 
American tribes, and in Africa. For the magician's work, it 
holds its own against far higher instruments, the whistles and 
pipes of the American, and even the comparatively high -class 
flutes, harmonicons, and stringed instruments of the negro. 1 
Next above the rattle in the scale of musical instruments is the 
drum, and it too has been to a great extent adopted by the 
sorcerer, and, often painted with magic figures ; it is an impor- 
tant implement to him in Lapland, in Siberia, among some 
North American and some South American tribes. 2 The cling- 
ing together of savage sorcery with these childish instruments, 
is in full consistency with the theory that both belong to the 
infancy of mankind. With less truth to nature and history, the 
modern spirit-rapper, though his bringing up the spirits of the 
dead by doing hocus-pocus under a table or in a dark room is so 
like the proceedings of the African mganga or the Red Indian 

1 Catlin, vol. L p. 39, 109. Schoolcraft, part i. p. 310 ; part ii. p. 179. Charle- 
Toix, vol. vi. p. 187 Burton, 'Central Africa," vol. i. p. 44 ; vol. ii. p. 295. Purchas, 
vol. iv. p. 1339, J520, etc. etc. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 72. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. 
p. 169, 171-2. See Strabo, xv. 1, 22. 

2 Regnard, ' Lapland," in Pinkerton, vol. i. p. 163, 180. Ravenstein, p. 93. 
Molina, 'Hist, of Chile," E, Tr. ; London, 1809, vol. ii. p. 106. Falkner, 'Pata- 
gonia,' Hereford, 1774, p. 117. See, voL ii. p. 123. 


medicine-man, has cast off the proper accompaniments of his 
trade, and juggles with fiddles and accordions. 

The question whether there is any historical connexion 
among the superstitious practices of the lower races, is distinct 
from that of their development from the human mind. On the 
whole, the similarity that runs through the sorcerer's art in the 
most remote countries, not only in principle, but so often in 
details, as for instance in the wide prevalence of the practice 
of bewitching by locks of hair and rubbish which once belonged 
to the victim, often favours the view that these coincidences are 
not independent growths from the same principle, but practices 
which have spread from one geographical source. I have put 
together in another place (Chapter X.) some accounts of one of 
the most widely spread phenomena of sorcery, the pretended ex- 
traction of bits of wood, stone, hair, and such things, from the 
bodies of the sick, which is based upon the belief that disease is 
caused by such objects having been conjured into them. The 
value of this belief to the ethnologist depends much on its being 
difficult to explain it, and therefore also difficult to look upon it 
as having often arisen independently in the human mind. But 
from the intelligible, and to a particular state of mind one might 
even say reasonable, beliefs and practices which have been de- 
scribed in the present chapter, it seems hardly prudent to draw 
inferences as to the descent and communication of the races 
among whom they are found, at least while the ethnological 
argument from beliefs and customs is still in its infancy. 

To turn now to a different subject, the same state of mind 
which has had so large a share in the development of sorcery, 
has also manifested itself in a very remarkable series of obser- 
vances regarding spoken words, prohibiting the mention of the 
names of people, or even sometimes of animals and things. A 
man will not utter his own name ; husband and wife will not 
utter one another's names ; the son or daughter-in-law will not 
mention the name of the father or mother-in-law, and vice versa ; 
the names of chiefs may not be uttered, nor the names of certain 
other persons, nor of superhuman beings, nor of animals and 
things to which supernatural powers are ascribed. These various 
prohibitions are not found all together, but one tribe may hold 


to several of them. A few details will suffice to give an idea of 
the extent and variety of this series of superstitions. 

The intense aversion which savages have from uttering their 
own names, has often been noticed hy travellers. Thus Captain 
Mayne says of the Indians of British Columbia, that " one of 
their strangest prejudices, which appears to pervade all tribes 
alike, is a dislike to telling their names thus you never get a 
man's right name from himself ; but they will tell each other's 
names without hesitation." 1 So Dobrizhoffer says that the 
Abipones of South America think it a sin to utter their own 
names, and when a man was asked his name, he would nudge 
his neighbour to answer for him, 2 and in like manner, the 
Fijians and the Sumatrans are described as looking to a friend 
to help them out of the difficulty, when this indiscreet question 
is put to them. 3 

Nor does the dislike to mentioning ordinary personal names 
always stop at this limit. Among the Algonquin tribes, 
children are generally named by the old woman of the family, 
usually with reference to some dream, but this real name is 
kept mysteriously secret, and what usually passes for the name 
is a mere nickname, such as "Little Fox," or "Bed-Head." 
The real name is hardly ever revealed even by the grave-post, 
but the totem or symbol of the clan is held sufficient. The 
true name of La Belle Sauvage was not Pocahontas, " her true 
name was Matokes, which they concealed from the English, in 
a superstitious fear of hurt by the English, if her name was 
known." 4 "It is next to impossible to induce an Indian to 
utter personal names; the utmost he will do, if a person im- 
plicated is present, is to move his lips, without speaking, in the 
direction of the person." Schoolcraft saw an Indian in a court 
of justice pressed to identify a man who was there, but all they 
could get him to do was to push his lips towards him. 5 So 

1 Mayne, 'British Columbia,' etc. ; London, 1862, p. 278. 

- Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 444. See also Uullcn, 'Darien Indians,' in Tr. Eth. Soc. 
vol. iv. p. 265. 

3 Seemann, 'Viti ;' London, 1862, p. 190. Marsden, Hist, of Sumatra: London, 
1811, p. 2SH. 

4 Schoolcraft, part ii. p 65. 

* Id. p. 433. Sec also Burton, 'City of the Saints,' p. 141. 


Mr. Backhouse describes how a native woman of Van Diemen's 
Land threw sticks at a friendly Englishman, who in his igno- 
rance of native manners, mentioned her son, who was at school 
at Xewtown. 1 

In various parts of the world, a variety of remarkable customs 
are observed between men and women, and their fathers- and 
mothers-in-law. These will be noticed elsewhere, but it is 
necessary to mention here, that among the Dayaks of Borneo, a 
man must not pronounce the name of his father-in-law ; 2 among 
the Omahas of Xorth America, the father- and molher-in-law do 
not speak to their son-in-law, or mention his name, 3 nor do 
they call him or he them by name among the Dacotahs. 4 
Again, the wife is in some places prohibited from mentioning 
her husband's name. " A Hindoo wife is never, under any cir- 
cumstances, to mention the name of her husband. ' He,' ' The 
Master,' ' Swainy,' etc., are titles she uses when speaking of, or 
to her lord. In no way can one of the sex annoy another more 
intensely and bitterly, than by charging her with having men- 
tioned her husband's name. It is a crime not easily forgiven." 5 
In East Africa, among the Barea, the wife never utters the name 
of her husband, or eats in his presence, and even among the 
Beni Amer, where the women have extensive privileges and 
great social power, the wife is still not allowed to eat in the 
husband's presence, and only mentions his name before stran- 
gers. 6 The Kafir custom prohibits wives from speaking the names 
of relatives of their husbands and fathers-in-law. In Australia, 
among the names which in some tribes must not be spoken, are 
those of a father- or mother-in-law, of a son-in-law, and of 
persons in some kind of connexion by marriage. Another of 
the Australian prohibitions is not only very curious, but is 
curious as having apparently no analogue elsewhere. Among 
certain tribes in the Murray River district, the youths undergo, 
instead of circumcision, an operation called ipha/repin, and after- 
wards, the natives who have officiated, and those who have been 

1 Backhouse, 'Australia,' p. 93. 

2 St. John, vol. i. p. 51. * Long's Exp., vol. L p. 253. 

4 Schoolcraft, part. ii. p. 196. 

5 F. de W. Ward, ' India and the Hindoos ; ' London, 1853, p. 189. 

6 Munzinger, ' Ostaf rikanische Studien ;' Schaffhaustn, 1864, pp. 325, 526. 


operated upon, though they may meet and talk, must never 
mention one another's names, nor must the name of one even 
be spoken by a third person in the presence of the other. 1 

It is especially in Eastern Asia and Polynesia, that we find 
the names of kings and chiefs held as sacred, and not to be 
lightly spoken. In Siam, the king must be spoken of by some 
epithet ; 2 in India and Burmah, the royal name is avoided as 
something sacred and mysterious ; and in Polynesia, the pro- 
hibition to mention chiefs' names has even impressed itself 
deeply in the language of the islands where it prevails. 3 

But it is among the most distant and various races that we 
find one class of names avoided with mysterious horror, the 
names of the dead. In North America, the dead is to be 
alluded to, not mentioned by name, especially in the presence of 
a relative. 4 In South America, he must be mentioned among 
the Abipones as " the man who does not now exist," or some 
such periphrasis ; 5 and the Fuegians have a horror of any kind 
of allusion to their dead friends, and when a child asks for its 
dead father or mother, they will say, " Silence ! don't speak bad 
words." 6 The Samoied only speaks of the dead by allusion, for 
it would disquiet them to utter their names. 7 The Australians, 
like the North Americans, will set up the pictured crest or 
symbol of the dead man's clan, but his name is not to be 
spoken. Dr. Lang tried to get from an Australian the name 
of a native who had been killed. " He told me who the lad's 
father was, who was his brother, what he was like, how he 
walked when he was alive, how he held the tomahawk in his 
left hand instead of his right (for he had been left-handed), 
and with whom he usually associated ; but the dreaded name 
never escaped his lips; and I believe no promises or threats 
could have induced him to utter it." 8 The Papuans of the 
Eastern Archipelago avoid speaking the names of the dead, 

1 Eyre, vol. ii. pp. 336-9. The wharepin is a ceremonial depilation. 

Bowring, p. 8. s Polack, vol. i. p. 38. 
4 Simpson, Journey, vol. i. p. 130. Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 234. 

Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 273. 

Despard, 'Fireland ' (' Sunday at Home,' Oct. 31, 1863> 
1 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 226. 

8 Lang, ' Queensland,' pp. 367, 387. Eyre, L C. 


and in Africa, a like prejudice is found among the Masai. 1 In 
the Old World, Pliny says of the Roman custom, " Why, when 
we mention the dead, do we declare that we do not vex their 
memory?" 2 and indeed, the superstition is still to be found 
in modern Europe, and hetter marked than in ancient 
Rome ; perhaps nowhere more notably than in Shetland, 
where it is all but impossible to get a widow, at any dis- 
tance of time, to mention the name of her dead husband, 
though she will talk about him by the hour. No dead person 
must be mentioned, for his ghost will come to him who speaks 
his name. 3 

To conclude the list, the dislike to mentioning the names of 
spiritual or superhuman beings, and everything to which super- 
natural powers are ascribed, is, as everyone knows, very general. 
The Dayak will not speak of the small-pox by name, but will 
call it "the chief" or "jungle leaves," or say "Has he left 
you?" 4 The euphemism of calling the Furies the Eumenides, 
or 'gracious ones,' is the stock illustration of this feeling, and 
the euphemisms for fairies and for the devil are too familiar to 
quote. The Yezidis, who worship Satan, have a horror of his 
name being mentioned. The Laplanders will call the bear " the 
old man with the fur coat," but they do not like to mention his 
name ; and East Prussian peasants still say that in midwinter 
you must speak of the wolf as "the vermin," not call him by 
name, lest werewolves tear you. 5 In Asia, the same dislike to 
speak of the tiger is found in Siberia, among the Tunguz ; 6 and 
in Annam, where he is called " Grandfather" or "Lord," 7 while 
in Sumatra, they are spoken of as the "wild animals" or 
" ancestors." 8 The name of Brahma is a sacred thing in India, 
as that of Jehovah is to the Jews, not to be uttered but on 
solemn occasions. The Moslem, it is true, has the name of 

1 Bastian, vol. ii. p. 276. etc. See also Fontana, ' Nicobarls.' in As. Res., voL iii. 
p. 154. Callaway, 'Religion of Amazulu,' p. 169. 

2 Plin. , xxviii. 5. 

3 Mrs. Edniondston, ' Shetland Islands ;' Edin. 1856, p. 20. 

4 St. John, vol. i. p. 62. 

6 Wuttke, p. 118. See also Grimm, D. M., p. 633, 1213. 

6 Ravenstein, p. 382. 

" Mouhot, 'Travels in Indo-China,' etc. ; London, 1864, vol. i. p. 263. 

* Aiurhdtn, p. 2['2. 


Allah for ever on his lips, but this, as has been mentioned, is 
only an epithet, not the " great name." 

Among this series of prohibitions, several cases seem, like the 
burning in effigy among the practices with images, to fall into 
mere association of ideas, devoid of any superstitious thought. 
The names of husbands, of chiefs, of supernatural beings, or of 
the dead, may be avoided from an objection to liberties being 
taken with the property of a superior, from a dislike to associate 
names of what is sacred with common life, or to revive hateful 
thoughts of death and sorrow. But in other instances, the 
notion comes out with great clearness, that the mere speaking of 
a name acts upon its owner, whether that owner be man, beast, 
or spirit, whether near or far off. Sometimes it may be ex- 
plained by considering supernatural creatures as having the 
power of hearing their names wherever they are uttered, and as 
sometimes coming to trouble the living when they are thus 
disturbed. Where this is an accepted belief, such sayings as 
" Talk of the Devil and you see his horns," "Parlez du Loup," 
etc., have a far more serious meaning than they bear to us now. 
Thus an aged Indian of Lake Michigan explained why the 
native wonder-tales must only be told in the winter, for then 
the deep snow lies on the ground, and the thick ice covers up 
the waters, and so the spirits that dwell there cannot hear the 
laughter of the crowd listening to their stories round the fire in 
the winter lodge. But in spring the spirit-world is all alive, and 
the hunter never alludes to the spirits but in a sedate, reverent 
way, careful lest the slightest word should give offence. 1 In 
other cases, however, the effect of the utterance of the name on 
the name's owner would seem to be different from this. The 
explanation does not hold in the case of a man refusing to sp.'ak 
his own name, nor would he be likely to think that his mother- 
in-law could hear Avhenever he mentioned hers. 

Some of these prohibitions of names have caused a very 
curious phenomenon in language. "When the prohibited name 
is a word in use, and often when it is only something like such 
a word, that word has to be dropped and a new one found to 
take its place. Several languages are known to have been 
1 Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 314, 492. 


specially affectod by this proceeding, and it is to be remarked 
that in them causes o^ prohibition have been different. In 
the South Sea Islands, words have been tabued, from connexion 
with the names of chiefs ; in Australia, Van Diemen's Land, 
and among the Abipones of South America, from connexion 
with the names of the dead ; while in South Africa, the avoid- 
ance of the names of certain relatives by marriage has led to a 
result in some degree similar. 

Captain Cook noticed in Tahiti that when a chief came to the 
royal dignity, any words resembling his name were changed. 
Even to call a horse or a dog " Prince " or " Princess," was 
disgusting to the native mind. 1 Polack says that from a New 
Zealand chief being called " Wai," which means " water," a 
new name had to be given to water. A chief was called " Ma- 
ripi," or "knife;" and knives were called, in consequence, by 
another name, "nekra." 2 Hale, the philologist to the U. S. 
Exploring Expedition, gives an account of the similar Tahitian 
practice known as te pi, by virtue of which, for instance, the 
syllable tu was changed even in indifferent words, because there 
was a king whose name was Tu. Thus fetu (star) was changed 
to fctia, tui (to strike) became tiai, and so on. 3 

Mentioning the Australian prohibition of uttering the names 
of the dead, Mr. Eyre says : " In cases where the name of a 
native has been that of some bird or animal of almost daily 
recurrence, a new name is given to the object, and adopted in the 
language of the tribe. Thus at Moorunde, a favourite son of 
the native Tenberry was called Torpool, or the Teal ; upon the 
child's death the appellation of tilquaitch was given to the teal, 
and that of torpool altogether dropped among the Moorunde 
tribe." 4 The change of language in Tasmania, which has 
resulted from dropping the names of the dead, is thus described 
by Mr. Milligan : "The elision and absolute rejection and 
disuse of words from time to time has been noticed as a source 
of change in the Aboriginal dialects. It happened thus : The 

1 Cook, Third Voyage, vol. ii. p. 170. 

2 Polack, vol. i. p. 38 (mikara?) ; vol. ii. p. 126. 

3 Hale, in U. S. Exp., vol. vi. p. 238. Max Miiller, 'Lectures,' 2nd series ; 
London, 1864, pp. 34-41. Tyerinan and liennet, voL ii. p. 520. 

4 Eyre, voL ii. p. 354. 



names of men and women were taken from natural objects and 
occurrences around, as, for instance, a kangaroo, a gum-tree, 
snow, bail, tbunder, tbe wind, tbe sea, tbe Waratah or Blandi- 
fordia or Boronia wben in/ blossom, etc., but it was a settled 
custom in every tribe, upon the death of any individual, most 
scrupulously to abstain ever after from mentioning the name of 
the deceased, a rule, the infraction of which would, they con- 
sidered, be followed by some dire calamities : they therefore 
used great circumlocution in referring to a dead person, so as to 
avoid pronunciation of the name, if, for instance, William and 
Mary, man and wife, were both deceased, and Lucy, the deceased 
sister of William, had been married to Isaac, also dead, whose 
son Jemmy still survived, and they wished to speak of Mary, 
they would say ' the wife of the brother of Jemmy's father's 
wife,' and so on. Such a practice must, it is clear, have con- 
tributed materially to reduce the number of their substantive 
appellations, and to create a necessity for new phonetic symbols 
to represent old ideas, which new vocables would in all probabi- 
lity differ on each occasion, and in every separate tribe ; the only 
chance of fusion of words between tribes arising out of the 
capture of females for wives from hostile and alien people, a 
custom generally prevalent, and doubtless as beneficial to the 
race in its effects as it was savage in its mode of execution." 1 

Martin Dobrizhoffer, the Jesuit missionary, gives the following 
account of the way in which this change was going on in the 
language of the Abipones in his time. " The Abiponian lan- 
guage is involved in new difficulties by a ridiculous custom 
which the savages have of continually abolishing words common 
to the whole nation, and substituting new ones in their stead. 
Funeral rites are the origin of this custom. The Abipones do 
not like that anything should remain to remind them of the 
dead. Hence appellative words bearing any affinity with the 
names of the deceased are presently abolished. During the 
first years that I spent amongst the Abipones, it was usual to 
say Hegmalkam kahamdtek I ' When will there be a slaughter- 
ing of oxen ?' On account of the death of some Abipone, the 

1 Milligan, in Papers, etc., of Roy. Soc. of Tasmania, vol. iii. part ii. 1859, 
p. 281. 


word kahamdtek was interdicted, and, in its stead, they were all 
commanded, by the voice of a crier, to say, Hegmalkam neger- 
katd ? The word nihirenak, a tiger, was exchanged for apanige- 
hnk ; pciie, a crocodile, for kaeprhak, and kadma, Spaniards, for 
liikil, because these words bore some resemblance to the names 
of Abipones lately deceased. Hence it is that our vocabularies 
are so full of blots, occasioned by our having such frequent 
occasion to obliterate interdicted words, and insert new ones." 1 

In South Africa, it appears that some Kafir tribes drop from 
their language words resembling the names of their former chiefs. 
Thus the Ama-Mbalu do not call the sun by its ordinary Zulu 
name i-langa, but their first chief's name having been Ulanga, 
they use the word i-sota instead. It is also among the Kafirs 
that the peculiar custom of uku-hlonipa is found, which is re- 
marked upon by Professor Max Miiller in his second course of 
lectures. 2 The following account of it is from another source, 
the Rev. J. L. Dohne, who thus speaks of it under the verb 
Idonipa, which means to be bashful, to keep at a distance through 
timidity, to shun approach, to avoid mentioning one's name, to 
be respectful. "This word describes a custom between the nearest 
relations, and is exclusively applied to the female sex, who, when 
married, are not allowed to call the names of the relatives of their 
husbands nor of their fathers-in-law. They must keep at a dis- 
tance from the latter. Hence they have the habit of inventing 
new names for the members of the family, which is always re- 
sorted to when those names happen to be either derived from, or 
are equivalent to some other word of the common language, as, 
for instance, if the father or brother-in-law is called Umehlo, 
which is derived from amehlo, eyes, the isifazi [female sex] will 
no longer use amehlo but substitute amakangelo (lookings), etc., 
and hence, the izwi lezifazi, i.e. : women-word or language, has 
originated." 3 

Other instances of change of language by interdicting words 
are to be found. The Yezidis, who worship the devil, not only 
refuse to speak the name of Sheitan, but they have dropped the 

1 Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 203. " Max Miiller, I. e. 

1 Dohne, ' Zulu-Kafir Dictionary ; ' Cape Town, 1857, s. v. ttonipa. See Bastian, 
'RechtsveT-haltnisse,' p. 352 (name of King of Wadai). 

L 2 


word shat, " river," as too much like it, and use the word nalir 
instead. Nor will they utter the word keitan, "thread," or 
" fringe," and even naal, "horse-shoe," and naal-band, "farrier," 
are forbidden words, because they approach to laan, " curse," 
and maloun, "accursed." 1 It is curious to observe that a 
" disease of language " belonging to the same family has shown 
itself in English speaking countries and in modern times. In 
America especially, a number of very harmless words have been 
"tabooed " of late years, not for any offence of their own, but 
for having a resemblance in sound to words looked upon as in- 
delicate, or even because slang has adopted them to express 
ideas ignored by a somewhat over-fastidious propriety. "SVe in 
England are not wholly clear from this offence against good 
taste, but we have been fortunate in seeing it developed into its 
fall ugliness abroad, and may hope that it is checked once for all 
among ourselves. 

It may be said in concluding the subject of Images and Names, 
that the effect of an inability to separate, so clearly as we do, the 
external object from the mere thought or idea of it in the mind, 
shows itself very fully and clearly in the superstitious beliefs and 
practices of the untaught man, but its results are by no means 
confined to such matters. It is not too much to say that nothing 
short of a history of Philosophy and Religion would be required 
to follow them out. The accumulated experience of so many 
ages has indeed brought to us far clearer views in these matters 
than the savage has, though after all we soon come to the point 
where our knowledge stops, and the opinions which ordinary 
educated men hold, or at least act upon, as to the relation 
between ideas and things, may come in time to be superseded 
by others taken from a higher level. But between our clearness 
of separation of what is in the mind from what is out of it, and 
the mental confusion of the lowest savages of our own day, there 
is a vast interval. Moreover, as has just been said, the appear- 
ance even in the system of savage superstition, of things which 
seem to have outlived the recollection of their original meaning, 
may perhaps lead us back to a still earlier condition of the human 
mind. Especially we may see, in the superstitions connected 

1 Layard, ' Ninereh ; ' London, 1849, ToL i p. 297. 


with language, the vast difference between what a name is to the 
savage and what it is to us, to whom " words are the counters 
of wise men and the money of fools." Lower down in the history 
of culture, the word and the idea are found sticking together 
with a tenacity very different from their weak adhesion in our 
minds, and there is to be seen a tendency to grasp at the word 
as though it were the object it stands for, and to hold that to be 
able to speak of a thing gives a sort of possession of it, in a way 
that we can scarcely realize. Perhaps this state of mind was 
hardly ever so clearly brought into view as in a story told by Dr, 
Lieber. " I was looking lately at a negro who was occupied in 
feeding young mocking-birds by the hand. ' Would they eat 
worms ? ' I asked. The negro replied, ' Surely not, they are too 
young, they would not know what to call them.' " l 

* Lieber, 'Laura Brid^man ;' Smithsonian C., 1851, p. 9. 



DIRECT record is the mainstay of History, and where this fails 
us in remote places and times, it becomes much more difficult 
to make out where civilization has gone forward, and where it 
has fallen back. As to progress in the first place ; when any 
important movement has been made in modern times, there have 
usually been well-informed contemporary writers, only too glad 
to come before the public with something to say that the world 
cared to hear. But in going down to the lower levels of traditional 
history, this state of things changes. It is not only that real in- 
formation becomes more and more scarce, but that the same 
curiosity that we feel about the origin and growth of civilization, 
unfortunately combined with a disposition to take any semblance 
of an answer rather than live in face of mere blank conscious 
ignorance, has favoured the growth of the crowd of mythic in- 
ventors and civilizers, who have their place in the legends of so 
many distant ages and countries. Their stories often give us 
names, dates, and places, even the causes which led to change, 
just the information wanted, if only it were true. And, indeed, 
recollections of real men and their inventions may sometimes 
have come to be included among the tales of these gods, heroes, 
and sages ; and sometimes a mythic garb may clothe real history, 
as when Cadmus, mp, "The East," brings the Phoenician letters 
to Greece. But, as a rule, not history, but mythology fallen 
cold and dead, or even etymology, allusion, fancy, are their only 
basis, from Sol the son of Oceanus, who found out how to mine 
and melt the brilliant sun-like gold, and Pyrodes, the " Fiery," 
who discovered how to get fire from flint, and the merchants 
who invented the art of glass-making (known in Egypt in such 


remote antiquity) by making fires on the sandy Phoenician coast, 
with their kettles set to boil over them on lumps of natron, 
brought for this likely purpose from their ship, across the 
world to Kahukura, who got the fairies' fishing-net from which 
the New Zealanders learnt the art of netting, and the Chinese 
pair, Hoei and Y-meu, of whom the one invented the bow, and 
the other the arrow. 

As the gods Ceres and Bacchus become the givers of corn and 
wine to mortals, so across the Atlantic there has grown out of 
a simple mythic conception of nature, the story of the great 
onlightener and civilizer of Mexico. When the key which 
Professor Miiller and Mr. Cox have used with such success in 
unlocking the Indo-European mythology is put to the mass of 
traditions of the Mexican Quetzalcohuatl, collected by the Abbd 
Brasseur, 1 the real nature of this personage shows out at once. 

He was the son of Camaxtli, the great Toltec conqueror who 
reigned over the land of Analmac. His mother died at hia 
birth, and in his childhood he was cared for by the virgin 
priestesses who kept up the sacred fire, emblem of the sun. 
While yet a boy he was bold in war, and followed his father on 
his marches. But while he was far away, a band of enemies 
rose against his father, and with them joined the Mixcohuas, 
the " Cloud- Snakes," and they fell upon the aged king and 
choked him, and buried his body in the temple of Mixcoatepetl, 
the "Mountain of the Cloud- Snakes." Time passed on, and 
Quetzalcohuatl knew not what had happened, but at last the 
Eagle came to him and told him that his father was slain and 
had gone down into the tomb. Then Quetzalcohuatl rose and 
went with his followers to attack the temple of the Cloud- 
Snakes' Mountain, where the murderers had fortified them- 
selves, mocking him from their battlements. But he mined in 
a way from below, and rushed into the temple among them with 
his Tigers. Many he slew outright, but the bodies of the 
guiltiest he hewed and hacked, and throwing red pepper on their 
wounds, left them to die. 

After this there comes another story. Quetzalcohuatl ap- 

1 Brasseur, 'Hist, du Mexique,' vol. i. books ii. and iii. See voL iii. book lii. 
chapter iii. 


peared at Panuco, up a river on the Eastern Coast. He had 
lauded there from his ship, coming no man knew from whence. 
He was tall, of white complexion, pleasant to look upon, with 
fair hair and bushy heard, dressed in long flowing robes. Re- 
ceived ever, where as a messenger from heaven, he travelled 
inland across the hot countries of the coast to the temperate 
regions of the interior, and there he became a priest, a law- 
giver, and a king. The beautiful land of the Toltecs teemed 
with fruit and flowers, and his reign was their Golden Age. 
Poverty was unknown, and the people revelled in every joy of 
riches and well-being. The Toltecs themselves were not like 
the small dark Aztecs of later times ; they were large of stature 
and fair almost as Europeans, and (sun-like) they could run 
unresting all the long day. Quetzalcohuatl brought with him 
builders, painters, astronomers, and artists in many other crafts. 
He made roads for travel, and favoured the wayfaring merchants 
from distant lands. He was the founder of history, the law- 
giver, the inventor of the calendar of days and years, the 
composer of the Tonalamatl, the " Sun-Book," where the Ton- 
alpouhqui, "he who counts by the sun," read the destinies of 
men in astrological predictions, and he regulated the times of 
the solemn ceremonies, the festival of the new year and of the 
fifty-two years' cycle. But after a reign of years of peace aiul 
prosperity, trouble came upon him too. His enemies banded 
themselves against him, and their head was a chief who bore a 
name of the Sun, Tetzcatlipoca, the " Smoking mirror," a 
splendid youth, a kinsman of Quetzalcohuatl, but his bitter 
enemy. They rose against Quetzalcohuatl, and he departed. 
The kingdom, he said, was no longer under his charge, he had 
a mission elsewhere, for the master of distant lands had sent to 
seek him, and this master was the Sun. He went to Cholullan, 
" the place of the fugitive," and founded there another empire, 
but his enemy followed him with his armies, and Quetzalcohuatl 
said he must be gone to the land of Tlapallan, for Heaven willed 
that he should visit other countries, to spread there the light of 
his doctrine ; but when his mission was done, he would return 
and spend his old age with them. So he departed and went 
down a river on his ship to the sea, and there he disappeared. 


The sunlight glows on the snow-covered peak of Orizaba long 
after the lands below are wrapped in darkness, and there, some 
said, his body was carried, and rose to heaven in the smoke of 
the funeral pile, and when he vanished, the sun for a time 
refused to show himself again. 

How dim the meaning of these tales had grown among the 
Mexicans, when Montezuma thought he saw in Cortes and the 
Spanish ships the return of the great ruler and his age of goM. 
Quetzalcohuatl had come back already many a time, to bring 
light, and joy, and work, upon the earth, for he was the Sun. 1 
We may even find him identified with the Sun by name, and 
his history is perhaps a more compact and perfect series of solar 
myths than hangs to the name of any single personage in our 
own Aryan mythology. His mother, the Dawn or the Night, 
gives birth to him, and dies. His father Carnaxtli is the Sun, 
and was worshipped with Solar rites in Mexico, but he is the 
old Sun of yesterday. The clouds, personified in the mythic 
race of the Mixcohuas, or " Cloud-Snakes " (the Xibelungs of 
the western hemisphere), bear down the old Sun and choke him, 
and bury him in their mountain. But the young Quetzalcohuatl, 
the Sun of to-day, rushes up into the midst of them from below, 
and some he slays at the first onset, and some he leaves, rift 
with red wounds, to die. We have the Sun-boat of Helios, of 
the Egyptian Ra, of the Polynesian Maui. Quetzalcohuatl, his 
bright career drawing towards its close, is chased into far lands 
by his kinsman Tetzcatlipoca, the young Sun of to-morrow. 
He, too, is well-known as a Sun-god in the Mexican theology. 
Wonderfully fitting with all this, one incident after another in 
the life of Quetzalcohuatl falls into its place. The guardians of 
the sacred fire tend him, his funeral pile is on the top of Orizaba, 
he is the helper of travellers, the maker of the calendar, the 
source of astrology, the beginner of history, the bringer of 
wealth and happiness. He is the patron of the craftsman, whom 
he lights to his labour ; as it is written in an ancient Sanskrit 
hymn, " He steps forth, the splendour of the sky, the wide-see- 

1 The author, after ten years' more experience, -would now rather say more cautiously 
not that Quetzalcohuatl is the Sun personified, but that his story contains episode* 
seemingly ?rawn from sun-myth. [Xote to 3rd edition.] 


ing, the far-aiming, the shining wanderer ; surely, enlivened by 
the sun* do men go to their tasks and do their work." 1 Even 
his people the Toltecs catch from him solar qualities. Will it 
be even possible to grant to this famous race, in whose story the 
legend of Quetzalcohuatl is the leading incident, anything more 
than a mythic existence ? 

The student, then, may well look suspiciously on statements 
professing to be direct history of the early growth of civilization, 
and may even find it best to err on the safe side and not admit 
them at all, unless they are shown to be probable by other 
evidence, or unless the tradition is of such a character that it 
could hardly have arisen but on a basis of fact. For instance, 
both these tests seem to be satisfied by the Chinese legend 
concerning quipus. In the times of Yung-ching-che, it is 
related, people used little cords marked by different knots, 
which, by their numbers and distances, served them instead of 
writing. The invention is ascribed to the Emperor Suy-jin, the 
Prometheus of China. 2 Putting names and dates out of the 
question, this story embodies the assertion that in old times the 
Chinese used quipus for records, till they were superseded by 
the art of writing. Now in the first place, it is not easy to 
imagine how such a story could come into existence, unless 
it were founded on fact ; and in the second place, an examina- 
tion of what is known of this curious art in other countries, 
shows that just what the Chinese say once happened to them, is 
known to have happened to other races in various parts of the 

The quipu is a near relation of the rosary and the wampum- 
string. It consists of a cord with knots tied in it for the pur- 
pose of recalling or suggesting something to the mind. When 
a farmer's daughter ties a knot in her handkerchief to remember 
a commission at market by, she makes a rudimentary quipu. 
Darius made one when he took a thong and tied sixty knots in 
it, and .gave it to the chiefs of the lonians, that they might 
untie a knot each day, till, if the knots were all undone, and he 

1 Miiller, 'Lectures,' 2nd series, p. 497. 

5 Goguet, vol. iii. p. 322. De Mailla, 'Histoire Ge*n. de la Chine ;' Paris, 1777, 
vol. i. p. 4. 


had not returned, they might go back to their own land. 1 Such 
was the string on which Le Boo tied a knot for each ship he 
met on his voyage, to keep in mind its name and country, and 
that one on which his father, Abba Thulle, tied first thirty 
knots, and then six more, to remember that Captain Wilson was 
to come back in thirty moons, or at least in six beyond. 2 

This is so simple a device that it may, for all we know, have 
been invented again and again, and its appearance in several 
countries does not necessarily prove it to have been transmitted 
from one country to another. It has been found in Asia, 3 in 
Africa, 4 in Mexico, among the North American Indians ; 5 but 
its greatest development was in South America. 6 The word 
quipu, that is, "knot," belongs to the language of Peru, and 
quipus served there as the regular means of record and commu- 
nication for a highly organized society. Von Tschudi describes 
them as consisting of a thick main cord, with thinner cords tied 
on to it at certain distances, in which the knots are tied. The 
length of the quipus varies much, the main trunk being often 
many ells long, sometimes only a single foot, the branches 
seldom more than two feet, and usually much less. He has 
dug up a quipu, he says, towards eight pounds in weight, a 
portion of which is represented in the woodcut from which the 
accompanying (Fig. 15) is taken. The cords are often of 
various colours, each with its own proper meaning ; red for 
soldiers, yellow for gold, white for silver, green for corn, and so 
on. This knot- writing was especially suited for reckonings and 
statistical tables; a single knot meant ten, a double one a 
hundred, a triple one a thousand, two singles side by side 
twenty, two doubles two hundred. The distances of the knots 

1 Herod., iv. 98. See Plin., x. 34. Bastian, vol. i. p. 415. 

2 Keate, ' Pelew Islands ;' London, 1788, pp. 367, 392. 

3 Erman (E. Tr.) ; London, 1848, vol. i. p. 492. Macpherson, 'Memorials of 
India,' p. 359. As. Res. vol. iv. p. 64, vol. v. p. 127. Journ. lud. Archip. vol. i. 
pp. 260, 330*. 

4 Goguet, vol. i. pp. 161, 212. Klemm. C. G., vol. i. p. 3. Bastian, voL L 
p. 412. 

5 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 151. Long's Exp., vol. i. p. 235 (a passage which sug- 
gests a reason for Lucina being the patroness of child-birth). Talbot, Disc, of 
Lederer, p. 4 

6 Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. iii. p. 20. Rochefc--t, p. 412. 


from the main cord were of great importance, as was the 
sequence of the branches, for the principal objects were placed 
on the first branches and near the trunk, and so in decreasing 
order. This art of reckoning, continues Von Tschudi, is still iri 

Fig. 15. 

use among the herdsmen of the Puna (the high mountain 
flateau of Peru), and he had it explained to him by them, so 
that with a little trouble he could read any of their quipus. On 
the first branch they usually register the bulls, on the second 
the cows, these again they divide into milch-cows and those 
that are dry; the next branches contain the calves, according 


to age and sex, then the sheep in several subdivisions, the 
number of foxes killed, the quantity of salt used, and, lastly, 
the particulars of the cattle that have died. On other quipus is 
set down the produce of the herd in milk, cheese, wool, etc. 
Each heading is indicated by a special colour or a differently 
twined knot. 

It was in the same way that in old times the army registers 
were kept ; on one cord the slingers were set down, on another 
the spearmen, on a third those with clubs, etc., with their 
officers ; and thus also the accounts of battles were drawn up. 
In each town were special functionaries, whose duty was to tie 
and interpret the quipus; they were called Quipucamayocuna, 
Knot-officers. Insufficient as this kind of writing was, the 
official historians had attained, during the flourishing of the 
kingdom of the Incas, to great facility in its interpretation. 
Nevertheless, they were seldom able to read a quipu without 
the aid of an oral commentary ; when one came from a distant 
province, it was necessary to give notice with it whether it 
referred to census, tribute, war, and so forth. In order to 
indicate matters belonging to their own immediate district, they 
made at the beginning of the main cord certain signs only in- 
telligible to themselves, and they also carefully kept the quipus 
in their proper departments, so as not for instance to mistake 
a tribute cord for one relating to the census. By constant 
practice, they so far perfected the system as to be able to re- 
gister with their knots the most important events of the king- 
dom, and to set down the laws and ordinances. In modern 
times, all the attempts made to read the ancient quipus have 
been in vain. The difficulty in deciphering them is very great, 
since every knot indicates an idea, and a number of intermediate 
notions are left out. But the principal impediment is the want 
of the oral information as to their subject-matter, which was 
needful even to the most learned decipherers. However, should 
He even succeed in finding the key to their interpretation, the 
results would be of little value ; for what would come to light 
would be mostly census-records of towns or provinces, taxation- 
lists, and accounts of the property of deceased persons. There 
are still some Indians, in the southern provinces of Peru, who 


are perfectly familiar with the contents of certain historical quip us 
preserved from ancient times ; but they keep their knowledge a 
profound secret, especially from the white men. 1 

Coming nearer to China, quipus are found in the Eastern 
Archipelago and in Polynesia proper, 2 and they were in use in 
Hawaii forty years ago, in a form seemingly not inferior to the 
most elaborate Peruvian examples. " The tax-gatherers, though 
they can neither read nor write, keep very exact accounts of all 
the articles, of all kinds, collected from the inhabitants through- 
out the island. This is done principally by one man, and the 
register is nothing more than a line of cordage from four to 
five hundred fathoms in length. Distinct portions of this are 
allotted to the various districts, which are known from one 
another by knots, loops and tufts, of different shapes, sizes, 
and colours. Each taxpayer in the district has his part in this 
string, and the number of dollars, hogs, dogs, pieces of sandal- 
wood, quantity of taro, etc., at which he is rated, is well de- 
fined by means of marks of the above kinds, most ingeniously 
diversified." 3 

The fate of the quipu has been everywhere to be superseded, 
more or less entirely, by the art of writing. Even the picture- 
writing of the ancient Mexicans appears to have been strong 
enough to supplant it. Whether its use in Mexico is men- 
tioned by any old chronicler or not, I do not know ; but Boturini 
placed the fact beyond doubt by not only finding some speci- 
mens in Tlascala, but also recording their Mexican name, 
nepohualtzitzin, 4 a word derived from the verb tlapohua, to 
count. When, therefore, the Chinese tell us that they once 
upon a time used this contrivance, and that the art of writing 
superseded it, the analogy of what has takftn place in other 
countries makes it extremely probable that the tradition is a 
true one, and this probability is reinforced by the unlikeliness 
of such a story having been produced by mere fancy. 

Moreover, the historical value of early tradition does not lie 

1 J. J. v. Tschudi, 'Peru ;' St. Gall, 1846, vol. ii. p. 383. See Markbam, ' Gr. 
& Die. of Quichua,' p. 11. 

3 Marsden, p. 192. Eeate, loc. cit. Klemm, C. G., vol. iv. p. 396. 
* Tyennan and Bennet, Journal ; London, 1831, vol. i. p. 455. 

4 Boturini, 'Ideade una nueva Historia,' etc. ; Madrid, 1746, p. 85. 


exclusively in the fragments of real history it may preserve. 
Even the myths which it carries down to later times may 
become important indirect evidence in the hands of the ethno- 
logist. And ancient compositions handed down by memory 
from generation to generation, especially if a poetic form helps 
to keep them in their original shape, often give us, if not a 
sound record of real events, at least a picture of the state of 
civilization in which the compositions themselves had their 
origin. Perhaps no branch of indirect evidence, bearing on the 
history of culture, has been so well worked as the memorials of 
earlier states of society, which have thus been unintentionally 
preserved, for instance, in the Homeric poems. Safer examples 
than the following might be quoted ; but as so much has been 
said of the history of the art of writing, the place may serve to 
cite what seems to be a memorial of a time when, among the 
ancient Greeks, picture-writing had not as yet been superseded 
by word-writing, in the tale of Bellerophon, whom Proetus would 
not kill, but he sent him into Lycia, and gave him baneful 
signs, graving on a folded tablet many soul-destroying things, 
and bade him show them to the king, that he might perish at 
his hands. 

Il.tjj.Trt Se fJLLV AvKirjvSf, iropev S oye (rrjpaTa \vypa, 

TiJii\l/as ff TTtvaKi TTTVKTO> v[j.i><pa Troa, 
Aeicu 8' ^coyet w irevdffHa, ofyp nito\oiTO. 

It happens unfortunately that but little evidence as to the 
early history of civilization is to be got by direct observation, 
that is, by contrasting the condition of a low race at different 
times, so as to see whether its culture has altered in the mean- 
while. The contact requisite for such an inspection of a savage 
tribe by civilized men, has usually had much the same effect as 
the experiment which an inquisitive child tries upon the root 
it put in the ground the day before, by digging it up to see 

1 II., vi. 163. Wolf, Proleg. in Horn. ; Halle, 1859, 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 48, etc. 
Li del ell and Scott, . v. awa. " Here, as everywhere else, in order thoroughly to 
understand Homer, one must use the negative evidence of the tragedians. Till we 
remark how freely they attribute writing to the heroic age, we shall not fully take 
in the importance of Homer's utter silence upon the subject." Saturday favieic, 
Apr. 29, 1865, p. 511. 


whether it has grown. It is a general rule that original and 
independent progress is not found among a people of low civili- 
zation in presence of a higher race. It is natural enough that 
this should be the case, and it does not in the least affect the 
question whether the lower race was stationary or progressing 
before the arrival of the more cultivated foreigners. Even when 
the contact has been but slight and temporary, it either becomes 
doubtful whether progress made soon afterwards is original, or 
certain that it is not so. It has been asserted, for instance, 
that the Andaman Islanders had no boats in the ninth century, 
and that the canoe with an outrigger has only lately appeared 
among them. 1 If these statements should prove correct, we 
cannot assume, upon the strength of them, that the islanders 
made these inventions themselves, seeing that they could easily 
have copied them from foreigners. Moreover, the fact that 
they now use bits of glass bottles, and iron from wrecks, in 
making their tools and weapons, proves that slight as their 
intercourse has been with foreigners, and bitter as is their 
hostility to them, their condition has, nevertheless, been mate- 
rially changed by foreign influence. 

Though direct evidence thus generally fails us in tracing the 
history of the lower culture of mankind, there are many ways 
of bringing indirect evidence to bear on the problem. The early 
Culture History of Mankind is capable of being treated as an 
Inductive Science, by collecting and grouping facts. It is true 
that very little has as yet been done in this way, as regards the 
lower races at least ; but the evidence has only to a very slight 
extent been got into a state to give definite results, and the 
whole argument is extremely uncertain and difficult : a fact 
which sufficiently accounts for writers on the Origin of Civiliza- 
tion being able to tell us all about it, with that beautiful ease 
ind confidence which belong to the speculative philosopher, 
vhose course is but little obstructed by facts. 

In a Lecture on the Origin of Civilization, since reprinted 
with a 'Preface, 2 the late Archbishop "SVhately thus summarily 
disposes of any claim of the lower races to a power of self-im- 

1 Monat, 'Andaman Islanders,' pp. 7, 11, 315. 

3 Whately, ' Miscellaneous Lectures and Reviews ; ' London, 1856. 


provemcnt. " For, all experience proves that men, left in the 
lowest, or even anything approaching to the lowest, degree of 
barbarism in which they can possihly subsist at all, never did 
and never can raise themselves, unaided, into a higher condi- 
tion." This view, it may be remarked in passing, serves as a 
basis for a theory that, though races arrived already at a mode- 
rate state of culture may make progress of themselves, such 
races must have been started on their way upwards by a super- 
natural revelation, to bring them to the point where independent 
progress became possible. Now, the denial to the low savage 
of the power of self-improvement is a broad statement, requiring, 
to justify it, at least a good number of cases of tribes who have 
had a fair trial under favourable circumstances, and have been 
found wanting. As definite statements of this nature, the two 
following are considered by Archbishop "VVhately as sufficient 
to give substance to his argument ; and even these will not bear 

" The New Zealandcrs, . . . whom Tasman first discovered 
in 1642, and who were visited for the second time by Cook, 127 
years after, were found by him exactly in the same condition." 
Now Tasman never set foot in New Zealand. The particulars 
he recorded of the civilization of the natives, as seen from his 
ship, occupy a page or so in his journal. 1 He mentions fires 
seen on shore ; a sort of trumpet blown upon by the natives ; 
their dressing their hair in a bunch behind the top of the head, 
with a white feather stuck in it ; their double canoes, joined 
above with a platform ; their paddles and sails ; their clothing, 
which was (as it seemed) sometimes of matting, and sometimes 
of cotton (he was wrong as to this last point, but very excusably 
so, considering how little opportunity he had of close examina- 
tion) ; their spears and clubs ; a white flag carried by a man in 
a boat ; and the square garden-inclosures seen on Three Kings' 
Island. This meagre account is all the basis \Yhately had 
for asserting that the condition of the New Zealanders in 
Tasman's time was exactly the same as in Cook's time. In 
point of fact, how does it prove that civilization may not have 

1 Swart, ' Journaal van de Reis naar het onbekende Zuidland, door Abel Jansz. 
Tasman;' Amsterdam, 1800, pp. 80-95. 



advanced or declined very considerably when Cook vi sited the 
country ? 

The other statement lies in the citing of a remark of Darwin's 
about the Fuegians, which runs thus : ! " Their skill in some 
respects may be compared to the instinct of animals ; for it is 
not improved by experience : the canoe, their most ingenious 
work, poor as it is, has remained the same, for the last two 
hundred and fifty years." But it must be noticed, that neither 
is the wretched hand-to-mouth life of the Fuegians favourable to 
progress, nor can a bark canoe ten feet long, holding four or five 
grown persons, beside children, dogs, implements, and weapons, 
and in which a fire can be kept burning on a hearth in the 
rough sea of Tierra del Fuego, be without tolerable sea-going 
qualities. As to workmanship, the modern Fuegian bark canoes 
are much above the very rude ones of the Australian coast, 
though probably below the highly finished ones of the Algonquius 
of North America. Sir Francis Drake speaks of those he saw 
in the sixteenth century, as " most artificiall," and of " most 
fine proportion," and later seamen's remarks, though they do 
not enable us to say that the modern ones are better or worse 
made than they used to be, leave no doubt as to their always 
having been high-class craft of their kind, so Ion 1 * as we know 
anything about them. 2 But the most remarkable thing in the 
whole matter, is the fact that the Fuegians should have had 
canoes at all, while coast-tribes across the straits made shift 
with rafts. This was of course a fact familiar to Mr. Darwin, 
and in the very next sentence after that quoted above, he 
actually goes on to ascribe to the Fuegian race the invention 
of their art of boat-building. " Whilst beholding these savages, 
one asks, whence have they come ? What could have tempted, 
cr what change compelled a tribe of men to leave the fine regions 
of the north, to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of 
America, to invent and build canoes, and then to enter on one 
of the most inhospitable countries within the limits of the 

1 Fitz Roy and Darwin, Narrative of Voyage of ' Adventure ' and ' Beagle ; ' 
London, 1839, vol. iii. p. 236. See vol. i. p. 137. 

1 'The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake.' Hakluyt Soc. 18^4, pp. 74 8. 
Klemm, C. G., voL i. p. 33<X W. P. Snow, ' Tierra del Fuego,' etc. ; London, 1857, 
ToL I i. 3o8 


globe ? " Of this part of Mr. Darwin's remarks, however, 
Archbishop Whately did not think it necessary to take notice. 
It is a proof of the unsatisfactory condition of theological 
literature in England, that Whately's Essay, wanting as it is 
in any real evidence, should still be quoted as of authority. 

Far more profitable work than the construction of speculative 
theories, may be done by collecting facts or groups of facts 
leading to direct inferences. When both fact and inference are 
sound, every such argument is a step gained, while if either be 
unsound, a distinct statement of fact and issue is the best means 
of getting them corrected, or, if needful, discarded altogether. 
A principal object of the present chapter is to bring forward a 
variety of instances drawn from sources where indirect evidence 
bearing on our early history is to be sought. 

As examples of evidence from language, a few cases may be 
given. The word calculation, indicating the primitive art of 
reckoning by pebbles, or calculi, has passed on with the growth 
of science to designate the working of problems far beyond the 
reach of the abacus. So, though the Mexicans, when they were 
discovered, had a high numerical system and were good reckoners, 
the word Ml, " stone,." remained as an integral part of one of 
their sets of numerals for counting animals and things ; centetl 
"one stone," ontetl "two stone," etetl "three stone," etc., 
meaning nothing more than one, two, three. Nor is Mexico the 
only country where this curious phenomenon occurs. The 
Malays say for " one " not only sa, but also sawatu, that is 
literally " one stone," and the Javans say not only sa but sauiji, 
that is, "one corn, or seed," and in like manner the Nias 
language calls one and two sambua and dumbua, that is, appa- 
rently, " one fruit," " two fruits." l 

Still more notable is the Aztec term for an eclipse. The 
idea that the sun and moon are swallowed or bitten by dragons, 
or great dogs, or other creatures, is not only very common in 
the Old World, but it is even found in North and South 
America and Polynesia. 2 But there is evidence that the 

1 Crawfurd, Gr. and Die. of Malay Language ; London, 1852, voL i. pp. M. Iviii. 
Ixvii. and see ccxviii. 

2 Jacob Grimm, ' Deutsche Mythologie,' pp. 224-5 668. Schoolcraft, part l. 

si - 


ancient Mexicans understood the real cause of eclipses. They 
are represented in the picture-writings by a figure of the moon's 
disc covering part of the sun's, and this symbol, Humboldt 
remarks, " proves exact notions as to the cause of eclipses ; it 
reminds us of the allegorical dance of the Mexican priests, 
which represented the moon devouring the sun." ] Yet the 
Mexicans preserved the memory of an earlier state of astrono- 
mical knowledge, by calling eclipses of the sun and moon 
tonatiuh qualo, metztli qualo, that is, " the sun's being eaten," 
"the moon's being eaten," just as the Finns say, kuu syodtid, 
"the moon is eaten," and the Tahitians, that she is natua, that 
is " bitten " or " pinched." 8 In the Mexican celebration of the 
Netonatiuh-qualo, or eclipse of the sun, two of the captives 
sacrificed appeared as likenesses of the sun and moon. 3 

When, a thing or an art is named in one country by a word 
belonging to the language of another, as maize, hammock, 
algebra, and the like, it is often good evidence that the thing 
or art itself came from thence, bringing its name with it. This 
kind of evidence, bearing upon the progress of civilization, has 
been much and successfully worked, but it has to be used with 
great caution when the foreign language is an important me- 
dium of instruction, or spoken by a race dominant or powerful 
in the country. As instances of words good or bad as historical 
evidence, may be taken the Arabic words in Spanish. While 
alqidmia (alchemy), albornoz (bornoos), acequia (irrigating chan- 
nel), albaricoque (apricot), and many more, may really carry with 
them historical information of more or less value, it must be 
borne in mind that the influence of the Arabic language in 
Spain was so great, that it has often given words for what was 
there long before Moorish tunes, alacran (scorpion), alboroto 
(uproar), alcor (hill), and so on; not satisfied with their own 
word for head, to express a head of cattle, the Spaniards must 
needs call it res, Arabic ras, head. So the New Zealanders' use 

p. 271. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 84. Du Tertre, ' Hist. Gen. des Antilles,' etc. ; 
Paris, 1667, TO!, ii. p. 371. Turner, 'Polynesia, 'p. 531. 

1 Humboldt, Vues, pi. 56. 

1 Castren, ' Finnische Mythologie,' pp. 63-5. Grimm, D. M. p. 669. Ellis, Polyn. 
Res. vol. ii. p. 415. 

Nieremberg, Hist. Nat. ; Antwerp, 1635, p. 143. Humboldt, Vues, pi. 23. 


of buka-buka for book is good evidence as to wlio taught them 
to read. But the name that the Tahitian nobles are now com- 
monly adopting, instead of the native term arii, is bad evidence 
as to the origin of caste among them ; they like the title of 
tacana, which is a native attempt at governor-, 

Even the etymology of a word may sometimes throw light 
upon the transmission of art and knowledge from one country 
to another, as where we may see how the Roman maAesiibstantia 
by translating v/ioVrao-is, and the German, making himself a 
word for " superstition," abcrglaube, Flemish overgeloof, that is 
"over belief," had the super of supers 'itio before him when he 
introduced into his language a notion which it had perhaps 
hardly realized before. To take a more speculative case of a 
very different kind, the tea-urns used in Russia are well known, 
but where did the Russians get the invention from ? They get 
their tea from China, where tea-urns much resembling our own 
have long been in use. But the apparatus is no new thing in 
Europe, and the specimen in the Naples Museum, if it were 
coloured with the conventional chocolate colour, and had a tap 
put in to replace the original one Avhich is lost, would perhaps 
be only remarked upon at an English tea-table as being beautiful 
but old-fashioned. It was kept hot by charcoal burning in a 
tube in the middle, like the Russian urns. Now the name of a 
vessel just answering this description has been preserved, 
authepsa (avdtyrjs, "self-boiler"), and of this term the Russian 
name for their urns, samovar, " self-boiler," is an exact transla- 
tion. The coincidence suggests that they may have received 
both the thing and its name through Constantinople. Moreover, 
there is reason to think that the Western element in Chinese 
art is far more important than is popularly supposed, and the 
tea-urn is so peculiar an apparatus, and so strikingly alike in 
ancient Italy and in China, that it is scarcely possible that the 
two should be the results of separate invention. The Russians 
actually supply Bokhara with samovars, 1 so that on the whole 
there seems fair ground for the view that the hot-water urn 
originated very early in Europe, and travelled east as far as 

1 Yambery, 'Travels in Central Asia;' London, 1S64, p. 173. 


It often happens that an old art or custom, which has been 
superseded for general purposes by some more convenient arrange- 
ment, is kept up long afterwards in solemn ceremonies and 
other matters under the control of priests and officials, who 
are commonly averse to change ; as inventions have often to 
wait long after they have come into general use before they are 
officially recognized. Wooden tallies were given for receipts by 
our Exchequer up to the time of William IV., as if to keep up, 
as long as might be, the remembrance of the time when "our 
forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally." 
It is true that the notched Exchequer tally had long had a 
Latin inscription on it, and at last there was given into the 
bargain a fair English receipt, written on a separate paper. 
The tally survives still, not only in the broken sixpence, and 
in, the bargains of peasants in outlying districts, 1 but in the 
counterfoil of the banker's cheque. Some evidence of this 
ceremonial keeping up of arts superseded in private life, will be 
given in the chapters on the Stone Age and Fire-making. 

Such helps as these in working out the problem of the Origin 
and Progress of Culture grow scarcer as we descend among the 
lower races, and those of which we have little or no historical 
knowledge. Mere observation of arts in use, and of objects 
belonging to tribes living or dead, forms at present the bulk of 
the evidence of the history of their culture accessible to us. Of 
these records an immense mass has been collected, but they are 
very hard to read. 

Sometimes, indeed, an object carries its history written in 
its form, as some of the Esquimaux knives brought to England, 
which are carved out of a single piece of bone, in imitation of 
European knives with handles, and show that the maker was 
acquainted with those higher instruments, though he had not 
the iron to make a blade of, or even a few scraps to fix along the 
edge of the bone blade, as they so often do. 

The keeping up in stone architecture of designs belonging to 
wooden buildings, furnishes conclusive proofs of the growth, in 
several countries, of the art of building in stone from the art of 
tuilding in wood, an argument which is used with extra- 

1 Pictet, 'Origines,' part ii. p. 425. 


ordinary clearness and power in Mr. Fergusson's Handbook. In 
Central America and Asia Minor there are still to be seen stone 
buildings more or less entirely copied from wooden constructions, 
while in Egypt a like phenomenon may be traced in structures 
belonging to the remote age of the pyramids. The student may 
see, almost as if he had been standing by when they were built, 
how the architect, while adopting the new material) began by 
copying from the wooden structures to which he had been 
accustomed. Speaking of the Lycian tombs which still remain 
with their beams, planks, and panels, as it were turned from 
wood into stone, Mr. Fergusson remarks upon the value of such 
monuments as records of the beginning of stone architecture 
among the people who built them. "... wherever the process 
can be detected, it is in vain to look for earlier buildings. It is 
only in the infancy of stone architecture that men adhere to 
wooden forms, and as soon as habit gives them familiarity with 
the new material, they abandon the incongruities of the style, 
and we lose all trace of the original form, which never reappears 
at an after age." 1 

There could hardly be a better illustration of an ethnological 
argument derived from the mere presence of an art, than in 
Marsden's remark about the iron-smelters of Madagascar. It is 
well known that the Madagascans are connected by language 
with the great Malayo-Pohnesian family which extends half 
round the globe ; but the art of smelting iron has only been 
found in the islands of this vast district near Eastern Asia, and 
iii Madagascar itself. Even in New Zealand, where there is 
good iron ore, there was no knowledge of iron. Now at the 
time of our becoming acquainted with the races of Africa, in 
central latitudes and far down into the south, they were iron- 
smelters, and had been so for we know not how long, and Africa 
is only three or four hundred miles from Madagascar, whereas 
Sumatra is three or four thousand. Nevertheless, Marsden's 
observation connects the art in Madagascar with the distant 
Eastern Archipelago, rather than with the neighbouring African 
continent. The process of smelting in small furnaces or pits is 

1 Fergusson, ' Illustrated Handbook of Architecture ; ' London, 1855, vol. L 

pp. 148, 208, 220, etc. 


much the same in these two districts, but the bellows are 
different. The usual African bellows consist of two skins with 
valves worked alternately by hand, so as to give a continuous 
draught, much the same as those of Modern India. These were 

O " 

not only in use among the ancient Greeks and Romans, but are 
still to be found in Southern Europe ; I saw a wandering tinker 
at work at Pa3stuni with a pair of goatsldns with the hair on, 
which he compressed alternately to drive a current of air into 
his fire, opening and shutting with his hands the slits which 
served as valves. Several of these skin-beUo>vs are often used 
at once in Africa, and there are to be found improved forms 
which approach more nearly to our bellows with boards, but the 
principle is the same. 1 But the Malay blowing apparatus is 
something very different; it is a double-barreled air forcing- 
pump. It consists of two bamboos, four inches in diameter and 
five feet long, which are set upright, forming the cylinders, 
which are open above, and closed below except by two small 
bamboo tubes which converge and meet at the fire. Each piston 
consists of a bunch of feathers or other soft substance, which 
expands and fits tightly in the cylinder while it is being forcibly 
driven down, and collapses to let the air pass as it is drawn up ; 
and a boy perched on a high seat or stand works the two pistons 
alternately by the piston-rods, which are sticks. (It is likely 
that each cylinder may have a valve to prevent the return 
draught.) Similar contrivances have been described elsewhere 
in the Eastern Archipelago, in Java, Mindanao, Borneo, and 
New Guinea, and in Siam, the cylinders being sometimes bam- 
boos and sometimes hollowed trunks of trees. Marsden called 
attention to the fact that the apparatus used in Madagascar is 
similar to that of Sumatra. There is a description and drawing 
in Ellis's ' Madagascar,' which need not be quoted in detail, as 
it does not differ in principle from that of the Eastern Archi- 
pelago. A single cylinder is sometimes used in Madagascar, 
and perhaps also in Borneo, but as a rule the far more advan- 

1 Petherick, pp. 293, 395. Andersson, p. 3C4. Backhouse, Narr. of a Visit to 
the Mauritius and S. Africa ; London, 1844, p. 377. Du Chaillu, ' Equatorial Africa,' 
p. 91, etc. etc. It appears, however, that a bellows on the Malagasy principle ia 
known in West African districts. See Waitz, vol. ii. p. 378. 


tageons plan of working two or several at once is adopted. The 
Chinese tinkers, who practise the art, quite unknown in Europe, 
of patching a cast-iron vessel with a clot of melted iron, perform 
this extraordinary feat with an air forcing-pump, which has 
indeed but a single trunk and a piston backed with feathers, but 
is improved by valves and a passage which give it what is known 
as a " double action," so that the single barrel does the work of 
two in the ruder construction of the islands. 1 

It seems from the appearance of this remarkable apparatus in 
Madagascar and in the Eastern Archipelago, that the art of iron- 
smelting in these distant districts has had a common origin. 


"V cry likely the art may have gone from Sumatra or Java to 
Madagascar, but if so, this must have happened when they were 
in the Iron Age, to which we have no reason to suppose they 
had come in the time of their connexion with the ironless Maoris 
and Tahitians. Language throws no light on the matter ; iron 
is called in Malay, bdsi, and in Malagasy, ri. 

It is but seldom that the transmission of an art to distant 
regions can be traced, except among comparatively high races, 
by such a beautiful piece of evidence as this. The state of 
things among the lower tribes which presents itself to the 
student, is a substantial similarity in knowledge, arts, and cus- 
toms, running through the whole world. Not that the whole 
culture of all tribes is alike, far from it ; but if any art or 
custom belonging to a low tribe is selected at random, it is 
twenty to one that something substantially like it may be found 
in at least one place thousands of miles off, though it very 
frequently happens that there are large portions of the earth's 
surface lying between, where it has not been observed. Indeed, 
there are few things in cookery, clothing, arms, vessels, boats, 
ornaments, found in one place, that cannot be matched more or 
less nearly somewhere else, unless we go into small details, or 
rise to the level of the Peruvians and Mexicans, or at least of 
the highest South Sea Islanders. A few illustrations may serve 

5 Marsden, p. 181. Raffles, Hist, of Java, vol. i. pp. 168, 173. Dam pier, 
' Voyages ;' London, 1703-9, oth ed. vol. i. p. 332. Bishop of Labuan, in Tr. Kih. 
Sec. ; London, 1863, p. 29. Gr. W. Earl, 'Papuans;' London, 1853, p. 76. Muiiliot, 
'Travels in Indo-Cbina,' etc. ; London, 1S64, vol. ii. p. 133. Ellis, 'Madagascar,' 
voL i. p. 307. Percy, ' Metallurgy ; ' London, 1S64, pp. 255, 273-8, 746. 


to give an idea of the kind of similarity which prevails so largely 
among the simpler arts of mankind. 

The most rudimentary bird-trap is that in which the hunter is 
his own trap, as in Australia, where Collins thus describes it : 
" A native will stretch himself upon a rock as if asleep in the 
sun, holding a piece of fish in his open hand ; the bird, be it 
hawk or crow, seeing the prey, and not observing any motion in 
the native, pour 3es on the fish, and, in the instant of seizing it, 
is caught by the native, who soon throws him on the fire and 
makes a meal of him." Ward, the missionary, declares that a 
tame monkey in India, whose food the crows used to plunder 
while he sat on the top of his pole, did something very near 
this, by shamming dead within reach of the food, and seizing 
the first crow that came close enough. When he had caught it, 
the story says, he put it between his knees, deliberately plucked 
it, and threw it up into the air. The other crows set upon their 
disabled companion and pecked it to death, but they let the 
monkey's store alone ever after. The Esquimaux so far im- 
proves upon the Australian form of the art as to build himself a 
little snow-hut to sit in, with a hole large enough for him to put 
his hand through to clutch the bird that comes down upon the 
bait. 1 

There is a curious little art, practised in various countries, 
that of climbing trees by the aid of hoops, fetters, or ropes. 
Father Gilij thus describes it among the Indians of South 
America : " They are all extremely active in climbing trees, and 
even the weaker women may be not uncommonly seen plucking 
the fruit at their tops. If the bark is so smooth and slippery 
that they cannot go up by clinging, they use another means. 
They make a hoop of wild vines, and putting their feet inside, 
they use it as a support in climbing." 2 This is what the toddy- 
drawer of Ceylon uses to climb the palm with, 3 but the negro of 
the W r est Coast of Africa makes a larger hoop round the tree and 
gets inside it, resting the lower part of his back against it, and 

1 Collins, vol. L p. 548. Ward, 'Hindoos,' p. 43. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 314 ; 
fol. ii. p. 292. 

8 Gilij, 'Saggio di Storia Americana ;' Rome, 1780-4, vol. ii. p. 40. See Bates, 
"The Naturalist on the R. Amazons; ' London, 1863, vol. ii p. 196. 

3 Tennent, 'Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 523. See Plin., xiii. 7. 


jerks it up the trunk with his hands, a little at a time, drawing 
his legs up afcer it. 1 Ellis describes the Tahitian hoys tying 
their feet together, four or five inches apart, with a piece of 
palm -hark, and with the aid of this fetter going up the cocoa- 
palms to gather the nuts ; 2 and Backhouse mentions a different 
plan in use in opossum-catching in Van Diemen's Land. The 
native women who climbed the tall, smooth gum-trees did not cut 
notches after the Australian plan, except where the bark was 
rough and loose near the ground. Having got over this part by 
the notches, they threw round the tree a rope twice as long as 
was necessary to encompass it, put their hatchets on their bare, 
cropped heads, and placing their feet against the tree and grasp- 
ing the rope with their hands, they hitched it up by jerks, and 
pulled themselves up the enormous trunk almost as fast as a 
man would mount a ladder. 3 

The ancient Mexicans' art of turning the waters of their lakes 
to account by constructing floating gardens upon them, has been 
abandoned, apparently on account of the sinking of the waters, 
which are now shallow enough to allow the mud gardens to rest 
upon the bottom. At the time of Humboldt's visit to Mexico, 
however, there were still some to be seen, though their number 
was fast decreasing. The floating gardens, or chinampas, which 
the Spaniards found in great numbers, and several of which still 
existed in his time on the lake of Chalco, were rafts formed of 
reeds, roots, and branches of underwood. The Indians laid on 
the tangled mass quantities of the black mould, which is natu- 
rally impregnated with salt, but by washing with lake water is 
made more fertile. " The chinampas," he continues, " some- 
times even carry the hut of the Indian who serves as guard for 
a group of floating gardens. They are towed, or propelled with 
long poles, to move them at will from shore to shore." 4 Though 
floating gardens are no longer to be met with in Mexico, they 
are still in full use in the shallow waters of Cashmere. They 
are made of mould heaped on masses of the stalks of aquatic 
plants, and will mostly bear a man's weight, though the fruit is 

1 Klemm, C. 6., vol. iii. p. 236. Adanson in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 642. 
* Kills, vol. i. p. 371. :( Backhouse, ' Australia,' p. 172. 

4 Humboldt, 'Essai Politique ; ' Paris, 1S11, vol. ii. p. 185, etc. 


generally picked from the banks. They differ from the ancient 
Mexican chinampas in not being towed from one place to another, 
but impaled on fixed stakes, which keep them to their moorings, 
but allow them to rise and fall with the level of the water. 1 

The floatiiMj islands of the Chinese lakes are far more artificial 
structures than those of Mexico or Cashmere. The missionary 
Hue thus describes those he saw on the lake of Pinghou : " We 
passed beside several floating islands, quaint and ingenious pro- 
ductions of Chinese industry which have perhaps occurred to no 
other people. These floating islands are enormous rafts, con- 
structed generally of large bamboos, which long resist the 
dissolving action of water. Upon these rafts there is placed a 
tolerably thick bed of good vegetable mould, and thanks to the 
patient labour of some families of aquatic agriculturists, the 
astonished eye sees rising from the surface of the waters smiling 
habitations, fields, gardens, and plantations of great variety. 
The peasants on these farms seem to live in happy abundance. 
During the moments of rest left them from the tillage of the 
rice plots, fishing is at once their lucrative and agreeable pastime. 
Often when they have gathered in their crop upon the lake, they 
throw their net and draw it on board their island loaded with 
fish. . . . Many birds, especially pigeons and sparrows, stay by 
their own choice in these floating fields to share the peaceable 
and solitary happiness of these poetical islanders. Towards the 
middle of the lake, we met with one of these farms attempting a 
voyage. It moved with extreme slowness, though it had the 
wind aft. Not that sails were wanting ; there was a very large 
one above the house, and several others at the corners of the 
island ; moreover, all the islanders, men, women, and children, 
provided with long sweeps, were working with might and main, 
though without putting much speed into their farm. But it is 
likely that the fear of delay does not much trouble these agricul- 
tural mariners, who are always sure to arrive in time to sleep on 
land. They are often seen to move from place to place without 
a motive, like the Mongols in the midst of their vast prairies ; 
though, happier than those wanderers, they have learned to 
make for themselves as it were a desert in the midst of civiliza- 
1 Ton-ens, ' Travels in Ladak,' etc. ; London, 1862, p. 271. 


tion, and to ally the charms and pleasures of a nomade with the 
advantages of a sedentary life. " 1 

Such coincidences as these, when found in distant regions 
between whose inhabitants no intercourse is known to have taken 
place, are not to be lightly used as historical evidence of con- 
nexion. It is safest to ascribe them to independent invention, 
unless the coincidence passes the limits of ordinary probability. 
Ancient as the art of putting in false teeth is in the Old World, 
it would scarcely be thought to affect the originality of the same 
practice in Quito, where a skeleton has been found with false 
teeth secured to the cheek-bone by a gold wire, 2 nor does the 
discovery in Egypt of mummies with teeth stopped with gold, 
appear to have any historical connexion with the same contrivance 
among ourselves. 3 Thus, too, the Australians were in the habit 
of cooking fish and pieces of meat in hot sand, each tied up in a 
sheet of bark, and this is called yudarn dookoon, or "tying-up 
cooking," 4 but it does not follow that they had learnt from 
Europe the art of dressing fish en papillate. 

Perhaps the occurrence of that very civilized instrument, the 
fork for eating meat with, in the Fiji Islands, is to be accounted 
for by considering it to have been independently invented there. 
The Greeks and Eomans do not appear to have used forks in 
eating, and they are said not to have been introduced in England 
from the South of Europe, till the beginning of the seventeenth 
century. 5 At any rate, Hakluyt thus translates, in 1598, a 
remark made by Galeotto Perera, concerning the use of chop- 
sticks in China ; " they feede with two sticks, refraining from 
touching their meate with their hands, even as we do with 
forkes ; " but he finds it necessary to put a note in the margin, 
"We, that is the Italians and Spaniards." 6 How long forks 
had been used in the South of Europe, and where they originally 
came from, does not seem clear, but there is a remark to the 
purpose in William of Euysbruck's description of the manners 

1 H\ic, 'L'Empire Chinois ; ' Paris, 1854, 2nd eel. p. 114. 

2 Bollaert, Res. in New Granada, etc. ; London, 1860, p. 83. 

3 Wilkinson, Pop. Ace., vol. ii. p. 350. 4 Grey, Journals, vol. ii. p. 276. 
6 Wright, ' Domestic Manners,' p. 457. 

6 Hakluyt, 'The Principal Navigations, Voyages,' etc. ; London, 1598, voL ii. 
part ii. p. 68. 


of the Tatars, through whose country he travelled about 1253. 
" They cut up (the meat) into little bits in a dish with salt and 
water, for they make no other sauce, and then with the point of 
a knife or with a little fork (furciculd), which they make for the 
purpose, like those we use for eating pears and apples stewed in 
wine, they give each of the guests standing round one mouthful 
or two, according to their numbers." 1 

The circumstances under which the fork makes its appearance 
in the Fiji Islands, are remarkable. If it is known elsewhere in 
Polynesia (except of course as distinctly adopted with other 
European fashions), it is certain not commonly so, and its use 
appears to be connected with the extraordinary development of 
the art of cooking there, as contrasted with most of the Pacific 
islands, where, generally speaking, there were no vessels in which 
liquid was boiled over the fire, and boiling, if done at all, was 
done by a ruder process. But the Fijians were accomplished 
potters, and continue to use their earthen vessels for the prepara- 
tion of their various soups and stews, for fishing the hot morsels 
out of which the forks are used, perhaps exclusively. Those we 
hear of particularly are the " cannibal forks " for eating man's 
flesh, which are of wood, artistically shaped and sometimes 
ornamented, and were handed down as family heirlooms. Each 
had its individual name ; for instance, one which belonged to a 
chief celebrated for his enormous cannibalism was called ?m- 
droimdro, " a word used to denote a small person or thing 
carrying a great burden." 2 It would be a remarkable point if, 
as Dr. Seemann thinks, the fork were only used for this purpose, 3 
and we might be inclined to theorize on its invention as connected 
with the tabu, so common in Polynesia, which restricts the tabued 
person from touching his food with his hands, and compels him 
to be fed by some one else, or in default, to grovel on the ground 
and take up his food with his mouth. But a description by 
Williams of the furniture of a Fijian household, seems to imply 
its use for ordinary purposes as well. " On the hearth, each set 
on three stones, are several pots, capable of holding from a quart 

1 GuL de Rubruquis, in Hakluyt, vol. L p. 75. See Ayton, in Purchas, vol. iii. 
p. 242. 
* Williams, 'Fiji,' voL i pp. 212-3. 3 Seemann, ' Viti,' p. 179. 


to five gallons. Near these are a cord for binding fuel, a skewer 
for trying cooked food, and, in the better houses, a wooden fork 
a luxury which, probably, the Fijian enjoyed when our worthy 
ancestors were wont to take hot food in their practised finders. " 1 
But whether the use of the fork in eating came about in Fiji as 
a consequence of the common use of stewed food, or from some 
more occult cause, it seems probable that their use of it and ours 
m.iy spring from two independent inventions. That they got 
the art of pottery from Asia is indeed likely enough, but there 
seems very little ground for thinking that the eating-fork came 
to them from Asia, or from anywhere else. 

If an art can be found existing in one limited district of the 
world, and nowhere else, there seems to be ground for assuming 
that it was invented by the people among whom it is found, with 
much greater confidence than if it appears in several distant 
places. Any one, however, who thinks this an unfair inference, 
may console himself with the knowledge that ethnologists seldom 
get a chance of using it at present, except for very trifling arts 
or for unimportant modifications. Indeed, any one who claims 
a particular place as the source of even the smallest art, from the 
mere fact of finding it there, must feel that he may be using his 
own ignorance as evidence, as though it were knowledge. It is 
certainly playing against the bank, for a student to set up a 
claim to isolation for any art or custom, not knowing what 
evidence there may be against him, buried in the ground, hidden 
among remote tribes, or contained even in ordinary books, to 
say nothing of the thousands of volumes of forgotten histories 
and travels. 

Among the inventions which it seems possible to trace to their 
original districts, is the hammock, which is found, as it were, 
riiuive in a great part of South America and the West Indies, 
and is known to have spread thence far and wide over the world, 
carrying with it its Haitian name, hamac. 

The boomerang is a peculiar weapon, and moreover there are 
found beside it in its country, Australia, intermediate forms 
between it and the battle-axe or pick; so that there is ground 
for considering it a native invention developed through such 

1 Williams, vol. i. p. 133. 


stages into its most perfect form. Various Old World missiles 
have indeed been claimed as boomerangs ; a curved weapon shown 
on the Assyrian bas-reliefs, the throwing-cudgel of the Egyptu 
fowler, the African lissdn or curved club, the iron kungamungt 
of the Tibbus, but without proof being brought forward that 
these weapons, or the boomerang-like iron projectiles of the 
Niam-Nam, have either of the great peculiarities of the boome- 
rang, the sudden swerving from the apparent line of flight, or 
the returning to the thrower. The accounts given by Colonel 
Lane Fox in his instructive lectures (1868-9) at the Unit 
Service Institution, 1 of the missiles of the indigenous tribes of 
India, whirled in the manner of boomerangs to bring down game, 
seem to me to furnish evidence similar to that from Australia, 
of the local and gradual invention of weapons. Sir Walter Elliot 
describes the rudest kind in the South Mahratta district as mere 
crooked sticks, and hence we trace the instrument up to the 
katuria of the Kulis of Gujerat, a weapon resembling the boome- 
rang in shape, and in being an edged flat missile, preserving its 
plane of rotation, but differing from it in being too thick and 
heavy to swerve or return. While admitting the propriety of 
Colonel Lane Fox's classification of the Indian and Australian 
weapons together, I think we may regard their specific difference 
as showing independent though partly similar development in 
the two districts. Mr. Samuel Ferguson has written a very 
learned and curious paper 2 on supposed European analogues of 
the boomerang, in concluding which he remarks, not untrul", 
that " many of the foregoing inferences will, doubtless, appear 
in a high degree speculative." As might be expected, he makes 
the most of the obscure description of the cateia, set down about 
the beginning of the seventh century by Bishop Isidore of 
Seville. 3 But what is far more to the purpose, Mr. Ferguson 
seems to have made trial of a carved club of ancient shape, and 
some hammer- and cross- shaped weapons, such as may have been 
used in Europe, and to have made them fly with something of 

1 Lane Fox, 'Primitive Warfare,' in Journ. Royal United Service Inst 

* S. Ferguson, in Trans. R. I. A. ; Dublin, 1843, vol. xix. 

* " Est enim genus Gallici teli ex materia quhm maxime lenta, quse jacta quMem 
non longe propter gravitatem evdat : Bed quo pervenit, vi nimia perfringit : quod ai 
ab artifice mittatur : rursum redit ad eum, qui misit," etc. (Isid. Origg. xviii. 7.) 


the returning flight of the hoomerang. On the whole, it would 
be rash to assert that the principle of the boomerang was quite 
unknown in the Old World. Another remarkable weapon, the 
b-das, seems to be isolated in the particular region of South 
America where it was found in use, and was therefore very likely 
invented there; but its principle is known also among the Esqui- 
maux, whose thin thongs, weighted \\ith bunches of ivory knobs, 
are arranged to wind themselves round the bird they are thrown 
at, in much the same way as the much stouter cords, weighted 
at the ends with two or three heavy stone balls, which form the 
bolas of the Southern continent. 

A few more instances may be given, rather for their quaint- 
ness than for their importance. The Australians practise an 
ingenious art in bee-hunting, which I have not met with any- 
where else. The hunter catches a bee, and gums a piece of 
down to it, so that it can fly but slowly, and he can easily 
follow it home to the hive, and get the honey. The North 
American bee-hunters do not use this contrivance, but they put 
a bait of honey on a flat stone and surround it with a ring of 
thick white paint, across which the bee crawls to take flight 
from the edge of the stone, and at once clogs and marks itself. 1 
Again, there is the curious art of changing the colour of a live 
macaw's feathers from blue or green to brilliant orange or 
yellow, by plucking them and rubbing some liquid into the 
skin (it is said the milky secretion from a small frog or toad), 
which causes the new feathers to grow with a changed colour. 2 
This is done in South America, but, so far as I know, not else- 
where ; and it seems reasonable to suppose that it was invented 
there. Travellers in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra de- 
scribe the thrilling effect of the tones, as of flutes and organs, 
that seem to grow out of the air as they approach some hamlet, 
sometimes single and interrupted notes rising, swelling into a 
burst of harmony, and dying away. These sounds are produced 
by bamboos fixed up in the trees, slit between the joints so that 

1 Lang, p. 328. Backhouse, Austr., p. 380. J. G. "Wood, in 'Boy's Own Slag.' 
vol. v. p. 526. 

- Wallace, ' Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro ; ' London, 1853, p. 294. De 
la Condamine, in Pinkerton, vol. xiv. p. 248. Dolrizhoffer, voL i. p. 327. 



each bamboo becomes an vEolian flute of many tones. 1 This 
beautiful habit may well be of native origin. But it is curious 
to compare it "with an early South American description from 
the province of Picara, now in Columbia. There, at the entrances 
of the caciques' houses, were platforms surrounded with stout 
canes, on which (in the fashion of the Dayaks) were set up 
heads of enemies, " looking fierce with long hair, and their faces 
painted in such sort as to appear like those of devils. In the 
lower part of the canes there are holes through which the wind 
can pass, and when it blows, there is a noise which sounds like 
the music of devils." 8 

When an art is practised upon some material which belongs 
exclusively, or in a large degree, to the place where the art is 
found, the probability that it was invented on the spot becomes 
almost a certainty. No one would dispute the claim of the 
Peruvians or Chilians to have discovered the use, for manure, 
of the huanu, or, as we call it, " guano," which their excep- 
tionally rainless climate has allowed to accumulate on their 
coasts, nor the claim of the dwellers in the hot regions near 
the Gulf of Mexico to have found out how to make their 
chocollatl from a native plant. 

On the other hand, when .tribes are found living among the 
very materials which are turned to account by simple arts else- 
where, and yet are ignorant of those arts, we have good ethno- 
logical evidence as to their condition when they first settled in 
the place where we become acquainted with them. In investi- 
gating the difficult problem of Polynesian civilization, this state 
of things often presents itself, not uniformly, but in a partial, 
various way, that gives us a glimpse here and there of the 
trains of events that must have taken place, in different times 
and places, to produce the complex result we have before us. 
It is clear that a Malay o -Polynesian culture, proved by the 
combined evidence of language, mythology, arts, and customs, 
has spread itself over a great part of the Southern Islands, from 
the Philippines down to New Zealand, and from Easter Island to 

1 Logan, in 'Journ. Ind. Archip.,' vol. iii. p. 35. Cameron, 'Malayan India,' 
p. 120. 

- Cieza de Leon, 'Travels ' (Tr. and Ed. by Markham), Hakluyt Soc. 1861, p. 81. 


Madagascar, though the pure Malayo-Polynesian race only forms 
a part of the population of the district in which its language and 
civilization more or less predominate. The original condition of 
the Malayo-Polynesian family, as determined hy the state of its 
lower members, presents us with few arts not found at least in a 
rudimentary state in Australia, though these arts were developed 
with immensely greater skill and industry. In most of the 
South Sea Islands there was no knowledge of pottery, nor of the 
art of boiling food in vessels over a fire. Great part of the race 
was strictly in the stone age, knowing nothing of metals. The 
sugar-cane grew in Tahiti, but the natives only chewed it, know- 
ing nothing of the art of sugar-making ;' nor did they make any 
use of the cotton plant, though it grew there.* The art of 
weaving was unknown in most of the islands away from Asia. 
Though the coco-nut palm was common, they did not tap it for 
toddy ; and Dr. Seemann taught the Fijians the art of extracting 
sago from their native sago-palms. 3 

In other districts, however, a very different state of things 
was found. In Sumatra and other islands near Asia, and in 
Madagascar, iron was smelted and worked with much skill. 
The simplest kind of loom had appeared in the Eastern Archi- 
pelago, only, as the evidence seems to show, to be supplanted 
by a higher kind. 4 Pottery was made there, and even far into 
Polynesia, as in the Fiji Islands. All these things were pro- 
bably introduced from Asia, to which country so very large a 
part of the present Malay culture is due, but there are local arts 
found cropping up in different groups of islands, which may be 
considered as native inventions peculiar to Polynesia. Thus, in 
some of the islands, it was customary to keep bread-fruit by 
fermenting it into a sour paste, in which state it could be stored 
away for use out of season, an art of considerable value. This 
paste was called mahi in Tahiti, where Captain Cook first saw 
it prepared, but it would seem to have been invented at a period 
since the part of the race which went to the Sandwich Islands 

1 Cook, First Voy- H., vol. ii. p. 186. So the Birmese, Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien.,' 
vol. ii.p. 99 ; see also W. Gr. Palgrave, 'Central and Eastern Arabia,' vol. ii. p. 156. 

2 J. R. Forster, Observations (Cook's Second Voy.) ; London, 1778, p. 384. 
* Seemann, pp. 291, 329. * Marsden, p. 183. 

x 2 


wore separated from the Tahitians, for the Sandwich Islanders 
knew nothing of it till the English brought it to them from 
Tahiti. 1 The use of the intoxicating liquor known as ava, kura, 
or yangona, appears to be peculiar to Polynesia, and therefore 
probably to have been invented there. It is true that the usual, 
though not universal practice of preparing it by chewing, gives 
it some resemblance to liquors so prepared on the American 
continent, but these latter are of an entirely different character, 
being fermented liquors of the nature of beer, made from 
vegetables rich in starch, while the ava is not fermented at all, 
the juice of the plant it is made from being intoxicating in its 
fresh state. 1 

The miscellaneous pieces of evidence given in this chapter 
have been selected less as giving grounds for arguments safe 
from attack, than as examples of the sort of material with which 
the ethnologist has to deal. The uncertainty of many of the 
inferences he makes must be counterbalanced by their number, 
and by the concurrence of independent lines of reasoning in 
favour of the same view. But in the arguments given here in 
illustration of the general method, only one side of history has 

1 Cook's First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 198 ; Third Voy., vol. iii. p. 141. 

The etymology of kava or ava is of interest. Its original meaning may have 
been that of bitterness or pungency ; kawa, N. Z = pungent, bitter, strong (as 
spirits, etc.); 'ara, Tab. =a bitter, disagreeable taste; kava, Rar. Hang. Xuk., 
'a'ava, Sam., awa awa, Haw. =sour, bitter, pungent. Thence the name may 
have been given, not only to the plant of which the intoxicating drink is made, 
the Macropiper methysticum, kara, Tong. Rar. Nuk. ; 'ara, Sam. Tah. Haw. ; 
but also in N. Z. to the Macropiper cxcelsum, or kawa kawa, and in Tahiti to 
tobacco, 'ava 'ava. Lastly, the drink is named in Tahiti and in other islands from 
the plant it is expressed from. But Mariner's Tongan vocabulary seems to go the 
other way ; area = the pepper plant ; also the root of this plant, of which is made a 
peculiar kind of beverage, etc. ; caicna bitter, brackish, also intoxicated with cava, 
or anything else. This looks as though the name of the plant gave a name to the 
quality of bitterness, as we say " peppery " in the sense of hot. (See the Vocabu- 
laries of Mariner, Hale, Buschmann, and the Church Miss. Soc., N. Z.) Southey 
(Hist, of Brazil, vol. i. p. 245) compares the word kava with the South American 
word caou-in or kaawij, a liquor made from maize or the mandioc root by chewing, 
boiling with water, and fermenting ; but the idea of bitterness or pungency is unsuit- 
able to this liquor. Bias (Die. da Lingua Tupy) gives perhaps a more accurate form, 
cauim=rvinho, a derivative perhaps from cau = beber (vinho). To show how easily 
uch accidental coincidences as that of kava and cauim may be found, a German 
root may be pointed out for both, looking a* suitable as though it were a real one, 
kaufn, to chew. 


been kept in view, and the facts have been treated generally a3 
evidence of movement only in a forward direction, or (to define 
more closely what is here treated as Progress) of the appearance 
and growth of new arts and new knowledge, whether of a profit- 
able or hurtful nature, developed at home or imported from 
abroad. Yet we know by what has taken place within the range 
of history, that Decline as well as Progress in art and knowledge 
really goes on in the world. Is there not then evidence forth- 
coming to prove that degradation as well as development has 
happened to the lower races beyond the range of direct history ? 
The known facts bearing on this subject are scanty and obscure, 
but by examining some direct evidence of Decline, it may be 
perhaps possible to form an opinion as to what indirect evidence 
there may probably be, and how it is to be treated ; though 
actually to find this and use it, is a very different matter. 

There are developments of Culture which belong to a par- 
ticular climate or a particular state of society, which require a 
despotic government, a democratic government, an agricultural 
life, a life in cities, a state of continued peace or of continued 
war, an accumulation of wealth which exceeds what is wanted 
for necessaries and is accordingly devoted to luxury and refine- 
ment, and so forth. Such things are all more or less local and 
unstable. The Chinese do not make now the magnificent 
cloisonne enamels and the high-class porcelain of their ances- 
tors ; we do not build churches, or even cast church-bells, as 
our forefathers did. In Egypt the extraordinary development 
of masonry, goldsmiths' work, weaving, and other arts which 
rose to such a pitch of excellence there thousands of years ago, 
have died out under the influence of foreign civilizations which 
contented themselves with a lower level of excellence in these 
things, and there seems to be hardly a characteristic native art 
of any importance practised there, unless it be the artificial 
hatching of eggs, and even this is found in China. As Sir 
Thomas Browne writes in his 'Fragment on Mummies,' "Egypt 
itself is now become the land of obliviousness and doteth. 
Her ancient civility is gone, and her glory hath vanished as 
a phantasma. Her youthful days are over, and her face hath 
become wrinkled and tetrick. She poreth not upon the heavens, 


astronomy is dead unto her, and knowledge maketh other 

The history of Central America presents a case somewhat 
like that of Egypt. The not uncommon idea that the deserted 
cities, Copan, Palenque, and the rest, are the work of an extinct 
and quite unknown race, does not agree with the published 
evidence, which proves that the descendants of the old builders 
are living there now, speaking the old languages that were 
spoken before the Spanish Conquest. The ancient cities, with 
their wonders of masonry and sculpture, are deserted, the special 
native culture has in great measure disappeared, and the people 
have been brought to a sort of low European civilization ; but a 
mass of records, corroborated in other ways, show us the Central 
Americans before the Conquest, building their great cities and 
living in them, cultivating, warring, sacrificing, much like their 
neighbours of Mexico, with whose civilization their own was 
intimately allied. An epitome of the fate of the ruined cities 
may be given in the words which conclude a remarkable native 
document published in Quiche and French by the Abbe Brasseur, 
" Ainsi done e'en est fait de tous ceux du Quiche, qui s'appelle 
Santa-Cruz." The ruins of the great city of Quiche are still to 
be seen; Santa Cruz, its successor, is a poor village of two 
thousand souls, a league or so away. 1 

Among the lower races, degeneration is seen to take place as a 
result of war, of oppression by other tribes, of expulsion into less 
favourable situations, and of various other causes. But arts 
which belong to the daily life of the man or the family and 
cannot be entirely suppressed by violent interference, do not 
readily disappear unless superseded by some better contrivance, 
or made unnecessary or very difficult by a change of life and 
manners. When the use of metals, of pottery, of the flint and 
steel, of higher tools and weapons, once fairly establishes itself, 
a falling back appears to be uncommon. The Metal Age does 
not degenerate into the Stone Age except under very peculiar 
circumstances. The history of a higher weapon is generally that 
it supplants those that are less serviceable, to be itself supplanted 
by something better. We read of the Indian orator who ex- 

1 Brasseur, 'Popol Vuh ; ' pp. 345-7. See also Diego de Landa, Rel. 


hortecl his brethren to cast away the flint and steel of the white 
man, and to return to the fire-sticks of their- ancestors, and of 
the Chinese sage desiring to discard the art of writing, and return 
to the ancestral method of record by knotted cords, but such 
things are rather talked of than done. 

^ Cases of savage arts being superseded by a higher state of 
civilization are common enough. An African guide, or an Aus- 
tralian, will know a man by his footmark, while we hardly know 
what a footmark is like ; at least, nine Englishmen out of ten 
of the shoe-wearing classes will not know that the footprints in 
the Mexican picture- writings, as copied in Fig. 16, are true to 


nature, till they have looked at the print of a wet foot on a board 
or a flagstone. Captain Burton remarked, on his road to the 
great Salt Lake, that bones and skulls of cattle were left lying 
scattered about, 1 though travellers are often put to great straits 
for fuel. The Gauchos of South America know better, for when 
they kill a beast on a journey, they use the bones as fuel to cook 
the flesh, 2 as the Scythians did in the time of Herodotus ; living 
in a country wanting wood, they made a fire of the bones of the 
beasts sacrificed, and boiled the flesh over it in a kettle, or if 
that were not forthcoming, in the paunch of the animal itself, 
" and thus the ox boils himself, and the other victims each the 
like." 3 

It sometimes happens that degeneration is caused by conquest, 
when the conquering race is in anything at a lower level than 

1 Burton, ' City of the Saints,' p. 60. " Dai-win, Journal, p. 194. 

3 Herod., iv. 61. See Ezokiel xxiv. 5 in LXX. Klemm, C. G., voL ii. p. 229 
(bones rubbed with fat burnt by Esquimaux). 


the conquered. There is one art whose history gives some ex- 
traordinary cases of this kind of decline, the art of irrigation by 
watercourses. "NViihin a few years o^ne people, the Spaniards, 
conquered two nations, the Moors and the Peruvians, who were 
skilful irrigators, and had constructed great works to bring water 
from a distance to fertilize the land. These works were for the 
most part allowed to go to rack and ruin, and in Peru, as in 
Andalusia, great tracts of land which had been fruitful gardens 
fell back into parched deserts ; while in Mexico the ruins of the 
great native aqueduct of Tetzcotzinco tell the same tale. Here, 
as in the irrigation of British India under our own rule, the 
results of higher culture in the conquered race declined in the 
face of a lower culture of the conquerors, but the sequel is still 
more curious. The Spaniards in America became themselves 
great builders of watercourses, and their works of this kind in 
Mexico are very extensive, and of great benefit to the drier 
regions where they have been constructed. But when a portion 
of territory that had been under Spanish rule was transferred to 
the United States, what the Spaniards had done to the irrigating 
works of the Moors and Peruvians, the new settlers did to theirs. 
In Froebel's time they were letting the old works go to ruin ; 
thus history repeats itself. 1 

The disappearance of savage arts in presence of a higher civili- 
zation is however mostly caused by their being superseded by 
something higher, and this can hardly be called a decline of 
culture, which must not be confounded with the physical and 
moral decline of so many tribes under the oppression and 
temptation of civilized men. Real decline often takes place 
when a rude but strong race overcomes a cultivated but weak 
race, and of this we have good information ; but neither this 
change, nor that which takes place in the savage in presence 
of the civilized invader, gives the student of the low races 
all the information he needs. What he wants besides is to 
put the high races out of the question altogether, and to 
find out how far a low race can lose its comparatively simple 
arts and knowledge, without these being superseded by some- 
thing higher ; in fact, how far such a race can suffer pure 
1 Tjlor, 'Mexico,' pp. 157-161. 


decline in culture. This information is, however, very hard 
to get. 

Livingstone's remarks on the Bakalahari of South Africa 
show us a race which has fallen in civilization, but this fall has 
happened, partly or wholly, through causes acting from without. 
The great Kalahari desert is inhabited by two races, the Bush- 
men, who were perhaps the first human inhabitants of the 
country, and who never cultivate the soil, or rear any domestic 
animals but dogs, and the Ba-Kalahari, who are degraded 
Bechuanas. These latter are traditionally reported to have 
once possessed herds of cattle like the other Bechuanas, and 
though their hard fate has forced them to live a life much like 
that of the Bushmen, they have never forgotten their old ways. 
They hoe their gardens annually, though often all they can hope 
for is a supply of melons and pumpkins. And they carefully 
rear small herds of goats, though Livingstone has seen them 
obliged to lift water for them out of small wells with a bit of 
ostrich egg-shell, or by spoonfuls. 1 This remarkable account 
brings out strongly the manful struggle of a race which has 
been brought down by adverse circumstances, to keep up their 
former civilization, while the Bushmen, who, for all we know, 
may never have been in a higher condition than they are now, 
make no such effort. If we may judge these two races by the 
same standard, the Bushmen are either no lower than they have 
ever been, or if they have come down from a condition approach- 
ing that of the Bechuanas, the process of degradation must 
indeed have been a long one. 

Tribes who are known to have once been higher hi the scale 
of culture than they are now, are to be met with in Asia. Some 
of the coast Tunguz live by fishing, though they are still called 
Orochi, which is equivalent to the term " Eeindeer Tunguz." 
No doubt the tradition is true of the Goldi that, though they 
have no reindeer now, they once had, like the Tunguz tribes 
north of the Amur. 2 There are Calmucks north of the 
Caspian who have lost their herds of cattle and degenerated into 
fishermen. The richest of them has still a couple of cows. 
They look upon horses, camels, and sheep as strange and 

1 Livingstone, p. 49. 3 Rayenstein, p. 318. 


wondrous creatures when foreigners bring them into their 
country. They listen with wonder to their old men's stories 
of life in the steppes, of the great herds and the ceaseless 
wanderings over the vast plains, while they themselves dwell 
in huts of reeds, and carry their household goods on their backs 
when they have to move to a new fishing place. 1 The miserable 
" Digger Indians " of North America are in part Shoshonees or 
Snake Indians, who were brought down to their present state 
by their enemies the Blackfeet, who got guns from the Hudson's 
Bay Company, and thus conquered the Snakes, and took away 
their hunting grounds. They lead a wandering life, lurking 
among hills and crags, slinking from the sight of whites and 
Indians, and subsisting chiefly on wild roots and fish, and such 
game as so helpless a race is able to get. They are lean and 
abject-looking creatures, deserving the name of gens de pitie 
given them by the French trappers, and they have been driven 
to abandon arts which they possessed in their more fortunate 
days, such as riding, and apparently even hut-building; but how 
far their degradation has brought with it decline in other parts 
of their former culture, it is not easy to say. 2 

Here, then, we have cases of material evidence which, as 
we happen to have other means of knowing, ought to be treated 
as recording decline. The sculptures and temples of Central 
America are the work of the ancestors of the present Indians, 
though if history, tradition, and transitional work had all 
perished, it would hardly be thought so. The gardening of 
the Bakalahari, if the account of their origin is to be received, 
is a proof, not of an art -gained, but of a higher level of civiliza- 
tion for the most part lost. 

It thus appears that, in the abstract, when there is found 
among a low tribe an art or a piece of knowledge which seems 
above their average level, three ways are open by which its 
occurrence may be explained. It may have been invented at 
home, it may have been imported from abroad, or it may be a 
relic of a higher condition which has mostly suffered degradation, 

1 Klemm, C. GK, vol. iii. p. 4. 

3 Buschmann, ' Spuren der Aztekischen Sprache im nordlichen Mexico,' etc., etc. 
(Abh. derK. A. v. W., 1854) ; Berlin, 18c9, p. 633, etc. 


like the column of earth which the excavator leaves to measure 
the depth of the ground he has cleared away. 

Ethnologists have sometimes taken arts which appeared to 
them too advanced to fit with the general condition of their 
possessors, and have treated them as belonging to this latter 
class. But where such arguments have had no aid from direct 
history, but have gone on mere inspection of the arts of the 
lower races, all that I can call to mind, at least, seem open to 
grave exception. 

Thus the boomerang has been adduced as proof that the 
Australians were once in a far higher state of civilization. 1 It 
is true that the author who argued thus confounded the boome- 
rang with the throwing-cudgel, or, as a Hampshire man would 
call it, the sqiioyle, of the Egyptian fowler, so that he had at 
least an imaginary high civilization in view, of which the boome- 
rang was an element. But, as has been mentioned, intermediate 
forms between the boomerang and the war-club or pick, are 
known in Australia, a state of things which fits rather with 
growth than with degeneration. 2 

In South America, Humboldt was so struck with the cylinders 
of very hard stone, perforated and sculptured into the forms of 
animals and fruits, that he founded upon them the argument 
that they were relics of an ancient civilization from which their 
possessors had fallen. " But it is not," he says, " the Indians 
of our own day, the dwellers on the Oronoko and the Amazons 
whom we see in the last degree of brutalization, who have per- 
forated substances of such hardness, giving them the shapes of 
animals and fruits. Such pieces of work, like the pierced and 
sculptured emeralds found in the Cordilleras of New Granada 
and Quito, indicate a previous civilization. At present the 
inhabitants of these districts, especially of the hot regions, have 
so little idea of the possibility of cutting hard stones (emerald, 
jade, compact felspar, and rock crystal), that they have imagined 
the green stone to be naturally soft when taken out of the 
ground, and to harden after it has been fashioned by hand." 3 

1 W. Cooke Taylor, The Nat. Hist, of Society ; London, 1840, vol. i. p. 205. 

3 See Eyre, vol. ii. p. 308 ; Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 316, pi. vii. Lane Fox, 1. c. 

s Humboldt & Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 4S1, etc. It is a fact that some stone 


But while mentioning Humboldt's argument, it must also be 
said that he had not had an opportunity of learning how these 
ornaments were made. Mr. Wallace has since found that at 
least plain cylinders of imperfect rock crystal, ftnir to eight 
inches long, and one inch in diameter, are made and perforated 
by . very low tribes on the Eio Negro. They are not, as 
Humboldt seems to have supposed, the result of high mechani- 
cal skill, but merely of the most simple and savage processes, 
carried on with that utter disregard of time that lets the Indian 
spend a month in making an arrow. They are merely ground 
down into shape by rubbing, and the perforating of the cylinders, 
crosswise or even lengthwise, is said to be done thus : a pointed 
flexible leaf-shoot of wild plantain is twirled with the hands 
against the hard stone, till, with the aid of fine sand and water, 
it bores into and through it, and this is said to take years to do. 
Such cylinders as the chiefs wear are said sometimes to take 
two men's lives to perforate. 1 The stone is brought from a 
great distance up the river, and is very highly valued. It is, 
of course, not necessary to suppose that these rude Indians came 
of themselves to making such ornaments; they may have 
imitated things made by races in a higher state of culture ; but 
the evidence, as it now stands, does not go for much in proving 
that the tribes of the Rio Negro have themselves fallen from a 
higher level. 

On the other hand, it is much easier to go on pointing out 
arts practised by the less civilized races, which seem to have 
their fitting place rather in a history of progress than of 
degeneration. This remark applies to the case just mentioned, 
of the intermediate forms between the boomerang and the war- 
club being found in Australia, as though to mark the stages 
through which the perfect instrument had been developed. 
Several such cases occur among the arts of fire-making and 
cooking described in the following chapters. To glance for a 
moment at the history of Textile Fabrics (into which I hope to 

IB more easily worked when fresh from the ground, than after its water has 
evapo rated. 

1 Wallace, p. 278. See Ban, ' Drilling in Stone without Metal,' in Smithsonian 
Report, 1868. 



go more fully at a future time), it may be noticed that the 
spindle for twisting thread has heen found in use in Asia 
Africa, and North and South America, among people whose 
ruder neighbours had no better means of making their finest 
thread or cord than by twisting it with the hand, by rolling the 
fibres with the palm, on the thigh or some other parts of .the 
body. Again, though every known tribe appears to twist cord, 
and to make matting or wicker-work, 
the combination of these two arts, 
weaving, which consists in matting 
twisted threads, is very far from being 
general among the lower races. The 
step seems from our point of view a 
very simple one, but a large propor- 
tion of mankind had never made it. 
Now there is a curious art, which is 
neither matting nor weaving, found 
among tribes to whom real weaving 
was unknown. It consists in laying 
bundles of fibres, not twisted into real 
cord, side by side, and tying or fasten- 
ing them together with transverse 
cords or bands ; varieties of fabrics 
made in this way are well known in 
New Zealand and among the Indians 
of North -Western America; and Mr. 
Henry Christy pointed out to me a 
sack-like basket made in this way, 
which he found in use in 1856 among 
an Indian tribe N. W. of Lake Huron, a very good example of 
this interesting transition-work. Nor do we look in vain for 
such a fabric in Europe ; it is found in the Lake Habitations of 
Switzerland. M. Troyon's work shows a specimen from Wangen, 
which belongs to the Stone Age. 1 Mr. John Evans has three 
specimens of fabrics from the Swiss Lakes, which form a series 
of great interest. The first (Fig. 17) is also from Wangen, and, 
to use the description accompanying the sketches he has kindly 

1 Troyon, Habitations Lacustres;' Lausanne, 1860, pi. vii. fig. 24, pp. 43, 429, 465. 

Fig. 17. 

gigj&jg :i$B 


given me, " the w r arp consists of strands of un-twisted fibre 
(hemp ?) bound together at intervals of about an inch apart by 
nearly similar strands ' wattled in ' among them." The next 
specimen (Fig. 18), from Nieder-Wyl, shows a great advance, 
for "the warp consists of twisted string, 
and the woof of a finer thread also twisted." 
The third specimen is a piece of ordinary 
plain weaving. Now all these things, 
European, Polynesian, and American, seem 
to be in their natural and reasonable places 
in a progress upward, but it is hard to 
imagine a people, under any combination of 
circumstances, dropping down from the art 
of weaving, to adopt a more tedious and 
Fi ~ less profitable way of working up the fibre 

which it had cost them so much trouble to 
prepare ; knowing the better art, and deliberately devoting their 
material and time to practising the worse. So it is a very reason- 
able and natural thing, that tribes who had been used to twist 
their thread by hand, should sometimes overcome their dislike 
to change, and adopt the spindle when they saw it in use ; or 
such a tribe might be supposed capable of inventing it ; but the 
going back from the spindle to hand-twisting is a thing scarcely 
conceivable. A spindle is made too easily by anyone who has 
once caught the idea of it ; a stick and a bit of something heavy 
for a whorl is the whole machine. Not many months ago, an 
old lady was seen in the isle of Islay, comfortably spinning her 
flax with a spindle, which spindle was simply a bit of stick with 
a potato stuck on the end of it. 

To conclude, the want of evidence leaves us as yet much in 
the dark as to the share which decline in civilization may have 
had in bringing the lower races into the state in which we find 
them. But perhaps this difficulty rather affects the history of 
particular tribes, than the history of Culture as a whole. To 
judge from experience, it would seem that the world, when it has 
once got a firm grasp of new knowledge or a new art, is very 
loth to lose it altogether, especially when it relates to matters 
important to man in general, for the conduct of his daily life, 


and the satisfaction of his daily wants, things that come home 
to men's " business and bosoms." An inspection of the geo- 
graphical distribution of art and knowledge among mankind, 
seems to give some grounds for the belief that the history of 
the lower races, as of the higher, is not the history of a course 
of degeneration, or even of equal oscillations to and fro, but of 
a movement which, in spite of frequent stops and relapses, has 
on the whole been forward ; that there has been from age to 
age a growth in Man's power over Nature, which no degrading 
influences have been able permanently to check. 



THE Stone Age is that period in the history of mankind during 
which stone is habitually used as a material for weapons and 
tools. Antiquaries find it convenient to make the Stone Age 
cease whenever metal implements come into common use, and 
the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age, supervenes. But the last 
traces of a Stone Age are hardly known to disappear anywhere, 
in spite of the general use of metals ; and in studying this 
phase of the world's history for itself, it may be considered as 
still existing, not only among savages who have not fairly come 
to the use of iron, but even among civilized nations. Wherever 
the use of stone instruments, as they were used in the Stone 
Age proper, is to be found, there the Stone Age has not entirely 
passed away. The stone hammers with which tinkers might be 
found at work till lately in remote districts in Ireland, 1 the huge 
stone mallets with wooden handles which are still used in Ice- 
land for driving posts and other heavy hammering, 2 and the 
lancets of obsidian with which the Indians of Mexico still bleed 
themselves, as their fathers used to do before the Spanish Con- 
quest, 3 are stone implements which have survived for centuries 
the general introduction of iron. 

Alere natural stones, picked up and used without any artificial 
shaping at all, are implements of a very low order. Such 
natural tools are often found in use, being for the most part 
slabs, water-worn pebbles, and other stones suited for hammers 
and anvils, and their employment is no necessary proof of a very 

1 Wilde, Cat of Mus. of R. I. Acad. ; Dublin, 1857, p. 80. 

5 Klemm, ' Allgemeine Culturwissenschaft ; ' Leipzig, 1855-8, part ii. p. 86. 

Brasseur, 'Mexique,' voL iii. p. 640. 


low state of culture. Among the lower races, Dr. Milligan gives 
a good instance of their use, in describing the shell-mounds left 
by the natives on the shores of Van Diemen's Land. In places 
where the shells found are univalves, round stones of different 
sizes are met with ; one, the larger, on which they broke the 
shells ; the other, and smaller, having served as the hammer to 
break them with. But where the refuse-mounds consist of 
oysters, mussels, cockles, and other bivalves, their flint-knives, 
used to open them with, are generally found. 1 Sir George Grey's 
description of the sites of native encampments, so frequently met 
with in Australia, will serve as another example. The remains 
of such an encampment consist of a circle of large flat stones 
arranged round the place where the fire has been ; on each of the 
flat stones a smaller stone for breaking shell-fish ; beside each 
pair of stones a large shell used for a cup, and, scattered all 
around, broken shells and bones of kangaroos. 2 

Nor are cases hard to find of the use of these very low repre- 
sentatives of the Stone Age carried up into higher levels of 
civilization. Thus the tribes of Central and Southern Africa, 
though often skilful in smiths' work, have not come thoroughly 
to the use of the iron hammer and anvil. Travellers describe 
them as forging their weapons and tools with a stone of handy 
shape and size, on a lump of rock which serves as an anvil ; 
while sometimes an iron hammer is used to give the last finish. 3 
The quantities of smooth rolled pebbles found in our ancient 
English hill-forts were probably collected for sling-stones ; but 
larger pebbles, very likely used as cracking- stones, are found in 
early European graves. 4 At the present day, the inhabitants of 
Heligoland and EUgen not only turn to account the natural net- 
sinkers formed by chalk-flints, out of which the remains of a 
sponge, or such thing, has been washed, leaving a convenient 
hole through the flint to tie it by ; but they have been known to 
turn such a perforated flint into a hammer, by fixing a handle in 
the hole. 5 And lastly, the women who shell almonds in the 

1 Milligan, in Tr. Eth. Soc. ; London, 1863, vol. ii. p. 123. 

2 Grey, Journals, vol. i. pp. 71, 109. 

3 Casalis, p. 131 ; Petherick, p. 395 ; Burton, Central Africa, vol. ii. p. 312 ; 
Backhouse, Africa, p. 377. 4 Kioinui, U. V,'., part ii. p. 87. 

6 Klemm, C. W., part ii. p. 12. 


south of France still use a smooth water-worn pebble (coul'Je, 
coif doit), as their implement for breaking the shells. 

The distinction between natural and artificial implements is of 
no practical value in estimating the state of culture of a Stone- 
Age tribe. A natural chip or fragment of stone may have been 
now and then used as an edged or pointed tool ; bat we have not 
the least knowledge of any tribe too low habitually to shape such 
instruments for themselves. There is, however, a well-marked 
line of distinction in the Stone Age which divides it into a lower 
and a higher section. The art of implement-making is in a low 
stage among tribes who use stone instruments, but are not in 
the habit of grinding or polishing any of them. There are 
remains which clearly prove the existence of such tribes, and 
thus the Stone Age falls into two divisions, the Unground Stone 
Age and the Ground Stone Age. 1 

To the former and ruder of these two classes belong the in- 
struments of the Drift or Quaternary deposits, and of the early 
bone caves, and, in great part at least, those of the Scandinavian 
shell-heaps or kjokkennicddings. Even should a few ground 
instruments prove to belong to these deposits, the case would not 
be much altered, for the finding of hundreds of unground imple- 
ments unmixed with ground ones would still show a vast pre- 
dominance of chipping over grinding, which would justify their 
being classed in an Ungrouud Stone Age, quite distinct from the 
Ground Stone Age in which modern tribes have generally, if not 
al.vays, been found Irving. 

The rude flint implements found in the drift gravels of the 
Quaternary (i. e. Post- Tertiary) series of strata, belong to the 
earliest known productions of human art. Since the long un- 
appreciated labours of M. Boucher de Perthes showed the histo- 
rical importance of these relics, the date of the first appearance 
of man on the earth has been much debated. I have no purpose 
of attempting to discuss the collection of geological and anti- 
quarian fact and argument brought forward in Sir Charles L veil's 
' Antiquity of Man,' not only with reference to the men of the 

1 Sir John Lubbock, in his admirable treatise on primaeval antiquities (' Pre- 
Historic Times ;' London, 1865, 2nd ed., 1S69), has now introduced the terms 
Palaiulithic aiid 1,'eolituic to designate the two great divLiuiis of the Stone Age. 


drift period, but to those of the hone caves, and of the early shell- 
heaps and peat-hogs. But it may he remarked that geological 
evidence, though capable of showing the lapse of vast periods of 
time, has scarcely admitted of these periods being brought into 
definite chronological terms ; yet it is only geological evidence 
that has given any basis for determining the absolute date at 
which the makers of the drift implements lived in France and 
England. In an elaborate paper published in 1864, Mr. Prest- 
wich infers, from the time it must have taken to excavate the 
river-valleys, even under conditions much more favourable than 
now to such action, and to bore into the underlying strata the 
deep pipes or funnels now found lined with sand and gravel, that 
a very long period must have elapsed since the implement-bear- 
ing beds began to be laid down. But his opinion is against 
extreme estimates, and favours the view that the now undoubted 
contemporaneity of man with the mammoth, the Rhinoceros 
tichorhinits, etc., is rather to be accounted for by considering 
that the great animals continued to live to a later period than 
had been supposed, than that the age of man on earth is to be 
stretched to fit with an enormous hypothetical date. Mr. Prest- 
wich thus sums up his view of the subject, " That we must 
greatly extend our present chronology with respect to the first 
existence of man appears inevitable ; but that we should count 
by hundreds of thousands of years is, I am convinced, in the 
present state of the inquiry, unsafe and premature." 1 

A set of characteristic drift implements 2 would consist of certain 
tapering instruments like huge lance-heads, shaped, edged, and 
pointed, by taking off a large number of facets, in a way which 
shows a good deal of skill and feeling for symmetry ; smaller 
leaf-shaped instruments; flints partly shaped and edged, but with 
one end left unwrought, evidently for holding in the hand ; scnipers 
with curvilinear edges; rude flake-knives, etc. Taken as a \\holr, 
such a set of types would be very unlike, for instance, to a set of 
chipped instruments belonging to the comparatively late period 

1 Prestwich, On the Geological Position and Age of the Flint-Implement-Bearing 
Beds, etc. (from Phil. Trans.) ; London, 1864. See A. Tylor, On the Amiens Gravel, 
in Journ. Geol. Soc., Hay, 1867. 

See Evans, ' Flint Implements in the Drift ;' London, 1862. 

o 2 


of the cromlechs in France and England. But a comparison of 
particular types with what is found elsewhere, breaks down any 
imaginary line of severance between the men of the Drift and 
the rest of the human species. The flake knives are very rude, 
but they are like what are found elsewhere, and there is no break 
in the series which ends in the beautiful specimens from Mexico 
and Scandinavia. The Tasmanians sometimes used for cutting 
or notching wood a very rude instrument. Eye-witnesses describe 
how they would pick up a suitable flat stone, knock off chips 
from one side, partly or all round the edge, and use it without 
more ado ; and there is a specimen corresponding exactly to this 
description in the Taunton Museum. An implement found in 
the Drift near Clermont would seem to be much like this. The 
Drift tools with a chipped curvilinear edge at one end, which were 
probably used for dressing leather and other scraping, are a good 
deal like specimens from America. The leaf-shaped instruments 
of the Drift differ principally from those of the Scandinavian 
shell-heaps, and of America, in being made less neatly and by 
chipping off larger flakes; and there are leaf- shaped instruments 
which were used by the Mound-Builders of North America, 
perhaps for fixing as teeth in a war-club in Mexican fashion, 1 
which differ rather in finish than in shape from the Drift speci- 
mens. Even the most special type of the Drift, namely, the 
pointed tapering implement like a great spear-head, differs from 
some American implements only in being much rougher and 
heavier. There have been found in Asia stone implements 
resembling most closely the best marked of the Drift types. 
Mr. J. E. Taylor, British Consul at Basrah, obtained some years 
ago from the sun-dried brick mound of Abu Shahrein in Southern 
Babylonia, two taper-pointed instruments 2 of chipped flint, which, 
to judge from a cast of one of them, would be passed without 
hesitation as Drift implements. As to the date to which these 
remarkable specimens belong, there is no sufficient evidence. A 
stone instrument, found in a cave at Bethlehem, does not differ 
specifically from the Drift type. To these must be added the 
quartzite implements of Drift type from the laterite deposits of 
Southern India, described by Mr. K. Bruce Foote. 
1 Squier & Davis, p. 21L Vaux, in Proc. Soc. Ant., Jan. 19, I860. 


With the Unground Stone Age of the Drift, that of the Bone 
Caves is intimately connected. In the Drift, geological evidence 
shows that a long period of time must have been required for 
the accumulation of the beds which overlie the flint implements, 
and the cutting out of the valleys to their present state, since 
the time when the makers of these rude tools and weapons in- 
habited France and England in company with the Rhinoceros 
tichorhinus, the mammoth, and other great animals now extinct. 
In the Bone Caves this natural calendar of strata accumulated 
and removed is absent, but their animal remains border on the 
fauna of the Drift, and the Drift series of stone implements 
passes into the Cave series, 1 so that the men of the Drift may 
very well be the makers of some Cave implements contempora- 
neous with the great quaternary mammals. 

The explorations made with such eminent skill and success in 
the caverns of Perigord by M. Lartet and Mr. Christy, 2 bring into 
view a wonderfully distinct picture of rude tribes inhabiting the 
south of France, at a remote period characterized by a fauna 
strangely different from that at present belonging to the district, 
the reindeer, the aurochs, the chamois, and so forth. They seem 
to have been hunters and fishers, having no domesticated animals, 
perhaps not even the dog ; but they made themselves rude orna- 
ments, they sewed with needles with eyes, and they decorated 
their works in bone, not only with hatched and waved patterns, 
but with carvings of animals done with considerable skill and 
taste. Yet their stone implements were very rude, to a great 
extent belonging to absolute Drift types, and destitute of grind- 
ing, with one curious set of exceptions, certain granite pebbles 
with a smooth hollowed cavity, some of which resemble stones 
used by the Australians for grinding something in, perhaps paint 
to adorn themselves with. It is very curious to find these French 
tribes going so far in the art of shaping tools by grinding, and 
yet, so far as we know, never catching the idea of grinding a 

1 See, for instance, W. Boyd Dawkins, in Proc. Somersetshire Archaaological Soc., 
1861-2, p. 197. 

2 H. Christy, in Tr. Eth. Soc. r vol. iii. p. 362. Lartet & Christy, 'Eehquus 
Aquitaniae,' (ed. by T. R. Jones,) London, 1865, etc. 


The stone implements of the Scandinavian shell-heaps are a 
good deal like those of the Drift and the Caves, as regards their 
flint-flakes and leaf-shaped instruments, hut they are characterized 
by the frequent occurrence of a kind of celt which is not a Drift 
type. It is rudely shaped from the flint, the natural fracture of 
which gives it a curved form which may be roughly compared to 
that of a man's front tooth, if it tapered from root to edge. 1 
Here, also, the Unground Stone Age prevails, though a very few 
specimens of higher types have been found. I may quote Mr. 
Christy's opinion that the thousands of characteristic implements 
are to be taken as the standard of what was made and used, while, 
as has very often happened in old deposits lying in accessible 
situations, a few things may have got in in comparatively modern 

Beside the want of grinding, the average quality of the instru- 
ments of the Unground Stone Age is very low, notwithstanding 
that its best specimens are far above the level of the worst of the 
later period. These combined characters of rudeness and the 
absence of grinding give the remains of the Unground Stone Age 
an extremely important bearing on the history of Civilization, 
from the way in which they bring together evidence of great rude- 
ness and great antiquity. The antiquity of the Drift implements 
is, as has been said, proved by direct geological evidence. The 
Cave implements, even of the reindeer period, are proved by their 
fauna to be earlier, as they are seen at a glance to be ruder, than 
th6se of the cromlech period and of the earliest lake-dwellings 
of Switzerland, both belonging to the Ground Stone Age. To 
the student who views Human Civilization as in the main an 
upward development, a more fit starting point could scarcely be 
offered than this wide and well-marked progress from an earlier 
and lower, to a later and higher, stage of the history of human 

To turn now to the productions of the higher or Ground Stone 
Age, grinding is found rather to supplement chipping than to 
supersede it. Implements are very commonly chipped into shape 
before they are ground, and unfinished articles of this kind are 

1 Lubbock in Nat. Hist. Review, Oct. 1S61. Morlot in Soc. Yaudoise des Sc. 
Nat., 1859. 


often found. Moreover, such things as flake-knives, and heads 
for spears and arrows, have seldom or never been ground in any 
period, early or late, for the obvious reason that the labour of 
grinding them would have been wasted, or worse. This ques- 
tion of grinding or not grinding stone implements is brought out 
clearly by some remarks of Captain Cook's, on his first voyage 
to the South Seas. He noticed that the natives of Tahiti used 
basalt to make their adzes of, and these it was necessary to sharpen 
almost every minute, for which purpose a stone and a coco-nut 
shell full of water were kept always at hand. When he saw the 
New Zealanders using, for the finishing of their nicest work, 
small tools of jasper, chipped off from a block in sharp angular 
pieces like a gunfiiut, and throwing them away as soon as they 
were blunted, he concluded they did not grind them afresh because 
they could not. 1 This, however, was not the true reason, as 
their grinding jade and other hard stones clearly shows ; but it 
was simply easier to make new ones than to grind the old. A 
good set of implements of the Ground Stone Age will consist 
partly of instruments made by mere chipping, such as varieties 
of spear-heads, arrow-heads, and flake-knives, and partly of 
ground implements, the principal classes 'of which are celts, 
axes, and hammers. 

The word celt (Latin ccltis, a chisel) is a convenient term for 
including the immense mass of instruments which have the simple 
shape of chisels, and might have been used as such. Xo doubt 
many or most of them were really for mounting on handles, and 
using as adzes or axes; but in the absence of a handle, or a place 
for one, or a mark where one has been, it is often impossible to 
set down any particular specimen as certainly a chisel, an a:;e, or 
an adze, ^\'hen, however, the cutting edge is hollowed as in a 
gouge, it is no longer possible to use it as an axe, though it 
retains the other two possible uses of chisel and ad/e. The 
water-worn pebble, in which a natural edge has been made 
straighter and sharper by grinding, may be taken as the original 
and typical form of the celt, llude South American tribes select 
suitable water-worn stones and rub down their edges, sometimes 
merely grasping them in the hand to use them, and sometimes 
1 Couk, First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 220 ; vol. iii. p. 60. 


mounting them in a wooden handle; and axes made in this way, 
hy grinding the edge of a suitable pebble, and fixing it in a withe 
handle, are known in Australia. Moreover, the class to which 
this almost natural instrument belongs, that, namely, which has 
a double-convex cross section, is far more numerous and univer- 
sally distributed than the double-flat, concavo-convex, triangular, 
or other forms. 

Where artificially shaped celts are found only chipped over, in 
high Stone Age deposits, as in Scandinavia, they are generally 
to be considered as unfinished ; but when celts of hard stone are 
found only ground near the edge, and otherwise left rough from 
chipping, they may be taken as denoting a rude state of art. 
Thus flint celts ground only near the edge are found in Northern 
Europe, and even in Denmark : but in general celts of the hardest 
stone are found, during the Ground Stone Age, conscientiously 
ground and polished all over, and every large celt of hard stone 
which is finished to this degree represents weeks or months of 
labour, done not so much for any technical advantage, as for the 
sake of beauty and artistic completeness. 

The primitive hammer, still used in some places, is an oval 
pebble, held in the hand. Above this comes the natural pebble, or 
the artificially shaped stone, which is grooved or notched to have 
a bent withe fastened round it as a handle, as our smiths mount 
heavy chisels. Above this again is the highest kind, the stone 
hammer with a hole through it for the handle. This is not found 
out of the Old World, perhaps not out of Europe ; and even the 
Mexicans, who in many things rivalled or excelled the stone- 
workers of ancient Europe, do not seem to have got beyond 
grooving their hammers. The stone axe proper, as distinguished 
from the mere celt by its more complex shape, and by its being 
bored or otherwise fitted for a handle, is best represented in 
the highest European Stone Age, and in the transition to the 
Bronze Age. 

Special instruments and varieties are of great interest to the 
Ethnographer, as giving individuality to the productions of the 
Stone Age of different times and places. Thus, the rude trian- 
gular flakes of obsidian with which the Papuans head their 
spears are very characteristic of thoir race. These spears were 


probably what they were using in Schouten's time ; " long 
slaves with very long sharpe things at the ends thereof, which 
(us we thought) were finnes of black fishes." 1 Among celts, 
the Polynesian adze blade, to be seen in almost any museum, 
is a well-marked type ; as is the American double hatchet, 2 and 
an elaborately -formed American knife. 3 The Pech's knives or 
Pict's knives, of Shetland, made from a rock with a slaty 
cleavage, seem peculiar. They appear to be efficient instru- 
ments, as an old woman was seen cutting cabbage with one not 
long since. 

As there are a good many special instruments like these in 
different parts of the world, the idea naturally suggests itself of 
trying to use them as ethnological evidence, to prove connexion 
or intercourse between two districts where a similar thing is 
found. For instance, among the most curious phenomena in 
the history of stone implements is the occurrence of one of the 
highest types of the Stone Age, the polished celt of green jade, 
of all places in the world, in Australia, where the general charac- 
ter of the native stone implements is so extremely low. There is 
a quarry of this very hard and beautiful stone in Victoria, and the 
natives on the river Glenelg grind it into double-convex hatchet 
blades, a process which must require great labour, and these 
blades they fix with native thread into cleft sticks, and use them 
as battle-axes. Two of the blades in question are in the Museum 
of the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh, presented by Dr. 
Mackay, who got them near the place where they were made. 
They are only inferior to the finest celts of the same material 
from New Zealand, in wanting the accuracy of outline which the 
Maori would have given, and the conscientious labour with 
which he would have ground down the whole surface till every 
inequality or. flaw had disappeared, whereas the Australian lias 
been content with polishing into the hollow places, instead of 
grinding them out. Were we obliged to infer, from the presence 
of these high-class celts in Australia, that the natives in one 
part of the country had themselves developed the making of 

1 Purchas, vol. i. p. 95. 2 Schoolcraft, part ii. pi. 48, figs. 1 and 2. 

3 Id., part ii. pi. 45, figs. 1-3. Another specimen in the Edinburgh Autiquane*' 
Museum, presented by Dr. Daniel Wilson. 


stone implements so immensely beyond the rest of thsir race, 
while thsy remained in other respects in the same low state of 
civilization, the quality of stone implements would have to be 
pretty much given up as a test of culture anywhere. Fortu- 
nately there is an easier way out of the difficulty. Polished 
instruments of this green jade have been, long ago or recently, 
one of the most important items of manufacture in the islands 
of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and the South Australians 
may have learnt from some Malay or Polynesian source the art 
of shaping these high-class weapons. The likelihood of this 
being their real history is strengthened by proofs we have of 
intercourse between Australia and the surrounding islands. 
Besides the known yearly visits of the trepang -fishers of 
Macassar to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and the appearance of the 
outrigger-canoe in East Australia in Captain Cook's time, there 
is mythological evidence which seems to carry proof of connexion 
far down the east coast. 

Another coincidence in patterns of weapons said to come from 
two distant regions may be mentioned here. There is a well- 
known New Zealand weapon, the mere, or pi'itu- 
patu. It is an edged club of bone or stone, 
which has been compared to a beaver's tail, or 
is still more like a soda-water bottle with the 
bulb flattened, and it is a very effective weapon 
in a hand-to-hand fight, a man being often 
killed by one thrust with its sharp end against 
the temple. Through the neck it has a hole 
for a wrist-cord. The mere is made of the bone 
of a whale, or of stone, and the finest, which 
are of green jade and worked with immense 
labour, were among the most precious heir- 
looms of the Maori Chiefs. One would think 
that such a peculiar weapon was hardly likely 
to be made independently by two races ; but Klemm gives a 
drawing of a sharp-edged Peruvian weapon, of dark brown 
jasper, which is so exactly like the New Zealand mere, even to 
the wrist-cord, that a single drawing of one of the latter, shown 
in front and profile in Fig. 19, will serve for both. Another, 


stated to be from Cuzco, of a greenish amphibolic stone, is 
figured by Rivero and Tschudi, curiously enough, in company 
with a wooden war-club from Tunga in Colombia, which is 
hardly distinguishable from a common Polynesian form. If we 
knew of any connexion between the civilizations of Peru and the 
South Sea Islands, these extraordinary resemblances might be 
accounted for as caused by direct transmission. 1 

When, however, their full value has been given to the dif- 
ferences in the productions of the Ground Stone Age, there 
remains a residue of a most remarkable kind. In the first 
place, a very small number of classes, flake-knives, scrapers, 
spear and arrow-heads, celts and hammers, take in the great 
mass of specimens in museums ; and in the second place, the 
prevailing character of these implements, whether modern or 
thousands of years old, whother found on this side of the world 
or the other, is a marked uniformity. The ethnographer who 
has studied the stone implements of Europe, Asia, North or 
South America, or Polynesia, may consider the specimens from 
the district he has studied, as types from which those of other 
districts differ, as a class, by the presence or absence of a few 
peculiar instruments, and individually in more or less important 
details of shape and finish, unless, as sometimes happens, they 
do not perceptibly differ at all. So great is this uniformity in 
the stone implements of different places and times, that it goes 
far to neutralise their value as distinctive of different races. It 
is clear that no great help in tracing the minute histoiy of tha 
growth and migration of tribes, is to be got from an arrow-head 
which might have come from Patagonia, or Siberia, or the Isle 
of. Man, or from a celt which might be, for all its appearance 
shows, Mexican, Irish, or Tahitian.* If an observer, tolerably 
acquainted with stone implements, had an unticketed collection 
placed before him, the largeness of the number of specimens 
which he would not confidently assign, by mere inspection, to 
their proper countries, would serve as a fair measure of their 
general uniformity. Even when aided by mineralogical know- 

1 Klemm, C. W., part. ii. p. 26 ; Rivero & Tschudi. Ant, Per. Plates, pi. xxxiil. 
The opinion of Mr. I'ruiks that these supposed South American weapons are re illy 
Polynesian, but ticketed by, seems the moit probable. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 


ledge, often a great help, he would have to leave a large fraction 
of the whole in an unclassed heap, confessing that he did not 
know within thousands of miles or thousands of years, where 
and when they were made. 

How, then, is this remarkahle uniformity to be explained ? 
The principle that man does the same thing under the same 
circumstances will account for much, but it is very doubtful 
whether it can be stretched far enough to account for even the 
greater proportion of the facts in question. The other side of 
the argument is, of course, that resemblance is due to con- 
nexion, and the truth is made up of the two, though in what 
proportions we do not know. It may be that, though the pro- 
blem is too obscure to be worked out alone, the uniformity of 
development in different regions of the Stone Age may some day 
be successfully brought in with other lines of argument, based on 
deep-lying agreements in culture, which tend to centralize the 
early history of races of very unlike appearance, and living in 
widely distant ages and countries. 

To turn to an easier branch of the subject, I have brought 
together here, as a contribution to the history of the Stone Age, 
a body of evidence which shows that it has prevailed in ancient 
or up to modern times, in every great district of the inhabited 
world. By the aid of this, it may be possible to sketch at least 
some rude outline of the history of its gradual decline and fall, 
which followed on the introduction of metal in later periods, up 
to our own times, when the universal use of iron has left nothing 


of the ancient state of things, except a few remnants, of interest 
to ethnologists and antiquaries, but of no practical importance to 
the world at large. 

In the first place, there are parts of the world whose inhabi- 
tants, when they were discovered in modern times by more ad- 
vanced races, were found not possessed of metals, but using stone, 
shell, bone, split canes, and so forth, for purposes in making 
tools and weapons to which we apply metals. Now as we have 
no evidence that the inhabitants of Australia, the South Sea 
Islands, and a considerable part of North and South America, 
had ever been possessed of metals, it seems reasonable to consider 
these districts as countries where original Stone Age conditions 


Lad never been interfered with, until they came \vithin the range 
of European discovery. 

But in other parts of North, and South America, such inter- 
ference had already taken place before the time of Columbus. 
The native copper of North America had been largely used by 
the race known to us as the " Mound Builders," who have left 
as memorials of their existence the enormous mounds and forti- 
fications of the Mississippi Valley. 1 They do not seem to have 
understood the art of melting copper, or even of forging it hot, 
but to have treated it as a kind of malleable stone, which they 
got in pieces out of the ground, or knocked off from the great 
natural blocks, and hammered into knives, chisels, axes, and 
ornaments. The use of native copper was by no means confined 
to the Mound Builders, for the European explorers found it in 
use for knives, ice-chisels, ornaments, etc., in the northern part 
of the Continent, especially among the Esquimaux and the 
Canadian Indians. 2 The copper which Captain Cook found hi 
abundance among the Indians of Prince William's Sound, was 
no doubt native. 3 The iron used for arrow-heads by the Indians 
at the mouth of the Ptio de la Plata was no doubt meteoric. 
This has been found in use among the Esquimaux. There is a 
harpoon-point of walrus tusk in the British Museum, headed 
with a blade of meteoric iron, and a knife, also of tusk, which is 
edged by fixing in a row of chips of meteoric iron along a groove. 
But these instruments do not appear old ; they are just like 
those in which the Esquimaux at present mount morsels of 
European iron, and there is no evidence that they used their 
native meteoric iron until their intercourse with Europeans in 
modern times had taught them the nature and use of the metal. 
It is indeed very strange that there should be no traces found 
among them of knowledge of metal-work, and of other arts which 
one would expect a race so receptive of foreign knowledge to have 
got from contact with the Northmen, in the tenth and following 

1 See Squier & Davis, etc. 

2 Squier, Abor. Mon. of State cf N. Y., Smithsonian Contr. ; Washington, 1851, 
pp. 176-7. Sir /. Richardson, 'The Polar Regions;' Edinburgh, 1861, p. 308. 
Hakluyt, vol. lii. p 230. Kleram, C. G., vol. ii. p. 18. 

3 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 380. 


centuries ; but I have not succeeded in finding any distinct 
evidence of the kind. 

In the lower part of the Northern Continent, in Peru and some 
other districts of the Southern, the Stone Age was not extinct at 
the time of Columbus ; it was indeed in a state of development 
hardly surpassed anywhere in the world, but at the same time 
several metals were in common use. Gold and silver were 
worked with wonderful skill, but chiefly for ornamental purposes. 
Though almost all the gold and silver work of Mexico has long 
ago gone to the melting-pot, there are still a few specimens which 
show that the Spanish conquerors were not romancing in the 
wonderful stories they told of the skill of the native goldsmiths. 
I have seen a pair of gold eagle ornaments in the Berlin Museum, 
which will compare almost with the Etruscan work for design 
and delicacy of finish. But what is still more important is that 
bronze, made of well-judged proportions of copper and tin, was 
in use on both continents. The Peruvians used bronze, and 
perhaps copper also, for tools and weapons. The Mexican bronze 
axe-blades are to be seen in collections, and we know by the 
picture-writings that both the Mexicans 1 and the builders of the 
ruined cities of Central America, 2 mounted them by simply 
sticking them into a wooden club, as the modern African mounts 
his iron axe-blade. The little bronze bells of Mexico 3 and South 
America are cored castings, which are by no means novice's 
work, and other bronze castings from the latter country are even 
more remarkable. 4 

How the arts of working gold, silver, copper, and bronze came 
into America, we do not know, nor can we even tell whether 
their appearance on the Northern and Southern Continent was 
independent or not. It is possible to trace Mexican connexion 
down to Nicaragua, and perhaps even to the Isthmus of Panama, 
while on the other hand the northern inhabitants of South 
America were not unacquainted with the nations farther down the 
continent. But no certain proof of connexion or intercourse of 
any kind between Mexico and Peru seems as yet to have been 

1 Mendoza Codex, in Kingbborougli, vol. i. 

8 Dresden Codex, id. 3 Tylor, ' Mexico ; ' p. 236. 

4 Ewbank, 'Brazil ; ' New York, 18^6, pp. 454-4C3. 


made out. All that we know certainty is that gold, silver, 
copper, tin, and bronze had there intruded themselves among 
the implements and ornaments of worked stone, though they had 
scarcely made an approach to driving them out of use, and that 
the traditions of boLh continents ascribed their higher culture to 
certain foreigners who were looked upon as supernatural beings. 
If we reason upon the supposition that these remarkably unani- 
mous legends may perhaps contain historical, in combination 
with mythical elements, the question suggests itself, where, for 
a thousand or fifteen hundred years before the Spanish discovery, 
were men to be found who could teach the Mexicans and Peru- 
vians to make bronze, and could not teach them to smelt and 
work iron ? The people of Asia seem the only men on whose 
behalf such a claim can be sustained at all. The Massageta? of 
Central Asia were in the Bronze Age in the time of Herodotus, 
who, describing their use of bronze for spear and arrow-heads, 
battle-axes, and other things, and of gold rather for ornamental 
purposes, remarks that they make no use of iron or silver, for 
they have none in their country, while gold and bronze abound. 1 
Four centuries later, Strabo modifies this remark, saying that 
they have no silver, little iron, but abundance of gold and bronze. 2 
The Tatars were in the Iron Age when visited by mediaeval 
travellers, and the history of the transition from bronze to iron 
in Central Asia, of which we seem to have here a glimpse, is for 
.the most part obscure. The matter is, however, the more 
wor Jiy of remark from its bearing on the argument for the con- 
nexion of the culture of Mexico and that of Asia, grounded by 
Humboldt on the similarities in the mythology and the calendar 
of the two districts. 

If we now turn to the history of the Stone Age in Asia, Africa, 
and Europe, we shall indeed find almost everywhere evidence of 
a Stone Period, which preceded a Bronze or Iron Period, but 
this is only to be had in small part from the direct inspection of 
races living without metal implements. The Kamchaduls of 
north-eastern Asia, a race as yet ethnologically isolated, were 
found by the Kosak invaders using cutting-tools of stone and 
bone. It is recorded that with these instruments it took them 
1 Herod., i. 215. " Strabo, xi. 8, 6. 


three years to hollow out a canoe, and one year to scoop out one 
of the woocbn troughs in which they cooked their food ; ] but 
probably a large allowance for exaggeration must be made in 
this story. It is curious to notice that, thirty or forty years 
ago, Erman got in Kamchatka one of the Stone Age relics found 
in such enormous numbers in Mexico, a fluted prism of obsidian, 
off which a succession of stone blades had been flaked ; but 
though one would have thought that the comparatively recent 
use of stone instruments in the country would have been still 
fresh in the memory of the people, the natives who dug it up 
had no idea what it was. 2 Stone knives, moreover, have been 
found in the high north-east of Siberia, on the site of deserted 
yourts of modern date, said to have been occupied by the settled 
Chukchi, or Shalags. 8 

Chinese literature has preserved various notices of the finding 
and use of stone implements. Such is a passage speaking of 
arrows with stone heads sent as tribute by the barbarians in the 
reign of Wu-Wang (about B.C. 1100), and two which mention 
the actual use of such arrows in China, whether by Chinese or 
Tatars, up to the 13th century of our era. 4 Again, referring to 
Xnn-hiu-fu, in the province of Kwan-tong, in Southern China, 
it is stated, " They find, in the mountains and among the rocks 
which surround it, a heavy stone, so hard that hatchets and other 
cutting instruments are made from it." 5 This of course relates 
to a long past age, and it is to be remembered that China is not 
inhabited only by the race usually known to us as the Chinese, 
but by another, or several other far less cultured races ; the 
mountains of Kwan-tong and the other southern provinces being 
especially inhabited by such rude and seemingly aboriginal tribes. 
There is, besides, a Chinese tradition speaking of the use of stone 
for weapons among themselves in early times, which implies at 
least the knowledge that this is a state of things characterizing 
a race at a low stage of culture, and may really embody a recol- 
lection of their own early history. Fu-hi, they say, made weapons ; 

1 Kracheninnikow, p. 29. * Erman, 'Reise,' vol. iii. p. 453. 

Sarytschew, in Coll. of Mod. etc., Toy. and Tr.; London, 1807, vol. v. p. 35. 
4 A. W. Franks, in ' Trans, of the Congress of Pre-historic Archaeology ' ^Norwich, 
1888). p. 264. 

* Cirosier, ' De la Chine ; ' Paris, 1818, vol. i. p. 191. 


these were of wood, those of Shin-ruing were of stone, and Chi-yu 
made metal ones. 1 

Among the great Tatar race to which the Turks and Mongols, 
and our Hungarians, Lapps, and Finns belong, accounts of a 
Stone Age may be found, in the most remarkable of which the 
widely prevailing idea that stone instruments found buried in the 
ground are thunderbolts, is very well brought into view. In the 
Chinese Encyclopaedia of the emperor Kang-hi, who began to 
reign in 1662, the following passage occurs : 

'"Lightning -stones.' The shape and substance of lightning- 
stones vary according to place. The wandering Mongols, whether 
of the coasts of the eastern sea, or the neighbourhood of the 
Sha-mo, use them in the manner of copper and steel. There 
are some of these stones which have the shape of a hatchet, 
others that of a knife, some are made like mallets. These 
lightning-stones are of different colours; there are blackish ones, 
others are greenish. A romance of the time of the Tang, says 
that there was at Yu-men-si a great Miao dedicated to the 
Thunder, and that the people of the country used to make offer- 
ings there of different things, to get some of these stones. This 
fable is ridiculous. The lightning- stones are metals, stones, 
pebbles, which the fire of the thunder has metamorphosed by 
splitting them suddenly and uniting inseparably different sub- 
stances. There are some of these stones in which a kind of 
vitrification is distinctly to be observed." 2 

Moreover, within the last century the Tunguz of north-eastern 
Siberia, belonging to the same Tatar race, were using stone 
arrow-heads, 3 while Tacitus long before made a similar remark 
as to their relatives the Finns, whose " only hope is in their 
arrows, which, from want of iron, they make sharp with bones." 
" Sola in sagittis spes, quas, inopia ferri, ossibus asperant." 4 
But the Tunguz have been expert iron-workers as long as we 
have any distinct knowledge of them/ and arrow-heads of stone 
and bone may survive, for an indefinite number of centuries, the 

1 Goguet, vol. iii. p. 331. 

2 ' Memoires concernant 1'Histoire, etc., des Chiaois, par les Missionnaires de Pekin ;' 
Paris, 1776, etc., vol. iv. p. 474. Klemm. C. G., vol. vi. p. 467. 

3 Ravenstein, p. 4. 

4 Tao, Germ. xlvi. ; and see Grimm, G. D. S., vol. i. p. 173. 


main part of the Stone Age to which they properly belong. 
Even the Egyptians, in the height of their civilization, used 
stone arrow-heads in hunting, notwithstanding their vast wealth 
of bronze and iron. The peculiar arrows which are being shot 
at wild oxen in the bas-reliefs of Beni Hassan 1 are still to be 
seen in collections; they are special as to their wedge-shaped 
flint heads, fixed with the broad edge foremost, a shape like that 
of the wooden-headed bird-bolts of the Middle Ages. The stone 
arrow-heads found on the battle-field of Marathon are often 
described, but arrow-heads and other instruments of the Stone 
Age are common in Greek soil, and may be prae- Aryan. It is 
clear, however, that metal must be very common and cheap to 
be used in so wasteful a way as in heading an arrow, perhaps 
only for a single shot. 

If we go back eighteen hundred years, an account may be 
found of a people living under Stone Age conditions in a part of 
Asia much less remote than Tartary and China Strabo gives 
the following description of the fish-eaters inhabiting the coast 
of the present Beloochistan, on the Arabian Sea, and, like the 
Aleutian Islanders of modern times, building their huts of the 
bones of whales, with their jaws for doorways : " The country 
of the Ichthyophagi is a low coast, for the most part without 
trees, except palms, a sort of acanthus, and tamarisks ; of water 
and cultivated food there is a dearth. Both the people and their 
cattle eat fish, and drink rain- and well-water, and the flesh of 
the cattle tastes of fish. In making their dwellings, they mostly 
use the bones of whales, and oyster- shells, the jpibs serving for 
beams and props, and the jaw-bones for doorways ; the vertebra 
they use for mortars, in which they pound their sun-dried fish, 
and of this, with the mixture of a little corn, they make bread, 
for, though they have no iron, they have mills. And this is the 
less wonderful, seeing that they can get the mills from elsewhere, 
but how can they dress the millstones when worn down ? with 
the stones, they say, with which they sharpen their arrows and 
darts [of wood, with points] hardened in the fire. Of the fish, 
part they cook in ovens, but most they eat raw, and they catch 
them in nets of palm-bark." 2 

1 Wilkinson, Top. Ace., vol. i. pp. 222, 353. 2 Strabo, xv. 2, 2. ' 


Though direct history gives but partial means of proving the 
existence of a Stone Age over Asia and Europe, the finding of 
ancient stone tools and weapons in almost every district of these 
two continents, proves that they were in former times inhabited 
by Stone Age races, though whether in any particular spot the 
tribes we first find living there are their descendants as well as 
their successors, this evidence cannot tell us. How, for instance, 
are we to tell what race made and used the obsidian flakes which 
were found with polished agate and carnelian beads under the 
chief corner-stone of the great temple of Khorsabad ? All 
through Western Asia, and north of the Himalaya, stone imple- 
ments are scattered broadcast through the land ; while China, 
to judge from the slender evidence forthcoming, seems to have 
had its Stone Age like other regions. 

Japan abounds in Stone Age relics, of which Van Siebold has 
given drawings and descriptions in his great work ; 1 and his own 
collection at Leyden is very rich in specimens. The arrow-heads 
of obsidian, flint, chert, etc., are of types like those found else- 
where. Their presence is sometimes accounted for by stories 
that they were rained from the sky, or that every year an army 
of spirits fly through the air with rain and storm ; when the sky 
clears, people go out and hunt in the sand for the stone arrows 
they have dropped. The arrow-heads are found most abundantly 
in the north of the great island of Nippon, in the so-called land 
of the Wild Men, a population who were only late and with 
difficulty brought under the Mikado dynasty, and who belong to 
the same Aino race as the present inhabitants of the island of 
Yesso and the southern Kuriles. Consul Brandt says that stone 
arrow-heads are still used in North Japan, and that he has even 
seen in Yesso stone hammers and hatchets among the Ainos. 
In Japan, stone celts are frequently to be found in the collec- 
tions of minerals of native amateurs, and they are dug up with 
other objects of stone. They seem only of average symmetry 
and finish. Here, again, the natives call such a stone celt a 
" thunderbolt," Eai fu, seki, or Tengu no masakari, " battleaxe 

1 Ph. Fr. v. Siebold, Nippon, Archiv zur Beschreibung von Japan ; ' Leyden, 
1832, etc., part ii. plates xi. to xiii. pp. 45, etc. Brandt, in Zeitschnft 
nologie, vol. iv. (Verb.) p. 26, or Journ. Antbrop. Inst. vol. iii. p. 132. 


of Tengu," Tengu being the guardian of heaven. The notion is 
also current that they are implements of the Evil Spirit, whose 
symbol is the fox, whence the names of " Fox-hatchet," " Fox- 
plane." As a fox-plane, a double-flat celt is shown in Siebold's 
plates, which may have served the purpose of a plane, or, if it 
was fixed to a handle, that of an adze. Regularly shaped stone 
knives (not mere flakes) are represented ; some are like the stone 
knives of Egypt, but rougher ; the Japanese recognise them as 
" stone-knives." Some which have been dug up are kept in the 
temples as relics of the time of the Kami, the spirits or divini- 
ties from whom the Japanese hold themselves to be descended, 
and whose worship is the old religion of the Japanese, the way 
or doctrine of the Kami, more commonly known by the Chinese 
term, Sin-tu. Some stone knives, drawn by Siebold on Japanese 
authority, seem to be of a slaty rock, which has admitted of 
their being very neatly made in curious shapes. One very highly 
finished specimen is called the stone knife of the " Green 
Dragon," a term which may be explained by the fact that the 
conventional dragon of Japan has a sword at the end of his tail. 

Again, Java abounds in very high-class stone implements, and 
such things are found on the Malay Peninsula, though in both 
these districts the natives, unlike the Polynesians, whose lan- 
guage is so closely connected with theirs, do not even know 
what stone celts are, and hold with so many other nations that 
they are thunderbolts. 1 

In India an account of the discovery by Mr. H. P. Le Mesurier 
of a great number of ancient stone celts was published in 1861. 
He found them stored up in villages of the Jubbulpore district, 
near the Mahadeos, and in other sacred places ; and since then 
many more have been met with by other observers. 2 India has 
now to be reckoned among countries which afford relics not only 
of the Stone Age, but of its ruder period of unpolished imple- 
ments, preceding the more advanced period of the ground celt. 

In Europe, ancient stone implements are found from east to 
west, and from north to south, the relics perhaps of races now 

1 Yates, in 'Archaeological Journal,' No. 42. Earl, 'Papuans,' pp. 175-6. 
* Le Mesurier, in Joura. As. Soc. Bengal, 1861, No. 1, p. 81. Theobald, As. 
Soc., Apr. 1864, etc., etc. 


extinct, or absorbed in others, or of the Tatar population of 
Finland and Lapland, or of that unclassed race which survives 
in the Basque population about the Pyrenees, who, unlike the 
Finns and Lapps, cannot as yet claim relationship with a sur- 
viving parent stock. 

As to our own Aryan or Indo-European race, our first know- 
ledge of it, at the remote period of which a picture has been 
reconstructed by the study of the Vedas, and a comparison of 
the Sanskrit with other Aryan tongues, shows a Bronze Age 
prevailing among them when they set out on their migrations 
from Central Asia to found the Aryan nations, the Indians, 
Persians, Greeks, Germans, and the rest. 1 A general view of 
the succession of metal to stone all over the world, justifies a 
belief that the Aryans were no exception to the general rule, and 
that they, too, used stone instruments before they had metal 
ones ; but there is little known evidence bearing on the matter 
beyond that of a few Aryan words, which are worth mentioning, 
though they will not carry much weight of argument. 

The nature of this evidence may be made clear, by noticing 
how it comes into existence in places where the introduction of 
metal is matter of history. In these places it sometimes hap- 
pens that old words, referring to stone and stone instruments, 
are transferred to metal and metal instruments, and these words 
take their place as relics of the Stone Age preserved in language. 
Thus in North America the Algonquin names for copper and 
brass are miskwaubik and ozaicaubik, that is to say, "red-stone" 
and "yellow-stone;" while the name e-reck, that is, "stone," 
is used by some Indian tribes of California for all metals indis- 
criminately. In the Delaware language, opeek is " white," and 
assuun is " stone ; " so that it is evident that the name of silver, 
opussuun, means " white-stone," while the termination " stone " 
is discernible in msauaasvn, " gold." In the Mandan language, 
the words mahi, " knife," and mahitshuke, : ' flint," are clearly 
connected. 2 Having thus examples of the way in which the 
Stone Age has left its mark in language, in races among whom 

1 Weber, ' Indische Skizzen ; ' Berlin, 1857, p. 9. Max Muller, Lectures, second 
series, p. 230, etc. 

8 Schoolcraft, part ii. pp. 389, 397, 463, 506 ; part iii. pp. 426, 418. 


it has been superseded within our knowledge, it is natural that 
we should expect to find words marking the same change, in the 
speech of men who made the same transition in times not clearly 
known to history. What has been done in this way as yet comes 
to very little, but Jacob Grimm has set an example by citing two 
words, hammer, Old Norse hamarr, meaning both " hammer " and 
" rock," and Latin saxum, a name possibly belonging to a time 
when instruments to cut with, secare, were still of stone, and 
which still keeps close to Old German sahs, Anglo-Saxon seax, a 
knife. 1 There may possibly be some connexion between sagittn, 
arrow, and snxum, stone, and in like manner between Sanskrit 
qili, arrow, qild, stone, while in the Semitic family of languages, 
Hebrew VO, chetz, arrow, V^r?, cliatzatz, gravel-stone, are both 
related to the verb Vn, chatzatz, to cut. But against the infer- 
ence from these words, that their connexion belongs to a time 
when stone was the usual material for sharp instruments, there 
lies this strong objection, that knife and stone might get from 
the same root names expressing sharpness, or any other quality 
they have in common, without having anything directly to do 
with one another, while the same word, hamar, may have been 
found an equally suitable name for " hammer " and " rock," 
without the hammer being so called because all hammers were 
originally stones. 2 

Among the Semitic race, however, it seems possible to bring 
forward better evidence than this of an early Stone Age. If 
we follow one way of translating, we find in two passages of 
the Old Testament an account of the use of sharp stones or 
stone knives for circumcision ; Exodus iv. 25, " And Zipporah 
took a stone" p2, tzor), and Joshua v. 2, "At that time Je- 
hovah said to Joshua, Make thee knives of stone" (n'lnnr? 
C'n.S, charvoth tzurim). As they stand, however, these pas- 
sages are not sufficient to prove the case, for there is much 
the same ambiguity as to the original meaning of tzor, t:ur, 
as in the etymologies of some of the words just mentioned. 
Gesenius refers them to "TO tzur, to cut, and the readings 

1 Grimm, D. M., p. 165 ; G. D. 8., p. 610. 

1 In this connexion see the meanings of of man in Boehtlingk & Roth, and Benfey 
Q. W. L., part i. p. 156. 


" an edge, a knife," and " knives of edges, i.e. sharp knives," 
have so far at least an equal claim. It remains to be seen 
which view is supported by further evidence. 

In the first place, the Septuagint altogether favours the 
opinion that the knives in question were of stone, by reading 
in the first place \lnj<l>ov, a stone, or pebble, and in the secend Trerpivas CK irfrpas atpoTofjLov, stone knives of sharp- 
cut stone. These are mentioned again in the remarkable 
passage which follows the account of the death and burial 
of Joshua (Joshua xxiv. 2930), "And it came to pass after 
these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of 
Jehovah, died, being a hundred and ten years old, and they 
buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath Serah, 
which is in Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of 
Gaash." Here follows in the LXX. a passage not in the 
Hebrew text which has come down to us. " Kai exei Hdrjuav 
per' avrov eiy ro fj.vrjfj.flov ev a> eda\}/av avrov e/cei, TCLS naxatpa* 
ras Vrpiuas, ev cus ve/H&epe TOVS viovs 'La-parjX tv FaAyaAois, 
ore e?/yayey avrovs ff Alytiirrw KaOa owe'ra^e Kvpios' KCU (K(t 
fl<rlv f<as T?/S- <rrifj.pov fjiUpas." l " And there they laid with 
him in the tomb wherein they buried him there, the stone 
knives, wherewith he circumcised the children of Israel at the 
Gilgals, when he led them out of Egypt, as the Lord com- 
manded. And they are there unto this day." Any one who 
is disposed to see in this statement a late interpolation, may 
imagine an origin for it. The opening of a tumulus con- 
taining, as they so commonly do, a quantity of sharp instru- 
ments of stone, might suggest to a Jew who only knew such 
things as circumcising knives, the idea that he saw before 
him the tomb of Joshua, and, buried with his body, the stone 
knives wherewith he circumcised the children of Israel. 

How far the modern Jews follow the translation " stone," 
" knives of stone," I cannot entirely say, but two modern 
Jewish translations of the Pentateuch which I have con- 
sulted read "stone" in Exodus iv. 25. It is to be remark -d 
that the Rabbinical law admits such a use ; it stands thus : 

1 LXX., Ed. Field, Oxford, 1859. Elsewhere Gilead instead of Gaash, and other 




TI r2^~ znna cramps? % i:" nap 
erci e r~z rz r~~= 7"2 

" We may circumcise with anything, even with a flint, with 
crystal (glass) or with anything that cuts, except with the 
sharp edge of a reed, because enchanters make use of that, or 
it may bring on a disease, and it is a precept of the wise men 
to circumcise with iron, whether in the form of a knife or of 
scissors, but it is customary to use a knife." 1 Now as Pro- 
fessor Lazarus, a most competent judge in such matters, re- 
marked to me with reference to this question, the mere men- 
tion of a practice in the Ealbinical books is not good evidence 
that it ever really existed, seeing that their writers habitually 
exercise their fertile imaginations in devising cases which might 
possibly occur, and then argue upon them as seriously as though 
they were real matters of practical importance. But there are 
observed facts, which tend to bring these particular ordinances 
out of the region of fancy, and into that of fact. As to the pro- 
hibition of the use of the reed knife, it is to be noticed that this 
(in the form of a sharp splinter of bamboo) was the regular in- 
strument with which circumcision was performed in the Fiji 
islands. 3 And as to the use of the stone circumcising knife, 
it is stated by Leutholf, who is looked upon as a good autho- 
rity, that it was in use in .Ethiopia in his time, *' The 
Alnajah, an .Ethiopian race, perform circumcision with 
stone knives." " Alnajah gens jEthiopum cultris lapideis 
circumcisionem peragit." 3 This would be in the sixteenth 
century. And though the modern Jews generally use a steel 
knife, there appears to be a remarkable exception to this 
custom ; that when a male child dies before the eighth day, 
it is nevertheless circumcised before burial, but this is done, 

* Breeher (' Die Beschneidang dcr Isnetttea.' Vienna, 1845, p. 70) aays a reed is 
objectionable on account of the splinters. 

- Mariner, *oL L p. 329; rol. iL p. 252; Tocab. *. m. "cawo," "tefe." 
Williams, Tip,' ToL L p. 166. The Orang Sabimba of the Malay Peninsula cut the 
umbilical cord at childbirth with a rattan knife, though they bare iron one*, Journ. 
lod. Archip., rol L p. 298. 

Ludolfi, 'Histuria ithiopica;' Prankfort-on-Maine, 1581, iiL 1, 21. 


not with the ordinary instrument, but with a fragment of flint 
or glass. 1 

Under the reservation just stated, a recognition among the 
Jewish ordinances of the practice of slaughtering a heast with 
a [sharp] stone, may here he cited from the Mishna : 

2 mo?:: in&Tra; ^mni x-rna *T baoa anwn 

" If a person has slaughtered [a heast] with a hand-sickle, a 
[sharp] stone, or a reed, it is en slier" i.e. clean, or fit to be 
eaten. Here not only the context, but the necessity of shed- 
ding the animal's blood, proves that a proper cutting instru- 
ment of stone, or at least a sharp-edged piece, is meant. 

Before drawing any inference from these pieces of evidence, 
it will be well to bring together other accounts of the use of 
cutting instruments of stone, glass, etc., by people who, though 
in possession of iron knives, for some reason or other did not 
choose to apply them to certain purposes. Thus the practice 
of sacrificing a beast, not with a knife or an axe, but with a 
sharp stone, has been observed on the West Coast of Africa 
during the last century, as will be more fully detailed in page 

An often quoted instance of the use of a stone knife for a 
ceremonial purpose, where iron would have been much more 
convenient, is the passage in Herodotus which relates that, in 
Egypt, the mummy- embalmers made the incision in the side of 
the corpse with a sharp ^Ethiopic stone. 3 The account given 
by Diodorus Siculus is fuller : " And first, the body being laid 
on the ground, he who is called the scribe marks on its left side 
how far the incision is to be made. Then the so-called slittor 
(paraschistes), having an yEthiopic stone, and cutting the flesh 
as far as the law allows, instantly runs off, the bystanders pur- 
suing him and pelting him with stones, cursing him, and as it 
were, turning the horror of the deed upon him," for he who 
hurts a citizen is held worthy of abhorrence.* There are two 

1 My authority for this statement is Mr. Philip Abraham, Secretary of the Re- 
formed Synagogue in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square. 
- Mishna, Treatise Cholin, ch. i. 2. 
Herod., ii. 86. 4 Dud- Sic., i. 91. 


kinds of stone knives found in excavations and tombs in Egypt, 
both of chipped flint, and very neatly made ; one kind is like a 
very small cleaver, the other has more of the character of a 
lancet, and would seem the more suitable of the two for the 
embalmer's purpose. 

Noteworthy from this point of view, is another description by 
Herodotus, that of the covenant of blood among the Arabians, 
where a man standing between the parties with a sharp stone 
made cuts in the inside of their hands, and with the blood 
smeared seven stones lying in the midst, calling on their 
deities Orotal and Alilat. 1 A story related by Pliny, of the 
way in which the balsam of Judea, or " balm of Gilead," was 
extracted, comes under the same category. The incisions, he 
says, had to be made in the tree with knives of glass, stone, or 
bone, for it hurts it to wound its vital parts with iron, and it 
dies forthwith. 8 

With regard to the reason of such practices as these, it has 
been suggested that there was a practical advantage in the use 
of the stone knife for circumcision, as less liable to cause in- 
flammation than a knife of bronze or iron. From this point of 
view Pliny's statement has been quoted, that the mutilation of 
the priests of Cybele was done with a sherd of Saniian ware 
(Samia testa), as thus avoiding danger. 3 But the idea of a stone 
instrument having any practical advantage over an iron one in 
cutting a living subject, and even a dead body or a tree, will not 
meet with much acceptance. I cannot but think that most, if 
not all, of the series are to be explained as being, to use the 
word in no harsh sense, but according to what seems its proper 
etymology, cases of superstition, of the " standing over " of old 
habits into the midst of a new and changed state of things, of 
the retention 'of ancient practices for ceremonial purposes, long 
after they had been superseded for the commonplace uses of 
ordinary life. Such a view takes in every instance which has 
been mentioned, though the reason of iron not being adopted by 

1 Herod., iii. 8. 

3 Plin., xii. 54. The Bogos of Abyssinia are reported still to make stone hatcheta 
for stripping bark, and to use flint chips for bleeding. ' Materiaux pour 1'Histoire de 
I'Homme,' June, 1872. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 

* riin., xxxv. 46, xi. 10'J. 


the modern Jews in one case as well as in another is not clear. As 
to Pliny's story of the balm of Gilead, I am told, on competent 
authority, that the use of stone and such things instead of iron 
for making incisions in the tree, if ever it really existed, could 
be nothing hut a superstition without any foundation in reason. 
It may perhaps tell in favour of the story being true, that it is 
only one of a number of cases mentioned by Pliny, of plants as 
to which the similar notion prevailed, that they would be spoiled 
by being touched with an iron instrument. 1 There seems, on the 
whole, to be a fair case for believing that among the Israelites, 
as in Arabia, Ethiopia and Egypt, a ceremonial use of stone 
instruments long survived the general adoption of metal, and 
that such observances are to be interpreted as relics of an earlier 
Stone Age ; while incidentally the same argument makes it 
probable that the rite of circumcision belonged to the Stone Age 
among the ancient Israelites, as we know it does among the 
modern Australians. 2 

With regard to the foregoing accounts, there is a point which 
requires further remark. Glass has been mentioned by the side 
of stone, as a material for making sharp instruments of ; and it 
may seem at first sight an unreasonable thing to make the use 
of a production which belongs to so advanced a state of civiliza- 
tion as glass, evidence of a Stone Age. But savages have so 
unanimously settled it, that glass is a kind of stone peculiarly 
suitable for such purposes, that where a knife of glass, or a 
weapon armed with it, is found, it may be confidently set down 
as the immediate successor of a stone one. The Fuegians and the 
Andaman Islanders are found to have used in this manner the 
bits of broken glass that came in their way ; the New Zealanders 
have been observed to take a piece of glass in place of the sharp 
stone with which they cut their bodies in mourning for the dead; 
and the North American Indians to fix one in a wooden handle, 
in place of the sharp stone with which the native phleine used to 
be armed. 3 The Australians substituted such pieces, when 

1 Plin., xix. 57, xxiii. 81, xxiv., 6, 62. 

8 G. F. Angas, ' South Australia Illustrated ; ' London, 1847, pi. T. 
* Fitz Roy, ' Voy. of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle;' London, 1839, voL ii. p. 184. 
Mouat, p. 305. Yate, p. 243. Loskiel, p. 144. 


they could get them, for the angular pieces of stone with which 
their lances and jagged knives w r ere mounted. The Christy 
Museum contains some interesting specimens of these Australian 
instruments, which date themselves in a curious way as be- 
longing to the time of contact with Europeans. They were 
originally set with stone teeth; but where these have been 
knocked out, their places have been filled by new ones of broken 

To complete the survey of the Stone Age and its traces in the 
world, Africa has now to be more fully examined. This great 
continent is now entirely in the Iron Age. The tribes who do 
not smelt their own iron, as the Bushmen, get their supplies 
from others ; and in the immense central and western tracts 
above the Equator, there appears to be no record of tribes living 
without it. In South Africa, however, the case is different ; and 
the accounts of the English voyages round the Cape of Good 
Hope about the beginning of the seventeenth century, collected 
in Purchas's ' Pilgrimes,' give quite a clear history of the 
transition from the Stone to the Iron Age, which was then 
taking place. 

Then, as now, the inhabitants of Madagascar had their iron 
knives and spear-heads ; and they would have silver in payment 
for their cattle, Is. for a sheep, and 3s. 6d. for a cow. But on 
the "West African coast, north of the Cape, there we're pastoral 
tribes, probably Hottentots, who evidently did not know then, as 
they do now, how to work the abundant iron ore of their 
country. At Saldanha Bay, in 1598, John Davis could get fat- 
tailed sheep and bullocks for bits of old iron and nails, and in 
1604 a great bullock was still to be bought for a piece of an old 
iron hoop. But only seven years later, Nicholas Dounton, 
"Captaine of the Pepper- Come," begins to write ruefully 
of the change in this delightful state of things. " Saldania 
having in former time been comfortable to all our nation travel- 
ling this way, both outwards and homewards, yeelding them 
abundance of flesh, as sheepe and beeves brought downe by the 
saluage inhabitants, and sold for trifles, as a beife for a piece of 
an iron hoope of foureteene inches long, and a sheepe for a lesser 
piece ; " but now this is at an end, spoilt perhaps by the Dutch- 


men, " who use to spoyle all places where they come (onely 
respecting their owne present occasions) by their ouer much 
liberalise," etc., etc. 1 

Stone implements from South Africa, till lately very scarce in 
ethnological collections, are now sent over in plenty. The 
Christy Museum contains arrow-heads, spear-heads, scrapers, 
&c. ; and an adze mounted in its withe handle, which has been 
figured, seems to indicate modern use. 2 

A native Dainara story indeed clearly preserves a recollection 
of the time, possibly several generations ago, when stone axes 
were used to cut down trees. The tale is a sort of " House 
that Jack Built," in which a little girl's mother gives her a 
needle, and she goes and finds her father sewing thongs with 
thorns, so she gives him the needle and he breaks it and gives 
her an axe. " Going farther on she met the lads who were in 
charge of the cattle. They were busy taking oat honey, and in 
order to get at it they were obliged to cut down the trees with 
stones." She addressed them : " Our sons, how is it that you 
use stones in order to get at the honey? Why do you not 
say, Our first-born, give us the axe ? " and so on. 3 Even now, 
I have never met with a stone implement from West Africa. 
Yet the following passage relating to the Yoruba country, 
shows that they are to be found there as elsewhere. " The 
stones or thunder-bolts which Shango casts down from heaven 
are preserved as sacred relics. In appearance they are identical 
with the so-called stone hatchets picked up in the fields of 
America." 4 

Going back two thousand years or so, record is to be found 
at least of a partial Stone Age condition in north eastern Africa. 
It appears from Herodotus that the African Ethiopians in the 
army of Xerxes not only headed their arrows with sharp stone, 
but had spears armed with sharpened horns of antelopes, while 
the Libyans had wooden javelins hardened at the point by fire. 6 

1 Purchas, vol. i. pp.118, 133, 275, 417. 

2 See Busk, in ' Trans. Pre-hist. Congress,' 1868, p. 69. G. V. du Noyer, in 
'Archaeological Journal,' 1847. 

3 Blcek, ' Reynard in Africa,' p. 90. 

4 Bo wen, ' Gr. and Die. of Yoruba lang. ; ' p. xvi., in Smithsonian Contr., vol. L 

5 Herod., vii. 69, 71. 


Strabo mentions in Ethiopia a tribe who pointed their reed 
arrows in this way, and another who used as weapons the horns 
of antelopes. 1 It is interesting to observe that in South Africa 
the spear headed in this way has survived up to our own time ; 
Mr. Andersson saw the natives at "Walfisch Bay spearing the fish 
left at low water, with a gemsbock's horn attached to a slender 
stick. 2 

Traces of a Stone Age in Egypt, in the use of the stone 
arrow-head, and of the stone knife for ceremonial purposes, 
have been already spoken of. No account of the finding of stone 
implements in North Africa seems to have been published till 
Mr. Christy, in a journey made in Algeria in 1863, found them 
there. He met with flint flake knives, arrow-heads, and 
polished celts, at Constantine ; flakes, arrow-heads, and a 
beautifully chipped lance head of quartzite, at Dellys on the 
coast; and flakes and a large pick-shaped instrument, from the 
desert south-east of Oran, on the confines of Morocco. At 
Bou-Merzoug, on the plateau of the Atlas, south of Constan- 
tine, he found, in a bare, deserted, stony place among the 
mountains, a collection of tombs, 1000 or 1500 in number, 
made of the rude limestone slabs, set up with one slab to 
form a roof, so as to make perfect dolmens, closed chambers 
where the bodies were packed in. Tradition says that a wicked 
people lived there, and for their sins stones were rained upon 
them from heaven, so they built these chambers to creep into. 
Near this remarkable necropolis, Mr. Christy found flint-flakes 
and arrow-heads. 

If we go westward as far as the Canary Islands, we find a 
race, considered to be of African origin, living in the fourteenth 
century under purely Stone Age conditions, making hatchets, 
knives, lancets, and spear-heads of obsidian, and axes of green 
jasper, and pointing their spears and digging- sticks with horns. 3 
It is possible that they might have once had the use of iron, 
and have lost it on removing to the islands, where there is no 

1 Strabo, xvi. 4, 9, 11. 2 Andersson, p. 15. 

3 Barker- Webb & Berthelot, ' Histoire Natnrelle des lies Canaries ;' Paris, 1842, 
etc., vol. i. part L pp. 62, 107, 138. Bory d St. Vincent, 'Essai sur les Jlea 
Fortunees ; ' Paris, An XI. (1803-4\ pp. 58, 75-6, 156. 


ore, but no evidence of this having been the case seems to have 
been found. 

In Western Africa, when the god Gimawong came down to 
his temple at Labode on the Gold Coast once a year, with a 
sound like a flight of wild geese in spring, his worshippers 
sacrificed an ox to him, killing it not with a knife, but with 
a sharp stone. 1 Klemm looks upon this as a sign of the high 
antiquity of the ceremony, and, taking ' into consideration the 
evidence as to the keeping up of the use of stone for ceremonial 
purposes into the Iron Age, the inference seems a highly 
probable one, although there is another side to this argu- 
ment. In order to bring this into view, and to adduce 
some other facts bearing on evidence of the Stone Age, it will 
be necessary to say here something more of the Myth of the 

For ages it has been commonly thought that, with the flash 
of lightning, there falls, sometimes at least, a solid body which 
is known as the thunder-bolt, thunder- stone, etc., as in the dirge 
in ' Cymbeline,' 

" Fear no more the lightning-flash, 
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone." 

The actual falling of meteoric stones may have had to do with 
the growth of this theory, but whatever its origin, it is one of 
the most widely spread beliefs in the world. The thing con- 
sidered to be the thunderbolt is not always defined in accounts 
given. It is described as a stone, 2 or it may be a bit of iron- 
ore, or perhaps iron, 3 or a belemnite, /SeAcprln)*, so called from 
P&epvov, a dart, apparently with the idea of its being a thunder- 
bolt; for this spear-like fossil is still called in England a "thun- 
der-stone." Dr. Falconer mentions the name of "lightning- 
bones " or "thunder-bones," given to fossil bones brought down 
as charms from the plateau of Chanthan in the Himalayas, 4 
where, of course, frequent thunder-storms are seen to account 

1 Homer, p. 54. Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 378. 

'* Bosnian, ' Beschryving van de Guinese Qoud-Kust,' etc. ; Utrecht, 1704, p. 109 
(West Africa). Latham, Descr. Kth., vol. i. p. 159 (Khyens). 

3 Speke, Journal of Disc. ; Edin. and London, 186<J, p. 223. 

4 Proc. S. Geog. Soc., Feb. 25, 1S64, p. 41. 


for their presence. But it is also believed that the stone celts 
and hammers found buried in the ground are thunderbolts. Tho 
country folks of the West of England still hold that the " thun- 
der-axes" they find, fell from the sky, and the Shetlanders agree 
in the opinion. In Brittany, the itinerant umbrella-mender of 
Carnac inquires on his rounds for pierres de tonnerre, and takes 
them in payment for repairs ; and these are fair examples of what 
may be found in other -countries in Europe, and not in those 
inhabited by our Aryan race alone, for the Finns have the same 
belief. 1 The remarkable Chinese account of the thunder- stones 
has been already quoted, and it has been noticed that stone celts 
are held to be thunderbolts in Japan and the Eastern Archi- 
pelago. Even in a country where the use of stone axes by 
the Indians is matter of modern history, and in some places 
actually survives to this day, the Brazilians use, for such a stone 
axe-blade, their Portuguese word corisco," that is, " lightning," 
" thunderbolt " (Latin coruscare). 

As the stone axes and hammers are but one of several classes 
of objects thought to be thunderbolts, it is probable that the 
myth took them to itself at a time when their real use and 
nature had been forgotten, and the reason of their being found 
buried underground was of course unknown. This view is sup- 
ported by the fact of the existence of such instruments being also 
accounted for by taking them up into mythology in other ways. 
Thus in Japan the stone arrow-heads are rained from heaven, or 
dropped by the flying spirits who shoot them, while in Europe 
they are fairy weapons, albschosse, elf-bolts, shot by fairies or 
magicians, and in the North of Ireland the wizards still draw 
them out from the bodies of " overlooked " cattle. 3 Dr. Daniel 
Wilson mentions an interesting post-Christian myth, which pre- 
vailed in Scotland till the close of the last century, that the stone 
hammers found buried in the ground were Purgatory Hammers 
for the dead to knock with at the gates. 4 

The inability of the world to understand the nature of the 

1 Klemm, 0. W., part ii. p. 65 ; and see Castrdn, 'Finnische Mythologie, ' p. 42. 
* Pr. Max. v. Wied, 'Reise nach Erasilien ;' Frankfort, 1820-1, vol. ii. p. 35. 
9 Wilde, Cat. R. I. A., p. 19. 
4 Wilson, 'Archaeology, etc., of Scotland;' Edinburgh, 1851, pp. 124, 134, etc. 


stone implements found buried in the ground, is not more con- 
spicuously shown in the myths of thunderbolts, elfin arrows, and 
purgatory hammers, than in the sham science that has been 
brought to bear upon them in Europe, as well as in China. It 
is instructive to see Adrianus Tollius, in his 1649 edition of 
' Boethius on Gems,' struggling against the philosophers. He 
gives drawings of some ordinary stone axes and hammers, and 
tells how the naturalists say that they are generated in the sky 
by a fulgureous exhalation conglobed in a cloud by the circum- 
fixed humour, and are as it were baked hard by intense heat, 
and the weapon becomes pointed by the damp mixed with it 
flying from the dry part, and leaving the other end denser, but 
the exhalations press it so hard that it breaks out through the 
cloud, and makes thunder and lightning. But, he says, if this 
be really the way in which they are generated, it is odd that they 
are not round, and that they have holes through them, and those 
holes not equal through, but widest at the ends. It is hardly 
to be believed, he thinks. 1 Speculation on the natural origin 
of high-class stone weapons and tools has now long since died 
out in Europe, but some faint echoes of the Chinese emperor's 
philosophy were heard among us but lately, in the arguments on 
the natural formation of the flint implements in the Drift. 

With regard, then, to ideas of thunderbolts as furnishing 
evidence of an early Stone Age, it may be laid down that such a 
myth, when we can be sure that it refers to artificial stone im- 
plements, proves that such things were found by a people who, 
being possessed of metal, had forgotten the nature and use of 
these rude instruments of earlier times. Kang-hi's remarks that 
some of the so-called " lightning- stones " were like hatchets, 
knives, and mallets, and Pliny's mention of some of the ceranniie 
or thunder-stones being like axes, 2 are cases in point. But the 
mere mention of the belief in thunderbolts falling, as for example 
in Madagascar 8 and Arracan, 4 only gives a case for further inquiry 
on the suspicion that the thunderbolts in these regions may 

1 Boethius, ' Gemmarum & Lapidum Historia,' recensnit, etc. Adrianus Tolhas ; 
Leyden, 1649, p. 482. 

3 Plin., xxxvii. 51. 3 Ellis, ' Madagascar, ' vol. L pp. 30, 398. 

4 Coleman, Myth, of Hindoos, p. 327. 



turn out to be stone implements, as they have so often done 

The thunderbolt is thought to have a magical power, and there 
is especially one notion in connexion with which it conies into 
use. This is that it preserves the place where it is kept from 
lightning, the idea being apparently here, as in the belief about 
the " wildfire" which will be presently mentioned, that where 
the lightning has struck, it will not strike again, so that the 
place where a thunderbolt is put is made safe by having been 
already struck once, though harmlessly. In Shetland the thunder- 
bolts (which are stone axes) protect from thunder, while in 
Cornwah 1 the stone hatchets and arrow-heads, which fall from 
the clouds where the thunder produced them, announce by change 
of colour a change of weather. 1 In Germany, the house in which 
a thunderbolt is kept is safe from the storm ; when a tempest is 
approaching, it begins to sweat, and again it is said of it, that 
" he who chastely beareth this, shall not be struck by lightning, 
nor the house or town where that stone is,"- while nearly the 
same idea comes out in Pliny's account of the brontia, which is 
" like the heads of tortoises, and falling, as they think, with 
thunder, puts out, if you will believe it, what has been struck by 
lightning." 3 

In the mythology of our race, the bolt of the Thunder-god 
holds a prominent place. To him, be he Indra or Zeus the 
Heaven-god, or the very thunder itself in person, Thunor or 
Thor, the Aryans give as an attribute the bolt which he hurls 
with lightning from the clouds. Now it is possible that this was 
the meaning of the Roman Jupiter Lapis. The sacred flint was 
kept in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, and brought out to be sworn 
by, and with it the pater patratus smote the victim slain to con- 
secrate the solemn treaties of the Roman people. " 'If by public 
counsel,' he said, ' or by wicked fraud, they swerve first, in that 
day, Jove, smite thou the Roman people, as I here to-day shall 
smite this hog ; and smite them so much more, as thou art abler 

1 J. Hunt, in Mem. Anthropol. Soc., vol. ii. p. 317. E. Hunt, 'Popular Romances 
of W. of England,' 2nd series, p. 233. 

* Grimm, D. M.. pp. 164, 11-70. 

* Plin., \xxvii. 55. 


and stronger.' . And having said this, he struck the hog with a 
flint stone." 1 

To those who read this, it will seem prohable that the flint of 
Jupiter was held either to be a thunderbolt or to represent one, 
and the practice cannot be taken as having of necessity come 
down from an early Stone Age, seeing that it might quite as well 
have sprung up among a race possessed of metals. The sacred 
instrument is commonly spoken of indefinitely, as lapis aili:r, 
sat- it HI sil'X, but it may have been a flint implement found 
buried in the ground, for already in the ancient song of the 
" Arval Brethren," the thunderbolt is spoken of as a celt (ca- 
neiis) " quom tibei cunei decstumum tonarunt," 2 and, as has 
been shown, at least this development of the myth of the thun- 
derbolt belongs to an age when the nature of the buried stone 
implement has been forgotten. Yet if all we knew about tho 
matter was that victims were sacrificed with a flint on certain 
occasions, and that the Fetiales carried these flints with them 
into foreign countries where a treaty was to be solemnized, it 
might be quite plausibly argued that we had here before us a 
practice which had come down, unchanged, from the time wheu 
the fathers of the Eoman race used stone implements for the 
ordinary purposes of life. This is the other side of the argu- 
ment, which must not be kept out of sight in interpreting, as a 
relic of the Stone Age, the West African ceremony of slaughter- 
ing the beast on the yearly sacrifice to Gimawong, not with a 
knife, but with a sharp stone. 3 

The examination of the evidence bearing on the Stone Age 
thus brings into view two leading facts. In the first place, 
within the limits of the Stone Age itself, an unmistakable 
upward development in the course of ages is to be discerned, 
in the traces of an early period when stone implements were 
only used in their rude chipped state, and were never ground or 
polished, followed by a later period when grinding came to be 
applied to improve such stone instruments as required it. And 

' Liv., i. 24 ; xxx. 43. Cornelius Nepos ; Hannibal. Grimm, D. M., p. 1171. 

Kuhn, ' Herabkunft des Feuers,' p. % 2-'J. 

3 A passage in Klemm, C. (*., vol. iv. p. 91, relating to a Circassian pnu 
sacrificing with a " thurvlerlwlt," arises from a misunderstanding. See J. b. BU, 
Ckcassia,' vol. ii. pp. 9o, 108. 2 


in the second place, a body of evidence from every great district 
of the habitable globe uniformly tends to prove, that where man 
is found using metal for his tools and weapons, either his 
ancestors or the former occupants of the soil, if there were any, 
once made shift with stone. It would be well to have the evi- 
dence fuller from some parts of the world, as from Southern 
Asia and Central Africa, but we need not expect from thence 
anything but confirmation of what is already known. 



THERE are a number of stories, old and new, of tribes of man- 
kind living in ignorance of the art of fire-making. Such a 
state of things is indeed usuaUy presupposed by the wide- 
spread legends of first fire-makers or fire-bringers, and Plu- 
tarch, in his essay on the question " Whether water or fire is 
the more useful?" gives a typical view of the matter. Fire 
was invented, as they say, by Prometheus, and our life shows 
that this was not a poetic fiction. For there are some races of 
men who live without fire, houseless, hearthless, and dwelling 
in the open air. 1 The modern point of view is, however, very 
different from Plutarch's, and when the mention of a fireless 
race appears in company with a Prometheus, mythology, not 
history, claims it. The mere assertion that in a certain place a 
race is, or was, to be found living without fire is more difficult 
to deal with. In examining a collection of such statements, it 
is well to pay particular attention to the modern ones, on which 
collateral evidence may be brought to bear. 

What is known of the native civilization of the Canary 
Islands, the making of pottery, the cooking in underground 
ovens, the use of the fire-drill, leaves no doubt that the Guanches 
knew how to produce and use fire at the time of the European 
expeditions in the 14th and 15th centuries. Yet Antonio Gal- 
vano, writing his treatise about the middle of the sixteenth 
century, declares that " in times past they ate raw meat, for 
want of fire." Farther on in the same book he has another 
story of a fireless people. In 1529, Alvaro de Saavedra, return- 
ing from the Moluccas toward the Pacific coast of Mexico, 

1 Plut., 'Aqua an Ignis utilior ?' 


sailed eastward along the north coast of New Guinea, and 
having gone four or five degrees south of the Line, crossed 
again to the north, and discovered an island of tattooed people, 
which he called Isla de los Pintados, or the isle of painted men. 
Beyond this island, in 10 or 12 N., they found many small 
smooth ones together, full of palms and grass, and these they 
called Los Jardines, " The Gardens." The natives had no 
domestic animals, they were dressed in a white cloth of grass, 
ate coco-nuts for hread, and raw fish, which they took in -the 
praus which they made out of drift pine-wood with their tools 
of shell. They stood in terror of fire, for they had never seen it 
(espantaram se do fogo, porque nunca o virarn). 1 I am not 
aware that these islands have heen identified, but they would 
seem to be somewhere about the Eadack or Chatham group. 
The account of the natives, to judge by its general consistency 
with what is known of the common eating of raw vegetables 
and fish in other coral islands in the Pacific, seems to have 
come mostly or altogether from an eye-witness, and the state- 
ment that they had no fire is not to be summarily set down as 
a mere fiction, like that about the Canary Islands. It has for- 
tunately happened, however, that a very similar story has come 
up in our own time about another coral island, under circum- 
stances which allow of its accuracy being tested. When the 
United States' Exploring Expedition, under Commodore Wilkes, 
visited Fakaafo or Bowditch Island in 1841, they made the 
following remarks : " There was no sign of places for cooking, 
nor any appearance of fire, and it is believed that all their 
provisions are eaten raw. What strengthened this opinion, was 
the alarm the natives felt when they saw the sparks emanating 
from the flint and steel, and the emission of smoke from the 
mouths of those who were smoking cigars." 2 

Curiously enough, within the very work which contains these 
remarks, particulars are given which show that fire was in 
reality a familiar thing in the island. Mr. Hale, the ethno- 
grapher to the expedition, not only mentions the appearance of 

1 Galvano, 'Discoveries of the World;' Hakluyt Soc., London, 1862, pp. 66, 
174-9, 238. 

- Wilkes, 'Narr. of TJ. S. Exploring Exp., 1838-42 ;' London. 1845, vol. v. i . IS. 


smoke on the neighbouring Duke of York's Island as bein< 
evidence of natives being there, but he gives the name for fire 
in the language of Fakaafo, fifi, 1 a most widely-spread Malavo- 
Polynesian word, corresponding to the Malay form api. Some 
years later, the Rev. George Turner again mentions this word 
aft, and gives besides a native story about fire, which is an in- 
teresting example of the way in which a mere myth may never- 
theless be a piece of historical evidence. The account which 
the inhabitants of Fakaafo give of the introduction of fire among 
themselves is thus related. " The origin of fire they trace to 
Mafuike, but, unlike the Mafuike of the mythology of some 
other islands, this was an old blind lady. Talangi went down 
to her in her lower regions, and asked her to give him some of 
her fire. She obstinately refused until he threatened to kill 
her, and then she yielded. With the fire he made her say what 
fish were to be cooked with it, and what were still to be eaten 
raw, and then began the time of cooking food." Utter myth as 
this story is, it yet joins with the evidence of language in 
bringing the history of the islanders who tell it into connexion 
with the history of the distant New Zealanders. It belongs to 
the great Polynesian myth of Maui, who, the New Zealand 
story says, went away to the dwelling of his great ancestress 
Malmika, and got fire from her. 2 And it proves that, even in 
the past time when these two versions of the story branched off, 
one to be found in Fakaafo, and the other in New Zealand, not 
only was fire known, but its discovery had become already a 
thing of the forgotten past, or a myth would not have been 
applied to explain it. 

In his account of the natives of Fakaafo, Mr. Turner speaks 
of their recollection of the time when they used fire in felling 
trees, and he mentions, moreover, some curious native ordi- 
nances respecting fire. "No fire is allowed to be kindled at 
night in the houses of the people all the year round. It is 
sacred to the god, and so, after sundown, they sit and chat in 
the dark. There are only two exceptions to the rule : first, fire 

1 Hale, 'Ethnography, etc., of U. S. Exp. ;' Philadelphia ed. vol. vi. 1846, pp. 149, 

2 Sir G. Grey, ' Polynesian Mythology ; ' London, 1855, pp. 45-9. 


to cook fish caught in the night, hut then it must not be taken 
to their houses, only to the cooking-house ; and second, a light 
is allowed at night in a house where there happens to he a con- 
finement." 1 It is likely that Wilkes may have misinterpreted 
the surprise of the natives at seeing cigars smoked, and fire 
produced from the flint and steel, as well as the eating of raw 
fish and the absence of signs of cooking in the dwellings. If 
the similar story of the islanders of Los Jardines really came 
from an eye-witness, it may have arisen in much the same way. 
In Kotzebue's time, the people of the Kadack group (which 
may be perhaps the very Jardines in question) were just as 
much astonished at the smith's forge, though fire was a well- 
known thing to them. 2 

The circumstances of Magalhaens' discovery of the Ladrones 
or Marian Islands, and the Philippines, in 1521, are known to 
us from the narrative of his companion Antonio Pigafetta, 3 who 
describes the manners and customs of the natives, but without 
a hint that fire was anything strange to them. This preposte- 
rous addition must be sought in later authors. In 1652, Horn, 
not content with quoting Galvano's stories of the Canaries and 
Los Jardines, adds the natives of the Philippines as a race 
destitute of fire. 4 But the story of the Ladrone Islanders is 
even more remarkable than this. 

The arts of these people are described by Pigafetta with 
some detail. He mentions the slight clothing of bark worn by 
the women, the mats and baskets, the wooden houses, the 
canoes with outriggers, and he notices that the natives had no 
weapons but lances pointed with fish bones, and had no notion 
of what arrows were. They stole everything they could lay 
hands on, and at last Magalhaens went on shore with forty men, 
burnt forty or fifty of their houses, and killed seven of the people. 
A hundred and eighty years afterwards the Jesuit Father Le 
Gobien brought out a new feature in the story. " What is most 

1 Turner, ' Polynesia,' pp. 527-8, and Vocab. 

2 Otto v. Kotzebue, ' Entdeckungs-Reise ; ' Weimar, 1821, vol. ii. p. 67. 

3 Pigafetta, ' Viaggio fatto attorno il Mondo,' 1556. Eng. Trans, in Pinkerton, 
Tol. xi. 

4 Homius, 'De Originibus Americanis;' The Hague, 1652, pp. 204, 51. See 
Goguet, vol. i. p. 69. 


astonishing, and what people will find it hard to believe, is that 
they had never seen fire. This so necessary element was en- 
tirely unknown to them. They neither knew its use nor its 
qualities ; and they were never more surprised than when they 
saw it for the first time on the descent that Magellan made on 
one of their islands, where he burnt some fifty of their houses, 
to punish these islanders for the trouble they had given him. 
They at first regarded the fire as a kind of animal which at- 
tached itself to the wood on which it fed. The first who came 
too near it having burnt themselves frightened the rest, and 
only dared look at it from afar ; for fear, they said, of being 
bitten by it, and lest this terrible animal should wound them 
by its violent breath," etc. etc. He goes on to tell how they 
soon got accustomed to it and learnt to use it. 1 

It is a curious illustration of the change in historical criticism 
that has come since 1700, that the Jesuit historian should have 
expected so singular a story, not mentioned by the eye-witness 
who described the discov.ery, to be received without the pro- 
duction of the slightest evidence, a hundred and eighty years 
after date, and that the public should have justified his confi- 
dence in their credulity by believing and quoting his account. 
Whether he took it directly from any other book or not I can- 
not tell ; but it is to be observed, that if we add Galvano's 
story about Los Jardines to Pigafetta's mention of Magalhaens 
burning the houses of the Ladrone Islanders, we may account 
for the sources of all Father Le Gobien's story, except the idea 
of the fire being an animal, which may be supplied out of 
Herodotus. " By the Egyptians also it hath been held that 
fire is a living beast, and that it devours everything it can seize, 
and when filled with food it perishes with what it has de- 
voured." 2 

There are stories of fireless men in America, to which I can 
only refer. Father Lafitau speaks indefinitely of there being 
such. 3 Father Lombard, of the Company of Jesus, writing in 
1730 from Kourou, in French Guyana, gives an account of the 

1 Le Gobien, ' Histoire des Isles Marianes ; ' Paris, 1700, p. 44. 

2 Herod., iii. 16. 

3 Lafitau, ' Mceurs des Sauvages Amdriquains ; ' Paris, 1724, vol. L p. 40. 


tribe of Amikouanes on the river Oyapok, who are also called 
" long-eared Indians," their ears being stretched to then- 
shoulders. This nation, he says, which hus been hitherto 
unknown, is extremely savage ; they have no knowledge of fire. 1 

It is a very curious thing that one of the oldest stories of a 
race of fireless men is also the newest. In Ethiopia, says the 
geographer Pomponius Mela, " there are people to whom fire 
was so totally unknown before the coining of Eudoxus, and so 
wondrously were they pleased with it when they saw it, that 
they had the greatest delight in embracing the flames and hiding 
burning things in their bosom till they were hurt." 2 Pliny 
places these fireless men in his catalogue of monstrous Ethio- 
pian tribes, between the dumb men and the pygmies. To some, 
he says, the use of fire was unknown before the time of Ptolemy 
Lathyrus, king of Egypt. 3 His mention of the name of Ptolemy 
Lathyrus shows that he, too, is quoting the voyages of Eudoxus 
of Cyzicus. Whether there was such a person as Eudoxus, and 
whether he really made the voyages attributed to him or not, is 
not very clear ; but his story, like that of Sindbad, embodies notions 
current at the time it was written. And with such tenacity does 
the popular mind hold on to old stories, that now, after a lapse 
of some two thousand years, the fireless men and the pygmies 
are brought by the modern Ethiopians into even closer contact 
than in the pages of Pliny. Dr. Krapf was told that the Dokos, 
men four feet high, living south of Kaifa and Susa, subsisted on 
roots and serpents, and were not acquainted with fire. 4 As far 
as the pj'gmies are concerned, there appears to be a foundation for 
the story, in a race of small men really living there. Krapf was 
shown a slave four feet high, who, they told him, was a Doko. 
But between four feet and three spans, the height assigned by 
Pliny to pygmy races elsewhere, 5 there is a difference. Nor is 
this the only instance of the wonderful permanence of old stories 
in this part of the world, quite irrespectively of their being true. 
Within no great distance, an old negro gave Mr. Petherick an 

1 'Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses ;' Paris, 1731, vol. xx. p. 223. Goguet, 1. c. 

2 Mela, iii. c. 9. 3 Plin., vi. C5, and see ii. 67. 

4 Krapf, Travels, etc., in East Africa; London, 1360, p. 51, etc. See Peity, 
'Grundziige der Ethnograpbie ; ' Leipzig, 1859, p. 248. 6 Plin., vii. 2. 


account of the monstrous men he had met with on his travels, 
the men with four eyes, the men with eyes under their arm-pits, 
the men with long tails, and the men vihose ears were so big 
that they covered their bodies; 1 so nearly has the modern 
African kept to the wonder-ta'es that were current in the time 
of Pliny. 2 

An unquestionable account of a fireless tribe would be of the 
highest interest to the ethnographer, proving, as it would do, 
a great step forward made by the races who can produce fire, 
for this is an art which, once learnt, could hardly be lost. But 
when we see that stories of such tribes have been set up again 
and again without any sound basis, while further information, 
when brought to bear on a series of such stories, tells against 
them so far as it goes, w T e are hardly warranted in trusting 
others of the same kind just because we have no means of 
testing them. A cause is required for the appearance of such 
stories in the world, but it does not follow that this cause must 
be the real existence of fireless tribes ; a mere belief in their 
existence will answer the purpose, and this belief is known to 
have been current for ages, especially coming out in the Pro- 
metheus-legends of various regions of the world. Experience 
shows how such an idea, when once fairly afloat, will assert 
itself from time to time in stories furnished with place, date, 
and circumstance. It must be remembered, too, that the fireless 
men form only one of a number of races mentioned by writers, 
old and new, as being distinguished by the want of something 
which man usually possesses, who have no language, no names, 
no idea of spiritual beings, no dreams, no mouths, no heads, or 
no noses, but wiiose real existence more accurate knowledge has 
by no means tended to confirm. 

In connexion with the stories of fireless tribes, some accounts 
of a kind of transitional state may be mentioned here. Mr. 
Backhouse was told by a native of Van Diemen's Land, that 
his ancestors had no means of making fire before their ac- 
quaintance with Europeans. They got it first from the sky, 
and preserved it by carrying firebrands about with them, and 
if these went out, they looked for the smoke of the fire of some 

1 Pethcrick p. 267. 2 Plin., vi. 35, vii. 2. 


other party, or for smouldering remains of a lately-abandoned 
fire of their own. 1 This curious account fits with the Tas- 
manian myth recorded by Mr. Milligan, which tells how fire 
was thrown down like a star by two black-fellows, who are 
now in the sky, the twin stars Castor and Pollux. 2 Moreover, 
Mr. Milligan himself, on the question being put to him, has 
answered it in a way very much corresponding to Mr. Back- 
house's account, to the effect that the Tasmanians never pro- 
duced fire by artificial means at all, but always carried it with 
them from one camping place to another. Again, a statement 
of the same kind is reported to have been made by Mr. Mac 
Douall Stuart at the 1864 Meeting of the British Association, 
that fire was obtained by the natives of the southern part of 
Australia by the friction of two pieces of wood over a bunch 
of dry grass ; but that in the north this mode is unknown, fire- 
brands being constantly carried about and renewed, and if, by 
any accident, they become extinguished, a journey of great 
length has to be undertaken in order to obtain fire from other 
natives. 3 So Mr. Angas declares that some tribes of W-st 
Australia have no means of kindling fire, but if it goes out they 
get it from some encampment near; they say that their fire 
formerly came down from the north. 4 With these statements 
two things must be borne in mind. The simple apparatus for 
making fire by friction was in common use among Australian 
tribes, and in Tasmania. And it has been several times re- 
marked that Australians, although acquainted with the art of 
making new fire with this instrument, yet finding the process 
troublesome, especially in wet weather, carry burning brands 
about with them everywhere, so as to be able to light a fire at a 
moment's notice. 6 

1 Backhouse, 'Australia,' p. 99. 

2 See Chapter XII. Mr. Calder in Jonrn. Anthrop. Inst. vol. iii. p. 19, accounts 
for the Tasmanians' non-use of the friction -apparatus by stating that the trees of the 
country are mostly too hard and uninflammable for the purpose. [Xote to 3rd 
Edition.] 3 'Athenaeum,' Oct. 15, 1864, p. 503. 

4 Angas, 'Savage Life ; ' vol. i. p. 112. 

* Oldfield in Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. iii. p. 233. Dumont d'Urville, 'Voyage de 
I* Astrolabe ;' vol. i. p. 95. See Sir John Lubbock's remarks on accounts of tribes 
without fire, or without the art of fire-making, in ' Prehistoric Times,' pp. 4 'J3. 439, 



The accounts, then, of the finding of fireless tribes are of 
a highly doubtful character ; possibly true to some extent, but 
not probably so. Of the existence of others who are possessed 
of fire, but cannot produce it for themselves, there is more 
considerable evidence. But, on the other hand, both the pos- 
session of fire, and the art of making it, belong certainly to 
the vast majority of mankind, and have done so as far back as 
we can trace. The methods, however, which have been found 
in use for making fire are very various. A survey of the con- 
dition of the art in different parts of the world, as known to us 
by direct evidence, is enough to make it probable that nearly 
all the different processes found in use are the successors of 
ruder ones ; and, besides this, there is a mass of indirect evi- 
dence which fills up some of the shortcomings of history, as it 
does in the investigation of the Stone Age. Among some of 
the highest races of mankind, the lower methods of fire-making 
are still to be seen cropping out through the higher processes 
by which, for so many ages, they have been overlaid. The 
friction of two pieces of wood may perhaps be the original 
means of fire-making used by man ; but, between the rudest 
and the most artificial way in which this may be done, there is 
a considerable range of progress. 

One of the simplest machines for producing fire is that which 
may be called the " stick-and- 
groove." A blunt-pointed stick 
is run along a groove of its 
own making in a piece of 
wood lying on the ground, 
somewhat as shown in the 
imaginary drawing, Fig. 20. 
Mr. Darwin says that the very 
light wood of the Hibiscus 
tiUcceus was alone used for 
the purpose in Tahiti. A 
native would produce fire with 

, 1 ! Fl S- 20 - 

it in a few seconds ; he him- 
self found it very hard work, but at length succeeded. This 
stick-and-groove process has been repeatedly described in the 


South Ssa Islands, namely, in Tahiti, New Zealand, the Sand- 
wich, Tonga, Samoa, and Radack groups ; l but I have never 
found it distinctly mentioned out of this region of the world. 
Even should it be known elsewhere, its isolation in a particular 
district round which other processes prevail would still be an 
ethnographical fact of some importance. It is to be noticed 
also, that it comes much nearer than " fire-drilling" to the yet 
simpler process of striking fire with two pieces of split bamboo. 
The silicious coating of this cane makes it possible to strike fire 
with it ; and this is done in Eastern Asia, and also in the great 
Malay islands of Borneo and Sumatra, 2 at or near the source 
whence the higher Polynesian race is supposed to have spread 
over the Pacific Islands. But it would appear that the striking 
fire with bamboo, simple as it seems, is for some reason not so 
convenient as the use of the more complex friction-apparatus ; 
for Marsden seems to consider the fire-drill as the regular native 
instrument in Sumatra, though he says he has also seen the 
same effect produced more simply by rubbing one bit of bamboo, 
with a sharp edge, across another. 

By a change in the way of working, the " stick-and-groove " 
becomes the " fire-drill." I have been obliged to coin both 
these terms, no suitable ones being forthcoming. The fire-drill, 
in its simplest form, is represented in Fig. 21 ; and Captain 
Cook's remarks on it and its use, among the native tribes of 
Australia, may serve also as a general description of it all over 
the world, setting aside minor details. " They produce fire with 
great facility, and spread it in a wonderful manner. To produce 
it they take two pieces of dry soft wood ; one is a stick about 
eight or nine inches long, the other piece is flat : the stick they 
shape into an obtuse point at one end, and pressing it upon the 
other, turn it nimbly by holding it between both their hands, as 

1 Darwin, in Narr., vol. iii. p. 488. Polack, vol. i. p. 165. Tyerman and Bennet, 
vol. i. p. 141. Buschmann, 'lies Marquises,' etc.; Berlin, 1843, pp. 140-1. 
Mariner, Vocab., s. vv. tdo-qji, tolonya, coicnatoo. S. S. Fanner, 'Tonga, ' etc. : 
London, 185"), p. 138. Walpole, 'Four Years in the Pacific;' London, 1849, 
vol. ii. p. 377. Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 154. See mention of fire made by rubbing, 
not drilling, two pieces of wood, iu Rochefort, ' lies Antilles,' p. 44i>. 

3 Bowring, vol. i p. 206. St. John, vol. L p. 137. Marsden, p. 60. See Tcnnent, 
'Ceylon,' vol. i. p. 105. 



we do a chocolate mill, often shifting their hands up, and then 

moving them down upon it, to increase the pressure as much as 

possible. By this method they get fire in less than two minutes, 

and from the smallest spark they increase it with groat speed 

and dexterity." : The same instrument is known in Tasmania. 2 

It appears usual both in Australia and elsewhere to lay the lower 

piece on the ground, holding it 

firm with feet or knees. A good 

deal may depend on the kind of 

wood used, and its dryness, etc., 

for in some countries it seems 

to take much more time and 

labour, two men often working 

it, one beginning at the top of 

the stick when his companion's 

hands have come down nearly to 

the bottom, and so on till the 

fire comes. 

Contrasting with the isolation 
of the stick - and - groove in a 
single district, the geographical range of the simple fire-drill is 
immense. Its use among the Australians, and Tasmanians, 
forms one of the characters which distinguish their culture from 
that of the Polynesians ; while it appears again among the 
Malays in Sumatra 3 and the Carolines. 4 It was found by Cook 
in Unalashka, 5 and by the Russians in Kamchatka ; where, for 
luoqy years, flint and steel could not drive it out of use among 
the natives, who went on carrying every man his fire-sticks. 6 
It remains in use among the Lepchas of Sikkim, a Tibetan race 
of Northern India. 7 There is reason to suppose that it pre- 
vailed in India before the Aryans invaded tbe country, bringing 
(vith them an improved apparatus, for at this day it is used by 
the Yenadis, indigenes of South India, 8 and by the wild Veddahs 
of Ceylon, a race so capable of resisting foreign innovation that 

1 Cook, First Voy. H., vol. iii. p. 234. Angas, S. Australia, pi. 27. 
Lubboek, p. 440. 3 Marsden, p. 60. 

Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 154. 5 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 513. 

6 Kraclieninnikow, p. 30. 7 Latham, Descr. litli., vol. L p. 89. 

8 Shurtt, in Tr. Ktli. Soc. , val. iii. p. 376. 

Fig. 21. 



they have not learnt to smoke tobacco. 1 It prevails, or has 
done so within modern times, in South and West Africa, 2 and 
it was in use among the Guanches of the Canary Islands in the 
seventeenth century. 3 In North America it is described among 
Esquimaux and Indian tribes. 4 It was in use in Mexico, 5 and 

Fig. 22, taken from an 
ancient Mexican picture- 
writing, shows the drill 
being twirled; while fire, 
drawn in the usual conven- 
tional manner, comes out 
from the hole where the 
point revolves. It was in 
use in Central America, 6 in 
the West Indies, 7 and in 

Fig. 22. 

South America, down as far 
as the Straits of Magellan. 8 
The name of " fire-drill " has not, however, been adopted 
merely with reference to this simplest form. This rude instru- 
ment is, as may well be supposed, very wasteful of time and 
power, and it has been improved by several contrivances which 
so closely correspond to those applied to boring-tools, that the 
most convenient plan is to classify them together. Even the 
clumsy plan of the simple fire-drill has been found in use for 
boring holes. It has been mentioned at page 188, as in use 
for drilling hard stone among rude Indians of South America, 
and, what is much more surprising, the natives of Madagascar 
bored holes by working their drill between the palms of their 

1 Tennent, 'Ceylon,' vol. ii. p. 451. Bailey in Tr. Eth. Soc., 1863, p. 291. 

2 Casalis, p. 129. Klemm, C. W., part i. p. 67. Koelle, 'Kanuri Vocab. ;' 
p. 413. 

3 Glas, ' Canary Islands ; ' London, 1764, p. 8. 

4 Klemm, *'. G., vol. ii. p. 239. Schoolcraft, part i. p. 214. Loskiel, p. 70, 
Lafitau, ' Mceurs des Sauvages Ameriquains ; ' Paris, 1724, TO!, ii. p. 242. 

Kingsborough, Selden MS., Vatican MS. 
Brasseur, ' Popol-Vuh,' pp. 64,218, 243. 

' Oviedo, ' Hysteria General de las Indias ; ' Salamanca, 1 547, vi. 5. 
8 Spix and Martins, vol. ii. p. 387, and plates. Purchas, vol. iii. p. 983 ; vol. iv. 
p. 1345. Molina, vol. ii. p. 122. Dobrizhoffer, vol. ii. p. 118. Garcilaso de la 
Vega, ' Commentaries Reales ' (2nd ed.) ; Madrid, 1723, p. 198. 



hands,' though they were so far advanced in the arts as to make 
and use iron tools, and of course, the very drills worked in this 
primitive way were pointed with iron. 

The principle of the common carpenter's brace, with which 
he works his centre-bit, is applied to fire-making by a very 
simple device represented 
in Fig. 23, which is drawn 
according to Mr. Darwin's 
description of the plan 
used by the Gauchos of 
the Pampas ; " taking 
an elastic stick about 
eighteen inches long, 
he presses one end on 
his breast, and the other 
(which is pointed) in a 
hole in a piece of wood, 

and then rapidly turns the curved part, like a carpenter's centre- 
bit." 5 The Gauchos, it should be observed, are not savages, 
but half- wild herdsmen of mixed European, Indian, and African 
blood, who would probably only use such a means of kindling 
fire when the flint and steel were for the moment not at hand, 
and their fire-drill is not only like the carpenter's brace, but 
most likely suggested by it. 

To wind a cord or thong round the drill, so as, by pulling the 
two ends alternately, to make it revolve very rapidly, is a great 
improvement on mere hand-twirling. As Kuhn has pointed out, 
this contrivance was in use for boring in Europe in remote times ; 
Odysseus describes it in telling how he and his companions put 
out the eye of the Cyclops : 

ol fJLff fj.ox^bi> f \6vres i\JSt>OV, o^uv fir' &Kptf, 
o(pda\fj.y tvepfiaav' eyw 8' e<f>virp6ti> aepdtls, 
fill/toil' &>s ore TIS rpvny SJpv vrj'iuv avfyp 
Tpviravip, 01 Sf T" evepdev virovfftiovcriv i/uairt 
aipOjUepoi fKaiepde, rb Sf Tpi\fi t/u/xeccs cue/. 3 

1 Ellis, 'Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 317. 

2 Darwin, in Narr. , vol. iii. p. 488. 

8 Kuhn, ' Herabkunft des Feuers,' p. 39. Horn. Od., ix. 332. 


" They then seizing the sharp-cut stake of the wood of the olive 
Thrust it into his eye. the while I standing above them, 
Bored it into the hole : as a shipwright, boreth a timber, 
Guiding the drill that his men below drive backward and forward, 
Pulling the ends of the thong while the point runs round without 

In modern India, butter-churns are worked with a cord in 
this way, and the Brahmans still use a cord-drill in producing 
the sacred fire, as will be more fully stated presently. Half- 
way round the world, the same thing is found among the 
Esquimaux. Davis (after whom Davis' s Straits are named) de- 
scribes in 1586 how a Greenlander " beganne to kindle a fire 
in this maner : he tooke a piece of a board wherein was a 
hole halfe thorow : into that hole he puts the end of a round 
stick like unto a bedstaffe, wetting the end thereof in Traiie, 
and in fashion of a turner with a piece of lether, by his violent 

Fig. 24. 


motion doeth very speedily produce fire." 1 The cut, Fig. 24, 
is taken from a drawing of. the last century, representing two 
Esquimaux making fire, one holding a cross-piece to keep the 
spindle steady and force it well down to its bearing, while the 

1 Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 104. 


other pulls the thong. 1 This form of the apparatus takes two 
men to work it, but the Esquimaux have devised a modifica- 
tion of it which a man can work alone. Sir E. Belcher thus 
describes its use for drilling holes by means of a point of green 
jade : " The thong . . . being passed twice round the drill, 
the upper end is steadied by a mouthpiece of wood, having a 
piece of the same stone imbedded, with a countersunk cavity. 
This held firmly between the teeth directs the tool. Any work- 
man would be astonished at the performance of this tool on 
ivory ; but having once tried it myself, I found the jar or 
vibration on the jaws, head, and brain, quite enough to prevent 
my repeating it." 2 There is a set of Esquimaux apparatus for 
making fire in the same manner, in the Edinburgh Industrial 

Fig. 25. 

Museum, and Fig. 25 is intended to show the way in which it is 
worked. The thong-drill with the mouthpiece has been found 
in use in the Aleutian Islands, both for boring holes and for 
making fire. 3 Lastly, there is a kind of cord-drill used by the 
New Zealanders in boring holes through hard greenstone, etc., 
in which the spindle itself is weighted. It is described as 
" sharp wooden stick ten inches long, to the centre of which two 

i Henry Ell : s, 'Voyage to Hudson's Bay ;' London, 1748, pp. 132, 234. 

Sir E. Belcher, in Tr. Etb. Soc., 1861, p. 140. 

* Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 155. ^ 



stones are attached, so as to exert pressure and perform the 
office of a fly-wheel. The requisite rotatory motion is given to 
the stick by two strings pulled alternately." 1 There must of 
course be some means of keeping the spindle upright. The 
New Zealanders do not seem to have used their drill for fire- 
making as well as for boring, but to have kept to their stick- 

To substitute for the mere thong or cord a bow with a loose 
string, is a still further improvement, for one hand now does 
the work of two in driving the spindle. The centre, in which 
its end turns, may be held down with the other hand, or (as is 
very usual), set against the breast of the operator. The bow- 
drill thus formed, is a most ancient and well-known boring 
instrument, familiar to the artisan in modern Europe as it was 

in ancient Egypt. The only 
place where I have found any 
notice of its use for fire- 
making is among the North 
American Indians. The 
plate from which Fig. 26 is 
taken is marked by School- 
craft as representing the ap- 
paratus used by the Sioux, 
or Dacotahs. They, as well 
as the Naskapee Indians of 
Canada, whom Dr. D.Wilson 

Fig. 26. 

notices as making fire with a bow-drill, may possibly have 
caught the idea from the European boring instrument. 2 

Lastly, there is a curious little contrivance, known to English 
toolinakers as the " pump-drill," from its being worked up and 
down like a pump. That kept in the London tool-shops is aU 
of metal, expanding into a bulb instead of the disk shown in 
Fig. 27, which represents the kind used in Switzerland, consist- 
ing of a wooden spindle, armed with a steel point, and weighted 
with a wooden disk. A string is made fast to the ends of the 
cross-piece, and in the middle to the top of the spindle. As the 

1 Thomson, 'New Zealand,' vol. i. p. 203. 

Schoolcraft, partiii. pi. 28. D. Wilson, 'Prehistoric Man ;' vol. ii. p. 375. 



hand brings the cross-piece down it unwinds the cord, driving 
the spindle round ; as the hand is lifted again, the disk, acting 
as a fly-wheel, runs on and re-Minds the cord, and so on. 
Holtzappfel says that the pump-drill is as well known among 
the Oriental nations as the breast-drill, though it is little used in 
England except by china and glass menders. 1 Perhaps it may 
have found its way over from Asia to the South Sea Islands ; at 
any rate it is found there. Fig. 28 shows it as used in Fakaafo 
or Bowditch Island, differing from the Swiss form only in being 
armed with a stone instead of a steel point, and in having no 
hole through the cross-piece. 3 Mr. Turner describes it in the 

Fig. 27. 

Fig. 28. 

neighbouring Samoan or Navigators' Islands, as pointed with a 
nail or a sail-needle, got from the foreigners, 3 but the specir 
presented by him to the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow has 
stone point. The natives use it for drilling their 
made of shell ; for which purpose, as for drilling holes 
it is peculiarly adapted, the lightness and evennes 

i Holtzappfel, 'Turning and Mechanical Manipulation;' London, 1356, vol. iL 
P> * Wilkes, U. S. Exp., vol. v. p. 17. ' Turner, p. 273. 



Fig. 29. 

sure lessening the danger of cracking these brittle materials. 
One would think that this quality would make the pump-drill 
particularly unsuitable for fire-making; but nevertheless, by 
making it very large and heavy, it has been turned to this 

service in North America, among the 
Iroquois Indians. Fig. 29 (drawn 
to a small scale) represents their 
apparatus, which is thus described 
by Mr. Lewis H. Morgan : " This 
is an Indian invention, and of great 
antiquity. ... It consisted of an 
upright shaft, about four feet in 
length, and an inch in diameter, 
with a small wheel set upon the 
lower part, to give it momentum. 
In a notch at the top of the shaft 
was set a string, attached to a bow 
about three feet in length. The 
lower point rested upon a block of 
dry wood, near which are placed small pieces of punk. When 
ready to use, the string is first coiled around the shaft, by 
turning it with the hand. The bow is then pulled down- 
wards, thus uncoiling the string, and revolving the shaft towards 
the left. By the momentum given to the wheel, the string is 
again coiled up in a reverse manner, and the bow again drawn 
up. The bow is again pulled downwards, and the revolution of 
the shaft reversed, uncoiling the string, and recoiling it as 
before. This alternate revolution of the shaft is continued, 
until sparks are emitted from the point where it rests upon the 
piece of dry wood below. Sparks are produced in a few moments 
by the intensity of the friction, and ignite the punk, which 
speedily furnishes a fire." 1 

It is now necessary to notice other methods of producing fire 
which have been found in use in various parts of the world. 
There is a well-known scientific toy made to show that heat is 
generated by the compression of air. It consists of a brass tube 
closed at one end, into which a packed piston is sharply forced 

1 L. H. Morgan, 'League of the Iroquois;' Koehester, U. S., 1851, p. 381. 


down, thus igniting a piece of tinder within the tube. It is 
curious to find an apparatus on this principle (made in hard 
wood, ivory, &c.) used as a practical means of making fire in 
Birniuh, and even among the Malays. 1 

The natives of Tierra del Fuego are notably distinguished 
from their northern neighbours by their way of fire-making. In 
1520, Magalhaens on his famous voyage visited the gigantic 
Patagonians, who thought the Spaniards had come down from 
heaven, and who, explaining to the European visitors the native 
theology, told them of their chief god, Setebos. The savages 
from whom Shakespeare borrowed these traits to furnish the 
picture of the "servant-monster," Caliban, 2 showed their manner 
of making fire, which was by the friction of two pieces of wood.* 
But the Fuegians have for centuries used a higher method, 
striking sparks with a flint from a piece of iron pyrites upon 
their tinder. This process is described as still in use, 4 and is 
evidently what Captain Wallis meant by saying (in 1767), that 
" To kindle a fire they strike a pebble against a piece of 
munclic." 5 A much earlier account of the same thing appears 
in the voyage of Sarmiento de Gamboa, in 1579-80. 6 Iron 
pyrites answers extremely well instead of the steel, and was 
found in regular use in high northern latitudes in America, 
among the Slave and Dog Bib Indians. 7 It is probably the 
" iron-stone " which the Esquimaux call ujarak-saviminitik, and 
from which they strike fire with a fragment of flint, 8 and is 

1 Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 413 ; Cameron, 'Malayan India,' p. 136. 

2 Cal." Hast thou not dropped from heaven ? " (' Tempest,' act ii. scene 2.) 

" It would control ray dam's god, Setebos." (Id., act. i. scene 2.) 

3 Pigafetta, in Pinkcrton, vol. xi. Their process was the simplest hand-drilling, as 
appears (1577-80) from the account in Drake's 'World Encompassed,' Hak. Soc. 
1854, p. 48. * W. P. Snow, 'Tierra del Fuego,' etc. ; vol. ii. p. 360. 

4 Wallis, in Hawkesworth, vol. i. p. 171. 

fi Sai-miento de Gamboa, ' Viage al Estrecho de Magallanes ;' Madrid, 1/6S, p. 220. 
" Y unos pedazos de pedernal, pasados, y pintados de margaxita de oro y plata : j 
preguntandoles que para que era aquello ? dixeron ior sefuis, que para sacar fuego ; 
y luego uno de ellos torno unas plumas de las que trahia, y sirviendole de yesca, sac5 
fuego con el pedernal. Pargceme que es (casca ?) de metal de plata ii oro de veto, 
porque es al natural como el curiquixo de porco en el Pini." 

' Mackenzie, ' Voyages ;' London, 180!, p. 33. Klemm, C. G., voL ii. p. 26. 

8 Hayes, ' Arctic Boat Journey ;' London, I860, p. 217. 


perhaps referred to in Father Le Jeune's statement that the 
Algonquin Indians strike fire with two minerals (pierres de 
mine}. 1 The use of iron pyrites for striking fire was known to 
the Greeks and Romans, and it shared with flint the name of 
fire-stone, Trvpirrjs, pyrites, which it and some other metallic 
sulphurets have since taken entire possession of. 

The Alashkans are reported to obtain fire by striking to- 
gether two pieces of quartz rubbed with sulphur over some dry 
grass or moss, strewed with feathers where the sulphur falls ; 
and similar descriptions of the process are given in the adjacent 
islands. 2 Father Zucchelli, who was a missionary in West Africa 
about the beginning of last century, gives the following account 
of the way in which, he says, the negroes made fire on their 
journeys : " When they found a fire-stone (Fcuerstein) on the 
road, they lay down by it on their knees, took a little piece of 
wood in their hands, and threw sand between the stone and the 
wood, rubbing them so long against one another till the wood 
began to burn, and herewith they all lighted their pipes, and so 
went speedily forth again smoking on their journey." 3 It is 
possible that not flint (as is usual), but pyrites, may here be 
meant by feuer stein. 

The flint and steel may have come into use at any time after 
the beginning of the Iron age, but history fails to tell us the 
date of its introduction in Greece and Rome, China, and most 
other districts of the Old World. In modern times it has made 
its way with iron into many new places, though it has not 
always been able to supersede the fire- sticks at once; sometimes, 
it seems, from a difficulty in getting flints. For instance it was 
necessary in Sumatra to import the flints from abroad, and thus 
they did not come immediately into general use among the 
natives ; and there may perhaps be a similar reason for the fire- 
drill having held its ground to this day among some of the iron- 
using races of Southern Africa. 

The Greeks were familiar with the use of the burning-lens in 

1 Le Jenne, 'Relation,' etc. (1634) ; Paris, 1635, p. 91. Lafitau, vol. ii. p. 242. 

3 Billings, 'Exp. to N. Russia; 1 p. 159. Cook, 3rd Voy., vol. ii. p. 513. 
Kotzebue, vol. iii. p. 155. 

3 Zucchelli, ' Merkwurdige Missions- und Reise-Beschreibung nach Congo ;' Frank 
fort, 1715, p. 344. 


the time of Aristophanes, who mentions it in the ' Clouds,' in a 
dialogue between Socrates and Strepsiades : 

" Socrates. Very good : now I'll set yon another smart question. If some 
one entered an action against you to recover five talents, tell me, how wou'd 
you cancel it 1 

Strepriadet. I have found a very clever way to cancel the suit, as you will 

agree yourself. 

Socrates. What kind of a way ? 

Strcyjsiades. Have you ever seen that stone in the diuggists' shops, that 
pretty, transparent one, that they light fire with? 

Socrates. The crystal, you mean ? 

Strepsiades. I do. 

Socrates. Well, what then ? 

Strepsiades. Suppose I take this, and when the clerk enters the suit, I stand 
thus, a long way off. towards the sun, and melt out the letters. 

Socrates. Very clever, by the Graces ! " * 

At a much later period Pliny mentions that glass balls with 
water put into them, when set opposite to the sun, get so hot 
as to set clothes on fire ; and that he finds surgeons consider tne 
best means of cautery to be a crystal ball placed opposite to the 
sun's rays. 2 The Chinese commonly use the burning-lens to 
light fire with, as well as the flint and steel, and we hear of the 
Siamese using it to produce new sacred fire. 3 

The fact that fire may be produced by reflecting the sun's 
rays with mirrors was known as early as Pliny's time (A.D. 
23-79), as he remarks, " seeing that concave mirrors placed 
opposite to the sun's rays ignite things more easily than any 
other fire." 4 There is some reason to suppose that the know- 
ledge of this phenomenon worked backwards into history, at- 
taching itself to two famous names of old times, Archimedes 
and Numa Pompilius. The story of Archimedes setting the 
fleet on fire at Syracuse with burning mirrors, probably un- 
known as it was to historians for centuries after his time, need 
not be further remarked on here ; but the story of Numa re- 
appears on the other side of the world, under circumstances 
which make its discussion a matter of importance to ethno- 

1 Aristoph., Nubes, 757, etc. 2 Pliny, xxxvi. 67, xxxvii. 10. 

Davis, vol. iii. p. 51. Bastian, ' Oestl. Asien,' vol. iii. p. 516. 
Pliny, ii. 111. 


It is related by Plutarch in his life of Numa, written in the 
first century, that among the ordinances made for the Vestal 
Virgins when they were established in Rome, there was the 
following. If the sacred fire which it was their duty to keep 
continually burning should happen to go out, it was not to be 
lighted again from another fire, but new fire was to be made 
by lighting from the sun a pure and undefiled flame. "And 
they kindle it especially with vessels which are shaped hollow 
from the side of an isosceles triangle with a (vertical) right 
angle, and converge from the circumference to a single centre. 
"When such an instrument is set opposite to the sun, so that 
the impinging rays from all sides crowd and fold together 
round the centre, it divides the rarefied air, and quickly kindles 
the lightest and driest matters applied to it, the beams acquir- 
ing by the repulsion a body and fiery stroke." l Stories of 
Numa's ordinances will hardly be claimed as sober history, 
though it is possible that such a process as this may have been 
used, at least in late times, to rekindle the fire of Vesta. But 
there is in Festus another account of the way in which this 
was done, having in its favour every analogy from the practices 
of kindling the sacred fire among our Indo-European race, both 
in Asia and in Europe. " If the fire of Vesta were extinguished, 
the virgins were scourged by the priests, whose practice it was 
to drill into a board of auspicious wood till the fire came, which 
was received and carried to the temple by the virgin, in a brazen 
colander." 2 

The parallel passage to that in the life of Numa is to be 
found in the account of the feast of Raymi, or the Sun, cele- 
brated in ancient Peru, according to Garcilaso de la Vega, 
whose ' Commentaries ' were first published in 1G09-16, the 
Spanish discovery having taken place in 1527. He says this 
festival was celebrated at the summer solstice. " The fire for 
this sacrifice had to be new, given, as they said, by the hand 
of the sun. For which purpose they took a great bracelet, 

1 Plutarch, 'Vita Numse,' ix. 7. 

2 Festus. "Ignis Vestae si qnando interstinctus esset, virgines verberibua 
afficiebantur a pontificibus, quibus mos erat tabulaiu felicis materise tamdiu 
terebrare, qnousque exceptum ignem cribro aeneo virgo in swlem ferret." See 
Val. Max., L L 6. 


which they call Chipana (like the others which the Tncas com- 
monly wore on the left wrist), which bracelet the high priest 
kq>t ; it was larger than the common ones, and had as its me- 
dallion a concave cup like a half orange, highly polished ; they 
set it against the sun, and at a certain point where the ravs 
issuing from the cup came together, they put a little finely- 
carded cotton, as they did not know how to make tinder, which 
shortly took fire, as it naturally does. With this fire, thus 
given by the hand of the Sun, the sacrifice was burnt, and all 
the meat of the day was roasted. And they carried some of 
the fire to the Temple of the Sun, and to the House of the 
Virgins, where they kept it up all the year, and it was a bad 
omen if they let it out in any way. If, on the eve of the fes- 
tival, which was when the necessary preparations for the fol- 
lowing day were made, there was no sun to light the new fire, 
they made it with two thin smooth sticks as big as one's little 
finder, and half a yard long, boring one against the other 
(lj im-nando uno con otro) ; these little sticks are cinnamon 
coloured, and they call both the sticks themselves and the fire- 
niakiug V-yica, one and the same term serving for noun and 
verb. The Indians use them instead of flint and steel, and 
carry them on their journeys to get fire when they have to pass 
the night in uninhabited places," etc. etc. 1 

If circumstantiality of detail were enough to make a story 
credible, we might be obliged to receive this one, and even to 
argue on the wonderful agreement of the manner of kindling the 
sacred fire in Rome and in Peru. But the coincidences between 
Gareilaso's Virgins of the Sun and Plutarch's Vestal Virgins go 
farther than this. We are not only expected to believe that 
there were Virgins of the Sun, that they kept up a sacred fire 
whose extinction was an evil omen, and that this fire was 
lighted bv the sun's rays concentrated in a concave mirror. 
We are also told that in Cuzco, as in Rome, the virgin found 
unfaithful was to be punished by the special punishment of 
being buried alive. 2 This is really too much. Whatever may 

1 Garcilaso de la Vega, p. 198. 

- Garcilaso de la Vega, p. 109. Compare Diego Fernandez, 'Hist del Pern,' 
Seville, 1571 ; "y nadie podia tratar.m con versar con estas Mamaconas. Ysialguno 
lo intentana, luego le interrauan biuo." 


be the real basis of fact in the accounts of the Virgins of the 
Sun and the feast of Raymi, the inference seems, to me at least, 
most probable, that part or all of the accessory detail is not 
history, but the realization of an idea of which Garcilaso himself 
strikes the key-note when he says of this same feast of Ray mi, 
that it was celebrated by the Incas " in the city of Cozco, iciiich 
teas another Rome " (que fue otra Roma). 1 Those who happen 
to have experience of the old chroniclers of Spanish America 
know how the whole race was possessed by a passion for bring- 
ing out the Old World stories in a new guise, with a local 
habitation and a name in America. Garcilaso' s story of the 
burning-mirror, supposing it to be an adaptation from Plutarch, 
would not even be the best illustration of this modern phase of 
Mythology ; that distinction must be reserved for the repro- 
duction by another chronicler of another of Plutarch's stories, 
that of the shout that was raised when the Roman Herald 
proclaimed the liberty of the Greeks, such a shout that it 
brought the crows tumbling down into the racecourse from the 
sky above. 2 The Incas, says Sarmieuto, " were so feared, that if 
they went out through the kingdom, and allowed a curtain of 
their litters to be lifted that their vassals might see them, they 
raised so great an acclamation that they made the birds fall 
from where they were flying above, so that the people could 
catch them in their hands." 3 

Against the abstract possibility of Garcilaso' s story of the 
lighting of the sacred fire with concave mirrors, there is no more 
to be said than against Plutarch's. With a good parabolic 
mirror only two inches in diameter, I have lighted brown paper 
under an English sun of no extraordinary power, and other 
surfaces which will make a good caustic will answer, though of 
course they have less burning power than a paraboloid of 
revolution of equal size. There is even a material basis out of 
which the Peruvian story may have grown. In the ancieut 
tombs of Peru, mirrors both of pyrites and obsidian have been 
found. Some, three or four inches in diameter, were probably 
mere broken nodules of pyrites, polished on the flat side, but 

1 Garcilaso de la Vega, p. 195. 2 Pint. T. Quinct. Flarninius, x. 

* Sarmiento, MS. cited in Prescott, Peru, vol. L p. 25. 


one is mentioned measuring about a foot and a half (probably in 
circumference), which had a beautifully-polished concave surface, 
so as to magnify objects considerably, 1 and such a mirror may 
have been used for making fire. Indeed, the objection to the 
story of the Virgins of the Sun is not that any of the details 
I have mentioned must of necessity be untrue, but that the 
apparent traces of absorption from Plutarch invalidate whatever 
rests on Garcilaso de la Vega's unsupported testimony. 

To conclude the notice of the art of fire-making in general, 
its last phase, the invention of lucifer matches in our own day, 
is fast spreading over the world, and bringing most other fire- 
making instruments down to the condition of curious relics of a 
past time. 

But though some of the higher methods date far back in the 
history of the Old World, the employment of the wooden friction- 
apparatus in Europe, even for the practical purposes of ordinary 
life, has come up through the classical and medieval times into 
the last century, and for all we know it may still exist. Pliny 
speaks of its finding a use among the outposts of armies and 
among shepherds, a stone to strike fire with not being always to 
be had; 2 and in a remarkable account dating from 1768, which 
will be quoted presently, its use by Russian peasants for making 
fire in the woods is spoken of as an existing custom, just as, at 
a much more recent date, it is mentioned that the Portuguese 
Brazilians still have recourse to the fire-drill, when no other 
means of getting a light are forthcoming. 3 For the most part, 
however, the early use of the instrument in the Old World is 
only to be traced in ancient myths, in certain ceremonial 
practices which have been brought down unchanged into a new 
state of culture, and in descriptions by Greek and Roman 
writers of the art. It had lost, even then, its practical im- 

1 Juan & Ulloa, 'Relacion Historica;' Madrid, 1748, p. 619. 

2 Pliny, xvi. 77. 

3 Pr. Max. v. Wled., ' Eeise nach Brasilien' (18157), vol. ii. p. 19. Hylten- 
Cavallius, ' Wai-end och Wirdarne,' Stockholm, 1863-4, vol. i. p. 189, stat< 
within a generation there were old foresters in districts of Sweden who could still 
practise the ancient art of making fire by violently twirling a dry oak stick with 
their hands against a dry piece of wood. S.e also the account of the gnid-eld or 
"rubbing-fire," which was carried over the knd as "need-fire." L^ ote to 3l ^ 


portance in everyday life, though lingering on, as it still does in 
our own day, in rites for which it was necessary to use pure icill 
fire, not the tame fire that lay like a domestic animal upon the 

The traditions of inventors of the art of fire-making by the 
friction of wood have in so far an historical value, that they 
bring clearly into view a period when this was the usual practice. 
There is a Chinese myth that points to such a state of things, 
and which moreover presents, in the story of the " fire-bird," 
an analogy with a set of myths belonging to our own race, 
which may well be due to a deep-lying ethnological connexion. 
" A great sage went to walk beyond the bounds of the moon and 
the sun ; he saw a tree, and on this tree a bird, which pecked at 
it and made fire come forth. The sage was struck with this, 
took a branch of the tree and produced fire from it, and thence 
this great personage was called Suy-jin." 1 The friction- appara- 
tus itself, apparently of the kind spoken of here as the fire-drill, 
is mentioned in Morrison's Chinese Dictionary. " Suy, an 
instrument to obtain fire. A speculum for obtaining fire from 
the sun is called suy or kin-sny. Muh-suy, an utensil to 
procure fire from wood by rotatory friction. Suy-jin-she, the 
first person who procured fire for the use of man." The very 
existence of a Chinese name for the fire-drill shows that it is, or 
has been, in use in the country. 

The absence of evidence relating to fire-making in the Bible 
is remarkable. If, indeed, the following passage from the 
cosmogony of Sanchoniathon be founded on a Phrenician legend, 
it preserves an old Semitic record of the use of the fire- stick. 
" They say that from the wind Kolpia, and his wife Baan, which 
is interpreted Night, there were born mortal men, called 2Eon 
and Protogonos ; and yon found how to get food from trees. 
And those born from them were called Genos and Genea, and 
they inhabited Phomicia. . . . Moreover, they say that, again, 
from Genos, son of yEon and Protogonos, they were born mortal 
children, whose names were Phos, Pur, and Phlox (Light, Fire, 
and Flame). These, they say, found out how to make fire from 
the friction of pieces of wood, and taught its use." 2 Fire- 

1 Goguet, vol. iii. p. 321. See Kuhn, p. 28, etc. 2 Euseb., Praep. Evang. i. x. 


making by friction is not unknown to the Arabs, their instru- 
ment being the simple fire-drill. 

Though direct history does not tell us that the Finns and 
Lapps used the fire-drill before they had the flint and steel, 
there is a passage safely preserving the memory of its use in a 
Finnish poem, whose native metre is familiar to our ears from 
its imitation in ' Hiawatha ; ' 

" Panu parka, Tuonan poika, 
kirnusi tulisen kirnim, 
sakeisin saihytteli, 
pukemissa puhtaissa, 
walkehissa waatteissa." 

" Panu, the poor son of Tuoni. 
Churning fiercely at the fire-chnrn, 
Scattering fiery sparks around him, 
Clothed in a pure white garment, 
In a white and shining garment." ' 

It is, however, by our own race that the most remarkable 
body of evidence of the ancient use of the fire-drill has been 
preserved. The very instrument still used in India for kindling 
the sacrificial fire seems never to have changed since the time 
when our ancestors left their eastern home to invade Europe. 
It is thus described : " The process by which fire is obtained 
from wood is called churning, as it resembles that by which 
butter in India is separated from milk. ... It consists in 
drilling one piece of arani-wood into another by pulling a 
string tied to it with a jerk with the one hand, while the other 
is slackened, and so alternately till the wood takes fire. The 
fire is received on cotton or flax held in the hand of an assist- 
ant Brahman." 2 By this description it would seem that the 
Indian instrument is the same in principle as the Esquimaux 
thong-drill, shown in Fig. 24. It is driven by a three-stranded 
cord of cowhair and hemp ; and there is probably a piece of 
wood pressed down upon the upper end of the spindle, to keep 
it down to its bearing. 3 In the name of Prometheus, the fire- 

1 Kuhn, p. 110. 2 Stevenson, Sama Veda, p. 7. 

3 If so, the upper and lower blocks may be the upper and lower arani, and the 
the prainantha, or l-dtra. See Kuhn, pp. 13, 15, 73 ; also BoelitlAngk and 


maker, the close connection with the Sanskrit name of this 
spindle, pramantha, has never been broken. Possibly both he 
and the Chinese Suy-jin may be nothing more than personifica- 
tions of the fire-drill. 

Professor Kuhn, in his mythological treatise on 'Fire and 
Ambrosia,' has collected a quantity of evidence from Greek and 
Latin authors, which makes it appear that the fire-making in- 
strument, whose use was kept up in Europe, was not the stick- 
and-groove, but the fire-drill. The operation is distinctly 
described as boring or drilling ; and it seems, moreover, that 
the fire-drill was worked in ancient Europe, as in India and 
among the Esquimaux, with a cord or thong, for the spindle is 
compared to, or spoken of as, a rpv-avov, which instrument, as 
appears in the passage quoted from the Odyssey at page 241, 
was a drill driven by a thong. 1 

The traces of the old fire-making in modern Europe lie, for 
the most part, in close connexion with the ancient and wide- 
spread rite of the New Fire, which belongs to the Aryans among 
other branches of the human race, and especially with one variety 
of this rite, which has held its own even in Germany and Eng- 
land into quite late times, in spite of all the efforts of the Church 
to put it down. This is what the Germans call nothfeuer, and 
we, need/ire ; though whether the term is to be understood liter- 
ally, or whether* it has dropped a guttural, and stands for fire made 
by kneading or rubbing, is not clear. 

What the nature and object of the needfire is, may be seen 
in Reiske's account of the practice in Germany in the seven- 
teenth century : " "When a murrain has broken out among the 
great and small cattle, and the herds have suffered much harm, 
the farmers determine to make a needfire. On an appointed 
day there must be no single flame of fire in any house or on 
any hearth. From each house straw, and water, and brush- 
wood must be fetched, and a stout oak-post driven fast into the 
ground, and a hole bored through it ; in this a wooden wind- 

Eoth, s. v. arani, cdtra. The anointing with butter (Kuhn, p. 78), corresponds to 
the use of train oil by the Esquimaux. 

1 Kuhn, 'Hera kunft des Feuers,' etc., pp. 3640, citing Tlieophra^tus, Hesy- 
cbius, Siiuplicius, Festus, etc. 


lass is stuck, well smeared with cart-pitch and tar, and turned 
r jund so long that, with the fierce heat and force, it gives forth 
fire. This is caught in proper materials, increased with straw, 
heath, and brushwood, till it creaks out into a full needfire ; and 
this must he somewhat spread 'out lengthways between walls or 
fences, and the cattle and horses hunted with sticks and whips 
two or three times through it," etc. 1 Various ways of arranin 
the apparatus are mentioned by Reiske and other authorities 
quoted by Grimm, such as fixing the spindle between two posts, 
etc. How the spindle is turned is sometimes doubtful ; but in 
several places the Indian practice of driving it with a rope wound 
round it, and pulled backwards and forwards, comes clearly into 
view ; while sometimes a cart wheel is spun round upon an 
axle ; or a spindle is worked round with levers, or two planks 
are rubbed violently together, till the fire comes. 2 

The needfire seems to have been kept up to late years in 
Germany. In Great Britain the most modern account I have 
met with dates from 1826. 3 The ' Mirror ' of June 24th of that 
year takes from the ' Perth Courier ' a description of the rite, as 
performed not far from Perth, by a farmer who had lost several 
cattle by some disease : " A few stones were piled together hi 
the barn-yard, and wood-coals having been laid thereon, the fuel 
was ignited by will-fire, that is, fire obtained by friction : the 
neighbours having been called in to witness the solemnity, the 
cattle were made to pass through the flames, in the order of their 
dignity and age, commencing with the horses and ending with 
the swine." 

Some varieties of the rite of the New Fire, connected with 
the Sun-worship so deeply rooted in the popular mind from 
before the time of the Vedas, were countenanced, or at least 
tolerated, by the Church. Such are the bonfires at Easter, 
Midsummer Eve, and some other times ; and, in one case, there 
is ground for supposing that the old rite was taken up into the 
Roman Church, in the practice of putting out the church candles 

1 Grimm, D. M., p. 570. Cord fire-drill used as toy in Switzerland, ibid. p. 573. 
- Grimm, D. M., pp. 5709. See ante, p. 253, note. 

3 Kuhn, p. 4.0. Wuttke, ' Deutscher Yoiksaberg'.aube ; ' Hamburg, 1860, p. 92. 
Brand, vol. iii. p. 286. 


on Easter Eve, and lighting them again with consecrated new- 
made fire, 

" On Easter Eve the fire all is quencht in every place, 
And fresh againe from out the Hint is fetcht with solemne grace : 
The priest doth hnlow this against great daungers many one, 
A brande whereof doth every man with greedie mind take home, 
That, when the feareful storme appeares, or tempest black arise, 
By lighting this he safe may be from stroke of hurtful skies." l 

Here the traces of the Indian mythology come out with 
beautiful clearness. The lightning is the fire that flies from the 
heavenly fire-churn, as the gods whirl it in the clouds. The 
New Fire is its representative on earth ; and, like the thunder- 
bolt, preserves from the lightning flash the house in which it is, 
for the lightning strikes no place twice. 

It has been stated by Montanus that in very early times the 
perpetual lamps in churches were lighted by fire made by fric- 
tion of dry wood. 2 But in the ceremony of later times the flint 
and steel has superseded the ancient friction-fire ; and, indeed, 
the "Western clergy, as a rule, discountenanced it as heathenish. 
In the Capitularies of Carloman, in the eighth century, there is 
a prohibition of " illos sacrilegos ignes quos niedjyr vocant." 3 
The result of this opposition by the Church was, in great 
measure, to break the connexion between the old festivals of the 
Sun, which the Church allowed, and the lighting of the needfire, 
which is so closely connected with the Sun-worship in our 
ancient Aryan mythology. Still, even in Germany, there are 
documents that bring the two together. A glossary to the 
Capitularies says, " the rustic folks in many places in Germany, 
and indeed on the feast of St. John the Baptist, pull a stake 
from a hedge and bind a rope round it, which they pull hither 
and thither till it takes fire," etc.; and a Low German book of 
1593 speaks of the " nodfure, that they sawed out of wood " to 
light the St. John's bonfire, and through which the people leapt 
and ran, and drove their cattle. 4 

1 Brand, 'Popular Antiquities;' London, 1853, vol. i. p. 157. 

* Kelly, ' Curiosities of European Tradition,' p. 47. 

* Cap. Carlomanni in Grimm, D. M., p. 570. 

4 Grimm, D. M., pp. 570, 579. See also Migne, Lex s. v. "Nedifri." 


It appears, however, that the Eastern and Western churches 
differed widely in their treatment of the old rite. The Western 
clergy discountenanced, and, as far as they could, put down the 
needfire : but in Russia it was not only allowed, but was (and 
very likely may be still) practised under ecclesiastical sanction, 
the priest being the chief actor in the ceremony. This interesting 
fact seems not to have been known to Grimm and Kuhn, and 
the following passage, which proves it, is still further remarkable 
as asserting that the ancient fire-making by friction was still 
used in Russia for practical as well as ceremonial purposes in 
the last century. It is contained in an account of the adventures 
of four Russian sailors, who were driven by a storm upon the 
desert island of East-Spitzbergen. 1 " They knew, however, that 
if one rubs violently together two pieces of dry wood, one hard 
and the other soft, the latter will catch fire. Besides this being 
the way in which the Russian peasants obtain fire when they are 
in the woods, there is also a religious ceremony, performed in 
every village where there is a church, which could not have been 
unknown to them. Perhaps it will be not disagreeable for me here 
to give an account of this ceremony, though it does not belong 
to the story. The 18th of August, Old Style, is called by the 
Russians Frol i Larior, these being the names of two martyrs, 
called Florus and Laurus in the Roman Kalendar ; they fall, 
according to this latter, on the 29th of the said month, when 
the Festival of the Beheading of John is celebrated. On this 
day the Russian peasants bring their horses to the village church, 
at the side of which they have dug the evening before a pit with 
two outlets. Each horse has his bridle, which is made of lime- 
tree bark. They let the horses, one after the other, go into this 
pit, at the opposite outlet of which the priest stands with an 
aspergiug-brush in his hand, with which he sprinkles them with 
holy water. As soon as the horses are come out, their bridles 
are taken off, and they are made to go between two fires, which 
are kindled with what the Russians call Givoy agon, that is, 
'living fire,' of which I will give the explanation, after remarking 
that The peasants throw the bridles of the horses into one of 

1 P. L. le Roy, 'Eraahlung der Begebenheiten,' etc. ; Riga, 1760. (An E. Tr. in 
Pinkerton, vol. i.) 


these fires to burn them up. Here is the manner of kindling 
this Givoy agon, or living fire. Some men take hold of the 
ends of a maple staff, very dry, and about a fathom long. This 
staff they hold fast over a piece of birch- wood, which must also 
be very dry, and whilst they vigorously rub the staff upon the 
last wood, which is much softer than the first, it inflames in a 
short time, and serves to kindle the pair of fires, of which I have 
just made mention." 

To sum up now, in a few words, the history of the art of 
making fire, it appears that the common notion that the friction 
of two pieces of wood was the original method used, has strong 
and wide-lying evidence in its favour, and very little that can be 
alleged against it. It has been seen that in many districts where 
higher methods have long prevailed, its former existence as a 
household art is proved by traces that have come down to us in 
several different ways. Where the use of pyrites for striking 
fire is found existing in company with it in North America, it is 
at least likely that the fire-stick is the older instrument. Per- 
haps the most notable fact bearing on this question is the use of 
pyrites by the miserable inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. I do 
not know that the fire-sticks have ever been seen among them, 
but it seems more reasonable to suppose that they were used till 
they were supplanted by the discovery of the fire-making property 
of pyrites, than to make so insignificant a people an exception to 
a world-wide rule. This art of striking fire instead of labori- 
ously producing it with the drill is not, indeed, the only thing 
in which the culture of this race stands above that of their 
northern neighbours, for, as has been mentioned, these last were 
found using no navigable craft but rafts, while the Fuegians had 
bark canoes, and those by no means of the lowest quality. It is 
worthy of note that the Peruvians, though they had pyrites, and 
broke the nodules to polish the faces into mirrors, do not seem 
to have used it to strike fire with. If they did not, their civi- 
lization stood in this matter below that of the much-despised 
Fuegians. The ancient Mexicans also made mirrors of polished 
pyrites, and perhaps they may have used it to strike fire ; x but 
the wooden friction-apparatus was certainly common among 

1 It seems by a passage in Boturini (p. 18), that he had some reason to think they 


them. Even the fire-drills of Peru and Mexico were of the 
simplest kind, twirled between the hands without any contri- 
vance to lessen the labour, so that even the rude Esquimaux 
and Indian tribes have reached, in this respect, a higher stage 
of art than these comparatively civilized peoples. 

To turn now from the art of making fire to one of its principal 
uses to mankind. The art of Cooking is as universal as Fire 
itself among the human race ; but there are found, even among 
savages, several different processes that come under the general 
term, and a view of the distribution of these processes over the 
world may throw some light on the early development of Human 

Boasting or broiling by direct exposure to the fire seems the 
one method universally known to mankind, but the use of some 
kind of oven is also very general. The Andaman Islanders keep 
fire continually smouldering in hollow trees, so that they have 
only to clear away the ashes at any time to cook their little pigs 
and fish. 1 In Africa the natives take possession of a great ant- 
hill, destroy the ants, and clear out the inside, leaving only the 
clay walls standing, which they make red hot with a fire, so as 
to bake joints of rhinoceros within. 3 But these are unusual ex- 
pedients, and a much commoner form of savage oven is a mere 
pit in the ground. In the most elaborate kind of this cooking 
in underground ovens, hot stones are put in with the food, as in 
the familiar South- Sea Island practice, which is too well known 
to need description. The Malagasy plan seems to be the same; 3 
but the Polynesians and their connexions have by no means a 
monopoly of the art, which is practised with little or no dif- 
ference in other parts of the world. In the Morea, the traveller's 
dinner is often prepared by making a fire in a hole in the ground, 
in which a kid or lamb is afterwards placed, and covered in by a 
stone made hot for the purpose. The Canary Islanders buried 
meat in a hole in the ground, and lighted a fire over it; * and 

used flint to strike fire with, and if so, as they had no iron, they probably used 
pvrites. iMouat,p.308 

- Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 222. Moffat, Missionary Labours, etc., in S. Al 
London, 1842, p. 521. 

3 Ellis, Madagascar, vol. i. p. 72. 

4 Barker- Webb and Berthelot, vol. i. part L p. 134. 


a similar practice is still sometimes found in the island of 
Sardinia, 1 while among the Beduins, and in places in North and 
South America, the process comes even closer to that used in 
the South Seas. 3 It is this wide diffusion of the art which 
makes it somewhat doubtful whether Klemm is right in con- 
sidering its occurrence in Australia as one of the results of 
intercourse with more civilized islands. The natives cook in 
underground ovens on very distant parts of the coast; sometimes 
hot stones are used, and sometimes not. 3 

"When meat or vegetables are kept for many hours on a 
grating above a slow fire, the combination of roasting and 
smoking brings the food into a state in which it will keep for a 
long while, even in the tropics. Jean de Lery, in the account 
of his adventures among the Indians of Brazil, about 1557, de- 
scribes the wooden grating set up on four forked posts, "which 
in their language they call a boucan ; " on this they cooked food 
with a slow tire underneath, and as they did not salt their meat, 
this process served them as a means of keeping their game and 
fish. 4 To the word boucan belongs the term boucanier, bucanccr, 
given to the French hunters of St. Domingo, from their pre- 
paring the flesh of the wild oxen and boars in this way, and 
applied less appropriately to the rovers of the Spanish Main. 
The process has been found elsewhere in South America, 5 and 
perhaps as far North as Florida. 6 The Haitian name for a 
framework of sticks set upon posts, barbacoa, was adopted into 
Spanish and English ; for instance, the Peruvian air-bridges, 
made over difficult ground by setting up on piles a wattled 
flooring covered with earth, are called barbacoas ; 7 and Dampier 

1 Maury, 'La Terre & l^omine ; ' Paris, 1857, p. 572. 

1 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 26 ; vol. iv. p. 120. FitzRoy, in Tr. Eth. Soc., 1861, 
p. 4. 

1 Cook, 1st Voy. H., vol. iiL p. 233. Lang, p. 347. Grey, Journals, vol. i. 
p. 176 ; vol. ii. p. 274. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 307. Eyre, vol. ii. p. 289. 

4 Lery, Hist, d'un Voy., etc., 1600, p. 153. Southey, Brazil, vol. L p. 216 ; 
vol. iii. pp. 337, 361. The word loucan seems connected with that now commonly 
used in Brazil. "Mocatm, donde fisemos moquem, assar na labareda." Dias Die. 
da Lingua Tupy. 

* Wallace, p. 220. Humboldt and Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 556. Purchas, vol. v. 
p. 899. 

Hakluyt, vol iii. p. 307. ? Tschudi, 'Peru,' vol. ii. p. 202. 


speaks of having " a Barbacue of split Bambooes to sleep on." * 
The American mode of roasting on such a framework is the 
origin of our term to barbecue, though its meaning has changed 
to that of roasting an animal whole. The art of bucaning or 
barbecuing, as practised by the Americans, is found in Africa, in 
Kamchatka, the Eastern Archipelago, and the Pelew Islands ; 2 
and it merges into the very common process of smoking meat to 
make it keep. 

The mere inspection of these simple and wide- spread varieties 
of cooking gives the ethnographer very little evidence of the way 
in which they have been invented and spread over the world. But 
from the more complex art of Boiling there is something to be 
learnt. There are races of mankind, such as the Fuegians and 
the Bushmen, who do not seem to have known how to boil food 
when they first came into the view of Europe, while the higher 
peoples of the world, and a great proportion of the lower ones, 
have had, so long as we know anything of them, vessels of pottery 
or metal which they put liquids into, and set over the fire to boil. 
Between these two conditions, however, there lies a process which 
has been superseded by the higher method within modern times 
over a large fraction of the earth's surface, and which there is 
some reason to believe once extended much further. It is even 
likely that the art of Boiling, as commonly known to us, may 
have been developed through this intermediate process, which I 
propose to call Stone-Boiling. 

There is a North American tribe who received from their 
neighbours the Ojibwas, the name of Assinaboins, or " Stone- 
Boilers," from their mode of boiling their meat, of which Catlin 
gives a particular account. They dig a hole in the ground, take 
a piece of the animal's raw hide, and press it down with their 
hands close to the sides of the hole, which thus becomes a sort 
of pot or basin. This they fill with water, and they make a 
number of stones red-hot in a fire close by. The meat is put 
into the water, and the stones dropped in till the meat is boiled. 
Catlin describes the process as awkward and tedious, and says 

1 Dampier, vol ii. part i. p. 90. 

2 Burton, 'Central Africa,' vol. ii. p. 282. Kracheninnikow, p. 46. Dampier, 
vol. iii. part ii. p. 24. Keate, p. 203. See Earl, 'Papuans,' p. 1G5. 


that since the Assinaboins had learnt from the Mandans to 
pottery, and had heen supplied with vessels by the traders, they 
had entirely done away the custom, " excepting at public 
festivals ; where they seem, like all others of the human family, 
to take pleasure in cherishing and perpetuating their ancient 
customs." l Elsewhere among the Sioux or Dacotas, to 
whom the Assinaboins belong, the tradition has been preserved 
that their fathers used to cook the game in its own skin, which 
they set up on four sticks planted in the ground, and put water, 
meat, and hot stones into it. 2 The Sioux had the art of stone- 
boiling in common with the mass of the northern tribes. Father 
Charlevoix, writing above a century ago, speaks of the Indians of 
the North as using wooden kettles and boiling the water in them 
by throwing in red-hot stones, but even then iron pots were 
superseding both these vessels and the pottery of other tribes. 3 
To specify more particularly, the Micmacs and Souriquois, 4 the 
Blackfeet and the Crees, 5 are known to have been stone-boilers ; 
the Shoshonees or Snake Indians, like the far more northerly 
tribes of Slaves, Dog- Bibs, etc., 6 still make, or lately made, 
their pots of roots plaited or rather twined so closely that they 
will hold water, boiling their food in them with hot stones ; 7 
while west of the Rocky Mountains, the Indians used similar 
baskets to boil salmon, acorn porridge, and other food in, 8 or 
wooden vessels such as Captain Cook found at Nootka Sound, 
and La Perouse at Port Francais. 9 Lastly, Sir Edward Belcher 
met with the practice of stone-boiling in 1826 among the Esqui- 
maux of Icy Cape. 10 

So instantly is the art of stone-boiling supplanted by the 
kettles of the white trader, that, unless perhaps in the north- 
west, it might be hard to find it in existence now. But the 
state of things in North America, as known to us in earlier 
times, is somewhat as follows. The Mexicans, and the races 
between them and the Isthmus of Panama, were potters at the 

1 CatHn, vol. i. p. 54. * Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 176. 

* Charlevoix, vol vi. p. 47. 4 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 81. 

6 Harmon, p. 323. Mackenzie, p. 37, and see p. 207. 

7 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 211. & Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 107, 146. 
9 Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 321. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. pp. 26, 69. 

M Belcher, in Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. I 1861, p. 133. 


time of the Spanish discovery, and the art extended northward 
over an immense district, lying mostly hetween the Rocky 
Mountains and the Atlantic, and stretching up into Canada. 
In Eastern North America the first European discoverers found 
the art of earthenware-making in full operation, and forming a 
regular part of the women's work, and on this side of the con- 
tinent, as high at least as New England, the site of an Indian 
village may be traced, like so many of the ancient settlements 
in the Old World, by innumerable fragments of pottery. But 
the Stone-Boilers extended far south on the Pacific side, and also 
occupied what may be roughly called the northern half of North 

In that north-eastern corner of Asia which is of such extreme 
interest to the ethnographer, as preserving the lower human 
culture so near the high Asiatic civilization, and yet so little 
influenced by it, the art of Stone-boiling was found in full force. 
The Kamchadals, like some American tribes, used hollowed 
wooden troughs for the purpose, and long resisted the use of 
the iron cooking pots of the Russians, considering that the food 
only kept its flavour properly when dressed in the old-fashioned 
way. 1 

Thus the existence of a great district of Stone-Boilers in 
Northern Asia and America is made out by direct evidence, but 
beside this we know of the practice in a southern district of the 

In Australia, Mr. T. Baines mentions native cooking-places 
seen on the Victoria River in 1855-6, small holes in the ground, 
where fish, water- tortoise, and, in one instance, a small alligator, 
had been made to boil by the immersion of heated stones in the 
water. 2 Thus the Australians, at least in modern times, must 
be counted as stone-boilers. Concerning the New Zealanders, 
Captain Cook made a remark that " having no vessel in which 
water can be boiled, their cooking consists wholly of baking and 
roasting. 3 But the inference that people who have no vessel 
that will stand the fire must therefore be unable to boil food is 

1 Kracheninnikow, p. 30. Erman, Reise, vol. iii. p. 423. 

2 Bain- s, in Anthrop. Rev., July, 1866, p. civ. 

* Cook, First Voy. H., vol. iii. p. 55 ; also Third Toy., voL L p. 158. 


not a sound one. There is evidence that the Maoris knew the 
art of stone-boiling, though they used it but little. It is found 
among them under circumstances which give no ground for 
supposing that it was introduced after Captain Cook's visit. 
The curious dried human heads of New Zealand, which excel any 
mummies that have ever been made in the preservation of the 
features of the dead, were first brought over to England by 
Cook's party. From a careful description of the process of 
preparing them, made since, it appears that one thing was to 
parboil them (as we used to do traitors' heads for Temple Bar), 
and this was contrived by throwing them " into boiling water, 
into which red-hot stones are continually cast, to keep up the 
heat." 1 A remark made by another writer places the existence 
of stone-boiling as a native New Zealand art beyond question. 
" The New Zealauders, although destitute of vessels in which to 
boil water, had an ingenious way of heating water to the boiling 
point, for the purpose of making shell-fish open. This was done 
by putting red-hot stones into wooden vessels full of water." 2 
AVhen, therefore, we find them boiling and eating the berries of 
the Launis tawa, which are harmless when boiled, but poisonous 
in their raw state, it is not necessary to suppose this to have 
been found out since Captain Cook's time, as the boiling was 
probably done before with hot stones. 3 

In several other Polynesian islands, it appears from Cook's 
journals that stone-boiling was in ordinary use in cookery. The 
making of a native pudding in Tahiti is thus described. Bread- 
fruit, ripe plantains, taro, and palm or pandanus nuts, were 
rasped, scraped, or beaten up fine, and baked separately. A 
quantity of juice, expressed from cocoa-nut kernels, was put into 
a large tray or wooden vessel. The other articles, hot from the 
oven, were deposited in this vessel, and a few hot stones were 
also put in to make the contents simmer. Few puddings in 
England, he says, equal these. In the island of Anamooka, they 
brought him a mess of fish, soup, and yams stewed in cocoa-nut 
liquor, " probably in a wooden vessel, with hot stones." The 
practice seems to have existed in the Marquesas, and in Huaheine 

1 Yate, 'New Zealand,' p. 132. 

1 Thomson, 'New Zealand," voL i. p. 160. * Yate, p. 43. 


he describes the preparation of a dish of poi in a wooden trough 
with hot stones. 1 What the Polynesian notion of a pudding is, 
as to size, may be gathered from the account of two missionaries 
who arrived at the island of Rurutu, and were received by a 
native who paddled out to meet them through a rough sea, in a 
wooden poi-dish, seven feet long and two and a half wide. 2 

I fear that the Tahitian recipe for making poi must spoil the 
good old story of Captain Wallis's tea-urn. A native who was 
breakfasting on board the Dolphin saw the tea-pot filled from 
the urn, and presently turned the cock again and put his hand 
underneath, with such effects as may be imagined. Captain 
"Wallis, knowing that the natives had no earthen vessels, and 
that boiling in a pot over a fire was a novelty to them, and 
putting all these things together in telling the story, interpreted 
the howls of the scalded native as he danced about the cabin, 
and the astonishment of the rest of the visitors, as proving that 
the Tahitians " having no vessel in which water could be sub- 
jected to the action of fire, .... had no more idea that it could 
be made hot, than that it could be made solid." 3 No doubt the 
natives were surprised at hot water coming out of so unlikely a 
place, but the world seems to have accepted both the story and 
the inference without stopping to consider that hot water could 
not be much of a novelty among people to whom boiled pudding 
was an article of daily food. Captain "VYallis's story (as is so 
commonly the case with accounts of savages) may be matched 
elsewhere. " And we went now," says Kotzebue, in the account 
of his visit to the Badack islands, "to Rarick's dwelling, where 
the kettle had already been set on the fire, and the natives were 
assembled round it, looking at the boiling water, which seemed 
to them alive." Yet on another island of the same chain it is 
remarked that the mogomuk is made by drying the root of a 
plant, and pressing the meal into lumps; when it is to be eaten, 
some of this is broken off, stirred with water in a cocoa-nut 
shell, and boiled till it swells up into a thick porridge (" und 
kocht ihn, bis er zu einem dicken Brei aufquillt,") etc. 4 

1 Cook, Third Toy., vol. ii. p. 49 ; vol. i. p. 233. Second Toy., vol. I p. 310. 
First Voy. H., vol. ii. p. 254. 2 Tyennan & Bennet, vol. i. p. 493. 

' Wallis, H., vol. L pp. 246, 264. * Kotzebue, vol. ii. pp. 47, 65. 


Though the natives of the islands mentioned, and no doubt 
of many others, were still stone-boilers in Cook's time, pottery 
had already made its appearance in Polynesia, in districts so 
situated that the art may reasonably be supposed to have tra- 
velled from island to island from the Eastern Archipelago, where 
perhaps the Malays received it from Asia. By Cook and later 
explorers earthen vessels were found in the Pelew, Fiji, and 
Tonga groups, and in New Caledonia. 1 By this time it is likely 
that these and European vessels may have put an end to stone- 
boiling in Polynesia, so that its displacement by the introduc- 
tion of pottery and metal will have taken place by the same 
combination of the influence of neighbouring tribes and of 
Europeans which have produced a similar effect in North 

There is European evidence of the art of stone-boiling. The 
Finns have kept up into modern times a relic of the practice. 
LinnaBus, on his famous Lapland Tour, in 1732, recorded the 
fact that in East Bothland " The Finnish liquor called Lura is 
prepared like other beer, except not being boiled, instead of 
which red-hot stones are thrown into it." 2 Moreover, the 
quantities of stones, evidently calcined, which are found buried 
in our own country, sometimes in the sites of ancient dwellings, 
give great probability to the inference which has been drawn 
from them, that they were used in cooking. It is true that 
their use may have been for baking in underground ovens, a 
practice found among races who are Stone-boilers, and others 
who are not. But it is actually on record that the wild Irish, of 
about 1600, used to warm their milk for drinking with a stone 
first cast into the fire. 3 

In Asia 4 I have met with no positive evidence of cookery by 

1 Cook, Second Voy., vol. i..p. 214 ; vol. ii. p. 105. Third Voy., vol. i. p. 375. 
Klemm, C. Q., vol. iv. p. 272. Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 6'J. Turner, p. 424. 
Mariner, vol. ii. p. 272. Keate, p. 336. 

2 Linnaeus, Tour, vol. ii. p. 231. Such beer, called Steinbir, is made in Carinthia, 
by throwing hot stones into the vat. See W. 0. Stanley, ' Memoirs on Ancient 
Dwellings in Holyhead,' p. 19. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 

3 J. Evans, in Archaeologia, vol. xli. 

4 Dr. Hooker found baths of hollowed trees at Bhomsong, heated with hot stones, 
'Himalayan Journals,' vol. i. p. 305. Compare a similar process in N. W. America, 
Tr. Eth. Soc., voL iv. p. 290. 


stone-boiling beyond Kamchatka, but some extremely rude 
boiling-vessels have been observed among Siberian tribes, the 
use of which is either to be explained by the absence or scarcity 
of earthenware or metal pots, or by the keeping up of old habits 
belonging to a time of such absence or scarcity. The Dutch 
envoy, Ysbrants Ides, remarks of the Ostyaks, " I have also 
seen a copper kettle among them, and some other kettles of 
bark sewed together, in which they can boil food over the hot 
coals, but not in the flame of the fire." 1 Now just such bark- 
kettles as these have been seen in use among a North American 
tribe on the Unijah, or Peace River, near the Rocky Mountains. 
They were stone-boilers, using for this purpose the regular 
u~ at ape pots, or rather baskets, of woven roots of spruce fir, 
but they had also kettles, " made of spruce-bark, which they 
hang over the fire, but at such a distance as to receive the heat 
without being within reach of the blaze ; a veiy tedious opera- 
tion." ; In Siberia, among the Ostyaks, the practice has been 
observed of using the paunch of the slaughtered beast as a 
vessel to cook the blood in over the fire, 3 and the same thing 
has been noticed among the Reindeer Koriaks. 4 Thus the 
story told by Herodotus of the Scythians, who, when they had 
not a suitable cauldron, used to boil the flesh of the sacrificed 
beast in its own paunch, 5 seems to give a glimpse of a state of 
things in the centre of Asia, resembling that which has con- 
tinued into modern times in the remote North-East. It is thus 
not unlikely that the use of stone-boiling, to meet the want 
of suitable vessels for direct boiling over the fire, may once 
have had a range in Asia far beyond the Kamchatkan 
promontory. 6 

It may be that the more convenient boiling in vessels set 
over the fire was generally preceded in the world by the clumsier 

1 E. Ysbrants Ides, ' Reize naar China ;' Amsterdam, 1710, p. 27. 
" Mackenzie, p. 207. 

3 Erman (E. Tr.), vol. ii. pp. 456, 467. 

4 Kracheninnikow, p. 142. 

5 Herod., iv. 61. 

6 The frequent use of wicker baskets for holding liquids, in Africa, may have a 
bearing on the history of stone-boiling. Sec mention of hot stones for melting or 
boiling fat, in Bleek, 'Reynard in Africa,' pp. 8-10. 


stone-boiling, of which the history, so far as I have been able to 
make it out from evidence within my reach, has thus been 
sketched. Of vessels used for the higher kind of boiling, as 
commonly known to us, something may now be said. 

It is not absolutely necessary that vessels of earthenware, 
metal, etc., should be used for this purpose. Potstone, lapis 
ollaris, has been used by the Esquimaux, and by various Old 
World peoples, to make vessels which will stand the fire. 1 The 
Asiatic paunch-kettles have just been mentioned, and kettles of 
skins have been described among the Esquimaux, 2 and even among 
the wild Irish 3 and the inhabitants of the Hebrides, of whose 
way of life George Buchanan gives the following curious 
account: "In food, clothing, and all domestic matters, they 
use the ancient parsimony. Their meat is supplied by hunting 
and fishing. The fljsh they boil with water in the paunch or 
hide of the slaughtered beast ; out hunting they sometimes eat 
it raw, when the blood has been pressed out. For drink they 
have the broth of the meat. Whey that has been kept for 
years, they also drink greedily at their feasts. This kind of 
liquor they call bland." 4 Beside these animal materials, parts 
of several plants will answer the purpose, as the bark used for 
kettles in Asia and America, the spathes of palms, in which food 
is often boiled in South America, 5 the split bamboos in which 
the Dayaks, the Sumatrans, and the Stiens of Cambodia, boil 
their rice, and cocoa-nut shells, as just mentioned in the Radack 
group ; Captain Cook saw a cocoa-nut shell used in Tahiti, to 
dry up the blood of a native dog in, over the fire. 6 These facts 
should be borne in mind in considering the following theory of 
the Origin of the Art of Pottery. 

It was, I believe, Goguet who first propounded, in the last 
century, the notion that the way in which pottery came to be 

1 Cranz, p. 73 ; Linnaeus, vol. L p. 356 ; Klemm, C. GK, voL ii. p. 266. Mem. 
Anthrop. Soc. ToL i. 1863-4, pp. 297-8. 

* Martin Frobisher, in ' Hakluyt,' vol. iii. pp. 66, 95. 3 Evans, 1. c. 

4 'Rerum Scoticarum Historia, auctore Georgio Buchanano Scoto ;' (ad ex.) 
Edinburgh, 1528, p. 7. 

Spix and Martius, vol. ii. p. 688. Wallace, p. 508. 

' St. John, vol. i. p. 137. Marsden, p. 60. Mouhot, vol. ii. p. 245. Cook, 
Third Toy., vol. ii p. 35. See Coleman, p. 318 ; Mariner, vol. ii. p. 272. 


made, was that people daubed such combustible vessels as these 
with clay, to protect them from the fire, till they found that the 
clay alone would answer the purpose, and thus the art of pottery 
came into the world. The idea was not a mere effort of his 
imagination, for he had met with a description of the plastering 
of wooden vessels with clay in the southern Hemisphere. It is 
related that a certain Captain Gonneville sailed from Honfleur 
in 1503, doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and came to the 
Southern Indies (apparently the east coast of South America). 
There he found a gentle and joyous people, living by hunting 
and fishing, and a little agriculture, and he speaks of cloaks of 
mats and skins, feather work, bows and arrows, beds of mats, 
villages of thirty to eighty huts of stakes and wattles, etc., 
" and their household utensils of wood, even their boiling-pots, 
but plastered with a kind of clay, a good finger thick, which 
prevents the fire from burning them." 1 The theory of the 
origin of pottery which Goguet founded upon this remarkable 
account, is corroborated by a quantity of evidence which has 
made its appearance since his time. 

The comparison of two accounts of vessels found, one among 
the Esquimaux, the other among their neighbours the Unalash- 
kans (whose language contains proofs of intimate contact with 
them 2 ), may serve to give an idea of the way in which clay may 
come to supersede less convenient materials, and a gradual 
approach be made towards the potter's art. When James Hall 
was in Greenland, in 1605, he found the natives boiling food 
over their lamps, in vessels with stone bottoms, and sides of 
whale's fins. 3 In Unalashka, Captain Cook found that some of 
the natives had got brass kettles from the Eussians, but those 
who had not, made their own " of a flat stone, with sides of clay, 
not unlike a standing pye." 4 He thought it likely that they 
had learnt to boil from the Eussians, but the Eussians could 
hardly have taught them to make such vessels as these, and the 
appearance of a kettle with a stone bottom (no doubt potstone), 

1 Goguet, vol. i. p. 77. ' Memoires touchant I'Etablissement d'une Mission 
Chrestienne dans le troisieme monde, autrement appelte la Terre Australe,' etc. ; 
Paris, 1663, pp. 10-16. 

a Buschmann, Azt. Spr., p. 702. * Purchas, vol. iii. p. 817. 

* Cook, Third Voy., vol. ii. p. 510. 


and sides of another material, at the two opposite sides of 
America, gives ground for supposing it to have been in common 
use in high latitudes. 

From the examination of an earthen vessel from the Fiji 
Islands, Dr. D. S. Price considers that it was very likely made 
by moulding clay on the outside of the shell or rind of some 
fruit. The vessel in question is made watertight after the South 
American manner by a varnish of resin. The evident and fre- 
quent adoption of gourd- shapes in the earthenware of distant 
parts of the world does not prove much, but as far as it goes it 
tells in favour of the opinion that such gourd-like vessels may 
be the successors of real gourds, made into pottery by a plaster- 
ing of clay. Some details given in 1841 by Squier and Davis, 
in their account of the monuments in the Mississippi Valley, 
are much more to the purpose. " In some of the Southern 
States, it is said, the kilns, in which the ancient pottery was 
baked, are now occasionally to be met with. Some are repre- 
sented still to contain the ware, partially burned, and retaining 
the rinds of the gourds, etc., over which they were modelled, and 
which had not been entirely removed by the fire." " Among 
the Indians along the Gulf, a greater degree of skill was displayed 
than with those on the upper waters of the Mississippi and on 
the lakes. Their vessels were generally larger and more sym- 
metrical, and of a superior finish. They moulded them over 
gourds and other models and baked them in ovens. In the con- 
struction of those of large size, it was customary to model them 
in baskets of willow or splints, which, at the proper period, were 
burned off, leaving the vessel perfect in form, and retaining the 
somewhat ornamental markings of their moulds. Some of those 
found on the Ohio seem to have been modelled in bags or net- 
tings of coarse thread or twisted bark. These practices are still 
retained by some of the remote western tribes. Of this descrip- 
tion of pottery many specimens are found with the recent 
deposits in the mounds." 1 Prince Maximilian of Wied makes 
the following remark on some earthen vessels found in Indian 

1 Squier & Davis, pp. 195, 187. See the account in J. D. Hunter, 'Memoirs of 
Captivity among the Indians,' London, 1623, p. 239 ; also Rau, 'Indian Pottery,' in 
Smithsonian Report, 1866. 


mounds near Harmony, on the "Wabash river : " They were 
made of a sort of grey clay, marked outside with rings, and 
seem to have been moulded in a cloth or basket, being marked 
with impressions or figures of this kind." l 

It has been thought, too, that the early pottery of Europe 
r -talus in its ornamentation traces of having once passed 
through a stage in which the clay was surrounded by basket- 
work or netting, either as a backing to support the finished 
vessel, or as a mould to form it in. Dr. Klemm advanced this 
view twenty years ago. " The imitation (of natural vessels) in 
clay presupposes numerous trials. In the Friendly Islands, we 
find vessels which are still in an early stage ; they are made of 
clay, slightly burnt, and enclosed in plaited work ; so also the 
oldest German vessels seem to have been, for we observe on 
those which remain an ornamentation in which plaiting is imi- 
tated by incised lines. What was no longer wanted as a 
necessity was kept up as an ornament." 2 

Dr. Daniel Wilson made a similar remark, some years later, 
on early British urns which, he says, " may have been strength- 
ened by being surrounded with a platting of cords or rushes. 
... It is certain that very many of the indented patterns on 
British pottery have been produced by the impress of twisted 
cords on the wet clay, the intentional imitation, it may be, of 
undesigned indentations originally made by the platted net-work 
on rider urns," etc. 3 Mr. G. J. French mentions experiments 
mail" by him in support of his views on the derivation of the 
interlaced or guilloche ornaments on early Scottish crosses, etc., 
from imitation of earlier structures of wicker-work. He coated 
baskots with clay, and found the wicker patterns came out on all 
the earthen vessels thus made, and he seems to think that some 
ancient urns still preserved were actually moulded in this way, 
judging from the lip being marked as if the wicker-work had 
been turned in over the clay coating inside. 4 

Taken all together, the evidence of so many imperfect and 

1 Tr. Max. Yovage, vol. i. p. 192. Klemm, 0. G., vol. ii. p. 63. 

2 Klemm, C. G., vol. i. p. 188. 

8 'Wilson, Archaeology, etc., of Scotland, p. 230. 

4 G. J. French, An Attempt, etc. ; Manchester (printed), 1858. 



seemingly transitional forms of pottery makes it probable that it 
was through such stages that the art grew up into the more per- 
fect form in which we usually find it, and in which it has come 
to be clearly understood that clay, alone or with some mixture 
of sand or such matters to prevent cracking, is capable of being 
used without any extraneous support. 

Such is the evidence by means of which I have attempted to 
trace the progress of mankind in three important arts, whose 
early history lies for the most part out of the range of direct 
record. Its examination brings into view a gradual improve- 
ment in methods of producing fire ; the supplanting of a rude 
means of boiling food by a higher one ; and a progress from 
the vessels of gourds, bark, or shell of the lower races to the 
pottery and metal of the higher. On the whole, progress in 
these useful arts appears to be the rule, and whether its steps 
be slow or rapid, a step once made does not seem often ;o be 



IT has long been an accepted doctrine that among the similar 
customs found prevailing in distant countries, there are some 
which are evidence of worth to the ethnologist. But in dealing 
with these things he has to answer, time after time, a new form 
of the hard question that stands in his way in so many depart- 
ments of his work. He must have derived from observation of 
many cases a general notion of what Man does and does not do, 
before he can say of any particular custom which he finds in two 
distant places, either that it is likely that a similar state of 
things may have produced it more than once, or that it is un- 
likely that it is even so unlikely as to approach the limit of 
impossibility, that such a thing should have grown up independ- 
ently in the two, or three, or twenty places where he finds it. 
In the first case it is worth little or nothing to him as evidence 
bearing on the early history of mankind, but in the latter it goes 
with more or less force to prove that the people who possess it 
are allied by blood, or have been in contact, or have been in- 
fluenced indirectly one from the other or both from a common 
source, or that some combination of these things has happened ; 
in a word, that there has been historical connexion between 

I give some selected cases of the Argument from Similar 
Customs, both where it seems sound and where it seems un- 
sound, before proceeding to the main object of this chapter, 
which is to select and bring into view, from the enormous mass 
of raw material that lies before the student, four groups of world- 
wide customs which seem to have their roots deep in the early 

history of mankind. 

r v. 


It is a remarkable thing to find in Africa the practice which 
we associate exclusively with Siam and the neighbouring coun- 
tries, of paying divine honours to the pale-coloured, or as it is 
called, the " white " elephant. A native of Enarea (in East 
Africa, south of Abyssinia) told Dr. Krapf that white elephants, 
whose hide was like the skin of a leper, were found in his 
country, but such an animal must not be killed, for it is con- 
sidered an Adbar or protector of man and has religious honours 
paid to it, and any one who killed it would be put to death. 1 
There may be a historical connexion between the veneration of 
the white elephant in Asia and Africa, but the habit of man to 
regard unusual animals, or plants, or stones, with superstitious 
feelings of reverence or horror is so general, that no prudent 
ethnologist would base an argument upon it, and still less when 
he finds that in Africa the albino buffalo shares the sanctity of 
the elephant. 

On the other hand, a custom prevalent in two districts com- 
paratively near these may be quoted as an example of sound 
evidence of the kind in question. In his account of the Sulu 
Islands, north-east of Borneo, Mr. Spenser St. John speaks of 
a superstition in those countries, that if gold or pearls are put 
in a packet by themselves they will decrease and disappear, but 
if a few grains of rice are added, they will keep. Pearls they be- 
lieve will actually increase by this, and the natives always put 
grains of rice in the packets both of gold and precious stones. 2 
Now Dr. Livingstone mentions the same thing at the gold dig- 
gings of Manica in East Africa, south of the Zambesi, where the 
natives " bring the dust in quills, and even put in a few seeds of 
a certain plant as a charm to prevent their losing any of it in the 
way." 3 The custom was probably transmitted through the Ma- 
hometans, who form a known channel of connexion between Africa 
and the Malay Islands, but its very existence alone would almost 
prove that there must have been a connecting link somewhere. 

Intercourse between Asia and America in early times is not 
brought to our knowledge by the direct historical information by 
which, for instance, distant parts of Asia and Africa are brought 
into contact; still there is indirect evidence tending to prove 

1 Krapf, p. 67. 8 St. John, vol. ii. p. 235. ' Livingstone, p. 638. 


Asiatic influence far in the interior of North America, and the 
following may, perhaps, be held in some degree to confirm and 
supplement it. Johannes de Piano Carpini, describing hi 1246 
the manners and customs of the Tatars, says that one of their 
superstitious traditions concerns " sticking a knife into the fire, 
or hi any way touching the fire with a knife, or even taking meat 
out of the kettle with a knife, or cutting near the fire with an 
axe ; for they believe that so the head of the fire would be cut 
off." 1 The prohibition was no doubt connected with the Asiatic 
fire-worship, and it seems to have long been known in Europe, 
for it stands among the Pythagorean maxims, " nvp paya-ipa prj 
a-KaXfvfLv," " not to stir the fire with a sword," or, as it is given 
elsewhere, o-tS^pw, " with an iron." 2 In the far north-east of 
Asia it may be found in the remarkable catalogue of ceremonial 
sins of the fire-revering Kamchadals, among whom " it is a sin 
to take up a burning ember with the knife-point, and light to- 
bacco, but it must be taken hold of with the bare hands." 3 The 
following statement is taken out of a list of superstitions of the 
Sioux Indians of North America. " They must not stick an awl 
or needle into ... a stick of wood on the fire. No person must 
chop on it with an axe or knife, or stick an awl into it. ... 
Neither are they allowed to take a coal from the fire with a 
knife, or any other sharp instrument." 4 Against the view that 
these remarkable coincidences prove historical connexion between 
the races they occur among, the counter- argument will be this, 
has there generated itself again and again in the world, in con- 
nexion with the idea of fire being a living animal, a prohibition 
to wound the sacred creature ? 

The first of the four groups of customs, selected as examples 
of an argument taking a yet wider range, is based upon the idea 
that disease is commonly caused by bits of wood, stone, hair, or 

1 Vincentius Beluacensis, ' Speculum Historiale,' 1473, book xxxii. c. vii. 

2 Diog. Laert. viii. 1, 17. Plut. 'De Educatione Pueiorum,' xvii. "In the 
Nijegorod Government it is still forbidden to break up the smouldering remains of 
tHe faggots in a stove with a poker ; to do so might be to cause one's ' ancestors' to 
fall through into hell," Ralston, ' Songs of the Russian People, ' London, 1872, p. 120. 
[.sote to 3rd Edition.] 

3 Gr. W. Steller, ' Beschreibung von dem Lande Kamtschatka ;' Frankfort, 1774, 
274. 4 Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 230. 


other foreign substances, having got inside the body of the 
patient. Accordingly, the malady is to be cured by the medicine- 
man extracting the hurtful things, usually by sucking the 
affected part till they come out. Mr. Backhouse describes the 
proceedings of a native doctress in South Africa, which will 
serve as a typical case. A man was taken ill with a pain in his 
side, and a Fingo witch was sent for. As she was quite naked, 
except a rope round her waist, the missionary who lived in the 
place declined to assist at the ceremony himself, but sent his 
wife. The doctress sucked at the man's side, and produced 
some grains of Indian corn, which she said she had drawn from 
inside him, and which had caused the disease. The missionary's 
wife looked in her mouth, and there was nothing there ; but 
when she sucked again and again, there came more grains of 
corn. At last a piece of tobacco-leaf made its appearance with 
the corn, and showed how the trick was done. The woman 
swallowed the tobacco first to produce nausea, and then a 
quantity of Indian corn, and by the help of the rope round her 
waist, she was able so to control her stomach as only to produce 
a few grains at a time. 1 In North and South America, in 
Borneo, and in Australia, the same cure is part of the doctor's 
work, with the difference only that bones, bits of wood, stones, 
lizards, fragments of knife-blades, balls of hair, and other 
miscellaneous articles are produced, and that the tricks by which 
he keeps up the pretence of sucking them out are perhaps 
seldom so clever as the African one. 2 In Australia the business 
is profitably worked by one sorcerer charming bits of quartz 
into the victim's body, so that another has to be sent for to get 
them out. 3 It has been already mentioned that in the North of 
Ireland the wizards still extract elf-bolts, that is, stone arrow- 
heads, from the bodies of bewitched cattle. 4 Southey, who 
knew a great deal about savages, goes so far as to say of this 
cure by sucking out extraneous objects, as practised by the 
native sorcerers of Brazil, that " their mode of quackery was 

1 Backhouse, 'Africa,' p. 284. Andersson, p. 329. 

3 Long's Exp , voL L p. 261. Klemm, C. G., vol. ii. pp. 169, 335. St. John, 
vol. i. pp. 62, 201. Lang, ' Queensland, ' p. 342. Eyre, vol. ii. p. 360. 

* Giey, Journals, vol. ii. p. 337. 4 Wilde, Cat. E. I. A., p. 19. 


that which is common to all savage conjurors;" 1 at any rate, 
its similarity in so many and distant regions is highly remark- 
able. It is to be noticed that, in this special imposture, we 
have in the first place the idea that a disease is caused by some 
extraneous substance inside the body. Among possible motives 
for this opinion, it has to be borne in mind that in certain cases 
it is the true one, as where the savage surgeon really cures his 
patient by extracting some splinter or fragment of stone arrow- 
head, or other peccant object really imbedded in his flesh. But 
beyond this, we have the belief turned to account in remote 
parts of the world by the same knavish trick, which it is hard to 
imagine as growing up independently in so many distant places. 
In the civilized world, the prohibition from marrying kindred 
has usually stopped short of forbidding the marriage of cousins 
gernian. It is true that the Roman Ecclesiastical Law is, at 
least in theory, very different from this. Hallam says, " Gre- 
gory I. pronounces matrimony to be unlawful as far as the 
seventh degree, and even, if I understand his meaning, as 
long as any relationship could be traced, which seems to have 
been the maxim of strict theologians, though not absolutely 
enforced." 2 But this disability may be reduced by the dis- 
pensing power to the ordinary limits ; and in practice the 
Society of Friends go farther than the Canon La\v, for they 
really prohibit the marriage of first cousins. If, however, we 
examine the law of marriage among certain of the middle and 
lower races scattered far and wide over the world, a variety of 
such prohibitions will be found which overstep the practice, 
and sometimes even approach the theory of the Roman Church. 
The matter belongs properly to that interesting, but difficult 
aud almost unworked subject, the Comparative Jurisprudence of 
the lower races, and no one not versed in Civil Law could do it 
justice ; but it may be possible for me to give a rough idea of its 
various modifications, as found among races widely separated 
from one another in place, and, so far as we know, in history. 5 

1 Southey, ' Brazil,' vol. i. p. 238. 

Hallam, 'Middle Ages,' ch. vii. part ii. See Du Cange, *. v. "generatio." 
3 Since the collection of the present evidence, Mr. J. F. M 'Lennan has published 
his important treatise on 'Primitive Marriage' ^Edinburgh, 1S65). In this work, 


In India, it is unlawful for a Brahman to marry a wife whose 
clan name or gotra (literally, " cow- stall ") is the same as his 
own, a prohibition which bars marriage among relatives in the 
male line indefinitely. This law appears in the Code of Maim 
as applying to the three first castes, and connexions on the 
female side are also forbidden to marry within certain wide 
limits. The Abbe Dubois, nevertheless, noticed among the 
Hindus a tendency to form marriages between families already 
connected by blood : but inasmuch as, according to his account, 
relatives in the male line go on calling one another brother and 
sister, and do not marry, as far as relationship can be traced, 
were it to the tenth generation, and the same in the female line, 
the very natural wish to draw closer the family tie can only be 
accomplished by crossing the male and female line, the brother's 
child marrying the sister's and so on. 1 

The Chinese people is divided into a number of clans, each 
distinguished by a name, which is borne by all its members, and 
corresponds to a surname, or better 'to a clan-name among our- 
selves, for the wife adopts her husband's, and the sons and 
daughters inherit it. The number of these clan-names is 
limited ; Davis thinks there are not much above a hundred, but 
other writers talk of three hundred, and even of a thousand. 
Now, the Chinese law is that a man may not marry a woman of 
his own surname, so that relationship by the male side, however 
distant, is an absolute bar to marriage. This stringent prohibi- 
tion of marriage between descendants of the male branch would 
seem to be very old, for the Chinese refer its origin to the 
mythic times of the Emperor Fu-hi, whose reign is placed be- 
fore the Hea dynasty, which began, according to Chinese annals, 
in 2207 B.C. Fu-hi, it is related, divided the people into 100 
clans, giving each a name, " and did not allow a man to marry 
a woman of the same name, whether a relative or not, a law 

the first systematic and scientific attempt to elicit general principles from the chaotic 
mass of details of savage law, he endeavours to trace the origin of the marriage-laws 
of the lower races, and to point out their effects still remaining in the customs of 
civilized nations. His classification of peoples as "endogamous" or "exogamous," 
according to their habit of marrying within or without the tribe or clan, is of great 
value in simplifying this most difficult and obscure problem. [Note to 2nd Edition.] 
1 Dubois, vol. i. p. 10. Mauu, i.i. 5. See Colcman, p. 291. 


which is still actually in force." There appear to be also 
prohibitions applying within a narrower range to relation on the 
female side, and to certain kinds of affinity. Du Halde says, 
that " persons who are of the same family, or who bear the 
same name, however distant their degree of affinity may be, can- 
not marry together. Thus, the laws do not allow two brothers 
to marry two sisters, nor a widower to marry his son to the 
daughter of a widow whom he marries." 1 

In Siam, the seventh degree of blood-affinity is the limit 
within which marriage is prohibited, with the exception that 
the king may marry his sister, as among the Incas, the Lagide 
dynasty, etc., and even his daughter. 2 Among the Land Dayaks 
of Borneo the marriage of first cousins is said to be prohibited, 
and a fine of a jar (which represents a considerable value) imposed 
on second cousins who marry. 3 In Sumatra, Marsden says that 
first cousins, the children of two brothers, may not marry, while 
the sister's son may marry the brother's daughter, but not rice 
versa.* In the same island, it is stated, upon the authority of 
Sir Stamford Raffles, that the Battas hold intermarriage in the 
same tribe to be a heinous crime, and that they punish the 
delinquents after their ordinary manner by cutting them up 
alive, and eating them grilled or raw with salt and red pepper. 
It is stated distinctly that their reason for considering such 
marriages as criminal is that the man and woman had ancestors 
in common. 5 The prohibition of marrying a relative is strongly 
marked among tribes of the Malay Peninsula. 6 

Among the Tatar race in Asia and Europe, similar restrictions 
are to be found. The Ostyaks hold it a sin for two persons of 
the same family name to marry, so that a man must not take a 
wife of his ovn tribe. 7 The Tunguz do not marry second cousins; 
the Samoieds " avoid all degrees of consanguinity in marrying to 

1 Davis, vol. i. p. 264. Purchas, vol. iii. pp. 367, 394. Goguet, vol. iii. p. 32?. 
Du Halde, Descr. de la Chine ; The Hague, 1736, vol. ii. p. 145. De Mailla, 
vol. i. p. 6. 

2 Bowring, vol. i. p. 185. 3 St. John, vol. i. p. 198. 4 Marsden, p. 228. 

6 Letter of Raffles to Marsden, in Dr. W. Cooke Taylor, The Nat. Hist, of Society, 
vol. i. pp. 122-6. 

6 Joum. Ind. Archip., vol. i. p. 300. Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. iii. p. 81. 

7 Bastian. vol. iii. p. 299. 


such a degree, that a man never marries a girl descended from 
the same family with himself, however distant the affinity ; " and 
the Lapps have a similar custom. 1 Even among the Semitic 
race, who, generally speaking, rival the Carihs in the practice of 
mnrrying "in and in," something of the kind is found; the 
tribe Rebua always marries into the tribe Modjar, and vice 

In Africa, the marriage of cousins is looked upon as illegal in 
some tribes, and the practice of a man not marrying in his own 
clan is found in various places. 3 The custom in Aquapim is 
especially suggestive ; two families who have fetishes of the same 
name consider themselves related, and do not intermarry. 4 
Munzinger, the Swiss traveller in East Africa, suggests Chris- 
tian influence as having operated in this direction. The Beni 
Amer, north of Abyssinia, follow the rules of Islam, cousins 
often marrying; "the Beit Bidel and the Allabje, on the other 
hand, mindful of their Christian origin, observe blood-relation- 
ship to seven degrees." 6 In Madagascar, Ellis says that " certain 
ranks are not permitted under any circumstances to intermarry, 
and affinity to the sixth generation also forbids intermarriage, 
yet the principal restrictions against intermarriages respect 
descendants on the female side. Collateral branches on the male 
side are permitted in most cases to intermarry, on the observ- 
ance of a slight but prescribed ceremony, which is supposed to 
remove the impediment or disqualification arising out of con- 
sanguinity." 6 

Among the natives of Australia, prohibitory marriage laws 
have been found, but they are very far from being uniform, and 
may sometimes have been misunderstood. Sir George Grey's 
account is that the Australians, so far as he is acquainted with 
them, are divided into great clans, and use the clan-name as a 
sort of surname beside the individual name. Children take the 
family name of the mother, and a man cannot marry a woman of 
his own name, so that here it would seem that only relationship 

1 Klemm, C. G., vol. iii. p. 68. Ace. of Samuiedia, in Pinkerton, vol. ii. p. J32. 
Richardson, ' Polar Regions,' p. 345. 2 Bastian, I. c. 

3 Casalis, p. 191. Backhouse, ' Africa,' p. 182. Burton in Tr. Eth. Soc., 1861, 
p. 321. Du Chaillu, p. 338. * Waitz, vol. ii. p. 201, see 355 (Zulus). 

4 Munzinger, p. 319. 6 Eliis, ' Madagascar,' vol. L p. 164. 


by the female side is taken into account. One effect of the 
division of clans in this way, is that the children of the same 
father by different wives, having different names, may be obliged 
to take opposite sides in a quarrel. 1 Mr. Eyre's experience in 
South Australia does not, however, correspond with Sir George 
Grey's in the West and North-West. 2 Collins believed the 
custom to be for a native to steal a wife from a tribe at enmity 
with his own, and to drag her, stunned with blows, home through 
the woods ; her relations not avenging the affront, but taking an 
opportunity of retaliating in kind. It appears from Nind's 
account, that in some districts the population is divided into 
two clans, and a man of one clan can only marry a woman of 
another. 3 In East Australia, Lang describes a curious and 
complex system. Through a large extent of the interior, among 
tribes speaking different dialects, there are four names for men, 
and four for women, Ippai and Ippata, Kubbi and Kapota, 
Kumbo and Buta, Murri and Mata. If we call these four sets 
A, B, C, D, then the rule is that a man or woman of the tribe 
A must marry into B, and a member of the tribe C into D, and 
vice versa, but the child whose father is A, takes the name of D, 
and so on ; A's = D ; B's = C ; C's = B ; D's = A; and the 
mother's name answers equally well to give the name of the 
child, if the mother is of the tribe B, her child will belong to 
the tribe D, and so on. 

This ingenious arrangement, it will be seen, has much the 
same effect as the Hindoo regulations in preventing intermarriage 
in the male or female line, but allowing the male and female line 
to cross; the children of two brothers or two sisters cannot 
marry, but the brother's child may marry the sister's. Lang, 
however, mentions a furthur regulation, probably made to meet 
some incidental circumstances, as, so far as it goes, it stultifies 
the whole system ; A may also marry into his or her own tribe, 
and the children take the name of C. 4 

In America, the custom of marrying out of the clan is frequent 
and well marked. More than twenty years ago, Sir George 
Grey called attention to the division of the Australians into 

1 Grey, 'Journals,' vol. ii. pp. 225-30 2 Eyre, vol. ii. p. 330. 

Collins, vol. i. p. 559. Klemm, C. G., vol. i. pp. 233, 319. 4 Lang, p. 367. 


families, each distinguished by the name of some animal or 
vegetable, which served as their crest or kobony / the practice of 
reckoning clanship from the mother ; and the prohibition of 
marriage within the clan, as all bearing a striking resemblance 
to similar usages found among the natives of North America. 
The Indian tribes are usually divided into clans, each distin- 
guished by a totem (Algonquin, do-daim, that is " town mark "), 
which is commonly some animal, as a bear, wolf, deer, etc., and 
may be compared on the one hand to a crest, and on the other 
to a surname. The totem appears to be held as proof of descent 
from a common ancestor, and therefore the prohibition from 
marriage of two persons of the same totem must act as a bar on 
the side the totem descends on, which is generally, if not always, 
on the female side. Such a prohibition is often mentioned by 
writers on the North American Indians. 1 Morgan's account of 
the Iroquois' rules is particularly remarkable. The father and 
child can never be of the same clan, descent going in all cases 
by the female line. Each nation had eight tribes, in two sets of 
four each. 

1. Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle. 

2. Deer, Snipe, Heron, Hawk. 

Originally a Wolf might not marry a Bear, Beaver, or Turtle, 
reckoning himself their brother, but he might marry into the 
second set, Deer, etc., whom he considered his cousins, and so 
on with the rest. But in later times a man is allowed to marry 
into any tribe but his own. 2 A recent account from North-A\Y>t 
America describes the custom among the Indians of Nootka 
Sound ; "a Whale, therefore, may not marry a Whale, nor a 
Frog a Frog. A child, again, always takes the crest of the 
mother, so that if the mother be a Wolf, all her children will be 

1 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 52 ; part ii. p. 49. Loskiel, p. 72. Talbot, Disc, of 
Lederer, p. 4. Waitz, vol. iii. p. 106. 

2 L. H. Morgan, 'League of the Iroquois,' 1851, p. 79. This author has since, in 
two important works, attempted the task not only of tracing the position of the clan 
or gens in the history of socie-y, but of framing a general theory of systems of 
marriage and kinship. See his ' Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity' (Smithsonian 
Contributions), Washington, 1871, and ' Ancient Society,' New York and London, 
1877. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 


Wolves. As a rule, also, descent is traced from the mother, not 
from the father." 1 

The analogy of the North American Indian custom is therefore 
with that of the Australians in making clanship on the female 
side a bar to marriage, but if we go down further south into 
Central America, the reverse custom, as in China, makes its 
appearance. Diego de Lauda says of the people of Yucatan, 
that no one took a wife of his name, on the father's side, for this 
was a very vile thing among them; but they might marry 
cousins german on the mother's side. 2 Further south, below the 
Isthmus, both the clanship and the prohibition reappear on the 
female side. Bernau says that among the Arrawaks of British 
Guiana, ' ' Caste is derived from the mother, and children are 
allowed to marry into their father's family, but not into that of 
their mother." 3 Lastly, Father Martin Dobrizhoffer says that 
the Guaranis avoided, as highly criminal, marriage with the 
most distant relatives, and, speaking of the Abipones, he makes 
the following statement : " Though the paternal indulgence of 
the Koman Pontiffs makes the first and second degrees of 
relationship alone a bar to the marriage of the Indians, yet 
the Abipones, instructed by nature and the example of their 
ancestors, abhor the very thought of marrying any one related 
to them by the most distant tie of relationship. Long experi- 
ence has convinced me, that the respect to consanguinity, by 
which they are deterred from marrying into their own families, 
is implanted by nature in the minds of most of the people of 
Paraguay," etc. 4 

In the study of this remarkable series of restrictions, it has 
to be borne in mind that their various, anomalous, and incon- 
sistent forms may be connected with interfering causes, and this 
one in particular, that the especial means of tracing kindred is 
by a system of surnames, clan-names, totems, etc. This system 
is necessarily one-sided, and though it will keep up the record of 
descent either on the male or female side perfectly and for ever, 
it cannot record both at once. In practice, the races of the world 

1 Mayne, Brit. Columbia, p. 257. 2 Landa, p. 140. 3 Bernau, p. 29. 

4 Dobrizhoffer, vol. i. p. 63 ; vol. ii. p. 212. See Guuiilla, Hist. Nat., etc., de 
1'Orenoque ; Avignon, 1753, vol. iii. p. 2(59. 


who keep such a record at all have had to elect which of the two 
lines, male or female, they will keep up hy the family name or 
sign, while the other line, having no such easy means of record, 
is more or less neglected, and soon falls out of sight. Under 
these circumstances, it would be quite natural that the sign 
should come to he considered rather than the reality, the name 
rather than the relationship it records, and that a series of one- 
sided restrictions should come into force, now bearing upon the 
male side rather than the female, and now upon the female side 
rather than the male, roughly matching the one-sided way in 
which the record of kindred is kept up. In any full discussion, 
other points have to be considered, such as the wish to bind diffe- 
rent tribes together in friendship by intermarriage, and the opinion 
that a wife is a slave to be stolen from the stranger, not taken 
from a man's own people. 

There is a good deal in this last consideration, as we may see 
by the practice of the Spartan marriage, in which, though the 
bride's guardians had really sanctioned the union, the pretence of 
carrying her off by force was kept up as a time-honoured cere- 
mony. The Spartan marriage is no isolated custom, it is to be 
found among the Circassians, 1 and in South America. 2 Wil- 
liams says that on the large islands of the Fiji group, the 
custom is often found of seizing upon a woman by apparent or 
actual force, in order to make her a wife. If she does not ap- 
prove the proceeding, she runs off when she reaches the man's 
house, but if she is satisfied she stays. 3 In these cases the 
abduction is a mere pretence, but it is kept up seemingly as a 
relic of a ruder time when, as among the modern Australians, 
it was done by no means as a matter of form, but in grim 
earnest. A few more cases will illustrate the stages through 
which this remarkable custom has passed, from the actual 
violent carrying off of unwilling women, down to the formal 
pretence of abduction kept up as a marriage ceremony. Among 
the Kols of North-East India-, in public market, a young man 
with a party of friends will carry off a girl, struggling and 
screaming, but no one not interested interferes, and the girl's 

- Klemm, C. G., vol. iv. p. 26. 2 Wallace, p. 497. See Perty, p. 270. 

3 Williams, vol. i. p. 174. 


female friends are apt to applaud the exploit. 1 The Mantras 
of the Xalay Peninsula, on the wedding-day, give the bride a 
start, and then the bridegroom must catch her or forfeit her. 
The course is sometimes round a ring, but sometimes there is a 
fair chase into the forest, whsnce an unwelcome lover may well 
fail to bring back an unwilling bride. 3 Among the Esquimaux 
of the last century, the form of bride-lifting was in use, nor was 
its serious meaning forgotten, for sometimes a Greenlander de- 
sirous of a second wife, would simply pounce upon an unpro- 
tected female, or with his friends' help carry off a girl from a 
dance. The form still continues ; among the Itiplik tribe it has 
been recently remarked that there is no marriage ceremony 
further than that the lad has by main force to carry off the 
kicking and screaming girl, who plays the Sabine bride as 
though the marriage were not an arranged affair. 3 In modern 
China, the capture of the bride is recognized as something more 
than a form. Should the parents of a betrothed damsel delay 
unconscionably to fulfil the contract, it is a recognized thing 
for the husband elect to carry off his bride by main force, and 
indeed the very threat of this proceeding generally brings the 
old people to a surrender. 4 The Spartan marriage has lasted in 
other European districts into modern centuries. In Slavonic 
countries, though sunk to mere ceremony, it is not forgotten. 5 
In Friesland the memory of it is kept up by the " bride-lifter " 
who lifts the bride and her bridesmaid upon the waggon. As 
for our own country, it was retained in the marriage customs of 
mock combats and spear-throwing in Wales and Ireland into the 
last centuries. 6 

1 Dalton, Kols, in Tr. Eth. Soc. , TO!, vi. p. 27 ; see also Shortt, Jeypore, ibid, 
p. 266. * Bourien, ibid., vol. iii. p. 81. 

3 Cranz, Gronland, p. 209. Haye?, 'Open Polar Sea ;' London, 18(57, p. 437. 

4 Doolittle, Chinese, vol. i. p. 104. 5 H.nnusch, 'Slaw. Mythus;' p, 344. 
6 Brand, vol. ii. p. 139, 147 ; E. J. "Wood, 'The Wedding Day in all Ages,' vol. ii. 

Mr. M'Leiiiiciu (see above, p. 281) takes the same view as I have done of the import 
of the Spartan marriage, which he calls the "form of capture," as indicating previous 
habit of bride-capture in earnest. He argues from the wide distribution of the form, 
that the reality was prevalent in early social conditions of the human race. I have 
added several cases to those mentioned in the first edition of this work, and the whole 
should be ad del to Mr. M'Lennan's collection to represent the general evidence of the 
subject, which is one of much importance in the history of mankind. 


Lastly, restrictions from marriage are occasionally found 
applied to cases where the relationship is more or less imagi- 
nary ; as in ancient Rome, where adoption had in some measure 
the effect of consanguinity in harring marriage ; or among tie 
Moslems, where relation to a foster-family operates more fully 
in the same way ; or in the Roman Church, where sponsorship 
creates a restriction from marriage, even among the co-sponsors, 
which it requires a dispensation to remove. Again, two members 
of a Circassian brotherhood, though no relationship is to be 
traced between them, may not marry, 1 and even among the 
savage Tupinambas of Brazil, two men who adopted one 
another as brothers were prohibited from marrying each 
other's sisters and daughters. 2 But such practices as these 
may reasonably be set down as mere consequences of the 
transfer both of the rights and the obligations of consanguinity 
to other kinds of connexion, and so do not touch the general 

To consider now the third group of customs, it is natural 
enough that there should be found even among savage tribes 
rules concerning respect, authority, precedence, and so forth, 
between fathers- and mothers-in-law and their sons- and 
daughters-in-law. But with these there are found, in the most 
distant regions of the world, regulations which to a great ex- 
tent coincide, but which lie so far out of the ordinary course of 
social life as understood by the civilized world, that it is hard 
even to guess what state of things can have brought them into 

Among the Arawaks of South America, it was not lawful for 
th ton-in law to s-ee the face of his motber-in-law. If tl ey 
lived in the same house, a partition must be set up between 
them. If they went in the same boat, she had to < et in first, 
so as to keep h(r back turned towards him. Among the Ca- 
rib , Rochefort says, " all the women talk with whom they v, ill, 
but the husband dares not converse with his wife's relatives, 

except on extraordinary occasions." 3 Further north, in the 


1 Kleram, C. Q., vol. iv. p. 24. * Southey, vol. i. p. 250. 

1 Klpmm, C. G., vol. ii. p. 77. Rochefort, Hist. Nat., etc., des lies Antilles; 
Rotterdam, 1665, p. 545. 


account of the Floridan expedition of Alvar Nunez, commonly 
known as Cabeca de Yaca, or Cow's-Head, it is mentioned that 
the parents-in-law did not enter the sou-in-law's house, nor 
he theirs, nor 1 is hrothers'-in-law, and if they met by chance, 
they went a bowshot out of their way, w : th their heads down 
fmd eyes fixed on the ground, for they held it a bad thing to see 
or speak to one another ; but the women were free to com- 
municate and converse with their parents-in-law and relative , l 
Higher up on the North American continent, customs of this 
kind have often been described. In the account of Major 
Long's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, it is observed that 
among vhe Ornahas the father- and mother-in-law do not speak 
to their son-in-law, nor mention uis name, nor look in his face, 
and rice versa* Among the Sioux or Dacotas, Mr. Philander 
Prescott remarks on the fear of uttering certain names. The 
father- or mother-in-law must not call their son-in-law by name, 
and vice versa, and there are other relationships to which the 
prohibition applies. He has known an infringement of it 
punished by cutting the offender's clothes off his back and 
throwing them a*ay. s Harmon says that among the Indians 
e; st of he Rocky Mountains, it is indecent for the father- or 
mother-in law to look at, or speak to, the son- or daughter-in- 
law. 4 Among the Crees, it is observed by Richardson that 
while an Indian lives with his wife's family his mother-in-law 
must not speak to or look at him, and it is also an old custom 
for a man n ;t to eat or to sit down in the presence of his 
father-in-law. 5 

In some parts of Australia, the mother-in-law does not allow 
the son-in-law to see her, but hides herself if he is near, and if 
she has to pass him makes a circuit, keeping herself carefully 
concealed with her cloak. Also, the names of a father- or 
mother-in-law and of a son-in-law are set down among the 

1 Alvar Nufi.3z, in vol. i. of ' Historiadores Primitives de Indias ;' Madrid, 1852, 
etc., chap. xxv. 

Long's Exp. vol. i. p. 253. 

3 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 196. 

4 Harmon, p. 341. 

5 Franklin, 'Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea;' London, 1823, pp. 70-1. 
See "\Yaitz, ' Anthropologie ;' vol. iii. p. 104. 



personal names which must not be spoken. 1 In the Fiji Islands 
prohibition of speech between parents-in-law and children- in- 
law has been recorded. 2 Among the Dayaks of Borneo, a man 
must not pronounce the name of his father-in-law, which custom 
Mr. St. John, who mentions it, interprets as a sign of respect. 3 
On the continent of Asia, among the Mongols and Calmucks, 
the young wife may not speak to her father-in-law nor sit in his 
presence, 4 but farther north, among tiie Yakuts, Adolph Eruiau 
noticed a much more peculiar custom. As in other northern 
regions, the custom of wearing but little clothing in the hot, 
stifling interior of the huts is common there, and the women 
often go about their domestic work stripped to the waist, nor do 
they object to do so in the presence of strangers, but there aro 
two persons before whom a Yakut woman must not appear in 
this guise, her father-in-law and her husband's elder brother. 5 
In Africa, among the Beni Amer, the wife " hides herself, as 
does the husband also, from the mother-in-law ; " while among 
the Barea the wife " hides herself from her father-in-law, a 
ing to custom, which herein agrees with that of the aristocratic 
peoples." 6 The prohibition of look and speech between a man 
end his mother-in-law is found again in Ashanti, and in the dis- 
trict of the Mpongwe. 7 Farther south, in Zululand, the Austra- 
lian customs recur with all their quaint absurdity. The Kafir 
and his mother-in-law will not mention one another's names nor 
look in one another's faces, and if the two chance to meet in a 
narrow lane they will pretend not to. see each other, she squatting 
behind a bush, he holding up his shield to hide his face. The 
native term for these customs is " being ashamed of the mother- 
in-law." 8 The Basuto custom forbids a wife to look in the face 
of her father-in-law till the birth of her first child, 9 and among 
the Banyai a man must sit with his knees bent in presence of his 
mother-in-law, and must not put out his feet towards her. 10 

1 Stanbridge in Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. i. p. 289 ; Oldfield, ibid., vol. iii. p. -J51. 
Eyre, vol. ii. p. 339. 

- Williams, vol. i. p. 136. ?t. John, vol. 5. p. 51. 

4 Klemra, C. G , vol. iii. p. 169. Erm-\n, E. Tr., vol. ii. p. 420. 

6 Munzinger, pp. 325, 526. ' Waitz, vol. ii. p. 201. 

* J. G. Wood, 'Xat. Hist, of Man ; Africa ;' p. 87. s Ca^alis, p. 201. 
10 Livingstone, p. 6-2. 


Of this curio as series of customs, I have met with no inter- 
pretation which can be put forward with confidence. Their 
object seems to be in general the avo 'dance of intercourse or 
connexion between parents-in-law and ohildren-in-law, some- 
times to such an extent that one person may not look at the 
other, or even pronounce his or her name. But the reasons for 
this avoidance are not clear. 1 It is possible that a fuller study 
of the law of tabu may throw some light on the matter. The 
extraordinary summary of Fijian customs given by the Rev. 
Thomas Williams, may be here quoted in full ; it is probably to 
be understood as taking in occasional or local practices. " A 
free flow of the affections between members of the same family 
is further prevented by the strict observance of national or re- 
ligious customs, imposing a most unnatural restraint. Brothers 
and sisters, first cousins, fathers- and sons-in-law, mothers- and 
daughters-in-law, and brothers- and sisters-in-law, are thus sever- 
ally forbidden to speak to each other, or to eat from the same 
dish. The latter embargo extends to husbands and wives, an 
arrangement not likely to foster domestic joy." Elsewhere the 
same author says, " in some parts, the father may not speak to 
his son after his fifteenth year." : Reading this, we can hardly 
pass unnoticed the assertion that among the VedJas of Ceylon, a 
father will not see his daughter, nor a mother her son, after they 
have come to years of maturity. 3 

The fourth and last group of customs has long been under 
notice, and lists have even been made of countries where prac- 
tices belonging to it have been found. 4 One of these practices 
has an existing European name, the couvade, or "hatching," 
and this term it may be convenient to use for the whole set. 
By working up the old information with the aid of some new 
facts, I have endeavoured to give an account, not only of the 
geographical distribution of the couvade, but of its nature and 
meaning. The most convenient way of discussing it is first to 

1 See St. John, Harmon, and Franklin, locis citatis. 

8 Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. pp. 136, 166. See Mariner, vol. ii. p. 147. 

3 Tr. Eth. Soc., vol. iii. p. 71. 

4 M'CuIloh, Researches ; Baltimore, 1829, p. 99. Waitz, vol. i. p. 294 ; E. Tr., 
p. 257. Humboldt & Bonpland, Tr., vol. vi. p. 333. Lafitau, vol. i. p. 49. 

U 2 


examine the forms it takes in South America and the "West 
Indies, the district where it is not only developed to the highest 
degree, but is also practised with a clear notion of what it 
means ; and afterwards to trace its more scattered and obscure 
appearances in other quarters of the world. 

The following account is given by Du Tertre of the Carib 
couvade in the West Indies. When a child is born, the mother 
goes presently to her work, but the father begins to complain, 
and takes to his hammock, and there he is visited as though he 
were sick, and undergoes a course of dieting which would cure 
of the gout "the most replete of Frenchmen. How they can 
fast so much and not die of it," continues the narrator, " is 
amazing to me, for they sometimes pass the five first days with- 
out eating or drinking anything; then up to the tenth they 
drink oiiycou, which has about as much nourishment in it as 
beer. These ten days passed, they begin to eat cassava only, 
drinking oiiycou, and abstaining from everything else for the 
space of a whole month. During this time, however, they only 
eat the inside of the cassava, so that what is left is like the rim 
of a hat when the block has been taken out, and all these 
cassava rims they keep for the feast at the end of forty days, 
hanging them up in the house with a cord. When the forty 
days are up they invite their relations and best friends, who 
being arrived, before they set to eating, hack the skin of this 
poor wretch with agouti-teeth, and draw blood from all parts of 
his body, in such sort that from being sick by pure imagination 
they often make a real patient of him. This is, however, so to 
speak, only the fish, for now comes the sauce they prepare for 
him ; they take sixty or eighty large grains of pimento or Indian 
pepper, the strongest they can get, and after well mashing it in 
water, they wash with this peppery infusion the wounds and 
scars of the poor fellow, who I believe suffers no less than if he 
were burnt alive ; however, he must not utter a single word if 
he will not pass for a coward and a wretch. This ceremony 
finished, they bring him back to his bed, where he remains some 
days more, and the rest go and make good cheer in the house at 
his expense. Nor is this all, for through the space of six whole 
months he eats neither birds nor fish, firmly believing that this 


would injure the child's stomach, and that it would participate 
in the natural faults of the animals on which its father had fed ; 
for example, if the father ate turtle, the child would he deaf and 
have no hrains like this animal, if he ate manati, the child 
would have little round eyes like this creature, and so on with 
the rest." l 

The Abate Gilij, after mentioning the wide prevalence of the 
fasting of the father on the birth of the child, among the tribes 
of the east side of South America, goes on as follows : " But I 
know not if the cause is equally well known, why the Indians 
fast in such manner. I in the very beginning of my stay among 
them had the opportunity of discovering it, and this was how it 
happened. A fortified house having to be built for the soldiers 
to live in, as was usual for the defence not of the missionaries 
alone, but also of the reduced Indians, the Tamanacs, they being 
still gentiles, were summoned by the corporal Ermengildo Leale 
to work at it, and it was noticed that a certain Maracajuri, when 
the work was done, went away fasting, without even tasting a 
mouthful. ' What, has he no appetite ? ' asked Leale in sur- 
prise. 'To be sure he has,' rejoined the other Indians, 'but 
his wife has had a child to-day, so he must not make use of 
these victuals, for the little boy would die.' 'But when our 
wives are brought to bed,' said the corporal, ' we eat more 
abundantly and more joyously than usual, and our children do 
not die of it.' ' But you are Spaniards,' the fools replied, ' and 
if your eating does no harm to your babies, you may be sure, 
nevertheless, that it is most hurtful to ours.' It may be easily 
imagined what laughter there was at this absurd notion. 'But 
not only the father's food,' the Tamanacs went on to say, 'but 
even killing fish or any other animal on such days, would do 
harm to the children.' When I knew of this nonsense, I set 
myself to work to seek out the motive of it, and taking aside one 
of the most reasonable of the savages : ' tell me,' I said, ' as the 
Spaniards do not fast at the birth of their children, for what 

1 Du Tertre, Hist. Gen. des Antilles habitees par les Frangais ; Paris, 1667, vol. ii. 
p. 371, etc. See Rochefort, Hist. Nat. et Mor. des lies des Antilles ; Rotterdam, 
1665, 2nd ed. p. 550. It seems from his account that the very severe fasting was 
only for the first child, that for the others being slight. 


reason do you fast at such a joyful moment ? ' ' The child is 
ours, and proceeds from us,' replied the savage, ' and the cooked 
food used by grown folks, which is profitable for us at other 
times, would now do the little children harm, if we ate it.' So I 
observed a sort of identity which he supposed to exist between 
father and son," etc. The missionary goes on to relate how he 
cured the Indian of the delusion, by showing that to give him a 
thrashing would have no effect on his child. 1 

Among the Arawaks of Surinam, for some time after the birth 
of hid child, the father must fell no tree, fire no gun, hunt no 
large game ; he may stay near home, shoot little birds with a 
bow and arrow, and angle for little fish ; but his time hanging 
heavy on his hands, the most comfortable thing he can do is to 
lounge in his hammock. 2 Of the couvade among the fierce 
equestrian tribe of the Abipones, whose home lay south of the 
centre of the continent, the Jesuit missionary Dobrizhoffer gives 
a, full account. "No sooner do you hear that the wife has borne 
a child, than you will see the Abipone husband lying in bed, 
huddled up with mats and skins lest some ruder breath of air 
should touch him, fasting, kept in private, and for a number of 
days abstaining religiously from certain viands ; you would swear 
it was he who had had the child .... I had read about this in 
old times, and laughed at it, never thinking I could believe 
such madness, and I used to suspect that this barbarian custom 
was related more in jest than in earnest; but at last I saw it with 
my own eyes in use among the Abipones. And in truth they 
observe this ancestral custom, troublesome as it is, the more 
willingly and diligently from their being altogether persuaded 
that the sobriety and quiet of the fathers is effectual for the well- 
being of the new r -born offspring, and is even necessary. Hear, 
I pray, a confirmation of this matter. Francisco Barreda, 
Deputy of the Royal Governor of Tucuman, came to visit the 
new colony of Conceicam in the territory of Santiago. To him, 
as he was walking with me in the courtyard, the Cacique Malakin 
came up to pay his respects, having just left his bed, to which 
he had been confined in consequence of his wife's recent delivery. 

1 Gilij, 'Saggio di Storia Americana,' rol. ii. p. 133, etc. 
J Quandt, in Klemm, C. G. roL iL p. 83. 


As I stood by, Barreda offered the Cacique a pinch of Spanish 
snuff, but seeing the savage refuse it contrary to custom, he 
thought he must be out of his mind, for he knew him at other 
times to be greedy of this nasal delicacy ; so he asked me aside 
to inquire the cause of his abstinence.- I asked him in the 
Abiponian tongue (for this Barreda was ignorant of, as the 
Cacique was of Spanish), why he refused his snuff to-day? 
' Don't you know ? ' he answered, ' that my wife has just been 
confined ? Must not I therefore abstain from stimulating my 
nostrils ? What a danger my sneezing would bring upon my 
child ! ' Xo more, but he went back to his hut to lie down 
again directly, lest the tender little infant should take some 
harm if he stayed any longer with us in the open air. For they 
believe that the father's carelessness influences the new-born 
offspring, from a natural bond and sympathy of both. Hence if 
the child comes to a premature end, its death is attributed by 
the women to the father's intemperance, this or that cause being 
assigned ; he did not abstain from mead ; he had loaded his 
stomach with water-hog ; he had swum across the river when 
the air was chilly ; he had neglected to shave off his long 
eyebrows ; he had devoured underground honey, stamping on 
the bees with his feet ; he had ridden till he was tired and 
sweated. "With raving like this the crowd of women accuse the 
father with impunity of causing the child's death, and are accus- 
tomed to pour curses on the unoffending husband." 1 

We have laid open to us in these accounts a notably distinct 
view, among the lower races, of a mental state hard to trace 
among those high in the scale of civilization. The couvade im- 
plicitly denies that physical separation of " individuals," which 
a civilized man would probably set down as a first principle, 
common by nature to all mankind, till experience of the psycho- 
logy of the savage showed him that he was mistaking educa- 
tion for intuition. It shows us a number of distinct and distant 
tribes deliberately holding the opinion that the connexion be- 

1 Dobrizhofier, ' Historia de Abiponibus ;' Vienna, 1784, vol. ii. p 231, etc. For 
other South American accounts of the couvade, see Biet, Voy. do la France Equinox., 
p. 389. Fermin, Descr. de Surinam; Amsterdam, 1769, p. 81. IVhudi, 'Peru,' 
vol. ii. p. 235. Purchas, vol. iv. p. 1291. Spix & Martius, pp. lli.6, 13U9. Ploss, 
' Das Kind,' vol. i. p. lol 


tween father and child is not only, as we think, a mere relation 
of parentage, affection, duty, but that their very bodies are 
joined by a physical bond, so that what is done to the one acts 
directly upon the other. The couvade is not the only result of 
the opinion which thus repudiates the physical severance that 
seems to come so natural to us : and this opinion again belongs, 
like Sorcery and Divination, to the mental state in which man 
does not separate the subjective mental connexion from the 
objective physical connexion, the connexion which is inside his 
mind from the connexion which is outside it, in the same way in 
which most educated men of the higher races make this separa- 
tion. A few more cases will further illustrate the effects of such 
a condition of mind. Not only is it held that the actions of the 
father, and the food that he eats, influence his child both before 
and after its birth, but that the actions and food of survivors 
affect the spirits of the dead on their journey to their home in 
the after life. Among the Land Dayaks of Borneo, the husband, 
before the birth of his child, may do no work with a sharp in- 
strument except what is necessary for the farm ; nor may he fire 
guns, nor strike animals, nor do any violent work, lest bad 
influences should affect the child ; and after it is born the father 
is kept in seclusion indoors for several days, and dieted on rice 
and salt, to prevent not his own but the child's stomach from 
swelling. 1 In Kamchatka, the husband must not do such 
things as bend sledge staves across his knee before his child is 
born, for such actions do harm to his wife. 2 In Greenland, not 
only may a woman after the birth of a child only eat fish and 
meat taken by her husband, but the husband must for some 
weeks do no work and follow no occupation, except the procuring 
of necessary food, and this in order that the ch Id may not die. 
When a Greenlander dies, his soul starts to travel to the land of 
Torngarsuk, where reigns perpetual summer, all sunshine and no 

1 St. John, vol. L p. 160. Tr. Eth. Roc., 1863, p. 233. Compare the eight days' 
frist in Madagascar of the fathers whose children were to be circumcised. Voy. of 
Precis Cauche, p. 51, in Eel. de Madagascar, etc. ; Paris, 1651. See also Yate, 
'New Zealand,' p. 82. 

2 Klemm, C. G., vol. ii p. 207. Steller, ' Kamchatka,' p. 351. The Lapp 
superstition against putting a handle to an axe in the house of a lying-in woman, or 
lying knots in her garments, is similar. See Lcems in Finkerton, voL L p. 483. 


night, where there is good water, and birds, fish, seals, and 
reindeer without end, that are to be caught without trouble, or 
are found cooking alive in a huge kettle. But the journey to 
this blessed land is difficult, the souls have to slide five days or 
more down a precipice all stained with the blood of those who 
have gone down before. And it is especially grievous for the poor 
souls when the journey must be made in winter or in tempest, 
for then a soul may come to harm, and suffer the other death, 
as they call it, when it perishes utterly, and nothing is left. 
And this is to them the most wretched fate ; and therefore the 
survivors, for these five days or more, must abstain from certain 
food, and all noisy work except their necessary fishing, that the 
soul on its dangerous journey may not be disturbed or come to 
harm. 1 But perhaps no story on record so clearly shows how 
deeply the idea of these imaginary ties is rooted in the savage 
mind, as one told by Mr. Wallace in his South American tour : 
" An Indian, who was one of my hunters, caught a fine cock of 
the rock, and gave it to his wife to feed ; but the poor woman 
was obliged to live herself on cassava-bread and fruits, and 
abstain entirely from all animal food, pepper, and salt, which it 
was believed would cause the bird to die." The bird died after 
all, and the woman was beaten by her husband for having killed 
it by some violation of the rule of abstinence. 2 

An attempt to account for the couvade has been made by 
Bachofen, in his remarkable treatise on that early stage of society 
when the rule of kinship on the mother's side prevailed, which in 
the course of ages has been generally superseded by the opposite 
rule of kinship on the father's side. The couvade, in his view, 
belonged to the period of this great social change, being a sym- 
bolic act performed by the father for the purpose of taking on 
himself the parental relation to the child which had been pre- 
viously held by the mother. If, however, we look closely at the 
details of the practice among American tribes, who seem to have 
it near the original state, we shall hardly find them fit with 
such a theory. Cases like that of the Greenlanders, where both 

1 Crauz, pp. 275, 258. 

' 2 "\Vallace, p. 502. For other connected practices, see p. 501. Spix and Martius, 

pp. ysi, use. 


the husband and the wife are put under treatment, often appear 
in South America. Among the Macusis of Guiana, who may 
stand as the example, the father after the birth of the child 
hangs up his hammock beside the mother's, and keeps with her 
the weeks of seclusion. During this time, neither husband nor 
wife do any work ; he may not bathe nor take his weapons 
in hand ; both may only quench their thirst with lukewarm 
water, and eat cassava-porridge ; they are even forbidden to 
scratch themselves with their nails, a bit of rib of palni-lt-af 
being hung up to use instead. The transgression of these 
ordinances would cause death or lifelong sickness to the child. 
All this agrees perfectly with the couvade being sympathetic 
magic, but there is no transfer of parentage from the mother to 
the father. Still more adverse to Bachofen's notion, is the fact 
that these Macusis, so far from reckoning the parentage as having 
been transferred to the father by the couvade, are actually among 
the tribes who do not reckon kinship on the father's side, the 
child belonging to the mother's clan. So among the Arawacs, 
though the father performs the couvade, this does not interfere 
with the rule that kinship poes by the mother. Xor is there 
much in these practices which can be construed as a pretence of 
maternity made by the father. What he does is to go through 
a dietetic course for the sympathetic benefit of the child, and his 
doing so may naturally become, as is said to be the case among 
the Mundrucus, a legal symbol, an act of recognition on his part 
that he is the father. To understand the whole circumstances, 
under which the couvade is practised in the world, it is evident 
that the original magical explanation, sound as it seems to be 
in itself, is incomplete, and must be supplemented by other 
reasons to account for the stress it often lays on the paternal, 
rather than the maternal relation. It is not impossible that in 
such cases it may have come to serve in something like the way 
suggested by Bachofen, as a symbol belonging to the rule of 
male kinship. 1 

1 The above remarks OD Bachofen's views are newly inserted in the pre-ent edition. 
See J. J. Bachofen, ' Das Mutterrecht,' Stuttgart, 1861, pp. 17, 'J55, etc. ; Martius, 
' Beitriige zur Ethnographic und Sprachenkunde Amerikas,' vol, i. pp 427, 44', 511, 
643, 690; Sir E. Schomburgk, 'Travels in British Guiaua;' Beruau, 


It has further to be noticed that certain forms of the couvade 
involve actually giving over the parentage to the father, and 
leaving the mother out of the question. This was an ancient 
Egyptian idea, as Southey points out when mentioning its most 
startling development in' the practice of the Tupinambas of 
Brazil, who would give their own women as wives to their male 
captives, and then, without scruple, eat the children when they 
grow up, holding them simply to be of the flesh and blood of 
their enemies. It is strange that writers who have spoken of 
the couvade during the half-century since Southey wrote, and 
have even quoted him, should have so neglected the contribution 
he made to the psychology of the lower races in bringing forward 
as the source of this remarkable practice at once the Egyptian, 
and American theory of parentage, and the belief in bodily union 
between father and child. 1 Nor is the doctrine of special parent- 
age from the father unknown to the Aryan race. We may take 
it up in the Hindu code of Manu, which compares the mother to 
the field bringing forth the plant according to whatever seed is 
sown in it. The idea is conspicuous in the Eunienides of 
/Eschylus, where the very plea of Orestes is that he is not of 
kin to his mother Klytemnestra, and the gods decide that she 
who bears the child is but as a nurse to it. Lastly, we may leave 
it in the hands of Swedenborg, who declares that the soul, which 
is spiritual and is the real man, is from the father, while the 
body, which is natural and as it were the clothing of the soul, is 
from the mother. Here, he tells us, we may see the reason 
why the mind and disposition of the father is communicated to 
the children for generations. 2 Which seems a somewhat lop- 
sided argument. 

To trace now the geographical distribution of the couvade in 

Guiana,' p. 29. For further evidence and argument in support of the sympathetic- 
magical explanation of the couvade, see Bastian's important paper on Comparative 
Psychology in the ' Zeitschrift fiir Yolkerpsychologie,' vol. v. (18*57), and the elaborate 
dissertation on the couvade in Ploss, ' Das Kind, in Branch und Sitte der Vb'lker,' 
Stuttgart, 1876, vol. i. p. 125, etc. [Xote to 3rd Edition.] 

1 Diod. Sic. i. 80. Southey, vol. i, pp. 227, 248. Compare Spix and Martiua, 
p. 1339, and Martins, p. 392. 

- Mmu, ix. 31-40. J. F. M'Lennan in Fortnightly Rev., Apr. 15, 186tf. 
Swedenborg, 'The True Christian Religion ;' 103. 


other parts of the world. The fasting observed in South America 
and the West Indies is not general ; repose, careful nursing, 
and nourishing food being the treatment usual for the imaginary 
invalid. Venegas mentions this kind of couvade anong the 
Indians of California ; l Zucchelli, in West Africa; 2 Captain Van 
der Hart, in Bouro, in the Eastern Archipelago. 3 The country 
of Eastern Asia where Marco Polo met with the practice of the 
couvade in the thirteenth century, appeai-s to be the Chinese 
province of West Yunnan, 4 so that the widow's remark to Sir 
Hudibras is true in a geographical sense, 

" For though Chineses go to bed, 
And lie-in in their ladies' stead." 

But it does not at all follow from this that the couvade was prac- 
tised among the race ethnologic ally known to us as the Chinese. 
The people among whom Marco Polo found it were probably one 
of the distinct and less cultured races within the va,st Chinese 
frontier, for it has been noticed among the mountain tribes known 
as the Miau-tsze, or " Children of the soil," who differ from the 
Chinese proper in body, language, and civilization, and are sup- 
posed to be, like the Soutals and Gonds of India, remnants of a 
race driven into the mountains by the present dwellers in the 
plains. A Chinese traveller among the Miau-tsze, giving an 
account of their manners and customs, notices, as though the 
idea were quite strange to him, that " In one tribe it is the cus- 
tom for the father of a new-born child, as soon as its mother has 
become strong enough to leave her couch, to get into bed him- 
self, and there receive the congratulations of his acquaintances, 
as he exhibits his offspring.'' 5 To the districts mentioned in 

1 Venegas, vol. L p. 94 ; Bancroft, ' Native Races of Pacific States,' voL i. pp. 391, 

2 Zucchelli, p. 165. 

3 C. v. der Hart, 'Reize rondom het eiland Celebes;' 'Sgravenhage, 1S53, 
p. 137. 

4 Marco Polo, Latin ed., 1671, lib. ii. c. xli. Marsden's Tr. ; London, 1813, 
p. 434. 

* W. Lockhart, in Tr. Eth. Soc. 1861, p. 181. Rochefort (p. 550) sets down the 
Japanese as practising the couvade ; and the same bare mention appears in later 
writers, who, perhaps, merely followed him. Is his statement based en proper 
evidence, or simply a mistake ? 


the first edition of this work, I have to add another, South India. 
The account, for which I have to thank Mr. F. M. Jennings, de- 
scribes it as usual among natives of the higher castes about 
Madras, Seringapatam, and on the Malabar Coast. It is stated 
that a man, at the birth of his first son or daughter by the chief 
wife, or for any son afterwards, will retire to bed for a lunar 
month, living principally on a rice diet, abstaining from exciting 
food and from smoking ; at the end of the month he bathes, puts 
on a fresh dress, and gives his friends a feast. The people oi 
this district of India may be described as mainly of the indi- 
genous Dravidian stock, more or less mixed with Aryan Hindu. 
They are Hinduized to a great degree in religion and habits, but 
preserve some of their earlier customs, among which the couvade, 
which is not known as an Aryan Hindu practice, must probably 
be counted. 1 An ancient Asiatic people recorded to have prac- 
tised the couvade are the Tibareni of Pontus, at the south of the 
Black Sea, among whom, when the child was born, the father lay 
groaning in bed with his head tied up, while the mother tended 
him with food, and prepared his baths. 2 

In Europe, the couvade may be traced up from ancient into 
modern times in the neighbourhood of the Pyrenees. Above 
eighteen hundred years ago, Strabo mentions the story that 
among the Iberians of the North of Spain the women, " after 
the birth of a child, tend their husbands, putting them to bed 
instead of going themselves ; " 3 and this account is confirmed 
by later mentions of the practice. " In Biscay," says Michel, 4 
" in valleys whose population recalls in its usages the infancy of 
society, the women rise immediately after child-birth, and attend 
to the duties of the household, while the husband goes to bed, 
taking the baby with him, and thus receives the neighbours' com- 

1 The details are from a nurse, born of English parents in India, and acquainted 
with native habits. [Note to 2nd Edition. ] 

2 Apoll. Rhod. Argonautica, ii. 1009. C. Val. Place. Argon., v. 148. 

3 Strabo, iii. 4, 17. 

4 Michel, ' Le Pays Basque ;' Paris, 1857, p. 201. A. de Quatrefages, in Rev. des 
Deux Mondes, 1850, vol. v. It is now declared by Vinson that the couvade has not 
been found among the modern Basques, the allusions in writers of the last two 
centuries always referring to the Bearnais. See Wentworth Webster, ' Basqno 
Legends,' London, 1877, p. 232. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 


pliments." It has been found also in Navarre, l and on the 
French side of the Pyrenees. Legrand d'Aussy mentions that 
in an old French fabliau the King of Torelore is " au lit et en 
couche " when Aucassin arrives and takes a stick to him, and 
makes him promise to abolish the custom in his realm. And 
the same author goes on to say that the practice is said still to 
exist in some cantons of Beam, where it is called faire la cou- 
vade? Lastly, Diodorus Siculus notices the same habit of the 
wife being neglected, and the husband put to bed and treated as 
the patient, among the natives of Corsica about the beginning of 
the Christian era. 3 

The ethnological value of the four groups of customs now 
described is not to be weighed with much nicety. The pro- 
hibitions of marriage among distant kindred go for least in 
proving connexion by blood or intercourse between the distant 
races who practise them, as it is easy to suppose them to have 
grown up again and again from like grounds. But it is hard to 
suppose that the curiously similar restrictions in the intercourse 
between parents-in-law and their children-in-law can be of inde- 
pendent growth in each of the remote districts where they pre- 
vail, and still more difficult to suppose the quaint trick of the 
cure by the pretended extraction of objects from the patient's 
body to have made its appearance independently in Africa, in 
America, in Australia, in Europe. In such cases as these there 
is considerable force in the supposition of there being often a 
historical connexion between their origin in different regions. 
Thus, the isolated occurrences of a custom among particular 
races surrounded by other races who ignore it, may be some- 
times to the ethnologist like those outlying patches of strata 
from which the geologist infers that the formation they belong 
to once spread over intervening districts, from which it has been 
removed by denudation ; or like the geographical distribution of 
plants, from which the botanist argues that they have travelled 

1 Laborde, ' Itineraire cle 1'Espagne ;' Paris, 1834, vol. i. p. 273. 

8 Legrand d'Aussy, ' Fabliaux du xn e et xin* Siecle,' 3rd ed. ; Paris, 1829, vol. iii. 
"Aucassin et Nicolelte." Rochefort, I. c. [Faire la couvadc, to sit cowring, or 
skowking within doors ; to lurke in the campe when Gallants are at the Battell ; 
(any way) to play least in sight \Cotgrave).] 
Diod. Sic. v. 14. 


from a distant home. The way in which the couvade appears in 
the New and Old "Worlds is especially interesting from this 
point of view. Among the savage tribes of South America it is, 
as it were, at home in a mental atmosphere at least not so dif- 
ferent from that in which it came into being as to make it a 
mere meaningless, absurd superstition. If the culture of tb.3 
Caribs and Brazilians, even before they came under our know- 
ledge, had advanced too far to allow the couvade to grow up 
fresh among them, they at least practised it with some con- 
sciousness of its meaning ; it had not fallen out of unison with 
their mental state. Here, then, we find covering a vast com- 
pact area of country, the mental stratum, so to speak, to which 
the couvade most nearly belongs. But if we look at its ap- 
pearances across from China to Corsica, the state of things is 
widely different ; no theory of its origin can be drawn from 
the Asiatic and European accounts to compete for a moment 
with that which flows naturally from the observations of the 
American missionaries, who found it not a mere dead custom, 
but a live growth of savage psj'chology. The peoples, too, who 
have kept it up in Asia and Europe seem to have been not the 
great progressive, spreading, conquering, civilizing nations of 
thi' Aryan, Semitic, and Chinese stocks. It cannot be ascribed 
even to the Tatars, for the Lapps, Finns, and Hungarians 
appear to know nothing of it. It would seem rather to have 
belonged to that ruder population, or series of populations, 
whose fate it has been to be amalgamated with and shaped by 
the stronger races, or driven from their fruitful lands to take 
refuge in mountains and deserts. The retainers of the couvado 
in Asia are the Miau-tsze of China, the Hiuduized people of 
Southern India, and the savage Tibareni of Pontus. In Europe, 
they are the inhabitants of districts near the Pyrenees, a region 
into which the Basques seem to have been driven westward and 
westward by the pressure of more powerful tribes, till they came 
to these last mountains with nothing but the Atlantic beyond. 
Of what stock were the original barbarian inhabitants of Corsica, 
we do not know ; but their position, and the fact that they, too, 
had the couvade, would fit with an idea not unknown to ethno- 
logists, of their having been a branch of the same family, who 


escaped their persecutors by putting out to sea, and settling in 
their mountainous island. 

When we find such a custom as the couvade lying isolated in 
several districts of a continent, it is useful thus to suggest its 
perhaps serving as a clue to some past connexion between tribes 
who practise it. But this is very different from rashly assuming 
that it must necessarily be proof of such historical connexion, 
that for instance the ancient Corsicans and Tibareni and the 
modern Bearnese and Miau-Tsze must somehow have borrowed 
or inherited the habit from a common source. Again, it has 
been seen that most various races of mankind, black, brown, 
yellow, white, have among them peoples who practise the couvade 
in one or other of its forms. It would be most unreasonable to 
attempt to give an acquired custom like this any direct bearing 
on the argument as to a common descent of these races from one . 
original stock, a problem which has to be worked out on more 
deep-lying and primitive characters of man's bodily and mental 
structure. Like other magical fancies, the couvade seems to 
belong to certain low stages of the reasoning process in the 
human mind, and may for all we know have sprung up at 
different times and places. 

Since the first publication of this work, the curious fact has 
been noticed that in Germany a group of peasant superstitions 
have made their appearance, closely analogous in principle to 
the couvade, though relating not to the actual parents of the 
child but to the godparents. It is believed that the habits and 
proceedings of the godfather and godmother affect the child's 
life and character. Particularly, the godfather at the christening 
must not think of disease or madness lest this come upon the 
child; he must not look round on the way to the church lest the 
child should grow up an idle stare-about ; nor must he carry a 
knife about him, for fear of making the child a suicide ; the 
godmother must put on a clean shift to go to the baptism, or 
the baby will grow up untidy, &c. &c. It does not seem im- 
possible for us to enter into the train of thought that set these 
notions going, they are what might arise from exaggerating into 
magical sympathy the reasonable thought that such as the 
godfather is, such the godchild is likely to be. Popular magic 


is one of the subjects in which the intellect of the peasant is 
least removed from that of the savage, both representing early 
stages in the development of mind. 1 

1 The above paragraph, now first inserted, will serve to remove a misapprehension 
which I notice in Sir John Lubbock's ' Origin of Civilization,' chap, i., where he 
mentions me as "regarding it (the couvade) as evidence that the races by whom it 
is practised belong to one variety of the human species." Some want of clearness in 
my remarks must have led him to read them in a sense so wide of their intention. 
For particulars of the German superstition as to godfathers and godchildren, see 
Wuttke, 'Deutsche Yolksaberglaube, ' 2nd edition, Berlin, 1868, p. 364; their 
analogy with the couvade was pointed out by Bastian in the paper already referred to. 
[Note to 3rd Edition.] 



THE traditions current among mankind are partly historical 
and partly mythical. To the ethnologist they are of value in 
two very different ways, sometimes as preserving the memory of 
past events, sometimes as showing by their occurrence in 
different districts of the world that between the inhabitants of 
these districts there has been in some way a historical con- 
nexion. His great difficulty in dealing with them is to sepa- 
rate the fact and the fiction, which are both so valuable in their 
different ways : and this difficulty is aggravate d by the circum- 
stance that these two elements are often mixed up in a most 
complex manner, myths presenting themselves in the dress of 
historical narrative, and historical facts growing into the wildest 

Between the traditions of real events, which are History, 
and th2 pure myths, whose origin and development are being 
brought more and more clearly into view in our own times 
by the labours of Adalbert Kuhn and Max Miiller, and their 
school, there lie a mass of stories which may be called " Myths 
of Observation." They are inferences from observed facts, 
which take the form of positive assertions, and they differ 
principally from the inductions of modern science in be ng 
much more generally crude and erroneous, and in taking to 
themselves names of persons, and more or less of purely sub- 
jective detail, which enables them to assume the appearance of 
real history. When a savage builds upon the discovery of great 
bones buried in the earth a story of a combat of the giants and 
monsters whose remains they are, he constructs a Myth of Ob- 
servation which may shapa itself into the form of a historical 


tradition, and be all the more puzzling for the portion of scien- 
tific truth which it really con'ains. The object of the present 
chapter is to collect a quantity of evidence, bearing on the 
problem how to separate Historical Traditions and Myths of 
Observation from pure Myths, and from one another. 

Though it may not be possible to lay down any general canon 
of criticism by which the historical and mythical elements of 
tradition may be separated, it is to some extent possible to judge 
by internal evidence whether or not a particular legend or 
episode has a claim to be considered as history. It happens 
sometimes that a legend contains statements which are hardly 
likely to have come into the minds of the original D irrators of 
the story, except by actual experience. The Chinase legend 
which tells us the name of the ancient sage whc aught his 
people to make fire by the friction of wood cannot be taken as it 
stands for real history, seeing that so many nations ascribe this 
and other arts to mythic heroes, yet it embodies a re^ol'ection of 
a time when this was the ordinary way of producing fire. So, 
when the same people tell us that they once used knotted cords 
like the Peruvian quipus, as reco -ds of events, and that the art 
of writing superseded this ruder expedient, we are in no way 
called upon to receive the names and dates of the inventors to 
whom they as ribe these arts; but, at the same time, it is hard 
to imagine 1 what could have put such an idea into their heads, 
unless there had been a foundation of fact for the story, in the 
actual use of quipus in the country before writing became 

In the traditions which the Polynesians have preserved of 
their migrations in past times, it is likely that some historic 
truth may be preserved, and with their help, aided by a closer 
study of the languages and myths of the district, it may be some 
day possible for ethnologists to sketch out, at least roughly, the 
history of the race for ages bef re the European discovery. 
Much of the historical value of the South Sea traditions is due 
to their being commonly preserved in verses, kept alive by fre- 
quent repetition, and in which even small events are placed on 
record with an accuracy and permanence that yields only to 
written history. Thus a question that arose when Ellis was in 

x 2 


Tahiti, about a certain buoy that was stolen from the ' Bounty ' 
nearly thirty years before, was settled at once by a couple of 
lines from a native song, 

" O mea eia e Taren eii 
Eia te poito a Bligh." 

" Such a one a thief, and Tareu a thief, 
Stole the buoy of Bligh." 1 

Among the mass of Central American traditions which have 
become known through the labours of the Abbe Brasseur, there 
occur certain passages in the story of an early migration of the 
Quiche race, which have much the appearance of vague ;md 
broken stories derived in some way from high northern lati- 
tudes. The Quiche manuscript describes the ancestors of the 
race as travelling away from the rising of the sun, and goes on 
thus : " But it is not clear how they crossed the sea, they 
passed as though there had been no sea, for they passed over 
scattered rocks, and these rocks were rolled on the sands. This 
is why they called the place ' ranged stones and torn up sands,' 
the name which they gave it on their passage within the sea, the 
water being divided when they passed." Then the people col- 
lected en a mountain called Chi Pixab, and there they fasted in 
darkness and night. Afterwards it is related that they removed, 
and waited for the dawn which was approaching, and the manu- 
script says : " Now, behold, our ancients and our fathers were 
made lords and had their dawn ; behold, we will relate also the 
rising of the dawn and the apparition of the sun, the moon, and 
the stars." Great was their joy when they saw the morning 
star, which came out first with its resplendent face before the 
sun. At last the sun itself began to come forth ; the animals, 
small and great, were in joy ; they rose from the watercourses 
and ravines, and stood on the mountain tops with their heads 
towards where the sun was coming. An innumerable crowd of 
people were there, and the dawn cast light on all these nations 
at once. " At last the face of the ground was dried by the sun : 
like a man the sun showed himself, and his presence wanned 
and dried the surface of the ground. Before the sun appeared, 

1 Ellis, Polyn. Ees., vol. L p. 237. 


muddy and wet was the surface of the ground, and it was before 
the sun appeared, and then only the sun rose like a man. But 
his heat had no strength, and he did but show himself when he 
rose, he only remained like (an image in) a mirror, and it is 
not indeed the same sun that appears now, they say in the 
stories." 1 

Obscure as much of this is, there are things in it which agree 
very curiously with the phenomena of the Arctic regions. The 
cold and darkness, the sea not like a sea but like rocks rolled on 
the sand, the long waiting for the sun, and its appearance at last 
with little strength, and but just rising above the horizon, form 
a picture which corresponds with the nature of the high north, 
as much as it differs from that of the tropical regions where the 
tradition is found. We read of the people of Thule of old, after 
their 35-day night, climbing hills to look out for the returning sun, 
as in more modern times of Arctic voyagers going out to watch 
for the sun towards the close of the long dismal winter. 2 The 
judgment that it was not indeed the sun of Central America 
(hat appeared so strangely, may be placed by the side of a 
remark made by a savage in another country. Sir George Grey, 
travelling in Australia, was once telling stories of distant coun- 
tries to a party of natives round the camp fire ; "I now spoke 
to them of still more northern latitudes ; and went so far as 
to describe those countries in which the sun never sets at a 
certain period of the year. Their astonishment now knew no 
bounds : ' Ah ! that must be another sun, not the same as the 
one we see here,' said an old man ; and in spite of all my argu- 
ments to the contrary, the others adopted this opinion." 3 

The legend of the introduction of rice in Borneo relates how a 
Dayak climbed up a tree which grew downward from the sky, 
and so got up to the Pleiades, and there he found a personage 
who took him to his house and gave him boiled rice to eat. He 
had never seen rice before, and the story says that when he saw 
the grains, he thought they were maggots. 4 Now there is a 

1 Brasseur, 'Popol Vuh,' pp. 231-43 ; ' Mexique,' vol. i. pp. 169-73. 

2 Procopius, ii. 206 ; Purchas, vol. iii. p. 499. 
8 Grey, Journals, vol. i. p. 293. 

4 St. John, vol. i. p. 202, and see under Chap. XIL 


tradition of recent date, among the Keethratlah Indians of 
British Columbia, which tells in the most graphic way the story 
of the first appearance of the white men among them ; how an 
Indian canoe was out catching halibut, when the noise of a huge 
sea-monster was heard, plunging along through the thick mist ; 
the Indians drew up their lines and paddled to shore, when the 
monster proved to be a boat full of strange-looking men. " The 
strangers landed, and beckoned the Indians to come to them and 
brincr them some tish. One of them had over his shoulder what 


was supposed to be a stick ; presently he pointed it to a bird that 
was flying past a violent poo went forth down came the bird 
to the ground. The Indians died ! As they revived, they ques- 
tioned each other as to their state, whether any were dead, and 
what each had felt. The whites then made signs for a fire to be 
lighted ; the Indians proceeded at once, according to their 
usual tedious practice, of rubbing two sticks together. The 
strangers laughed, and one of them, snatching up a handful of 
dry grass, struck a spark into a little powder placed under it. 
Instantly another poo ! and a blaze. The Indians died ! 
After this the new-comers wanted some fish boiled : the Indians, 
therefore, put the fish and water into one of their square wooden 
buckets, and set some stones on the fire ; intending, when they 
were hot, to cast them into the vessel, and thus boil the food. 
The whites were not satisfied with this way : one of them 
fetched a tin kettle out of the boat, put the fish and some water 
into it, and then, strange to say, set it on the fire. The Indians 
looked on with astonishment. However, the kettle did not con- 
sume ; the water did not run into the fire. Then, again, tha 
Indians died ! When the fish was eaten, the strangers put a 
kettle of rice on the fire ; the Indians looked at each other, and 
whispered Akshahn, akshahn ! or ' Maggots, maggots ! ' " l 

Again, the Australians have had the same idea of what rice 
was, for in the Moorunde dialect it is called " yeelilee," or 
"maggots," 2 a name which, of course, dates from the recent 
time when foreigners brought it to the country. When, there- 
fore, we are told in the Borneo tale that the first Dayak who 
saw grains of rice took them for maggots, we are, I think, justi- 
' British Columbia,' p. 279. a Eyre, vol. ii. p. 393. 


fied in believing this notion to be in Borneo, as elsewhere, a real 
reminiscence of the introduction of rice into the country, though 
this piece of actual history comes to us woven into the texture 
of an ancient myth. There is reason to suppose that rice was 
introduced into the Malay islands from Asia ; in Marsden's time 
it had not been adopted even in Engano and Batu, which are 
islands close to Sumatra. 1 

When a tradition is once firmly planted among the legendary 
lore of a tribe, there seems scarcely any limit to the time through 
which it may be kept up by continual repetition from one gene- 
ration to the next ; unless such an event as the coming of a 
stronger and more highly cultivated race 'entirely upsets the old 
state of society, and destroys the old landmarks. The tradi- 
tions of the Polynesians, for instance, seem often to be of great 
age, for they occur among the natives of distant islands whose 
languages have had time to diverge wddely from a common 
origin ; but even the most long-lived stories are fast disappear- 
ing, under European influence, from the memory of the people. 
The historical value of a tradition does not of necessity vary 
inversely with its age, and indeed this rule-of-three test goes 
for very little, for some very old stories are, beyond a doubt, of 
greater historical value than other very new ones current in the 
same tribe. 

There is even a certain amount of evidence which tends to 
prove that the memory of the huge animals of the quaternary 
period has been preserved up to modern times in popular tra- 
dition. It is but quite lately that the fact of man having lived 
on the earth at the same time with the mammoth has become a 
generally received opinion, though its probability has been seen 
by a few far- sigh ted thinkers for many years past, and it had 
been suggested long before the late discoveries in the Drift-beds, 
that several traditions, found in different parts of the world, were 
derived from actual memory of the remote time when various 
great animals, generally thought to have died out before the 
appearance of man upon the earth, were still alive. The subject, 
is hardly in a state to express a decided opinion upon, but the 
evidence is worthy of the most careful attention. 

1 Marsden, pp. 4G7, 474. See Ellis, 'Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 39. 


Father Charlevoix, whose ' History of New France ' was pub- 
lished in 1744, records a North American legend of a great elk. 
" There is current also among these barbarians a pleasant enough 
tradition of a great Elk, beside whom others seem like ants. 
He has, they say, legs so high that eight feet of snow do not 
embarrass him : his skin is proof against all sorts of weapons, 
and he has a sort of arm which comes out of his shoulder, and 
which he uses as we do ours." 1 It is hard to imagine that any- 
thing but the actual sight of a live elephant can have given rise 
to this tradition. The suggestion that it might have been 
founded on the sight of a mammoth frozen with his flesh and 
skin, as they are found in Siberia, is not tenable, for the trunks 
and tails of these animals perish first, and are not preserved like 
the more solid parts, so that the Asiatic myths which have 
grown out of the finding of these frozen beasts, know nothing of 
such appendages. Moreover, no savage who had never heard of 
the use of an elephant's trunk would imagine from a sight of 
the dead animal, even if its trunk were perfect, that its use was 
to be compared with that of a man's arm. 

The notion that the Indian story of the Great Elk was a real re- 
miniscence of a living proboscidian, is strengthened by a remark- 
able drawing, Fig. 30, from one of the Mexican picture-writings. 
It represents a masked priest sacrificing a human victim, and 
Humboldt copies it in the ' Vues des Cordilleres' with the follow- 
ing remarks : I should not have had this hideous scene engraved, 
were it not that the disguise of the sacrificing priest presents 
some remarkable and apparently not accidental resemblance with 
the Hindoo Ganesa [the elephant-headed god of wisdom] . The 
Mexicans used masks imitating the shape of the heads of the 
serpent, the crocodile, or the jaguar. One seems to recognize 
in the sacrificer's mask the trunk of an elephant or some pachy- 
derm resembling it in the shape of the head, but with an upper 
jaw furnished with incisive teeth. The snout of the tapir no 
doubt protrudes a little more than that of our pigs, but it is a 
long way from the tapir's snout to the trunk figured in the 
' Codex Borgianus.' Had the peoples of Aztlan derived from 
Asia some vague notions of the elephant, or, as seems to me 

1 Charlevoix, vol. v. p. 187. 


much less probable, did their traditions reach back to the time 
when America was still inhabited by these gigantic animals, 
whose petrified skeletons are found buried in the marly ground 
on the very ridge of the Mexican Cordilleras ? " 1 It may be 

Fig. 30. 

worth while to notice in connexion with Humboldt's remarks, 
that when Mr. Bates showed a picture of an elephant to some 
South American Indians, they settled it that the creature must 
be a large kind of tapir. 2 

Attempts have been made by other writers to connect the 
memory of animals now extinct, with mythological tales current 
in the regions to which they belong. Dr. Falconer is disposed 
to connect the huge elephant-fighting and world-bearing tortoises 
of the Hindoo mythology with a recollection of the time when 
his monstrous Himalayan tortoise, the Colossochelys Atlas, the 
restoration of which forms so striking an object in the British 
Museum, was still alive. 3 The savage tribes of Brazil have 
traditions about a being whom they call the Curupira. Some- 
times he is described as a kind of orang-utan, being covered 
with long, shaggy hair, a d living in trees. At others he is 
said to have cloven feet, and a bright red face. He has a wife 

1 Humboldt, Yues des Cord., pi. xv. ; Borgia MS. in Kingshorough, vol. iii. 

* Bates, ' Amazons,' vol. ii. p. 128. 

* Falconer, ' Palasontological Memoirs,' London, 1863, vol. i. p. 375. 



and children, and sometimes comes down to the rocas to steal 
the mandioca." Similar to, or the same as this being, is the 
Caypcr, whom the Indians, in their masquerades, represent us 
a bulky, misshapen monster, with red skin and long shaggy red 
hair, hanging hallway down his back. 1 With reference to these 
Brazilian stories, Mr. Carter Blake remarks " In Brazil the 
Indians had a tradition of a gigantic anthropoid ape, the caypore, 
which represented the African gorilla. No such ape exists in 
the present day ; but in the post-pliocene in Brazil, remains 
have been preserved of an extinct ape (ProtopitJiecns antiquus) 
four feet high, which might possibly have lived down to the 
human period, and formed the subject of the tradition." 1 
Lastly, Colonel Hamilton Smith has collected a quantity of 
evidence, thought by him to bear on the preservation of the 
memory of extinct creatures, adding to Father Charlevoix's great 
Elk, and the Pere aux Bceufs from Buffon, a North American 
''Naked Bear," and an East Indian "Elephant-Horse," etc., 
and endeavouring to identify them in nature. 3 

To proceed now from the traditions which have, or may set 
up some sort of claim to have, a historical foundation, to the 
Myths of Observation, which are so often liable to be confounded 
with them : it is to be noticed that if the inference from facts, 
which forms the basis of such a myth, should happen to be a 
correct one, and if the story should also happen to have fairly 
dropped out of sight the evidence out of which it grew, its 
separation from a real tradition of events may be hardly possible. 
Fortunately for the Ethnologist, it is very common for such 
stories to betray their unhistoric origin in one or both of these 
ways, either by recording things which seemed indeed probable 
when the myths arose, but which modern knowledge repudiates, 
or by having embodied with them the facts which have been 
appealed to for ages as confirmation of their truth, but which 
we are now in a position to recognize at once as the very basis 
on which their mythical structure was raised. 

A good example of a Myth of Observation is a story current 

1 Bates, 'Amazons,' vol. i. p. 73; vol. ii. p. 204. 
8 C. Carter Blake in Tr. Eth. Soc. 1863, p. 169. 
C. Hamilton Mnitb, Nat. Hist of Human Sp , pp. 10i-6. 


in Egypt in Strabo's time, but which he, having indeed a con- 
siderable knowledge of geology, declines to believe. "But one 
of the wondrous things," he says, " which we saw about the 
pyramids, must not be passed over. There He in front of the 
pyramids certain heaps of the masons' rubbish, and among these 
there are found pieces in shape and size like lentils, and in some, 
as it were, half-peeled grains. They say, the leavings of the 
workmen's food have been turned into stone, but this is not 
likely, for at home among us there is a longish ridge of hill in a 
plain, and this is full of lentil-like stones of tufa, -etc." 1 

To men whose country has the open sea to its west it seems 
that the sun plunges at night into its waters. Now the sun is 
evidently a mass of matter at a distance, and very hot, and when 
red-hot bodies come in contact with water there follows a hissing 
noise ; and thus the inference is easy and straightforward, that 
when the sun dips into the waves such a sound ought to be 
heard. From the inference that the hissing might be heard, to 
the assertion that it has actually been heard, is the easy step by 
which the crude argument of early science passes into the full- 
grown Myth of Observation. In two distant countries where 
the world seems to end westward in the boundless ocean, the 
story is to be found. The Sacred Promontory, that is Cape St. 
Vincent, Strabo says, is the westernmost point, not of Europe 
alone, but of the whole habitable earth, and there Posidonius 
tells how the vulgar say the sun goes down larger on the ocean- 
coast, and with a noise almost as it were the sea hissing as the 
sun plunges into its depths and is quenched ; but this is false, 
as well as that the night follows instantly upon its setting. So 
in the Pacific, in some of the Society Islands, the name for sun- 
set means the falling of the sun into the sea, and the sun itself 
is thought to be a substance resembling fire. Mr. Ellis asked 
them how they knew it fell into the sea, and they said they had 
not seen it, but some people of Borabora or Maupiti, the most 
western islands, had once heard the hissing occasioned by its 
plunging into the ocean. 2 

1 Strabo, xvii. 1, 34. 

2 Strabo, iii. 1, 5. Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 414. See also Bastian, vol. ii. 
p. 58. Tac. Germ., c. 45. 


From the incredulous geographer who records the stories of 
the fossil lentils and the hissing sun, yet another Myth of Ob- 
servation may be taken, which shows well the easy transition 
from " it may have been," to " it was," which lies at their root. 
Mr. Catlin, in one of his journeys, says that he came to a place 
where he saw rocks " looking as if they had actually dropped 
from the clouds in such a confused mass, and all lay where they 
had fallen." So in old times, a round plain between Marseilles 
and the mouths of the Rhone was called the " stony " plain, 
from its being covered with stones as big as a man's fist. You 
would think, says Pomponius Mela, that the stones had rained 
there, so many are they, and so far and wide do they lie. 1 Now 
jJEschylus, says Strabo, having perceived the difficulty of account- 
ing for these stones, or having heard about it from some one 
else, has wrested the whole matter into a myth. In some lines 
of his, preserved to us by Strabo's quotation of them, Prometheus, 
explaining to Hercules his way from the Caucasus to the Hespe- 
rides, tells him how when his missiles fail him in his ti^ht 
with the Ligurians, and the soft earth will not even afford him 
a stone, Jove, pitying his defenceless state, will rain down a 
shower of round pebbles over the ground, hurling which he will 
easily rout his foes. 2 

Fossil remains have for ages been objects of curious specu- 
lation to mankind. In the most distant regions where huge 
bones have been found, they have been explained, truly enough, 
as being the bones of monstrous beasts, and as plausibly, 
though, as later investigations have shown within the last cen- 
tury, not so correctly, as bones of giants. Given the belief that 
the earth was formerly inhabited by monsters and giants, the 
myth-making power of the human niiud gave " a local habita- 
tion and a name " wherever it was required, and the battles of 
these monsters with each other, and with man, were worked 
into the general mass of popular tradition, with gradually in- 
creasing fulness and accuracy of detail. The Asiatic sagas 
which have grown out of the finding of the frozen mammoths, 
and the fossil remains of these and other great extinct animals, 
are excellent cases in point. Many of them have been collected 

Catlin, vol. ii. p. 70. Mela, ii. c. 5. 2 Strabo, iv. 1, 7. 


and criticized in an admirable paper published more than twenty 
years ago by Von Olfers, of Berlin. 1 

The Siberians are constantly finding bones and teeth of mam- 
moths imbedded in the faces of cliffs or river banks at some 
depth below the surface. Often a mass of earth or gravel falls 
away from such a cliff, and exposes such remains. How could 
they have got there ? A plausible explanation suggested itself, 
that the creature was a huge burrowing animal, and lived un- 
derground. Not only the skeleton, but the body in tolerable 
preservation with flesh and skin being found in a frozen state 
in high Northern latitudes, the notion grew up that it was a 
monstrous kind of burrowing rat, and it is described in Chinese 
books under such names &sfen-shu, or " digging rat," yen-men, 
or "burrowing ox," shu-mu, "mother of mice," and so on. A 
difficulty which suggested itself to the native Siberian geologists 
was met in a characteristic manner. It was strange that when- 
ever they came upon a mammoth imbedded in a cliff 1 , it was 
always dead. It must be a creature unable to bear the air or 
the light, and when in the course of its subterranean wanderings 
it breaks through to the outer air it dies immediately. With so 
much knowledge of the natural history of the creature to start 
from, other details grow round it in the usual way. Yakuts and 
Tunguz have seen the earth heave and sink, as a mammoth 
walked beneath. It frequents marshes, and travels underground, 
never appearing above the surface of the earth or water during 
the day, but has been seen at dawn in lakes and rivers, just as it 
dived below. The account of it given in the Chinese Encyclo- 
pedia of Kang-hi is as follows : 

" Fen-shu. The cold is extreme and almost continual on the 
coast of the Northern Sea, beyond the Tai-tong-Kiang ; on this 
coast is found the animal Fen-shu, which resembles a rat in 
shape, but is as big as an elephant ; it dwells in dark caverns, 
and ever shuns the light. There is got from it an ivory as white 
as that of the elephant, but easier to work, and not liable to split. 
Its flesh is very cold, and excellent for refreshing the blood. 

1 J. F. M. y. Olfers, 'Die Ueberreste vorweltlicher Riesenthiere in Beziehung 
zu Ostasiatischen Sagen und Chinesischen Schriften' (Berlin Acad., 1839); Berlin; 


The ancient book Shin-y-King speaks of this animal in the 
following terms: There is in the extreme north, among the 
snows and ice which cover this region, a shu (rat), which weighs 
up to a thousand pounds, its flesh is very good for those who 
are heated. The Tse-shu calls it fen-sJiu, and speaks of 
another kind which is of less size ; it is only, says this authority, 
as large as a buffalo, it burrows like the moles, shuns the light, 
and almost always stays in its underground caves. It is said 
that it would die if it saw the light of the sun, or even of the 
moon." 1 

The story of the mammoth being a burrowing animal, which 
has arisen from the finding its remains exposed in cliffs or banks 
deep below the surface, becomes the more valuable as evidence 
of the growth 6f myths, from the fact that on the other side of 
the world a like story has developed itself from a like origin. 
"When Darwin visited certain cliffs of the river Parana, between 
Buenos Ayres and Santa Fe, where many bones of Mastodons 
are found, he says, " The men who took me in the canoe, said 
they had long known of these skeletons, and had often wondered 
how they had got there : the necessity of a theory being felt, they 
came to the conclusion that, like the bizcacha, the mastodon was 
formerly a burrowing animal." 2 The bizcacha is a small rabbit- 
like rodent, common on the Pampas. 

Other fossil remains beside those of the mammoth have given 
rise to myths of observation in Siberia. The curved tusks of 
the Rhinoceros tichorhinus are something like the claws of a 
monstrous bird, and when both tusks are found united by part 
of the skull, the whole might very well be taken by a man totally 
ignorant of anatomy, for the bird's foot with two claws. The 
Siberians not only believe the horns of the rhinoceros to be the 
claws of an enormous bird, and call them "birds' claws" accord- 
ingly, but a family of myths has developed itself out of this 
belief, how these winged monsters lived in the country in the 
time of the ancestors of the present inhabitants, who fought with 
them for the possession of the laud. One story tells how the 
country was wasted by one of them, till a wise man fixed a pointed 

1 Mem. cone, les Chinois, vol. iv. p. 481. Klemm, C. G., vol. vi. p. 471. 
* Darwin, p. 127. 


iron spear on the top of a pine tree, and the bird alighted there, 
and skewered itself upon the lance. 

Adolf Erman connects with much plausibility the well-known 
rukh of the Arabian Nights, and the griffin (ypity) of Herodotus, 
with the tales of monstrous birds current in the gold-producin<* 
regions of Siberia ; and he even suggests the remark that gold- 
bearing sand really underlies the beds which contain these fossil 
" birds' claws " as an explanation of the passage, " it is said 
that the Arimaspi, one-eyed men, seize (the gold) from under- 
neath the griffins" (Ae'yercu Se VTTK T&vypvirSiv ap-dfiv Api|ua(nroi>s 
arSpas juowo</>0a\/xovs). 1 At about the same time as Herodotus, 
Ctesias brings out more fully the familiar figure of the griffin. 
"There is also gold," he says, "in the Indian country, not 
found in the streams and washed, as in the river Pactolus ; but 
there are many and great mountains, wherein dwell the griffins, 
four-footed birds of the greatness of the wolf, but with legs and 
claws like lions. The feathers on the rest of their bodies are 
black, but red on the breast. Through them it is that the gold 
in the mountains, though plentiful, is most difficult to get." 3 
That the Siberian myths of monstrous birds have passed into 
the mediaeval notions of the griffins admits of no question what- 
ever. Albertus Magnus describes them as quadrupeds, with 
birds' beaks and wings ; they dwell in Scythia, and possess the 
gold, and silver, and precious stones. The Arimaspi fight with 
them. In its nest the griffin lays the agate for its help and 
medicine. It is hostile to men and horses : it has long claws, 
which are made into goblets ; they are as big as ox-horns, as indeed 
the creature itself is bigger than eight lions ; of its feathers are 
made strong bows, arrows, and lances. 3 With regard to this 
description, it is to be observed that the horns, cut in slices, are 
really used for plating bows ; 4 but the bird's quills, as they are 
still considered to be in the country where they are found, are 
the leg-bones of other animals. 5 The rhinoceros horns, supposed 
to be griffins' claws, were mounted in gold and silver in Europe 

1 Herod., iii. 116. Erman, Reise, vol. i. pp. 711-2. 

2 Ctesias, 'De Rebus Indicis,' 12. 3 Klemm, 0. Q., vol. i. p. 155, and see p. 101. 
4 Olfers, p. 12. s Erman, vol. L p. 711. See Lane. ' Thousand and One 

Nights,' vol. ii. p. 53S ; vol. iii. p. 85. 


in the middle ages, and preserved as relics in churches. There 
is or was one in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, mounted 
on little gilt claws, which sufficiently show what it was thought 
to be. 

The Chinese idea that the mammoth was a huge rat, and the 
very name of " Mother of Mice " given to it, fit curiously with 
a set of North American stories, which may have a like origin in 
the finding of fossil remains of enormous size. The name of the 
" Pere aux Bceufs," probably the translation of a native Indian 
name, was given to an extinct animal whose huge bones were 
found on the banks of the Ohio. 1 The Indians of New France, 
Father Paul le Jeune relates in 1635, " say besides, that all the 
animals of each species have an elder brother, who is as the 
beginning and origin of all the race, and this elder brother is 
marvellously great and powerful. The elder brother of the 
beavers, they told me, is perhaps as big as our hut." 2 
There are current among the Iroquois, says Morgan, fables of 
a buffalo of such huge dimensions as to thresh down the forest 
in his march. 3 And lastly, in one of the North American tales 
of the Sun- catcher, we find a creature to which the name of 
" Mother of Mice " may well belong. When the sun was to be 
set free from the snare, the animals debated who should go up 
and sever the cord, and the dormouse went, "for at this time the 
dormouse was the largest animal in the world ; when it stood up 
it looked like a mountain." The whole story, which goes on to 
tell how it came to pass that the dormice are but small creatures 
now, is given here in the next chapter. 

The native tribes of the lower end of South America explained 
the reason why they, unlike the Spaniards, had no herds of 
cattle in their country, by an interesting story, which has the air 
of a myth of observation founded upon the examination of caves 

1 Buffon, Hist. Nat. (ed. Sonnini), vol. xxviil p. 264. 

* Le Jeune, Relations (1634), vol. i. p. 46. A remarkable resemblance appears in 
the description of the Slavonic Buydn, the ocean-island of the blest, where are to 
be found the Snake older than all snakes, the prophetic Raven, elder brother of r.ll 
ravens, the Bird, largest and oldest of all birds, with iron beak and copper claws, and 
the Mother of Bees, eldest among bees ; Ralston, ' Songs of the Russian People,' 
p. 375. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 

Morgan, p. 166. 


containing fossil bones. They had a multiplicity of inferior 
deities below the two great powers of Good and Evil, who, there 
as elsewhere on the American continent, are above all. Each of 
the lower deities presides over one particular caste or family of 
Indians, of which he is supposed to have been the creator. 
" Some make themselves of the caste of the tiger, some of the 
lion, some of the guanaco, and others of the ostrich, etc. They 
imagine that these deities have each their separate habitations, 
in vsist caverns under the earth, beneath some lake, hill, etc. ; 
and that when an Indian dies, his soul goes to live with the 
deity who presides over his particular family, there to enjoy the 
happiness of being eternally drunk. They believe that their 
good deities made the world, and that they first created the 
Indians in their caves, gave them the lance, the bow and arrows, 
and the stone-bowls to fight and hunt with, and then turned 
them out to shift for themselves. They imagine that the deities 
of the Spaniards did the same by them ; but that instead of lances, 
bows, etc., they gave them guns and swords. They suppose 
that when the beasts, birds, and lesser animals were created, 
those of the more nimble kind came immediately out of their 
caves ; but that the bulls and cows being the last, the Indians 
were so frightened at the sight of their horns, that they stopped 
up the entrance of their caves with great stones. This is the 
reason they give why they had no black cattle in their country 
till the Spaniards brought them over, who more wisely had let 
them out of the caves." 1 

The possibility that the Brazilian belief in the caypor, or wild 
ape-like being of the woods, may be derived from a recollection 
of a great extinct ape, has been already mentioned, but there is 
a circumstance which rather favours the idea of its being a 
myth, founded on the examination of fossil bones. Like the 
mammoth and the mastodon, and the creators of the beasts and 
birds, he is thought to live underground. " They believe he 
has subterranean campos and hunting grounds in the forest, 
well stocked with pacas and deer." 3 It is possible, too, that 
the notion of subterranean animals, who die if they see the day- 

1 Thos. Falkner, ' A Description of Patagonia,' etc. ; Hereford, 1774, p. 114. 
3 Bates, vol. ii. p. 204. 



light, like the mammoths of Siberia, may be traced in various 
stories. Thus, the Fijians tell a tale of two rocks, male and 
female Lado, which are two deities who were turned by the 
sight of daylight into stone ; ] and in the West Indies there were 
men who dwelt in Cimmerian darkness in their caves, and 
coming out were turned into stones and trees by the sight of the 
sun. 2 

Tales of giants and monsters, which stand in direct con- 
nexion with the finding of great fossil bones, are scattered 
broadcast over the mythology of the world. Huge bones, 
found at Punto Santa Elena, in the north of Guayaquil, have 
served as a foundation for the story of a colony of giants who 
dwelt there. 3 The whole area of the Pampas is a great sepulchre 
of enormous extinct animals ; no wonder that one great plain 
should be called the " Field of the giants," and that such names 
as " the hill of the giant," "the stream of the animal," should 
be guides to the geologist in his search for fossil bones. 4 

In North America it is the same. The fossil bones of Mexico 
are referred to ths giants who dwelt in the land in early times, 
and were found living in the plains of Tlascala by the Olmecs, 
who came there before the Toltecs. At the time of the conquest, 
Bernal Diaz was told of their huge stature and their crimes ; 
and, to show him how big they were, the people brought him a 
bone of one of them, which he measured himself against, and it 
was as tall as he, who was a man of reasonable stature. He and 
his companions were astonished to see those bones, and held it 
for certain that there had been giants in that land. 5 The Indians 
of North America tell how their mythic hero, Manabozho, " killed 
the ancient monsters whose bones we now see under the earth." 
They use pieces of the bones of these monsters as charms, and 
most likely the pieces of bone drawn in their pictures as instru- 
ments of magic power are such. They tell of giants who could 
stride over the largest rivers, and the tallest pine-trees. The 
Winnebagos say their monstrous medicine animal still exists, 

1 Scemann, ' Viti,' p. 66. J Oviedo, in Purchas, vol. v. p. 959. 

3 Humboldt, Vues des Cord., pi. 26. Cieza de Leon, p. 189. Kivero and Tsehudi, 
Ant. Per. p. 51. 4 Darwin, in Narr., vol. iii. p. 155. 

* Bernal Diaz, Conq. de la Nueva Espafia ; Madrid, 1795, vol. i. p. 350. Tylor, 
*SLxico,' p. 236. Clavigero, vol. i. p. 125. Humboldt, Vues des Cord., pi. 26. 


and they have pieces of the bones which belong to them, which 
they use as charms. The Dacotas use such bones for " medicine," 
and say they belong to the great horned water-beast, the Unk-a- 
ta-he. Hiawatha helped the Indians to subdue the great monsters 
that overran the country. The " Tom Thumb " of the Chippe- 
was killed the giants and hacked them into little pieces, saying, 
" Henceforth let no man be larger than you are now," and so men 
became of their present size. 1 There are plenty more such stories. 
One mentioned by Dr. Wilson has the interesting feature that 
monsters and giants both perished by the thunderbolts of the 
Great Spirit, and in another all the monsters were thus slain ex- 
cept the Big Bull, who went off to the Great Lakes. 2 It must 
be borne in mind, however, that in speculating on the origin of 
tales such as these, possible recollections of contests of men with 
huge animals now extinct must be taken into consideration, as 
well as inferences from the finding of large bones, and sometimes 
even both causes may have worked together. 

In the Old World, myths both old and new connected with 
huge bones, fossil or recent, are common enough. 3 Marcus 
Scaurus brought to Rome, from Joppa, the bones of the mon- 
ster who was to have devoured Andromeda, while the vestiges 
of the chains which bound her were to be seen there on the 
rock ; 4 and the sepulchre of Antaeus, containing his skeleton, 
GO cubits long, was found in Mauritania. 5 

Don Quixote was beforehand with Dr. Falconer in reasoning 
on the huge fossil bones so common in Sicily as remains of 
ancient inhabitants, as appears from his answer to the barber's 
question, how big he thought the giant Morgante might have 
be-on? "... Moreover, in the island of Sicily there have 
been found long-bones and shoulder-bones so huge, that their 
size manifests their owners to have been giants, and as big as 
great towers, for this truth geometry sets beyond doubt." 
Again, the fossil bones so plentifully strewed over the Sewalik, 
or lowest ranges of the Himalayas, belonged to the slain Rakis/ 1 

1 Schoolcraft, part i. pp. 319, 390 ; part. ii. pp. 175, 224 ; part iii. pp. 232, 315, 
319. 2 Wilson, 'Prehistoric Man,' vol. i. p. 112. 

3 In Polynesia, see Mariner, vol. i. p. 313. 

4 Plin.,"ix. 4; v. 14. & Strabo, xvii. 3, 8. 6 Torrens, 'Ladak,' et&, p. 87 

Y 2 


the gigantic Eakshasas of the Indian mythology. The remains 
of the Dun Cow that Guy Earl of Warwick slew are or were to be 
seen in England, in the shape of a whale's rib in the church of 
St. Mary Kedcliffe, and some great fossil bone kept, I believe, in 
Warwick Castle. " The giant sixteen feet high, whose bones- were 
found in 1577 near Heyden under an uprooted oak, and examined 
and celebrated in song by Felix Plater, the renowned physician 
of Basle, has been long ago banished by later naturalists into a 
very distant department of zoology ; but the giant has from that 
time forth got a firm standing ground beside the arms of Lucerne, 
and will keep it, all critics to the contrary notwithstanding." 1 

It would be tedious to enumerate more instances in which 
traditions of giants and huge beasts have been formed both in 
ancient and modern times from the finding of great fossil bones. 
But the remarks of St. Augustine on a great fossil tooth he saw 
are worthy of attention, as throwing some light on the connexion 
of such bones with the belief that man was once both enormously 
larger and longer-lived than he is now, and that his stature has 
diminished in the course of ages to its present dimensions ; as it 
is held by the Moslems that Adam was sixty feet high, of the 
measure of a tall palm-tree, and that the true believers will be 
restored in Paradise to this original stature of the human race, 
and that the houris who will attend them will be of proportion- 
ate dimensions. It seems as if Linnaeus may have held such an 
opinion, at least his editor gives the following as his reading of a 
passage in the notes of his northern tour, where unfortunately the 
original is obscure. " I have a notion that Adam and Eve were 
giants, and that mankind, from one generation to another, owing 
to poverty and other causes, have diminished in size. Hence per- 
haps the diminutive stature of the Laplander." 2 

St. Augustine's observations are contained in his chapter 
" Concerning the long life of men before the flood, and the 
greater size of their bodies." He makes these remarks, he 
says, in case any infidel should raise a doubt about men having 
lived to so great an age. " So some indeed do not believe that 
men's bodies were formerly much greater than now." Virgil, he 

1 Olfere, p. 3. See also Grimm, D. M. p. 522. 

2 Linnaeus, ' Tour,' vol. i. p. 28. 


continues, expresses the huge size of the men of former times, 
how much more then in the younger periods of the world, before 
the celebrated deluge. " But concerning the magnitude of their 
bodies, the graves laid bare by age or the force of rivers and 
various accidents especially convict the incredulous, where they 
have come to light, or where bones of the dead of incredible 
magnitude have fallen. I have seen, and not I alone, on the 
shore by Utica, so huge a molar tooth of a man, that were it cut 
up into small models of teeth like ours, it would seem enough 
to make a hundred of them. But this I should think had 
belonged to some giant ; for beside that the bodies of all men 
were then much larger than ours, the giants again far exceeded 
the rest." 1 

Among the traditions preserved from remote ages by the human 
race, there are perhaps none more important to the ethnologist 
than those which relate, in every great district of the world, and 
with so much unity combined with so much variety, the occur- 
rence of a great Deluge in long past time. In studying these 
Diluvial Traditions it is of the highest consequence that he should 
be able to separate the results of the memory of real events from 
those of observation of natural phenomena and of purely mytho- 
logical development. Humboldt in part states the problem in 
his remarks on the four devastations of the earth, by famine, fire, 
hurricane, and deluge, as represented in the Mexican picture- 
writing. " Whatever may be their true origin, it does not ap- 
pear less certain that they are fictions of astronomical mythology, 
modified either by a dim remembrance of some great revolution 
which our planet has undergone, or in accordance with the 
physical and geological hypotheses to which the appearance of 
marine petrifactions and fossil bones gives rise, even among 
peoples at the greatest distance from civilization." 2 

That the observation of shells and corals in places above the 
level of the sea, and even on high mountains, should have given 
rise to legends of great floods which deposited them there, is 
natural enough, and quite consistent with the growth of myths 
of monsters and giants from the observation of fossil bones. 
Marine productions being found at heights of many hundred 
1 Aug., 'De Civitate Dei,' xv. 9. 2 Humboldt, Vues des Cord., pi 26. 


feet above the sea, the question would evidently occur to the 
men who speculated so ingeniously about the fossil bones, how 
did these productions of the sea get upon the mountains ? As 
to fossil crustaceans, the Arabian geographer Abu-Zeyd ex- 
plains their appearance in Ceylon by setting them down as sea- 
animals like craw-fish, which, when they come out of the sea, are 
converted into stone, 1 but the appearance of sea-shells on moun- 
tains could hardly be so accounted for. Two alternatives suggest 
themselves to explain the occurrence of shells in such situations ; 
either the sea may have been up to the mountain, or the moun- 
tain may have been down in the sea. Modern geologists have in 
most cases to adopt the latter alternative, but till recent times 
the former was offcener than not held to be the more probable. 
Water is the type of all that is movable, fluctuating, unstable, 
while the firm earth is immovable, permanent, solid, and it is 
not to the purpose to argue that modern knowledge has reversed 
this older view, with so many other doctrines which seemed to 
rest on the plain evidence of the senses, and which only failed, 
as many of our own theories have no doubt to fail, from the 
narrowness of their range of observation. 

The fossils embedded in high ground have been appealed to, 
both in ancient and modern times, both by savages and civilized 
men, as evidence in support of their traditions of a flood, and 
moreover the argument, apparently unconnected with any 
tradition, is to be found, that because there are marine fossils 
in places away from the sea, therefore the sea must once have 
been there. In the Society Islands, tradition tells how a flood 
that rose over the tops of the mountains, was raised by the 
sea-god Ruahatu. A fisherman caught his hooks in the hair of 
the god as he lay sleeping among his coral groves, and woke 
him, but strange to say, though in his anger he drowned the 
rest of the inhabitants of the land in the deluge, he allowed the 
fisherman himself to find safe refuge with his wife and child on 
a small, low, coral island close to Eaiatea, and they repeopled 
the earth. How the little island was preserved they give no 
account, but they appeal to thefarero, coral, and shells found at 
the tops of the highest mountains, as proof of the inundation. 2 In 
1 Teunent, 'Ceylon,' vol. L p. 14. 8 Ellis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 58. 


Samoa it is the universal belief that of old the fish swam where 
the land now is, and tradition adds that when the waters abated, 
many of the fish of the sea were left on the land, and afterwards 
were changed into stones. Hence, they say, there are stones in 
abundance in the bush and among the mountains, which were 
once sharks, and other inhabitants of the deep. 1 In the North 
the Moravian missionary Cranz records that, " The first mis- 
sionaries found among the Greenlanders a tolerably distinct 
tradition of the Deluge, of which almost all heathen nations still 
know something, namely, that the world was once tilted over 
(umgekantert) and all men were drowned, but some became fire- 
spirits. The only man who remained alive, smote afterwards 
with his stick upon the ground, and there came out a woman, 
with whom he peopled the earth again. They tell moreover 
that far up in the country, where men could never have dwelt, 
there are found all sorts of remains of fishes, and even bones of 
whales on a high mountain ; wherefrom they make it clear that 
the earth was once flooded." 2 It is interesting to compare this 
argument with the explanation the Kamchadals give of the bones of 
whales, which in their country also are found on high mountains. 
They fear all high mountains, says Steller, especially volcanos, and 
also hot springs, and believe that some mountains are the abodes 
of spirits. " When one asks them what the devils do up there, 
they reply 'they cook whales.' I asked, where they got them? 
The answer was, they go down to the sea at night and catch 
SD many, that one brings home five to ten of them, one hanging 
to each finger. When I asked, how do you know this ? They 
said their old people had always said so and believed it them- 
selves. Withal they appealed to the observation, that there 
were many bones of whales found on all burning mountains. I 
asked whence come the flames there sometimes, and they 
answered, when the spirits have heated up their mountains as 
we do our yurts, they fling the rest of the brands out up the 
chimney, so as to be able to shut up. They said moreover, God 
in heaven sometimes does so too at the time when it is our 

1 Turner, ' Polynesia, ' p. 249. 

2 Cranz, p. 262. Again recently, C. F. Hall, 'Life with the Esquimaux ; 
London; 18G4, vol. ii. p. 318. 


summer and his winter, and he warms up his yurt ; whereby 
they explain the veneration of the lightning." 1 

In the geological theories of classical times, the inference 
from fossil shells found inland, high or low above the sea level, 
was commonly that the sea had once been there. Herodotus 
argues from the shells on the mountains in Egypt, 2 and Xanthus 
from the fossil shells, like cockles and scallops, which he had 
seen far from the sea, that there had been sea in old times where 
the land had since been left dry. Eratosthenes notices the 
existence of quantities of oyster-shells and bits of wreck of sea- 
going ships near the temple of Ammon, far inland in Lybia, 
while Strabo expresses the opinion that this temple was once 
close to the sea, though since thrown inland by the retiring of 
the waters. 3 Describing the region of Nurnidia farther west, 
Pompouius Mela relates that, "Inland and far enough from the 
coast (if the thing be credible) they tell that in a wondrous way 
the spines of fish, and fragments of murex and oyster-shells, 
stones worn in the ordinary manner by the waves and not 
differing from those of the sea, anchors fixed in the rocks, and 
other similar signs and vestiges of the sea that once spread 
to those places, exist and are found on the barren plains." 4 So 
Ovid says in his remarkable statement of the Pythagorean 

" Et procul a pelago conchae jacuere marinas 
Et vetus inventa est in montibus anchora summis," 

and argues thence that sea has been converted into land. 6 

In the Chinese Encyclopaedia from which I have already 
quoted two remarkable passages, an account is to be found 
bearing on the present subject. "Eastern Taitary. In 
travelling from the shore of the Eastern Sea toward Che-lu, 
neither brooks nor ponds are met with in the country, although 
it is intersected by mountains and valleys. Nevertheless there 
are found in the sand very far away from the sea, oyster-shells 
and the shields of crabs. The tradition of the Mongols who 
inhabit the country is, that it has been said from time immemo- 

1 Steller, p. 47. Herod., ii. 12. 3 Strabo, i. 3, 4. 

* Mela, L c. 6. * Ov. Met, xv. 264. 


rial that in remote antiquity the waters of the deluge flooded 
the district, and when they retired, the places where they had 
been made their appearance covered with sand. . . . However 
it may have happened, to follow the great geographer Ti-chi, a 
part of this country is in great plains, where several hundred 
leagues are found to have been covered by the waters and since 
abandoned ; this is why these deserts are called the Sandy Sea, 
which indicates that they were not originally covered with sand 
and gravel." 1 

Again, the presence of fossil shells on high mountains has 
long been adduced as evidence of the Noachic flood. Thus 
Tertulliau connects the sea-shells on mountains with the reap- 
pearance of the earth from below the waters, 2 and the argument 
may be followed up through later times, and was current in 
England till quite recently. In the ninth edition of Home's 
' Introduction to the Scriptures,' published in 1846, the evidence 
of fossils is confidently held to prove the universality of the 
Deluge ; but the argument disappears from the next edition, 
published ten years later. 

To the statements of classical writers as to anchors and pieces 
of wreck being found inland, some more modern accounts must 
be added. From time to time, whether from upheaval of the 
earth's surface or other geological changes, ships and things 
belonging to them have been found far inland, in places for ages 
out of reach of navigable waters. Buffon speaks of fragments of 
vessels being found in a mountain lake in Portugal, far from the 
sea, and mentions a statement of Sabinus, in his commentary on 
the lines just quoted from Ovid, that in the year 1460 a vessel 
was found with its anchors, in a mine in the Alps. 3 This is, no 
doubt, the same story that Antonio Galvano refers to, when he 
says, " Thus they tell of finding hulls of ships and iron anchors 
in the mountains of Switzerland very far inland, where it appears 
that there was never sea nor salt water." 4 

The bearing of such phenomena on the formation of diluvial 
traditions is clearly shown by their having been repeatedly 

1 Mem. cone, les Chinois, vol. iv. p. 474. Kleram, C. G., vol. vi. p. 467. 

lert., ' De Pallio,' ii. H. F. Link, 'Die Urwelt,' etc. ; Berlin, 1821, p. 4. 

Button, ' Theorie de la Terre,' voL iii. p. 119. 4 Galvano, p. 26. 


claimed, like the fossil shells, as evidence of the former presence 
of the sea, and even of the Biblical deluge. It is not, however, 
necessary, from this point of view, that the accounts in question 
should all be true ; it is enough that they should be believed 
and reasoned upon. In the seventeenth century, Fray Pedro 
Simon relates that some miners, running an adit into a hill near 
Callao, " met with a ship which had on top of it the great mass 
of the hill, and did not agree in its make and appearance with 
our ships," whence people judged that it had been left there by 
the Flood, and the fact is cited in proof of the habitation of the 
country in antediluvian times. 1 Writing in 1730, Strahlenberg 
gives it as his opinion that the mammoth bones in Siberia are 
relics of the Deluge, and goes on to add a like example, that 
some thirty years earlier the whole lower hull of a ship with a 
keel was found in Barabinsk Tartary, where nevertheless there 
is no ocean. 2 Lastly, in Scotland it is quite a common thing 
for ancient canoes hollowed from a single tree to be found buried 
in places remote from navigable channels, while the skeletons of 
whales are found in similar situations. Sir John Clerk thus 
remarks upon a canoe found near Edinburgh in 1726. " The 
washings of the river Carron discovered a boat, 13 or 14 feet 
underground ; it is 36 feet in length, and 4^ in breadth, all of 
one piece of oak. There were several strata above it, such as 
loam, clay, shells, moss, sand, and gravel ; these strata demon- 
strate it to have been an antediluvian boat." 3 

Both in Scotland and in South America, upheaval of land in 
more or less modern times is a recognized fact, and the finding 
of boats, as of various other productions of human art, in places 
where they could hardly have been placed by man, is readily 
accounted for between this upheaval and the effects of ordinary 
accumulation and degradation. 

Geological evidence bearing on traditions of a Deluge is scarce. 
Sir Charles Lyell seems disposed to adopt the view of old writers 
that some of the South American deluge traditions are connected 

1 Simon, ' Noticias Historiales,' etc. ; Cuenca. 1627, p. 31. 

a Strahlenberg, 'Das Nord und Ostliche Theil \on Europa und A?ien ;' Stockholm, 
1730, p. 396. C. Hamilton Smith, p. 45. 

3 Bibl. Tcpog. Brit. ; London, 1790, vol. iii. parti, p. 241. Wilson, 'Arc.,tt-o- 
logy, etc., of Scotland,' p. 32. 


with the memory of local floods, such as are known to happen 
there. Dr. Szab6 says that the Hungarians still preserve tradi- 
tions of their plains having been once covered by a freshwater 
sea, the waters of which afterwards escaped through the narrows 
of the Iron Gate. The draining of the country in this manner 
is considered by Dr. Szabo as having really happened, so that 
this may be a case of tradition handing down the memory of a 
geological change from a very remote period. 1 It would require 
a large body of scientific evidence of this character to make 
possible a thorough investigation of the Diluvial traditions of the 
world, and any attempt to draw a distinct line between the 
claims of History and Mythology must in the meantime be 

It fortunately happens that the difficulty in analysing the 
Diluvial traditions into their historical and mythological ele- 
ments is one which only partially affects their use to Ethnology. 
Were they merely stories current in various parts of the world, 
saying little more than that there was once a great flood, or 
giving details only harmonizing within limited districts, they 
might be explained as independent Myths of Observation. But 
the general state of things found over the world is widely different 
from this. The notion of men having existed before this flood, 
and having been all destroyed except a few who escaped and 
re-peopled the earth, does not flow so immediately from the 
observation of natural phenomena that we can easily suppose it 
to have originated several times independently in such a way, 
yet this is a feature common to a great number of flood tradi- 
tions. Still more strongly does this argument apply to the 
occurrence of some form of raft, ark, or canoe, in which the 
survivors are usually saved, unless, as in some cases, they take 
refuge directly on the top of some mountain which the waters 
lu'ver cover. The idea is indeed conceivable, if somewhat far- 
fetched, that from the sight of a boat found high on a mountain 
there might grow a story of the flood which carried it there, 
while the people in it escaped to found a new race. But it lies 
outside all reasonable probability to suppose such circumstances 
to have produced the same story in several different places, nor 

1 Geol. Journal, Feb. 1863. 


is it very likely that the dim remembrances of a number of local 
floods should accord in this with the amount of consistency that 
is found among the flood traditions of remote regions of the 
world. The occurrence of an ark in the traditions of a deluge 
found in so many distant times and places, favours the opinion 
of these being derived from a single source. 

As to Myths of Observation in general, the line of demarcation 
which separates them on the one hand from traditions of real 
events, and on the other from more purely mythic tales, is 
equally hard to draw. Even the stories which have their origin 
in a mere realized metaphor, or a personification of the pheno- 
mena of nature, will attach themselves to real persons, places, 
or objects, as strongly as though they actually belonged to them. 
To the subjective mind of the myth maker, every hill and valley, 
every stone and tree, that strikes his attention, becomes the 
place wbere some mythic occurrence happened to gods, or heroes, 
or fair women, or monsters, or ethereal beings. When once the 
tale is made, the rock or tree becomes evidence of its truth to 
future generations : " the bricks are alive at this day to testify 
it ; therefore, deny it not." 



THE student of the early History of Mankind finds in Com- 
parative Mythology the same use and the same difficulty which 
lie before him in so many other branches of his subject. He 
can sometimes show, in the mythical tales current among several 
peoples, coincidences so quaint, so minute, or so complex, that 
they could hardly have arisen independently in two plates, and 
these coincidences he claims as proofs of historical connexion 
between the tribes or nations among whom they are found. But 
his great difficulty is how to be sure that he is not interpreting 
as historical evidence analogies which may be nothing more than 
the results of the like working of the human mind under like 
conditions. His ever-recurring problem is to classify the crowd 
of resemblances which are continually thrusting themselves upon 
him, so as to keep those things which are merely similar apart 
from those which, having at some spot of the earth's surface 
their common source and centre of diffusion, are really and 
historically united. 

No attempt is made in the present chapter to lay down definite 
rules for the solution of this important problem, but a few illus- 
trations are given of the more general analogies running through 
the Folk-lore of the world, which Ethnology, for the present at 
least, has to set aside ; and then a few facts are stated, bearing 
on the diffusion of Myths by recognised channels of intercourse, 
with the view of introducing a group of similar episodes, which 
it is for the reader to reject as caused by independent growth or 
modern transmission, or to accept as a contribution to the early 
History of the New World. 

Firstly, then, there are found among savage tribes myths like 


in their character, and therefore no doubt in their origin, to 
those of the great Aryan race which have in our own times been 
so successfully traced to the very point where they arose out of 
the contemplation of Nature. No one has yet done for the myths 
of the lowest tribes what has been done for those of our more 
highly developed race by Kuhn and Miiller, and their school in 
Germany and England ; but Schirren, by his treatment of the 
gods and mythic ancestors of the South Sea Islanders as personi- 
fications of the phenomena of nature, has made an important 
step toward extending the modern method of interpretation to 
the Mythology of the World. 1 Still, a very slight acquaintance 
with the popular tales of America, Polynesia, even Australia and 
Van Diemen's Land, will show that they are the same in their 
nature and often in their incidents, by virtue of the like nature 
of the minds which conceived them. 

As Zeus, the personified Heaven of our own race, drops tears 
on earth which mortals call rain, so does the heaven-god of 

Tahiti ; 

" Thickly falls the small rain on the face of the sea, 
They are not drops of rain, but they are tears of Oro." * 

In the dark patches on the face of the moon, the Singhalese 
sees the pious hare that offered itself to Buddha to be cooked 
and eaten, when he was wandering hungry in the forest. The 
Northman saw there the two children whom Mani the Moon 
caught up, as they were taking the water from the well Byrgir, 
and who are carrying the bucket on the pole between them to 
this day. Elsewhere in Europe, Isaac has been seen carrying 
the bundle of wood up Mount Moriah for his own sacrifice, and 
Cain bringing from his field a load of thorns as his offering to 
Jehovah. Our own " Man in the Moon" was set up there for 
picking sticks on a Sunday, and he, too, carries his thorn-bush, 
as Caliban had seen, " I have seen thee in her, and I do adore 
thee ; my mistress showed me thee, and thy dog and thy bush." 
The Selish Indians of North-West America have devised their 
story of the " Toad in the Moon;" the little wolf was in love 
with the toad, and pursued her one bright moonlight night, till, 

1 Schirren, ' Die Wandersagen der Neuseelancler nnd dcr Mauimythos ; ' Riga, 
1356. * Ellis, Polyn. Ees., vol. i. p. 531. 


for a last chance of escape, she mads a desperate spring on to 
the face of the moon, and there she is still. In the Samoan 
Islands in the Central Pacific, the dweller in the moon is a 
woman. Her name was Sina, and she was beating out paper- 
cloth with a mallet. The moon was just rising, and looked like 
a great bread-fruit, so Sina asked her to come down and let her 
child have a bit of her. But the moon was very angry at the 
idea of being eaten, and took up Sina, child, and mallet and all, 
and there they are to be seen to this day. 1 

The heavenly bodies are gods and heroes, and tales of their 
deeds in love and arms are found among the lower as among the 
higher races. Apollo and Artemis, Helios and Selene, are brother 
and sister, and so in the Polar Regions the Sun is a maiden and 
the Moon her brother. The Esquimaux tale tells how, when 
the girl was at a festive gathering, some one declared his love for 
her by shaking her by the shoulders, after the manner of the coun- 
try. She could not tell who it was in the dark hut, so she smeared 
her hand with soot, and when he came back, she blackened his 
face with her hand. When a light was brought, she saw it was 
her brother, and fled, and he rushed after her. She came to the 
end of the earth and sprang out into the sky, and he followed her. 
There they became the Sun and Moon, and this is why the moon 
is always chasing the sun through the heavens ; and the moon is 
sometimes dark as he turns his blackened cheek towards the earth. 2 

The natives of Van Diemen's Land, whose dismal history is 
now closing in total extinction, are among the lowest tribes 
known to Ethnology. Yet to them, as to higher races, the 
idea i-< familiar that the stars are men, or beings of a higher 
order who have appeared as men on earth. Their myth of the 
two heroes who are now the twin stars Castor and Pollux, is thus 
told by Milligan, as related by a native of the Oyster Bay Tribe : 

" My father, my grandfather, all of them lived a long time 
ago all over the country ; they had no fire. Two black-fellows 
came, they slept at the foot of a hill, a hill in my own country. 

1 Grimm, D. M., pp. 679-83. "Wilson, 'Indian Tribes,' in Tr. Eth. ?oc. vol. iv. 
p. 304. Turner, 'Polynesia,' p. 247. ee Mariner, vol. ii. p. 127. 

; Hayes, 'Arctic Boat Journey,' p. 253. Different versions in Cranz, p. 295, 
Tr. Eth. Soc. vol. iv. p. 147. 


On the summit of a hill they were seen hy my fathers, my 
countrymen, on the top of the hill they were seen standing : 
they threw fire like a star, it fell amongst the hlackmen, my 
countrymen. They were frightened, they fled away, all of them ; 
after a while they returned, they hastened and made a fire, a 
fire with wood ; no more was fire lost in our land. The two 
black-fellows are in the clouds ; in the clear night you see them 
like two stars. 1 These are they who brought fire to my fathers. 

The two blackmen stayed awhile in the land of my fathers. 
Two women were bathing; it was near a rocky shore, where 
mussels were . plentiful. The women were sulky, they were 
sad; their husbands were faithless, they had gone with two 
girls. The women were lonely; they were swimming in the 
water, they were diving for cray-fish. A sting-ray lay concealed 
in the hollow of a rock, a large sting-ray ! The sting-ray was 
large, he had a very long spear; from his hole he spied the 
women, he saw them dive : he pierced them with his spear, 
he killed them, he carried them away. Awhile they were gone 
out of sight. The sting-ray returned, he came close to the 
shore, he lay in still water, near the sandy beach ; with him 
were the women, they were fast on his spear, they were dead ! 

The two blackmen fought the sting-ray ; they slew him with 
their spears ; they lolled him ; the women were dead ! The 
two blackmen made a fire, a fire of wood. On either side they 
laid a woman, the fire was between : the women were dead ! 

The blackmen sought some ants, some large blue ants ; they 
placed them on the bosoms of the women. Severely, intensely 
were they bitten. The women revived, they lived once more. 

Soon there came a fog, a fog dark as night. The two black- 
men' went away, the women disappeared : they passed through 
the fog, the thick dark fog ! Their place is in the clouds. Two 
stars you see in the clear cold night ; the two blackmen are 
there, the women are with them : they are stars above." '' 

It is not needful to accumulate great masses of such tales as 
these, in order to show that the myth-making faculty belongs 
to mankind in general, and manifests itself in the most distant 

1 Castor and Pollux. 

3 Milligan, Papers, etc., of R. Soc. of Tasmania, vol. iii. part ii. 1859, p. 274. 


regions, where its unity of principle developes itself in endless 
variety of form. There may indeed be a remote historical con- 
nexion at the root of some of the analogies in myths from far 
distant regions, which have just been mentioned; but when 
resemblances in Mythology are brought forward as proofs of 
such historical connexion, they must be closer and deeper than 
these. Mythological evidence, to be used for such a purpose, 
requires a systematic agreement in the putting together of a 
number of events or ideas, which agreement must be so close 
as to make it in a high degree improbable that two such com- 
binations should have occurred separately, or at least the tales 
or ideas found alike in distant regions must be of so quaint and 
fantastic a character as to make it, on the very face of the 
matter, unlikely that they should have been invented twice. 
But it is both easier and safer to appeal to the effects of 
known intercourse between different peoples in spreading be- 
liefs and popular tales, as evidence of the way in which histo- 
rical connexion really docs record itself in Mythology, than to 
lay down a priori rules as to what the effects of such connexion 
ought to be. 

When we consider how short the time is since the Indians of 
North America have been acquainted with guns, the fact that 
there has been recorded, as one of their native beliefs, the no- 
tion that there are men who have charmed lives, and can only 
be killod with a silver bullet, may prepare us for the way in 
which savages can take up foreign mythology into their own. 
Again, it might be naturally expected that Bible stories learnt 
from missionaries, settlers, and travellers, should pass in a more 
or less altered shape into the folk-lore of savage races. Moiliit 
gives a good instance which happened to himself. He had 
never succeeded in finding a deluge-tradition in South Africa, 
.but making inquiries in a Namaqua village, he came upon a 
somewhat intelligent native who had one to tell, so he began 
with great satisfaction to take it down in writing. By the time 
it was finished, however, he began to suspect, for it bore the 
impress of the Bible, though the Hottentot declared that he had 
received it from his forefathers, and had never seen or liciird 
of a missionary. Mr. Moffat was puzzled, and suspended his 


judgment till, a little while afterwards, the mystery was un- 
ravelled by the appearance of the very missionary from whom 
the native story-teller had received his teaching. 1 As another 
case of the same kind, may he quoted the following servile 
version of the story of Joseph and his brethren, found in Hawaii 
as the story of Waikelenuiaiku. His father had ten sons and 
one daughter ; he was beloved by his father, and hated by his 
brethren, and they threw him into a pit, but his eldest brother 
felt more compassion for him than the rest. He escaped out 
of the pit, into the country of King Kamohoalii, and there he 
was confined in a dungeon with the prisoners. He bade his 
companions dream, and interpreted the dreams of four of them. 
One had seen a ripe banana, and his spirit ate it, the next 
dreamt of a banana, and the next of a hog, in the same way, 
but the fourth dreamt that he saw aw a, that he pressed out 
the juice, and his spirit drank it. The three first dreams the 
foreigner interpreted for evil, and the dreamers were put to 
d?ath in course of time, but to the fourth he prophesied de- 
liverance and life, and he was saved, and told the King, who 
set Waikelenuiaiku at liberty, and made him a principal chief in 
the kingdom. 2 

There is sometimes a crudeness about these tales adopted 
from foreign sources, which gives us the means of positively 
condemning them. But the power which myths have of taking 
root the moment they are transplanted into a new country, 
often makes it impossible to tell whether they are of old date 
and historical value, or mere modern intruders. There is 
reason to believe that a story carried into a distant place by 
civilized men may spread and accommodate itself to the cir- 
cumstances of the country, so that in a very few years' time it 
may be quite honestly collected as a genuine native tale, even 
by the very people who originally introduced it, like the farmer's 
hack that he sold in the morning, and bought back in the af- 
ternoon with a fresh mane and tail as a new horse. Of coarse 
this is the same kind of diffusion of myths which has been 
going on from remote ages among mankind, one of the very 

1 Moffat, 'Missionary Labours, etc., in S. Africa;' London, 1842, p. 126. 
* Hopkins, 'Hawaii ;' Lonuon, 1862, p. 67. 


processes which have preserved to Ethnology aids of such high 
importance for the reconstruction of early history. It is only 
unfortunate that its results in modern times, by confoundino- 
the evidence of early and late intercourse between different 
peoples, have done so much to impair its historical value 

Among the stories found in circulation among outlying races, 
there are many, beside those relating to a Deluge, which appear 
to be really united by ancient and deep -lying bonds of con- 
nexion with Biblical episodes, and the extreme difficulty, or 
impossibility, of separating a great part of these ancient stories 
from those which have grown up in modern times under 
Christian influences, is a very serious loss to early history. 
Still it is better to submit to this, than to base Ethnological 
arguments on evidence that will not bear the test of criticism. 
It is not only to Scriptural stories that this objection lies. 
Episodes from the classics and other European sources may be 
carried into distant lands by colonists and missionaries, and it 
may be laid down as a general rule, that stories which may have 
been transplanted in this way in modern times, must be rejected 
as independent evidence of remote intercourse between distant 
races among whom they are found. It is when a connexion 
between two peoples has been already made probable by evidence 
not liable to be tnus impeached, that these stories can be taken 
into consideration as secondary evidence, which, once proved to 
be safe, may be of extraordinary interest and value. 

Before proceeding to the comparison of a number of American 
myths with their analogues in the Old World, it is to be pre- 
mised that the view of a connexion between the inhabitants of 
America and Asia by no means rests on one of those vague 
and misty theories, which have too often been allowed to pass 
current as solid Ethnological arguments. The researches of 
Alexander von Humboldt brought into view, half a century 
ago, evidence which goes with great force to prove that the 
civilization of Mexico and that of Asia have, in part at least, 
a common origin, and that therefore the population of these 
regions are united, if not by the tie of common descent and 
relationship by blood, at least by intercourse, direct or indirect, 

in past times. Of this evidence, the similarity of the chro- 

z 2 


nological calendars is perhaps the strongest point. Not only 
are series of names like our signs of the zodiac used to re- 
cord periods of time, but such series are combined together, or 
with numbers, in both countries, in a complex, perverse, and 
practically purposeless manner, which, whatever its origin, e;in 
hardly by any stretch of probability be supposed to have come 
up independently in the minds of two different peoples. The 
theory of the successive destructions and renovations of the 
world, at the end of long cycles of years, was pointed out by 
Humboldt as another bond of connexion between Mexico and 
the Old World. If these agreements between North America 
and Asia are to be read as indications of a deep-rooted con- 
nexion, this ought to have left many other traces. Of customs, 
the occurrence of which in America as well as in the Old 
World would be well explained by such a view, something has 
already been said. Of the North or South American myths 
which closely resemble tales current in Asia, Polynesia, and else- 
where in the world, eight are discussed here, the World-Tortoise, 
the Man swallowed by the Fish, the Sun-Catcher, the Ascent to 
Heaven by the Tree, the Bridge of the Dead, the Fountain of 
Youth, the Tail-Fisher, and the Diable Boiteux. 

In the Old World, the Tortoise Myth belongs especially to 
India, and the idea is developed there in a variety of forms. 
The Tortoise that uphold} the earth is called in Sanskrit 
Kurmardja, "King of the Tortoises," and the Hindus believe 
to this day that the world rests upon its back. Sometimes the 
snake Sesha bears the world on its head, or an elephant carries 
it upon its back, and both snake and elephant are themselves 
supported by the great tortoise. The earth, rescued from the 
deluge which destroys mankind, is set up with the snake that 
bears it resting on the floating tortoise, and a deluge is again 
to pour over the face of the earth when the world-tortoise, sink- 
ing under its load, goes down into the great waters. When 
the Daityas and Danavas churned the Sea of Milk to make the 
amrita, the drink of immortality, they took the mountain Man- 
dara for the churning-stick, and the serpent Vasuki was the 
thong that was wound round it, and pulled back and forwards 
to drive the churn. In the midst of the milky sea, Yitilmu him- 


self, in the form of a tortoise, served as a pivot for the mountain 
as it was whirled around. 1 

The notion of the earth being itself a great tortoise swimming 
in the midst of the ocean, is thus described by Reinaud : 
" According to Varaha-Mihira, the Indians represented to them- 
selves the inhabited part of the world under the form of a tor- 
toise floating upon the water ; it is in this sense that they call 
the World Kaurma-chakra, that is to say, ' the wheel of the tor- 
toise.'" And lastly, the ancient Vedic Books of India, which 
so often supply the means of tracing the most florid developments 
of mythology back to mere simple child-like views of nature, 
present, as really existing in very early times, the original idea 
out of which the whole series of myths of the World- Tortoise 
seems to have grown. To man in the lower levels of science, 
the earth is a flat plain over which the sky is placed like a dome, 
as the arched upper shell of the tortoise stands upon the flat 
plate belov,-, and this is why the tortoise is the symbol and repre- 
sentative of the world. The analogy of other conceptions of heaven 
and earth, as formed by the two halves of the shell of Brahma's 
Egg, or by the two calabashes shut together in the mythology of 
the Yorubas of Africa, 3 is indeed sufficient to lead us to the 
opinion that this was the original meaning of the World-Tortoise, 
but the following passage from Weber will enable us to substitute 
fact for inference. " The earth is conceived in the Catapatha 
Bralimana as the under shell (adharam kapalam) of the Tortoise 
Kurma, which represents the Triple World. The upper shell is 
the sky, the body lying between the two shells is the atmosphere 
(nabhas, antari-ksham) which connects them." 4 

1 Boehtlingk & Roth, s. v. Kurma. Wilson, A', v. Kurmaraja. Coleman, p. 12. 
Vans Kennedy, 'Researches;' London, 1831, pp. 216,24:}. Holwell, 'Historical 
Event-,' etc.; London, 1766 7, part ii. p. 109. Falconer, inProc. Zool. Soc., 1844, 
p. 86. See Sir W. Jones, in As. Res. vol. ii. p. 119. BakUeus, in Churchill's 
Voyages, vol. iii. p. 848. Wilson, 'Vishnu Purana ;' London, 1S40, p. 75. W. v. 
Humboldt (Kawi-Spr., vol. i. p. 240) says with reference to the Naga Padoha, the 
great snake on whose three horns the world rests, " It seems to me not unlikely, 
that the idea of a world -bear ing elephant lies at the bottom of the whole saga [of 
the snake, that is] and the double meaning of Sanskrit na-a, elephant and snake, 
has brought confusion into the story." 

2 Reinaud, ' Mcmoire sur 1'Inde ;' Paris, 1849, p. 116. 
8 Pott, ' Anti-Kaulen ;' Lemgo, 1863, p. 68. 

4 Weber, ' Indische Siudien ;' Berlin, 1850, etc.; vol. i. p. 187. See also p. 81. 


There is a curious group of myths, of which an ancient example 
is preserved in the Zend-Avesta. The hero, Kere9aspa, cooks 
his food in a cauldron on the back of the serpent Cruvara, on 
which the green poison flowed of the thickness of a thumb ; the 
burnt monster dashes away, and returns to the hurrying waters. 
It is related in the first voyage of Sindbad, that he and his com- 
panions came, as they sailed along, to an island like one of the 
gardens of Paradise, and there they anchored the ship, and went 
ashore, and lighted fires to cook food. But the island was a 
great fish, on whose back sand had accumulated, and trees had 
grown from times of old, and when it felt the fire on its back, it 
moved and went down to the bottom of the sea. This story, 
which may be also found in Jewish and mediaeval European 
literature, seems to have become combined with the tortoise- 
myth. In El-Kazwini's account of the animals of the water, 
there is a version of the story, which describes the creature as a 
huge tortoise; "The Tortoise," he says, "is a sea and land 
animal. As to the sea-tortoise, it is very enormous, so that the 
people of the ship imagine that it is an island. One of the 
merchants hath related, saying, ' We found in the sea an island 
elevated above the water, having upon it green plants ; and we 
went forth to it, and dug [holes for fire] to cook ; whereupon 
the island moved, and the sailors said, Come ye to your place ; 
for it is a tortoise, and the heat of the fire hath hurt it ; lest it 
carry you away ! Tiy reason of the enormity of its body,' saith 
he (i.e. the narrator above mentioned), ' it was as though it were 
an island ; and earth collected upon its back in the length of 
time, so that it became like land, and produced plants.' " It is 
remarkable that a similar story, of a monstrous river-tortoise, 
has been found among the Zulus. 1 

I may mention having set down this conception as the probable basis of the Tortoise- 
myths before meeting with this direct evidence from ancient India. The coincidence 
defends such an interpretation of the myths from the charge of being far-fetched and 

1 Avesta (tr. by Spiegel & Bleeck) Yana, ix. 34. Lane, 'Thousand and One 
Nights,' vol. iii. pp. 6, 79, see vol. i. p. 21. Eisenmenger, 'Entdecktes Jiulenthum,' 
Konigsberg, 1711, part i. p. 399. St. Brandan, ed. T. Wright, London, 1MJ. 
Petri Siculi Hist. Maniehreorum, recog. Gieseler, (iottingen, 1840, p. 34. CaJlaway, 
'Zulu Nursery Tales,' vol. i. pp. 2, 341. 


The striking analogy between the Tortoise-myths of North 
America and India is by no means a matter of new observation ; 
it was indeed remarked upon by Father Lafitau nearly a century 
and a half ago. 1 Three great features of the Asiatic stories are 
found among the North American Indians, in the fullest and 
clearest development. The earth is supported on the back of a 
huge floating Tortoise, the Tortoise sinks under water and 
causes a deluge, and the Tortoise is conceived as being itself the 
Earth floating upon the face of the deep. 

In the last century, Loskiel, the Moravian missionary, re- 
marked of the North American Indians, that " Some imagine, 
that the earth swims in the sea, or that an enormous tortoise 
carries the world on its back." 3 Schoolcraft, an. unrivalled 
authority on Indian mythology within his own district, remarks 
that the turtle is "an object held in great respect, in all Indian 
reminiscence. It is believed to be, in all cases, a symbol of the 
earth, and is addressed as a mother." In the Iroquois my- 
thology, there was a woman of heaven who was called Atahentsic, 
and one of the six men of heaven became enamoured of her. 
"\Yhen it was discovered, she was cast down to earth, and received 
on the back of a great turtle lying on the waters, and there she 
WHS delivered of twins. One was " The Good Mind," the other 
was " the Bad Mind," and thus the two great powers of the 
Indian dualism, the Good and Evil Principle, came into the 
world, and the tortoise expanded and became the earth, 3 or, as it 
is elsewhere related, the otter and the fishes disturbed the mud 
at the bottom of the ocean, and drawing it up round the tortoise, 
formed a small island, which, gradually increasing, became the 
earth. 4 Father Charlevoix gives two different versions of the 
story. In one place it is Taronyawagon, the King of Heaven, 
who gave his wife so mighty a kick that she flew out of tho sky 
and down to earth, and fell upon the back of a tortoise, which, 
cleaving the waters of the deluge with its feet, at last uncovered 
the earth, and carried the woman to the foot of a tree, where she 
was delivered of two sons, and the elder, who was called Tawis- 
karon, killed his younger brother. In another place the story is 

1 Lafitan, vol. i. p. 99. 8 Loskiel, Kirt i. p. 30. 8 Schoolcraft, part L 

pp. 390, 316. 4 Colcinan, p. 15. 


like Schoolcraft's. 1 Among the Maudans, Catlin found a leg^r.d 
which brings in the same notion of the World- tortoise, but shows 
by the difference of the accessory circumstances that it was not in 
America a mere part of a particular story, but a mythological 
conception which might be worked into an unlimited variety of 
myths. The tale ihat the Mandan doctor told Catlin, was that 
the earth was a large tortoise, that it carried dirt upon its back, 
and that a tribe of people who are now dead, and whose faces 
were white, used to dig down very deep in this ground to catch 
badgers. One day they stuck a knife through the shell of the 
tortoise, and it sank and sank till the water ran over its back, and 
they were all drowned but one man. 2 The North American idea 
that it is the movement of the earth-tortoise which causes earth- 
quakes, adds the last touch to the realism of the whole conception. 3 

The Myth of the World-Tortoise is one of those which have 
this great value in the comparison of Asiatic and American 
Mythology, that it leaves not the least opening for the supposi- 
tion of its having been carried by modern Europeans from the 
Old to the New World. But it is to be seen, even from the 
tales which have just been quoted, that it is mixed up in Ame- 
rica with incidents and ideas more familiar to the European 
mind ; and the stories told only with reference to the World- 
Tortoise may serve to give a glimpse into the vast ethnological 
field which lies in the Red Indian traditions, ready to be worked. 
The Deluge, Cain and Abel, Ahriman and Orrnuzd, Romulus 
and Remus, all have their analogies among the legends of these 
wild hunters. In the story which Charlevoix tells just before that 
which I have quoted, there is Noah's raven and Pandora's casket. 

To proceed now to the story of the Man swallowed by the 
Fish. 4 It is related in the Chippewa tale of the Little Monedo, 
that there was once a. little boy, of tiny stature, and growing no 
bigger with years, but of monstrous strength. He had done 
before various wondrous feats, and one day he waded into the 
lake, and called " You of the red fins, come and swallow me." 

1 Charlevoix, vol. vi. pp. 146, 65. * Catlin, vol. i. p. 181. 

8 J. G. Miiller, ' Amerikanische Drreligionen,' pp. 61, 122. 

4 This subject has since been more fully treated by the author iu 'Primitive 
Culture,' chap. ix. 


Immediately that monstrous fish came and swallowed him, and 
he, seeing his sister standing in despair on the shore, called out 
to her, and she tied an old mocassin to a string, and fastened it 
to a tree near the water's edge. The fish said to the hoy-man 
under water, " What is that floating ? " The boy-man said to 
the fish, " Go take hold of it, and swallow it as fast as you can." 
The fish darted towards the old shoe, and swallowed it ; the 
boy-man laughed to himself, but said nothing till the fish was 
fairly caught, and then he took hold of the line and hauled 
himself to shore. When the sister began to cut the fish open 
she heard her brother's voice from inside the fish, calling to her 
to let him out, so she made a hole, and he crept through, and 
told her to cut up the fish and dry it, for it would last them a 
long while for food. 1 

In the Old World, the Hindoo story of Saktideva tells that 
there was once a king's daughter who would marry no one but 
the man who had seen the Golden City, and Saktideva was in 
love with her ; so he went travelling about the world seeking 
some one who could tell him where this Golden City was. In 
the course of his journeys he embarked on board a ship bound 
for the island of Utsthala, where lived the King of the Fisher- 
men, who, Saktideva hoped, would set him on his way. On the 
voyage there arose a great storm and the ship went to pieces, 
but a great fish swallowed Saktideva whole. Then driven by 
the force of fate, the fish went to the island of Utsthala, and 
there the servants of the King of the Fishermen caught it, and 
the King wondering at its size had it cut open, and Saktideva 
came out unhurt, to pass through other adventures, and at last 
to see the Golden City, and to marry, not the Princess only, but 
her three sisters beside. 2 

The analogy of these curious tales with the leading episode of 
the Book of Jonah is of course evident, and" it might at first 
appear as though this very ancient story were possibly the direct 
origin of one or both of them ; as regards dates, the American 
story has been but recently taken down, and even the Hindoo 
tale only comes out of a mediaeval Sanskrit collection. But 
both agree in differing from the history of Jonah, in the fish 

* Schoolcraft, part iii. pp. 318-20. 2 Somadeva Bhatta, vol. ii. pp. 118-184. 


being cut open to let the man out. Something very like this 
occurs in the myth of the Polynesian Sun-god Maui. He was 
born on the sea-shore, and his mother flung him into the foam 
of the surf ; then the seaweed wrapped its long tangles round 
him, and the soft jelly-fish rolled themselves about him to protect 
him as he was drifted on shore again, and his great ancestor the 
Sky, Tama-nui-ki-te-Rangi, saw the flies and the birds collected 
in clusters and flocks, and ran and stripped the encircling jelly- 
fish off, and behold there lay within a human being ; so the old 
man took the child and carried it home. 1 As the Polynesian 
Maui is among the clearest and completest personifications of 
the Sun, there is some force in Schirren's argument that this 
story means the Sun being set free by the Sky at dawn, from 
the Earth which covers him at night ; 2 for it must be remem- 
bered here that one of the most prominent ideas of the Polynesian 
Mythology is that the Earth is a huge fish, which Maui draws 
up with his line from the bottom of the sea, and that Maui's 
death, the sunset, is told in the story of his creeping into the 
mouth of his great ancestress, Hine-nui-te-po, whom you may 
see flashing, and, as it were, opening and shutting, where the 
horizon meets the sky ; there Maui crept in, and perished. And 
not only would such an explanation of the tale of the Rd Indian 
' Tom Thumb ' be a fitting one, in that he, like so many personi- 
fications of the Sun in other countries, is a slayer of Giants, but 
he will appear a few pages further on as the Sun- Catcher in a 
plain, open Solar myth. In any full discussion of the group of 
tales, it would be necessary to investigate their correspondence 
with the European stories of Tom Thumb, who was swallowed 
by the cow and came out unhurt, and of Little Bed Riding-Hood, 
who was swallowed whole by the wolf, and came out alive when 
the hunter cut him open. 3 

In the next myth, that of the Sun-Catcher, the Polynesian 
Sun-god Maui again makes his appearance. He began to think 
that it was too soon after the rising of the sun that it became 
night again, and that the sun again sank down below the 

1 Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' pp. 18, 81. 

* Schirren, pp. 143-44, 29. But the legend is very erroneously given. 

* J. & W. Grimm, 'Miirchen,' voL L pp. 142, 198, 28. 


horizon, every day, every day ; so at last he said to his brothers, 
" Let us now catch the sun in a noose, so that we may compel 
him to move more slowly, in order that mankind may have long 
days to labour in to procure subsistence for themselves." Then 
they began to spin and twist ropes to make a noose to catch the 
sun in, and thus the art of rope-making was discovered. And 
Maui took his enchanted weapon, which, like Samson's, was a 
jaw-bone, the jaw-bone of his ancestress Muri-ranga-whenua, and 
lie and his brothers travelled off through the desert, till they 
caine very far, very far, to the eastward, to the very edge of the 
place out of which the sun rises. There they set the noose, and 
at last the sun came up and put his head and fore-paws through 
it ; then the brothers pulled the ropes tight and held him fast, 
and Maui rushed at him with his magic weapon. Alas ! the 
sun screams aloud, he roars; Maui strikes him fiercely with 
many blows ; they hold him for a long time, at last they let him 
go, and then, weak from wounds, the sun crept slowly along its 
course. 1 Another version of the story was taken down in the 
Samoan Islands. There was once a man who, like the white 
people, though it was years before pipes, muskets, or priests 
were heard of, never could be contented with what he had ; pud- 
ding was not good enough for him, and he worried his family 
out of all heart with his new ways and ideas. At last he set 
to build himself a house of great stones, to last for ever ; so he 
rose early and toiled late, but the stones were so heavy and so 
far off, and the sun went round so quickly, that he could get on 
but very slowly. One evening he lay awake, and thought and 
thought, and it struck him that as the sun had but one road to 
come by, he might stop him and keep him till the work was 
done. So he rose before the dawn, and pulling out in his canoe 
as the sun rose, he threw a rope round his neck ; but no, the sun 
marched on and went his course unchecked. He put nets over 
the place where the sun rose, he used up all his mats to stop 
him, but in vain ; the sun went on, and laughed in hot winds at 
all his efforts. Meanwhile the house stood still, and the builder 
fairly despaired. At last the great Itu, who generally lies on 
his mats, and cares not at all for those he has made, turned 

1 Grey, 'Polynesian Mythology,' pp. 35-8. 


round and heard his cry, and, because he was a good warrior, 
sent him help. He made the facchere creeper grow, and again 
the poor man sprang up from the ground near his house, where 
he had lain down in despair. He took his canoa and made 
a noose of the creeper. It was the had season, when the sun is 
dull and heavy ; so up he came, half asleep and tired, nor 
looked about him, but put his head into the noose. He pull .1 
and jerked, but Itu had made it too strong. The man built his 
house the sun cried and cried, till the island of Savai was 
nearly drowned ; but not till the last stone was laid, was he 
suffered to resume his career. None can break the facchere. 
It is the Itu's cord. 1 

Other versions of this episode in the great Maui-myth have 
been taken down in the Pacific Islands, 2 and a like variety is 
found in the corresponding tales from North America. Among 
the Ojibwas, the Sun-Catcher is evidently the same personage as 
the Boy swallowed by the Fish in the last group of stories. At 
the time when the animals reigned in the earth, they had killed 
all but a girl and her little brother, and these two were living 
in fear and seclusion. The boy never grew bigger than a little 
child, and his sister used to take him out with her when she 
went to get food for the lodge-fire, for he was too little to leave 
alone ; a big bird might have flown away with him. One day 
she made him a bow and arrows, and told him to hide where she 
had been chopping, and when the snow-birds came to pick the 
worms out of the wood, he was to shoot one. That day he tried 
in vain to kill one, but the next, toward nightfall, she heard his 
little footsteps on the snow ; he brought in a bird, and told his 
sister she was to take off the skin and to put half the bird at a 
time into the pottage, for till then men had not begun to eat 
animal food, but had lived on vegetables alone. At last the boy 
had killed ten birds, and his sister made him a little coat of the 
skins. " Sistor," said he one day, " are we all alone in the 
world ? Is there nobody else living ? " Then she told him 
that those they feared, and who had destroyed their relatives, 

1 Walpole, ' Four Years in the Pacific,' vol. ii. p. 37o. 

2 Turner, 'Polynesia.' j.p. "245, 24-<. Tyerman & Bennet, vol. ii 
>L L p. 433. EUis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 41o. 

1 Turner, ' Polynesia. \>p. *24o, 24*. Tyermai 
roL L p. 433. EUis, Polyn. Res., vol. ii. p. 415 

'.. p. 40 ; and see 


lived in a certain part, and he must by no means go that way ; 
but this only made him eager to go, and he took his bow and 
arrows and started. When he had walked a long while, he lay 
down on a knoll, where the sun had melted the snow, and fell 
fast asleep ; but while he was sleeping the sun beat so hot upon 
him, that his bird-skin coat was all singed and shrunk. When 
he awoke and found his coat spoilt, he vowed vengeance against 
the sun, and bade his sister make him a snare. She made him 
one of deer's sinew, and then one of her own hair, but they 
would not do. At last she brought him one that was right ; he 
pulled it between his lips, and, as he pulled, it became a red 
metal cord. With this he set out a little after midnight, and 
fixed his snare on a spot just where the sun would strike the 
land, as it rose above the earth's disc, and sure enough he 
caught the sun, so that it was held fast in the cord and did not 
rise. The animals who ruled the earth were immediately put 
into a great commotion. They had no light. They called a 
council to debate upon the matter, and to appoint some one to 
go and cut the cord, for this was a very hazardous enterprise, as 
the rays of the sun would burn whoever came so near. At last 
the dormouse undertook it, for at this time the dormouse was 
the largest animal in the world. When it stood up it looked 
like a mountain. When it got to the place where tbe sun was 
snared, its back began to smoke and burn with the intensity of 
the heat, and the top of its carcass was reduced to enormous 
heaps of ashes. It succeeded, however, in cutting the cord with 
its teeth, and freeing the sun ; but it was reduced to a very small 
size, and has remained so ever since. 1 

In this North American tale we have the Sun-Catcher of the 
South Sea Islands, combined with part of our own Jack and the 
Beanstalk. As Jack, in spite of his mother's prayers, goes up 
the ladder that is to take him to the dwelling of the Giant who 
killed his father, so the boy of the American tale will not heed his 
sister's persuasion, but goes to seek the enemies who had slain 
his kindred. In the next two versions also from North America, 
the incident of the going up a tree to the country in the sky, as 
Jack goes up his beanstalk, makes its appearance. And in all 
Schoolcraft, Oncota ;' New York and London, 1S45, p 75. See ante, p. ^19. 


three, the loosing of the imprisoned sun is told in a story of 
which the European fable of the Lion and the Mouse might he a 
mere moralized remnant. 

In the story found among the Wyandots, in the seventeenth 
century, hy the missionary Paul le Jeune, it is related that there 
was a child whose father was killed and eaten by a bear, and his 
mother by the Great Hare ; a woman came and found the child, 
and adopted him as her little brother, calling him Chakabech. 
He did not grow bigger than a baby, but he was so strong 
that the trees served as arrows for his bow. When he had 
killed the destroyers of his parents, he wished to go up to 
heaven, and climbed up a tree ; then he blew upon it, and it 
grew up and up till he came up to heaven, and there he found a 
beautiful country. So he went down to fetch his sister, build- 
ing huts as he went down to lodge her in ; brought her up the 
tree into heaven, and then broke off the tree low down : so no 
one can go up to heaven that way. Then Chakabech went out 
and set his snares for game, but when he got up at night to 
look at them, he found everything on fire, and went back to his 
sister to tell her. Then she told him he must have caught the 
Sun, going along by night he must have got in unawares, and 
when Chakabech went to see, so it was; but he dared not go 
near enough to let him out. But by chance he found a little 
Mouse, and blew upon her till she grew so big that she could 
set the Sun free, and he went again on his way ; but while he 
was held in the snare, day failed down here on earth. 1 

The first and second American versions of the Sun- Catcher 
come from near the great lakes, but the third is found among 
the Dog-Bib Indians, far in the north-west, close upon the 
Esquimaux who fringe the northern coast. When Chape wee, 
after the deluge, formed the earth, and landed the animals upon 
it from his canoe, he " stuck up a piece of wood, which became 
a fir-tree, and grew with amazing rapidity, until its top reached 
the skies. A squirrel ran up this tree, and was pursued by 
Chapewee, who endeavoured to knock it down, but could not 

1 Le Jeune (1637) in ' Relations des Je"suites Jans la Nouvelle- France ;' Quebec, 
1S58, vol. i. p. 54. Schoolcraft, part iii. p. 320. See also page 344, in the present 


overtake it. He continued the chase, however, until he reached 
the stars, where he found a fine plain, and a beaten road. In 
this road he set a snare, made of his sister's hair, and then re- 
turned to the earth. The sun appeared as usual in the heavens 
in the morning, hut at noon it was caught by the snare which 
Chapewee had set for the squirrel, and the sky was instantly 
darkened. Chapewee's family on this said to him, ' You must 
have done something wrong when you were aloft, for we no 
longer enjoy the light of day.' ' I have,' replied he, ' but it was 
unintentionally.' Chapewee then endeavoured to repair the 
fault he had committed, and sent a number of animals up the 
tree to release the sun by cutting the snare, but the intense heat 
of that luminary reduced them all to ashes. The efforts of the 
more active animals being thus frustrated, a ground mole, 
though such a grovelling and awkward beast, succeeded by 
burrowing under the road in the sky until it reached and cut 
asunder the snare which bound the sun. It lost its eyes, 
however, the instant it thrust its head into the light, and its 
nose and teeth have ever since been brown, as if burnt." l 

In former editions of this work it was remarked that the origin 
of the story of the Sun-Catcher is not yet clear, but probably 
some piece of unequivocal evidence will be found to explain it. 
There has since been published by the Rev. W. "YV. Gill a ver- 
sion of the Maui-myth from the Hervey Islands, which looks as 
though it might be this expected key. Maui plaited six great 
cocoa-nut fibre ropes to make his royal nooses to catch the sun- 
god, Ra ; the first noose he set at the opening where the sun 
climbs up from Avaiki, the under-world, and the other five one 
after another further on in the sun's path ; as Ra came up in 
the morning, Maui pulled the first slip-knot, which held him by 
the feet, the next by the knees, and so on, till the last noose 
closed round his neck, and Maui made him fast to a point of 
rock ; then Ra, nearly strangled, confessed himself conquered, 
and promised henceforth to go more slowly through the heavens, 
that men might have time to got easily through their work. 
" The sun-god Ra was now allowed to proceed on his way ; but 
Maui wisely declined to take on these ropes, wishing to keep Ra 
1 Richardson, Narr. of Franklin's Second Exp. ; London, 1S23, p. 291. 


in constant fear. These ropes may still be seen hanging from 
the sun at dawn, and when he descends into the ocean at night. 
By the assistance of these ropes he is gently let down into 
Avaiki, and in the morning is raised up out of the shades. Of 
course this extravagant myth refers to what English children 
call ' the sun drawing up water ; ' or, as these islanders still 
say ' Tena te taura a Maui ! ' ' Behold the ropes of Maui ! ' " 1 
In connexion with this set of tales, it may be noticed that 
there are to be found in the Old "\Yorld ideas of the sun being 
bound with a cord to hold it in check. In North Germany the 
townsmen of Bosum sit up in their church tower and hold the 
sun by a cable all day ; taking care of it at night, and letting it 
up again in the morning. In Reynard the Fox, the day is bound 
with a rope, and its bonds only let it come slowly on. In a 
Hungarian tale midnight and dawn are bound, so that they can 
get no farther towards men. 2 This notion is curiously like the 
Peruvian story of the Inca who denied the pretension of the Sun 
to be the doer of all things, for if he were free, he would go and 
visit other parts of the heavens where he had never been. He 
is, said the Inca, like a tied beast who goes ever round and round 
in the same track. 3 The idea is renewed by "Wordsworth, that 
"modern ancient," as Max Miiller so truly calls him : 

* Well does thine aspect usher in this Day ; 
As aptly suits therewith that modest pace 

Submitted to the chains 
That bind thee to the path which God ordains 

That thou shouldst trace, 
Till, with the heavens and earth, thou pass away ! " 

The legend of the Ascent to Heaven by the Tree has just been 
brought forward in two of its American versions, 4 taken down at 
periods two centuries apart, and among tribes not only separated 
by long distance but speaking languages of two distinct families, 

1 Rev. W. W. Gill, 'Myths and Songs from the South Pacific,' London, IS Til, 
p. 62 : another version, p. 70, mentions Mam's ropes breaking, till a noose was made 
of his sister's hair, as in the American story. [Xote to 3rd Edition.] 

2 Bastian, vol. ii. p. 58. Grimm, D. M., p 706. See Steinthal, ' Die Sage von 
Simson,' in Lazarus & Steinthal's ' Zeitschrift ;' Berlin, 1862, vol. ii. p. 141. 

a Garcilaso de la Vega, part i. viii. 8. See also Acosta, Hist, del Nnevo Orbe, 
chap. v. * See also Schoolcraft, part. iii. p. 547 ; p.xrt i. plate ^J'2, p. 373. 


and yet in both cases embodying also the story of the Sun- 
Catcher. A further examination of the story of Jack and the 
Bean-Stalk, and the analogous tales which are spread through 
the Malay and Polynesian districts and North America, will 
bring into view the vast ramifications of a mythic episode 
flourishing far and wide in these distant regions, though so 
scaDtily represented in the folk-lore of Europe. 

Once upon a time there was a poor widow, and she had one 
son, and his name was Jack. One day she sent him to sell the 
cow, but when he saw some pretty- coloured beans that the 
butcher had, he was so delighted that he gave the cow for them 
and brought his prize home in triumph. When the poor mother 
saw the beans that Jack had brought home she flung them away, 
and they grew and grew till next morning they had grown right 
up into the sky. So Jack climbed up sorely against his mother's 
will, and saw the fairy, and went to the house of the giant who 
had killed his father, and stole the hen that laid the golden 
eggs, and did various other wonderful things, till at last the 
Giant came running after him and followed him down the bean- 
slalk, but 'Jack was just in time to cut the ladder through, and 
the wicked Giant tumbled down head first into the well, and 
there he was drowned. 

So runs the good old nursery tale of Jack and the Bean- Stalk. 
That it is found in England and yet is not general in the folk- 
lore of the rest of our race in Europe is remarkable. Mr. 
Campbell says it is not known in the Highlands of Scotland, 
while in Germany Wilhelm Grimm only compares it with two 
poor, dull little stories, one a version distinctly connected wilh 
our English tale, the other perhaps so, but neither worth repeat- 
ing here. 1 

In another American tradition, found current among the 
Maiidans, the ascent is not from the earth to the sky, but from 
the regions underground to the surface. It is thus related in 
the account of Lewis and Clarke's expedition. " Their belief in 
a future state is connected with this tradition of their origin : 
the whole nation resided in one large village underground near 
a subterraneous lake : a grape-vine extended its roots down to 

1 J. & W. Grimm, 'Miuciicn,' vol. ii. p. 133; vol. iii. pp. 193, 321. 

A A 


their habitation and gave them a view of the light : some of the 
most adventurous climbed up the vine and were delighted with 
the sight of the earth, which they found covered with buffalo 
and rich with every kind of fruits : returning with the grapes 
they had gathered, their countrymen were so pleased with the 
taste of them that the whole nation resolved to leave their dull 
residence for the charms of the upper region ; men, women, and 
children ascended by means of the vine ; but when about half 
the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a corpulent 
woman who was clambering up the vine broke it with her 
weight, and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation the 
light of the sun. Those who were left on earth made a village 
below where we saw the nine villages ; and when the Mandans 
die they expect to return to the original seats of their forefathers ; 
the good reaching the ancient village by means of the lake, 
which the burden of the sins of the wicked will not enable them 
to cross." 1 

The set of Malayo-Polynesian stories which tell of the climb- 
ing from earth to heaven by a tree or vine-like plant is, besides, 
a good illustration of the unity of the Island Mythology from 
Borneo to New Zealand. The Dayak tale of the man who went 
up to heaven and brought down rice has been already cited. It 
is thus told by Mr. St. John : " Once upon a time, when man- 
kind had nothing to eat but a species of edible fungus that 
grows upon rotting trees, and there were no cereals to gladden 
and strengthen man's heart, a party of Dayaks, among whom 
was a man named Si Jura, whose descendants live to this day in 
the Dayak village of Simpok, went forth to sea. They sailed on 
for some time, until they came to a place at which they heard 
the distant roar of a large whirlpool, and, to their amazement, 
saw before them a huge fruit-tree rooted in the sky, and thence 
hanging down with its branches touching the waves. At the 
request of his companions, Si Jura climbed among its boughs 
to collect the fruit which was in abundance, and when he was 
there he found himself tempted to ascend the trunk and find out 
how the tree grew in that position. He did so, and at length 
got so high that his companions in the boat lost sight of him, 
1 Lewis & Clarke, p. 139. Catlin, vol. i. p. 173. See Loskiel, p. 31. 


and after waiting a certain time coolly sailed away loaded with 
fruit. Looking down from his lofty position, Si Jura saw his 
friends making off, so he h-id no other resource but to go on 
climbing in hopes of reaching some resting-place. He therefore 
persevered climbing higher and higher, till he reached the roots 
of the tree, and there he found himself in a new country that 
of the Pleiades. There he met a being in form of a man, named 
Si Kira, who took him to his home and hospitably entertained 
him. The food offered was a mess of soft white grains boiled 
rice. 'Eat,' said Si Kira. 'What, those little maggots?' re- 
plied Si Jura. ' They are not maggots, but boiled rice ; ' and 
Si Kira forthwith explained the process of planting, weeding, 
and reaping, and of pounding and boiling rice. ... So Si Jura 
made a hearty meal, and after eating, Si Kira gave him seed of 
three kinds of rice, instructed him how to cut down the forest, 
burn, plant, weed, and reap, take omens from birds, and celebrate 
harvest feasts ; and then, by a long rope, let him down to earth 
again near his father's house." 1 

In the Malay island of Celebes, the episode of the heaven- 
plant occurs in a story no doubt derived from an Arabic source, 
its theme being that of the tale of Hassan of Bassora in the 
Arabian Nights. 2 Seven heavenly nymphs came down from the 
sky to bathe, and they were seen by Kasimbaha, who thought 
first that they were white doves, but in the bath he saw that 
they were women. Then he stole one of the thin robes that 
gave the nymphs their power of flying, and so he caught Utahagi, 
the one whose robe he had stolen, and took her for his wife, and 
she bore him a son. Now she was called Utahagi from a single 
white hair she had, which was endowed with magic power, and 
this hair her husband pulled out. As soon as he had done it, 
there arose a great storm, and Utahagi went up into heaven. 

1 St John, Tol. i. p. 202. 

Lane, ' Thousand and One Nights ;' vol. iii. ch. 25. The early occurrence of 
this, which may be called the story of the Swan-coat, in the folk-lore of Northern 
Europe, is interesting. Among a number of instances, in the Volundarqvitha, three 
women sit on the shore with their swan-coats beside them, ready to turn into swans 
and fly away. Or three doves fly down to a fountain and become maidens when they 
touch the earth. Wielant takes their clothes and will not give them back till one 
be his wife, etc., etc. Grimm, D. M., pp. 393-1 '-'. 

A A 2 


The child cried for its mother, and Kasimbaha was in great 
grief, and cast about how he should follow Utahagi up into the 
sky. Then a rat gnawed the thorns off the rattans, and he 
clambered up by them with his son upon his back till he came 
to heaven. There a little bird showed him the house of 
Utahagi, and after various adventures he took up his abode 
among the gods. 1 

From Celebes to New Zealand the distance is some four 
thousand miles, but among the Maoris a tale is found which is 
beyond doubt connected with this. There was once a great 
chief called Tawhaki, and a girl of the heavenly race, whose 
name was Tango-tango, heard of his valour and his beauty and 
came down to earth to be his wife, and she bore a daughter to 
him. But when Tawhaki took the little girl to a spring and had 
washed it, he held it out at arm's length and said, " Faugh, how 
badly the little thing smells." When Tango-tango heard this, 
she was bitterly offended and began to sob and weep, and at last 
she took the child and flew up to heaven with it. Tawhaki tried 
to stop her and besought her to stay, but in vain, and as she 
paused for a minute with one foot resting on the carved figure 
at the end of the ridge-pole of the house, above the door, he 
called to her to leave him some remembrance of her. Then she 
told him he was not to lay hold of the loose root of the creeper, 
which dropping from aloft sways to and fro in the air, but rather 
to lay fast hold on that which hanging down from on high has 
again struck its fibres into the earth. So she floated up into 
the air and vanished, and Tawhaki remained mourning : at the 
end of a month he could bear it no longer, so he took his younger 
brother with him, and two slaves, and started to look for his wife 
and child. At last the brothers came to the spot where the 
ends of the tendrils which hung down from heaven reached the 
earth, and there they found an old ancestress of theirs whose 
name was Matakerepo. She was appointed to take care of the 
tendrils, and she sat at the place where they touched the earth, 
and held the ends of one of them in her hands. So next day 
the younger brother, Karihi, started to climb up, and the old 

1 Schirren, p. 126. Compare Bornean story, Bp. of Labuan in Tr. Eth. Soc. 
IS',3, p. 27. 


woman warned him not to look down when he was midway 
between heaven and earth, lest he should turn giddy and fall, 
and also to take care not to catch hold of a loose tendril. But 
just at that very moment he made a spring at the tendrils, and 
by mistake caught hold of a loose one, and away he swung to 
the very edge of the horizon, but a bftist of wind blew forth from 
thence and drove him back to the other side of the skies, and 
then another gust swept him heavenwards, and again he was 
blown down. Just as he reached the ground this time Tawhaki 
shouted to him to let go, and lo, he stood upon the earth once 
more, and the two brothers wept over his narrow escape from 
destruction. Then Tawhaki began to climb, and he went up 
and up, repeating a powerful incantation as he climbed, till at 
last he reached the heavens, and there he found his wife and 
their daughter, and they took her to the water, and baptised her 
in proper New Zealand fashion. Lightning flashed from Ta- 
whaki's armpits, and he still dwells up there in heaven, and 
when he walks, his footsteps make the thunder and lightning 
that are heard and seen on earth. 1 

There are other mythological ways besides the Heaven-tree, 
by which, in different parts of the world, it is possible to go up 
and down between the surface of the ground and the sky or the 
regions below ; the rank spear-grass, a rope or thong, a spider's 
web, a ladder of iron or gold, a column of smoke, or the rainbow. 
It must be remembered in discussing such tales, that the idea 
of climbing, for instance, from earth to heaven by a tree, fan- 
tastic as it may seem to a civilized man of modern times, is in a 
different grade of culture quite a simple and natural idea, and 
too much stress must not be laid on bare coincidences to this 

1 Grey, ' Polynesian Mythology, ' p. 66, etc. Several incidents are here omitted. 
In another ver.-ion Tawhaki goes up not by the creeper but upon a spider's web. 
(Thomson, N. Z., vol. i. p. 111. Yate, p. 144.) Other stories connected with this 
series are to be found in the Samoan group. The taro, like the rice in Borneo, is 
brought down from heaven ; there was a heaven-tree, where people went up and 
down, and when it fell it stretched some sixty miles ; two young men went up to 
the moon, one by a tree, the other on the smoke of a fire as it towered into the sky 
(Turner, p. 246). In the Caroline Islands, another of these Kairvo^drai goes up to 
heaven on a column of smoke to visit his celestial father |J. R. Forster, Obs. p. 600). 
In the Tonga Islands, Maui makes the toa grow up to heaven, so that the god 
Etumatubua can come down by it (Schirren, p. 76). 


effect in proving a common origin for the stories which contain 
them, unless closer evidence is forthcoming. Such tales belong 
to a rude and primitive state of the knowledge of the earth's 
surface, and what lies above and below it. The earth is a flat 
plain surrounded by the sea, and the sky forms a roof on which 
the sun, moon, and stars travel. The Polynesians, who thought, 
like so many other peoples, ancient and modern, that the sky 
descended at the horizon and enclosed the earth, still call 
foreigner s papalangi, or " heaven-bursters," as having broken in 
from another world outside. The sky is to most savages what 
it is called in a South American language, mitmeseke, that is, 
the " earth on high ; " and we can quite understand the thought 
of the Mbocobis of Paraguay, that at death their souls would go 
up to heaven by the tree Llagdigua, which joins earth and sky. 1 
There are holes or windows through the sky-roof or firmament, 
where the rain comes through, and if you climb high enough 
you can get through and visit the dwellers above, who look, and 
talk, and live very much in the same way as the people upon 
earth. As above the flat earth, so below it, there are regions 
inhabited by men or man-like creatures, who sometimes come up 
to the surface, and sometimes are visited by the inhabitants of 
the upper earth. We live as it were upon the ground floor of a 
great house, with upper storeys rising one over another above 
us, and cellars down below. 

The Bridge of the Dead is one of the well-marked myths of 
the Old World. The Zarathustrian religion recognizes the 

1 Humboldt & Bonpland, vol. ii. p. 276. D'Orbigny, ' L'Homme AmSrieain ; ' 
vol. ii. p. 102. A closely related version of the heaven-tree among the Guarayos, 
Martius, 'Ethnog. Amer.,' vol. i. p. 218. The following are to be added to the group 
of myths. The Waraus of the Essequibo district lived in heaven till Okonorote went 
after a shot arrow which had fallen through a hole in the sky ; seeing the earth he 
made a rope ladder by which his people descended, till a fat one stuck in the hole and 
made return impossible, Bastian, ' Rechtsverhaltnisse,' p. 291. The Ahts of Van- 
couver's Island know of an ascent by a rope to a region above the earth, Sproat. 
'Scenes of Savage Life,' London, 1868, p. 176. In the White Nile district, the 
Kych and Bari say God made all men good, and they lived with him in heavei., but 
as some of them turned bad he let them down by a rope to the earth ; the good 
could climb up again by this rope to the sky, where there was dancing and beer and 
all was joyous, but the rope broke (or a bird bit it through) so there is no goins: up to 
Leaven now ; it is closed to men. A. Kaufmann, 'Gebiet des Weissen Flusses,' 
Bmen, 1861, p. 123. ;Note to 3rd Edition.] 


bridge Chinvat, made by Ahura-Mazda, whither souls of the 
dead on their way to give account of their deeds in life must 
come, the good to pass over, the wicked to fall into the abyss ; to 
this day the Parsi declares in solemn confession of his faith, 
that he is wholly without doubt in the stepping over the bridge 
Chinvat. 1 Perhaps it was from this Persian source that the 
myth found its way into Eabbinical literature, 2 and into the ac- 
cepted belief of Islam. Over the midst of the Moslem Hell 
stretches the bridge Es-Sirat, finer than a hair, and sharper than 
the edge of a sword. There all souls of the dead must pass 
along, but while the good reach the other side in safety, the 
wicked fall off into the abyss. 3 

In Scandinavian mythology, the bridge on the Hell- way, where 
the pale unsubstantial dead ride over the river Gjoll, is part and 
parcel of the myth of Baldur in the Prose Edda. 4 But it seems 
rather from the Oriental group just described, that the ideas of 
the bridge in Christian Europe had their source. The " Brig of 
Dread, na brader than a thread," sung of in the grand old Lyke- 
AVake Dirge of our North Country, 5 was a. recognized part of the 
architecture of Purgatory and Hell, to be seen and even passed 
over by the ecstatic explorers whose visions of the future state were 
a staple commodity of pious literature in the middle ages. It is 
thus described when Owayue Miles, one of King Stephen's 
Knights, descends into St. Patrick's Purgatory : 

* Over the water a brygge there was, 
Forsothe kenere than ony glasce : 
Hit was narowe and hit was hyge, 
Onethc that other end he syge. 
The mydylle was hyg , the ende was lowe, 
Hit ferde as hit hadde ben a bent bo we. 
The develle sayde, ' Knyghte, here may thu se 
Into helle the rygte entre : 
Over thys brygge thu meste wende, 
Wynde and rayne we shulle the sende : 
We shulle the sende wynde full gor-de, 
That shall the caste ynto the floode.' " 

1 Avesta, tr. by Spiegel & Bleeck, vol. i. p. 141, vol. ii. p. 14, vol. iiL p. 163 ; 
Alger, 'Doctrine of a Future Life ;' New York, 18G6, p. 136. 

2 Eisenmenger, ' Entd. Judenthum ;' part ii. p. 258. 

3 Lane, Mod. Eg., vol. i. p. 95. 

4 Prose Kckla : Gvlfuginning, 49. Grimm, D. M., p. 794. 

5 .Brand, i'op. Aut., vol. ii. p. 275. 


But Owayne with prayer passed safely over and reached the 
Earthly Paradise on the other side. 1 The adaptation of the 
myth in Paradise Lost is too familiar to be quoted. 

Looking to the far East, we find in the Hinduized and 
Islamized mythology of Java the bridge which leads across the 
abyss to the single opening in the stone wall round Suralaya, 
the dwelling of the gods ; off this bridge the evildoers fall into 
the depths below. 2 Other myths from this region have more 
special and seemingly more local character. The conception of 
a bridge being needed for the passage of souls is well shown 
among the Karens of Birmah, who at this day tie strings across 
the rivers for the ghosts of the dead to pass over to their graves ; 
among these people the Heaven-bridge is a sword, those who 
cross it become men, those who dare not, women. 3 And among 
the Idaan of Borneo, the passage for men into paradise is across 
a long tree, which to those who have not killed a man is scarcely 
practicable. 4 

In America, the bridge over the abyss is distinct in native 
mythology. The Greenland angekok, when he has passed 
through the land of souls, has to cross an awful gulf over a 
stretched rope, his guardian spirit holding him by the hand, till 
he reaches the abode of the great female Evil Spirit below the 
sea. 5 Among the North American Indians the Ojibwa soul has 
to cross the river of death on the great snake which serves as a 
bridge, 6 while the Minnetarees, in their way to the mansions of 
their ancestors after death, have to cross a narrow footing over a 
rapid river, where the good warriors and hunters pass, but the 
worthless ones fall in. 7 Catlin's account of the Choctaw belief is 
as follows : " Our people all believe that the spirit lives in a 
future state ; that it has a great distance to travel after death 
towards the west that it has to cross a dreadful deep and rapid 
stream, which is hemmed in on both sides by high and rugged 
hills over this stream, from hill to hill, there lies a long and 

1 T. Wright, 'St. Patrick's Purgatory ;' London, 1844, p. 74, and elsewhere. 

2 Schirren, pp. 122, 125. For China, see Doolittle, 'Social Life of the Chinese ;' 
Tol. i. p. 173. 

3 Mrs. Mason, p. 73 ; Mason in Journ. As. Soc. Bengal, 1865, part ii. p. 197. 

4 Journ. Ind. Archip. vol. iii. p. 557. * Cranz, Gronland, p. 264. 

Keating, voL ii. p. 154. 1 Long's Exp., voi. i. p. 280. 


slippery pine-log, with the bark peeled off, over which the dead 
have to pass to the delightful-hunting grounds. On the other 
side of the stream there are six persons of the good hunting- 
grounds with rocks in their hands, which they throw at them all 
when they are on the middle of the log. The good walk on 
safely to the good hunting-grounds . . . The wicked see the 
stones coming, and try to dodge, by which they fall down from 
the log, and go thousands of feet to the water, which is dashing 
over the rocks." 1 In the interior of South America the idea 
appears again among the Manacicas. Among these people, the 
Maponos or priests performed a kind of baptism of the dead, and 
were then supposed to mount into the air, and carry the soul to 
the Land of the Departed. After a weary journey of many days 
over hills and vales, through forests, and across rivers and 
swamps and lakes, they came to a place where many roads met, 
near a deep and wide river, where the god Tatusiso stood night 
and day upon a wooden bridge to inspect all such travellers. If 
he did not consider the sprinkling after death a sufficient purga- 
tion of the sins of the departed, he would stop the priest, that 
the soul he carried might be further cleansed, and if resistance 
were made, would sometimes seize the unhappy soul and throw 
him into the river, and when this happened some calamity would 
follow among the Manacicas at home. 2 

The Bridge of the Dead may possibly have its origin in the 
rainbow. Among the Northmen the rainbow is to be seen in 
the bridge Bifrost of the three colours, over which the ,Esir 
make their daily journey, and the red in it is fire, for were it 
easy to pass over, the Frost-giants and the Mountain-giants 
would get across it into heaven. In a remark, evidently belong- 
ing to the North American story of the Sun- Catcher, the rainbow 
replaces the tree up which the mouse climbs and gnaws loose a 
captive in the sky. 3 The rainbow is a ladder by which New 
Zealand chiefs climb to heaven, and by it the souls of the Philip- 
pine islanders who died violent deaths were carried to the happy 

1 Catlin, vol. ii. p. 127. See J. G. Miiller, Amer. Urrelig. pp. 87, 286. 
' Southey, 'Brazil,' vol. iii. p. 186. 

3 Schoolcraft in Pott, ' Ungleichlieit der llensch lichen Eassen;' Lemgo, 1856, 
p. 267. 


state. 1 The Milky Way, which among the North American 
Indians is the road of souls to the other world, has also a claim 
to be considered. 2 As in the Old World, so in the New, the 
Bridge of the Dead is but an incident, sometimes, but not 
always or even mostly, introduced into a wider belief that after 
death the soul of man comes to a great gulf or stream, which it 
has to pass to reach the country that lies beyond the grave. 
The Mythology of Polynesia, though it wants the Bridge, 
develops the idea of the gulf which the souls have to pass, in 
canoes or by swimming, into a long series of myths. 3 It is not 
needful to enter here into details of so well-known a feature of 
the Mythology of the Old World, where the Vedic Yama, King 
of the Dead, crossed the rapid waters and showed the way to our 
Aryan fathers ; where the modern Hindu hopes by grasping the 
cow's tail at death to be safely ferried over the dreadful river 
Vaitarani; where Charon and his boat, the procession of the dcml 
by water to their long home in modern Brittany as in ancient 
Egypt, the setting afloat of the Scandinavian heroes in burning 
ships or burying them in boats on shore, are all instances of its 
prevalence. In barbaric districts, myths of the river of death 
may be instanced alike among the Finns and the Guinea negroes, 
among the Khonds of Orissa and the Dayaks of Borneo. 4 In 
North America we hear sometimes of the bridge, but sometimes 
the water must be passed in canoes. The souls come to a great 
lake where there is a beautiful island, towards which they have 
to paddle in a canoe of white shining stone. On the way there 
arises a storm, and the wicked souls are wrecked, and the heaps 
of their bones are to be seen under water, but the good reach 
the happy island. 5 So Charlevoix speaks of the souls that are 
shipwrecked in crossing the river which they have to pass on 
their long journey toward the west, 6 and with this belief the 
canoe-burial of the North- West and of Patagonia hangs together. 

1 Polack. N. Z., vol. i. p. 273. Meiners, vol. i. p. 302. 
* Le Jeune (1634), p. 63. 

3 Williams, 'Fiji,' voL i. pp. 244, 205. Schirren, pp. 93, 110, etc. 

4 Castren, p. 129, etc. Bosman, Guinea, in Pinkerton, vol. xvi. p. 401. Hie- 
pherson, p. 92. Journ. Ind. Archip., vol. i. p. 31. 

5 Schoolcraft, part i. p. 321. Mackenzie, p. cxix. 

6 Charlevoix, vol. vi. p. 76. 


How the souls of the Ojibwas cross the deep and rapid water to 
reach the land of bliss, 1 and the souls of the Mandans travel on 
the lake by which the good reach their ancient village, while the 
wicked cannot get across for the burden of their sins, 2 1 do not 
know ; but, like the Heaven-Bridge, the Heaven-Gulf which has 
to be passed on the way to the Land of Spirits, has a claim to 
careful discussion in the general argument for the proof of his- 
torical connexion from Analogy of Myths. 3 

The Fountain of Youth is known to the Mythology of India. 
The Acvinas let the husband of Sukanya go into the lake, 
whence the bather comes forth as old or as young as he may 
choose ; and elsewhere the " ageless river," rijard nad'i, makes 
the old young again by only seeing it, or perhaps by bathing in 
its waters. 4 Perhaps it is this fountain that Sir John Mauu- 
devile tells of early in the fourteenth century somewhere about 
India. ''Also toward the heed of that Forest is the Cytee of 
Polombe. And above the Cytee is a grete Mountayne, that also 
is clept Polombe ; and of that Mount the Cytee hathe his name. 
And at the Foot of that Mount, is a fayr Welle and a gret, that 
nathe odour and savour of alle Spices ; and at every hour of 
the day, he chaungethe his odour and his savour dyversely. 
And whoso drynkethe 3 tymes fasting of that Watre of that 
Welle, he is hool of alle maner sykenesse, that he hathe. And 
thei that dwellen there and drynken often of that Welle, thei 
nevere han Sekenesse, and thei semen alle ways 5onge. I have 
dronken there of 3 or 4 sithes ; and 5it, methinkethe, I fare the 
better. Sum men clepen it the Welle of southe : for thei that 
often drynken there of, semen alle weys Songly, and lyven with 
outen Sykenesse. And men seyn, that that Welle cometh out 
of Paradys : and therfore it is so vertuous." 5 

When Cambyses sent the Fish-Eaters to spy out the condition 
of the long-lived Ethiopians, and the messengers wondered to 
hear that they lived a hundred and twenty years or more, the 
Ethiopians took them to a fountain, where, when they had 

1 Schoolcraft, part ii. p. 135. 2 Lewis & Clarke, p. 139. 

3 For further remarks on these subjects, see Tylor, ' Primitive Culture,' chaps. 
xii. -xiv. [Xote to 3rd Edition.] 

4 Kuhn, pp. 128, 12. 

* 'The Yoia-e and Truvaile of Sir John Maundevile, Kt, ;' London, 1725, p. 204. 


bathed, their bodies shone as if they had been oiled, and smelt 
like the scent of violets. 1 In Europe, too, stories of miraculously 
healing fountains have long been current. 2 The Moslem geo- 
grapher Ibn-el-Wardi places the Fountain of Life in the dark 
south-western regions of the earth. El-Khidr drank of it, and 
will live till the day of judgment ; and Ilyas or Elias, whom 
popular belief mixes not only with El-Khidr, but also with St. 
George, the Dragon- slayer, has drunk of it likewise. 3 Farther 
east, the idea is to be found in the Malay islands. Batara Gun 
drinks from a poisonous spring, but saves himself and the rest 
of the gods by finding a well of life ; and again, Nurtjaja compels 
the pandit Kabib, the guardian of the caverns below the earth, 
where flows the spring of immortality, to let him drink of its 
waters, and even to take some for his descendants. 4 In the 
Hawaiian legend, Kamapiikai, " the child who runs over the 
sea," goes with forty companions to Tahiti (Kahiki, that is to 
say, to the land far away), and brings back wondrous tales of 
Haupokane, " the belly of Kane," and of the wai ora, waiola, 
"water of life," wai ora roa, "water of enduring life," which 
removes all sickness, deformity, and decrepitude from those who 
plunge beneath its waters. 6 It is perhaps to this story of the 
Sandwich Islands that Turner refers, when he says that some 
South Sea islanders have traditions of a river in the spirit-world 
called "Water of Life," which makes the old young again, and 
they return to earth to live another life. 6 

One easy explanation of the Fountain of Youth suggests 
itself at the first glance. Every islander who can see the sun go 
down old, faint, and weary into the western sea, to rise young 
and fresh from the waters, has the Fountain of Youth before 
' him ; and this explanation of several, at least, of the stories is 
strengthened by their details, as when the fountain is described 
as flowing in the regions below, or in the belly of Kane, where 
the boy who climbs over the sea goes to it ; or when, like the 
dying and reviving sun, Batara Guru is poisoned, but finds the 

1 Herod, iii. c. 23. J Grimm, D. M., p. 554. Perty, p. 149. 

8 Lane, ' Thousand and One Nights,' vol. i. p. 20. See Bastian, vol. ii. pp. 1 53, 
371. 4 Schirren, p. 124. 

6 Schirren, p. 80. Ellis, Polyn. Res. vol. ii. p. 47. Ellis, ' Hawaii ;' London, 
IS 27, p. 399. 6 Turner, p. 353. 


reviving water, and is cured ; l or when the Moslem associates 
the drinking from the fountain with Elijah of the chariot of fire 
and horses of fire, or with St. George, the favourite medieval 
bearer of the great Sun-myth. Without further discussing the 
origin of these myths, it may suffice to point out their occur- 
rence in the New World. The Aleutian islanders had their 
legend that in the early times men were immortal, and when 
they grew old had but to spring from a high mountain into a 
lake whence they came forth in renewed youth. In the West 
Indies, early in the sixteenth century, Gomara relates that Juan 
Ponce de Leon, having his government taken from him, and 
thus finding himself rich and without charge, fitted out two 
caravels, and went to seek for the island of Boyuca, where the 
Indians said there was the fountain that turned old men back 
into youths (a perennial spring, says Peter Martyr, so noble that 
the drinking of its waters made old men young again). For six 
months he went lost and famishing among many islands, but of 
such a fountain he found no trace. Then he came to Birnmi, 
and discovered Florida on Pascua Florida (Easter Sunday), 
wherefrom he gave the country its name. 2 

To proceed now to the story of the Tail-Fisher. Dr. Dasent, 
who, in his admirable Introduction to the Norse Tales, has 
taken the lead in the extension of the argument from Compara- 
tive Mythology beyond the limited range within which it is 
aided by History and Language, has brought the popular tales 
of Africa and Europe into close connexion by adducing, among 
others, the unmistakeable common origin of the Norse Tale 
of the Bear who, at the instigation of the Fox, fishes with 
his tail through a hole in the ice till it is frozen in, and then 
pulls at it till it comes off, and the story from Bornu of the 
Hyaena who puts his tail into the hole, that the Weasel may 
fasten the meat to it, but the Weasel fastens a stick to it 
instead, and the Hyaena pulls till his tail breaks ; both stories 
accounting in a similar way, but with a proper difference of 

1 For etym. etc. of Batara Guru, see W. v. Humboldt, Kawi-Spr., vol. i. p. 100 ; 
Schirreii, p. 116 ; also Crawfurd, Introd., p. cxviii. and s. IT. batara, gum. 

- Gomara, Hist. Gen. de las Indias ; Medina del Campo. 1553, part i, fol. xxiii. 
Petri Martyri Do Oibe Xovo (1516), ed. Hakluvt ; Paris, 15S7, dec. ii. c. 10. 
Galvano, p. 123. 


local colouring, for the fact that bears and hyaenas are stumpy- 
tailed. 1 

A similar story is told in Reynard the Fox, less appositely, 
of the Wolf instead of the Bear,' 3 and in the Celtic story recently 
published by Mr. Campbell, it is again the Wolf who loses his 
tail. In this latter story, by that kaleidoscopic arrangement of 
incidents which is so striking a feature of Mythology, the losing 
of the tail is. combined with the episode of taking the reflection 
of the moon for a cheese, which occurs in another connexion in 
Reynard, 3 and is apparently the origin of our popular saying 
about the moon being made of green cheese. 

" He made an instrument to know 
If the moon shine at full or no ; 
That would, as soon as e'er she shone, straight 
Whether 'twere day or night demonstrate ; 
Tell what her d'ameter to an inch is. 
And prove that she's not made of green cheese." 4 

Here, of course, " green cheese " means, like rupos \\Mpos, 
fresh, white cheese. In the Highland tale the Fox shows the 
Wolf the moon on the ice, and tells him it is a cheese, and he 
must cover it with his tail to hide it, till the Fox goes to see 
that the farmer is asleep. When the tail is frozen tight the 
Fox alarms the farmer, and the Wolf leaves his tail behind 
him. 5 

" The tailless condition both of the bear and the hyaena," 
Dr. Dasent remarks, " could scarcely fail to attract attention in 
a race of hunters, and we might expect that popular tradition 
would attempt to account for both." The reasonableness of 
this conjecture is well shown in the case of two other short- 
tailed beasts, in a mythical episode from Central America, 
which bears no appearance of being historically connected 
with the rest, but looks as though it had been devised inde- 
pendently to account for the facts. When the two princes 
Hunahpu and Xbalanque set themselves one day to till the 

1 Dasent, 'Popular Tales from the Norse ;' (2nd ed.) Edinburgh, 1859, pp. 1, 107. 
1 Grimm, 'Reinhart Fuchs,' pp. civ. cxxii. 51. 

* Grimm, 'Reinhart Fuchs,' p. cxxvii. 4 ' Hudibras,' part ii. canto Hi. 

* Campbell, ' Popular Tales of the West Highlands ; ' Edinburgh, 1860, vol. i. 
p. 272. 


ground, the axe cut down the trees and the mattock cleared 
away the underwood, while the masters amused themselves 
with shooting. But next day, when they came back, tlu-y 
found the trees and creepers and hramhles hack in their 
places. So they cleared the ground again, and hid themselves 
to watch, and at midnight all the beasts came, small and great, 
saying in their language, "Trees, arise; creepers, arise!" and 
they came close to the two princes. First came the Lion and 
the Tiger, and the princes tried to catch them, but could not. 
Then came the Stag and the Rabbit, and them they caught by 
their tails, but the tails came off, and so the Stag and the Rab- 
bit have still but " scarce a stump " left them to this day. But 
the Fox and the Jackal and the Boar and the Porcupine and the 
other beasts passed by, and they could not catch one till the Rat 
came leaping along ; he was the last and they got in his way 
and caught him in a cloth. They pinched his head and tried to 
clioke him, and burnt his tail over the fire, and since then the 
rat has had a hairless tail, and his eyes are as if they had been 
squeezed out of his head. But he begged to be heard, and told 
them it was not their business to till the ground, for the rings 
and gloves and the india-rubber ball, the instruments of the 
princely game, were hidden in their grandmother's house, and 
BO forth. 1 

The curious mythic art of Tail-fishing only forms a part of 
the stories how the Bear, the Wolf, and the Hyaena came to 
lose their tails in Europe and Africa. But this particular idea, 
taken by itself, has a wide geographical range both in the 
Old and New Worlds. A story current in India, apparently 
among the Tamil population of the South, is told by the Rev. 
J. Roberts, who says, speaking of the jackal, "this animal 
is very much like the fox of England in his habits and appear- 
ance. I have been told, that they often catch the crab by 
putting their tail into its hole, which the creature imme- 
diately seizes, in hope of food : the jackal then drags it out and 
devours it." 2 

In North America, the bearer of the story is the racoon. 

1 r.rassenr, Topul-Yub,' pp. 113-25. 
8 Roberts, 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 172. 


"Lawson relates, that those which formerly lived on the salt 
waters in Carolina, fed on oysters, which they nimbly snatched 
when the shell opened ; but that sometimes the paw was 
caught, and held till the return of the tide } in which the ani- 
mal, though it swims well, was sometimes drowned. His art 
in catching crabs is still more extraordinary. Standing on ths 
borders of the waters where this shell-fish abounds, he keeps 
the end of his tail floating on the surface, which the crab seizes, 
and he then leaps forward with his prey, and destroys it in a 
very artful manner." l In South America, the art is given to 
two other very cunning creatures, the monkey and the jaguar. 
I have been informed by one of the English explorers in British 
Guiana, that it is a current story there, that the monkey catches 
fish by letting them take hold of the end of his tail. Southey, 
quoting from a manuscript description of the district flooded 
by the River Paraguay, called the Lago Xarayes, says " when 
the floods are out the fish leave the river to feed upon certain 
fruits : as soon as they hear or feel the fruit strike the water, 
they leap to catch it as it rises to the surface, and in their 
eagerness spring into the air. From this habit the Ounce has 
learnt a curious stratagem ; he gets upon a projecting bough, 
and from time to time strikes the water with his tail, thus imi- 
tating the sound which the fruit makes as it drops, and as the 
fish spring towards it, he catches them with his paw." ! More 
recently, the story has been told again by Mr. Wallace : " The 
jaguar, say the Indians, is the most cunning animal in the 
forest : he can imitate the voice of almost every bird and animal 
so exactly, as to draw them towards him : he fishes in the 
rivers, lashing the water with his tail to imitate falling fruit, 
and when the fish approach, hooks them up with his claws." J 
It may be objected against the use of the tail-fishing story 
as mythological evidence, that there may possibly be some 
foundation for it in actual fact ; and it is indeed hardly more 
astonishing, for instance, than the jaguar's turning a number 
of river-turtles on their backs to be eaten at his leisure, a 
story which Humboldt accepts as true. But the way in which 

1 D. B. Warden, Account of U. S. ; Edinburgh, 1819, vol. i. p. 199. 
* Southey, vol. i. p. 142. a Wallace, p. 455. 


the tail-fishing is attributed in different countries to one animal 
after another, the bear, the wolf, the hyaena, the jackal, the 
racoon, the monkey, and the jaguar, authorizes the opinion 
that, in most cases at least, it is one of those floating ideas 
which are taken up as part of the story-teller's stock in trade, 
and used where it suits him, but with no particular subordina- 
tion to fact. 

Lastly, another Old World story which has a remarkable 
analogue in South America is that of the Diable Boiteux. This, 
however, in the state in which it is known to modern Europe, is 
a conception a good deal modified under Christian influences. 
In the old mythology of our race, it is the Fire-god who is lame. 
The unsteady flickering of the flames may perhaps be figured in 
the crooked legs and hobbling gait of Hephaestus, and Zeus 
casts him down from heaven to earth like his crooked light- 
nings ; while the stones which correspond with the Vulcan-myth 
on German ground tell of the laming of Wielaud, our Wayluud 
Smith, the representative of Hephaestus. The transfer of the 
lameness of the Fire-god to the Devil seems to belong to the 
mixture of the Scriptural Satan with the ideas of heathen gods, 
elves, giants, and demons, which go to form that strange com- 
pound, the Devil of popular mediaeval belief. 1 

There is something very quaint in the notion of a lame god or 
devil, but it is quite a familiar one in South Africa. The deity 
of the Xamaquas and other tribes is Tsui'kuap, whose principal 
attributes seem to be the causing of pain and death. This being 
received a wound in his knee in a great fight, and " Wouuded- 
knee" appears to be the meaning of his name. 2 Moffat's account, 
which is indeed not very clear, fits with a late remark made by 
Livingstone among another people of South Africa, the Bakwains. 
He observes that near the village of Sechele there is a cave called 
Lepelole, which no one dared to enter, for it was the common 
belief that it was the habitation of the Deity, and that no one 
who went in ever came out again. "It is curious," he says, 
" that in all their pretended dreams or visions of their god he 

1 Welcker, ' Griechische Gotterlehre ; ' Gottingen, 1857, etc., vol. i. pp. 661-5. 
Grimm, D. M., pp. 221, 3rl, 937-8, 944, 9(53. See Schirren, p. 101. 

2 Mollat, pp. 257-9. 

B B 


has always a crooked leg, like the Egyptian Thau." 1 Even in 
Australia something similar is to be found. The Biain is held 
to be like a black, but deformed in his lower extremities ; the 
natives say they got many of the songs sung at their dances from 
him, but he also causes diseases, especially one which marks the 
face like small-pox. 2 

The Diable Boiteux of South America is thus described by 
Poppig, in his account of the life of the forest Indians of 
Mainas. " A ghostly being, the Uchuclla-chaqui or Lame-foot, 
alone troubles the source of his best pleasure and his livelihood. 
"Where the forest is darkest, where only the light-avoiding 
amphibia and. the nocturnal birds dwell, lives this dangerous 
creature, and endeavours, by putting on some friendly shape, to 
lure the Indian to his destruction. As the sociable hunters do, 
it gives the well understood signs, and, never reached itself, 
entices the deluded victim deeper and deeper into the solitude, 
disappearing with a shout of mocking laughter when the path 
home is lost, and the terrors of the wilderness are increasing 
with the growing shadows of night. Sometimes it separaU'S 
companions who have gone hunting together, by appearing first 
in one place, then in another in an altered form ; but it never 
can deceive the wary hunter who in distrust examines the foot- 
steps of his enemy. Hardly has he caught sight of the quite 
unequal size of the impressions of the feet, when he hastens 
back, and for long after no one dares to make an expedition into 
the wilderness, for the visits of the fiend are only for a time." : ' 
In South America, as in Africa, this is not a mere local tale, but 
a widely spread belief. 

In conclusion, the analogies between the Mythology of America 
and of the rest of the world which have been here enumerated, 
when taken together with the many more which come into view 
in studying a wider range of native American traditions, and 
after full allowance has been made for independent coincidences, 
seern to me to warrant some expectation that the American 

1 Livingstone, p. 124. He means, I presume, Pthah, or rather Pthah-Sokari Osiris. 

2 Eyre, vol. ii. p. 362. 

3 Toppig, 'lleise in Chile,' etc. ; Leipzig, 1835, vol. ii. p. 353. Klernin, G. G., 
vol. i. p. 276. 


Mythology may have to be treated as embodying materials 
common to other districts of the world, mixed no doubt with 
purely native matter. Such a view would bring the early history 
of America into definite connexion with that of other regions, 
over a larger geographical range than that included in Humboldt's 
argument, and would bear with some force, though of course but 
indirectly, on the problem of the diffusion of mankind. 

B 2 



IT has been intimated that the present series of Essays affords 
no sufficient foundation for a definite theory of the Rise and 
Progress of Human Civilization in early times. Nor, indeed, 
will any such foundation be ready for building upon, until a great 
deal of preparatory work has been done. Still, the evidence 
which has here been brought together seems to tell distinctly 
for or against some widely circulated Ethnological theories, and 
also to justify a certain amount of independent generalization, 
and the results of the foregoing chapters in this way may now be 
briefly summed up, with a few additional remarks. 

In the first place, the facts collected seem to favour the view 
that the wide differences in the civilization and mental state of 
the various races of mankind are rather differences of develop- 
ment than of origin, rather of degree than of kind. Thus the 
Gesture-Language is the same in principle, and similar in its 
details, all over the world. The likeness in the formation both 
of pure myths and of those crude theories which have been 
described as "myths of observation," among races so dissimilar 
in the colour of their skins and the shape of their skulls, tells in 
the same direction. And wherever the occurrence of any art 
or knowledge in two places can be confidently ascribed to inde- 
pendent invention, as, for instance, when we find the dwellers 
in the ancient lake -habitations of Switzerland, and the Modern 
New Zealanders, adopting a like construction in their curious 
fabrics of tied bundles of fibre, the similar step thus made in 
different times and places tends to prove the similarity of tlto 
minds that made it. Moreover, to take a somewhat weaker line 
of argument, the uniformity with which like stages in the develop- 


ment of art and science are found among the most unlike races, 
may be adduced as evidence on the same side, in spite of the 
constant difficulty in deciding whether any particular development 
is due to independent invention, or to transmission from some 
other people to those among whom it is found. For if the 
similar thing has been produced in two places by independent 
invention, then, as has just been said, it is direct evidence of 
similarity of mind. And on the other hand, if it was carried 
from the one place to the other, or from a third to both, by mere 
transmission from people to people, then the smallness of the 
change it has suffered in transplanting is still evidence of the 
like nature of the soil wherever it is found. 

Considered both from this and other points of view, this uni- 
form development of the lower civilization is a matter of great 
interest. The state of things which is found is not indeed that 
one race does or knows exactly what another race does or knows, 
but that similar stages of development recur in different times 
and places. There is reason to suppose that our ancestors in- 
remote times made fire with a machine much like that of the 
modern Esquimaux, and at a far later date they used the bow 
and arrow, as so many savage tribes do still. The foregoing 
chapters treating of the history of some early arts, of the practice 
of sorcery, of curious customs and superstitions, are indeed full 
of instances of the recurrence of like phenomena in the remotest 
regions of the world. We might reasonably expect that men of 
like minds, when placed under widely different circumstances of 
country, climate, vegetable and animal life, and so forth, should 
develop very various phenomena of civilization, and we even 
know by evidence that they actually do so ; but nevertheless it 
strikingly illustrates the extent of mental uniformity among 
mankind to notice that it is really difficult to find, among a list 
of twenty items of art or knowledge, custom or superstition, 
taken at random from a description of any uncivilized race, a 
single one to which something closely analogous may not be 
found elsewhere among some other race, unlike the first in 
physical characters, and living thousands of miles off. It is 
taking a somewhat extreme case to put the Australians to such 
a test, for they are perhaps the most peculiar of the lower vurio- 


ties of Man, yet among the arts, beliefs, and customs, found 
among their tribes, there are comparatively few that cannot be 
matched elsewhere. They raise scars on their bodies like Afri- 
can tribes ; they circumcise like the Jews and Arabs ; they bar 
marriage in the female line like the Iroquois ; they drop out of 
their language the names of plants and animals which have been 
used as the personal names of dead men, and make new words 
to serve instead, like the Abipones of South America ; tlu y 
bewitch their enemies with locks of hair, and pretend to cure tho 
sick by sucking out stones through their skin, as is done in so 
many other regions. It is true that among their weapons they 
have one of very marked, perhaps even specific peculiarity, 
boomerang, but the rest of their armoury, the spear, the spear- 
thrower, the club, the thro wing- cudgel, are but varieties of 
instruments common elsewhere, and the same is true of their 
fire-drill, their stone hatchet, their nets and baskets, their bark 
canoes and rafts. And while among the Australians there are 
only a very few exceptions to modify the general rule that what- 
ever is found in one place in the world may be matched more or 
less closely elsewhere, piecemeal or as a whole, the proportion of 
such exceptions is smaller, and consequently the uniformity of de- 
velopment more strikingly marked, among most of the other races 
of the world who have not risen above the lower levels of culture. 
In the next place, the collections of facts relating to various 
useful arts seem to justify the opinion that, in such practical 
matters at least, the history of mankind has been on the whole 
a history of progress. Over almost the whole world are found 
traces of the former use of stone implements, now supersc 
by metal ; rude and laborious means of making fire have been 
supplanted by easier and better processes ; over large regions 
of the earth the art of boiling in earthen or metal pots over tho 
fire has succeeded the ruder art of stone-boiling ; in three dis- 
tant countries the art of writing sounds is found developing 
itself out of mere picture-writing, and this phonetic writing has 
superseded in several districts the use of quipus, or knotted 
cords, as a means of record and communication. In the chap- 
ter particularly devoted to evidence of progress, a number of 
facts are stated which seem to be records of a forward develop- 


ment in other arts, in times and places beyond the range of 
history. On the other hand, though arts which flourish in 
times of great refinement or luxury, and complex processes 
which require a combination of skill or labour hard to get 
together, and liable to be easily disarranged, may often de- 
generate, yet the more homely and useful the art, and the less 
difficult the conditions for its exercise, the less likely it is to 
disappear from the world, unless when superseded by some 
better device. Eaces may and do leave off building temples 
and monuments of sculptured stone, and fall off in the execu- 
tion of masterpieces of metal-work and porcelain, but there is 
no evidence of any tribe giving up the use of the spindle to 
twist their thread by hand, or having been in the habit of work- 
ing the fire-drill with a thong, and going back to the clumsier 
practice of working it without, and it is even hard to fancy such 
a thing happening. Since the Hottentots have learnt, within 
the last two centuries or so, to smelt the iron ore of their 
country, it is hard to imagine that anything short of extirpating 
them or driving them into a country destitute of iron, could 
make them go back to the Stone Age in which their ancestors 
lived. Some facts are quoted which bear on the possible degene- 
ration of savage tribes when driven out into the desert, or other- 
wise reduced to destitution, or losing their old arts in the 
presence of a higher civilization, but there seems ground for 
thinking that such degeneration has been rather of a local than 
of a general character, and has rather affected the fortunes of 
particular tribes than the development of the world at large. I 
do not think I have ever met with a single fact which seems to 
me to justify the theory, of which Dr. von Martius is perhaps the 
1- -tiding advocate, that the ordinary condition of the savage is the 
result of degeneration from a far higher state. 1 The chapter on 

1 See above, p. 136. It appears, however, that the late Dr. Martins is no longer 
to lie reckoned among the supporters of the degeneration-theory, as in later years he 
saw cause to reverse his early views. Since the date of the first edition of I 
present work, he has published his opinion as to the Amazons tribes, that there i 
no ground for considering their barbarous condition a secondary one, nor that it 
preceded by a higher state of morals, or a past civilization. See Martius, ' 1 
zur Ethnographic Amcrika's,' Leipzig, 1867, vol. i. p. 375 ; also Fescbcl, ' Ull 
kunde,' Leipzig, 1874, p. 137. [Note to 3rd Edition.] 


"Images and Names," which explains the arts of Magic as the 
effects of an early mental condition petrified into a series of 
mystic observances carried up into the midst of a higher culture, 
is indeed in the strongest opposition to the view strongly advo- 
cated by degenerationists, that these superstitious practices are 
mutilated remnants of a high system of belief which prevailed in 
former times. So far as may be judged from the scanty and de- 
fective evidence which has as yet been brought forward, I ven- 
ture to think the most reasonable opinion to be that the course 
of development of the lower civilization has been on the whole 
in a forward direction, though interfered with occasionally and 
locally by the results of degrading and destroying influences. 

Granting the existence of this onward movement in the lower 
levels of art and science, the question then arises, how any par- 
ticular piece of skill or knowledge has come into any particular 
place where it is found. Three ways are open, independent in- 
vention, inheritance from ancestors in a distant region, trans- 
mission from one race to another ; but between these three ways 
the choice is commonly a difficult one. Sometimes, indeed, the 
first is evidently to be preferred. Thus, though the floating 
gardens of Mexico and Cashmere are very similar devices, it 
seems more likely that the Mexican chinampa was invented on 
the spot than that the idea of it was imported from a distant 
region. Though the wattled cloth of the Swiss lake-dwellings is 
so similar in principle to that of New Zealand, it is much easier 
to suppose it the result of separate invention than of historical 
connexion. Though both the Egyptians and Chinese came 
upon the expedient of making the picture of an object stand for 
the sound which was the name of that object, there is no reason 
to doubt their having done so independently. 

But the more difficult it is to account for observed facts in 
this way, and the more necessary it becomes to have recourse to 
theories of inheritance or transmission to explain them, the 
greater is their value in the eyes of the Ethnologist. "Wherever 
he can judge that the existence of similar phenomena in the 
culture of distant peoples cannot be fairly accounted for, except 
by supposing that there has been a connexion by blood or by in- 
tercourse between them, then he has before him eviiL i:cc bear- 


ing upon the history of civilization and on the history of man- 
kind, evidence which shows that such movements as have 
introduced guns, axes, hooks, into America in historic times, 
have also taken place in uuhistoric times among tribes whose 
ancestors have left them no chronicles of past ages. Thus the 
appearing of the Malay smelting-furnace in Madagascar, and of 
the outrigger canoe in East Australia and the Andaman Islands, 
may he appealed to as evidence of historical connexion. It is 
possible that the Ethnographer may some day feel himself jus- 
tified in giving to this kind of argument a far wider range. He 
may not perhaps venture on extreme arguments, such, for in- 
stance, as to claim for the bow and arrow a common origin 
wherever it is found, that is, over the whole world with perhaps 
no exception but part of Polynesia, and part or the whole of 
Australia. Yet, noticing that the distribution of the potter's 
art in North America is not sporadic, as if a tribe here and a 
tribe there had wanted it and invented it, but that it rises north- 
wards in a compact field from Mexico among the tribes East of 
the Rocky Mountains, he may more forcibly argue that it spread 
from a single source, and is at once a result and a proof of the 
transmission of civilization. Indeed, it seems as though the 
recurrence of similar groups in the inventories of instruments 
and works of the lower races, so remarkable both in the presence 
of like things and the comparative absence of unlike ones, might 
come to supply, in a more advanced state of Ethnography, the 
materials for an indefinite series of arguments bearing on the 
early history of man. 

It is not to be denied, however, that there is usually a large 
element of uncertainty in inferences of this kind taken alone, 
and it is only in special cases that summary generalizations 
from such evidence can as yet be admitted. Indeed, its proper 
place is rather as accompanying the argument from language, 
mythology, and customs, than as standing by itself. Thus the 
appearance, just referred to, of the Malay blast-furnace in 
Madagascar has to be viewed in connexion with the affinity in 
language between Madagascar and the islands of the Eastern 
Archipelago. Putting the two things together, we may assume 
that the connexion with Madagascar dates from a time since 


the introduction of iron-smelting in a part of the great Malayo- 
Polynesian district, and belongs to that particular group of 
islands near the Eastern coast of Asia where this immense step 
in material civilization was made. Again, the philological re- 
searches of Buschmann, which have brought into view traces of 
the Aztec language up into the heart of North America, fifteen 
hundred miles and more north of the City of Mexico, join with 
several other lines of evidence in bringing far distant parts of 
the population of the continent into historical connexion, and in 
showing, at least, that such communication between its different 
peoples as may have spread the art of pottery from a single 
locality is not matter of mere speculation. It is in this way 
that it will probably be found most expedient to use fragmentary 
arguments from the distribution of the arts and sciences of 
savage tribes, in Ethnological districts where a way has been 
already opened by more certain methods. 

In its bearing on the History of Mankind, the tendency of 
modern research in the region of Comparative Mythology is not 
to be mistaken. The number of myths recorded as found in 
different countries, where it is hardly conceivable that they 
should have grown independently, goes on steadily increasing 
from year to year, each one famishing a new clue by which 
common descent or intercourse is to be traced. Such evidence, 
as fast as it is brought before the public, is received with the 
most lively interest ; and not only is its value fully admitted, 
but there may even be observed a tendency to use it with too 
much confidence in proof of common descent, without enough 
consideration of what we know of the way in which Mythology 
really travels from race to race. The cause of the occurrence 
of a myth, or of a whole family of myths, may be, and no doubt 
often is, mere intercourse, which has as little to do with com- 
mon descent as the connexion which has planted the stories 
of the Arabian Nights among the Malays of Borneo, and the 
legends of Buddha among the Chinese. On the other hand, 
the argument from similar Customs has received, as a whole, 
comparatively little attention, but it is not without importance. 
Two or three, at least, of the customs remarked upon in the 
present volume, in the group including the cure by sucking, 


the couvade, and others, such as the wide-spread superstitions 
connected with sneezing, on which Mr. Haliburton gave a lec- 
ture, in 1863, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1 may be adduced as 
facts for the occurrence of which in so many distant times and 
places it is hard to account on any other hypothesis than that 
of deep-lying connexions by blood or intercourse, among races 
which history, and even philology, only know as isolated sections 
of the population of the world. Whether such customs had one 
or several original sources, their present diffusion seems in great 
measure due to propagation from district to district. 

On the whole, it does not seem to be an unreasonable, or 
even an over- sanguine view, that the mass of analogies in Art 
and Knowledge, Mythology and Custom, confused and indis- 
tinct as they at present are, may already be taken to indicate 
that the civilizations of many races, whose history even the 
evidence of Language has not succeeded in bringing into con- 
nexion, have really grown up under one another's influences, or 
derived common material from a common source. But that 
such lines of argument should ever be found to converge in the 
last instance towards a single point, so as to enable the student 
to infer from reasoning on a basis of observed facts that the 
civilization of the whole world has its origin in one parent 
stock, is a state of things of which not even the most dim and 
distant view is to be obtained. 

On another subject, on which it would not be prudent to 
offer a definite opinion, a few words may nevertheless be said. 
Every attempt to trace back the early history of civilization 
tends, however remotely, towards an ultimate limit the pri- 
mary condition of the human race, as regards their knowledge 
of the laws of nature and their power of modifying the outer 
world for their own ends. Such lines of investigation as go 
back from the Bronze or Iron Ages to the time of the use of 
implements of stone, from the higher to the lower methods of 
five-making, from the boat to the raft, from the use of the 
spindle to the art of hand-twisting, and so on, seem to enable 
the student to see back through the history of human culture to 
a state of art and science somewhat resembling that of the 

1 R. G. HaliUirton, 'Xew Materials for the History of Mai, ,' Halifax. N.S. 1863. 


savage tribes of modern times. It is useful to work back to 
this point, at least as a temporary resting-place in the argument, 
seeing that a state of things really known to exist is generally 
more convenient to reason upon than a purely theoretical one. 
But if we may judge that the present condition of savage tribes 
is the complex result of not only a long but an eventful history, 
in which development of culture may have been more or less 
interfered with by degradation caused by war, disease, oppres- 
sion, and other mishaps, it does not seem likely that any tribe 
known to modern observers should be anything like a fair re- 
presentative of primary conditions. Still, positive evidence of 
anything lower than the known state of savages is scarce in the 
extreme. That the men whose tools and weapons are found in 
the Drift Beds, in the Bone Caves, and in the Shell-Heaps of 
Denmark, were not in the habit of grinding the edges of any of 
their stons implements, may be instanced as evidence of a sin- 
gularly low condition of one of the useful arts. The general 
character of this lowest division of the Stone Age, as exemplified 
among tribes of remote pne-historic times, seems to place their 
state of civilization below that recorded among tribes known to 
travellers or historians. 

To turn to a very different department of culture, some of the 
facts belonging to the history of custom and superstition may 
for the last time be referred to, as perhaps having their common 
root in a mental condition underlying anything to be met with 
now. We have seen prevalent among savages and barbarians a 
state of mind which helps us to account for the whole business 
of Magic, including the arts of omen-taking by astrology and 
other kinds of divination, and of bewitching by means of images 
and names of persons, with its counter- system of prevention and 
cure by sympathy, the last including the quaintly instructive 
custom of the couvade. But it looks as though even savages 
have but the remains of this magical state of mind inherited 
from ancestors of yet lower culture, and that they have begun 
to outgrow it, as the civilized world has more fully done. The 
early fusion of objective and subjective relations in the mind, of 
the effects of which in superstitious practices handed down from 
age to age so much has been said in this book, may perhaps not 


be fully or exactly represented in the mental state of any living 
tribe of men. 

There have been indeed few more important movements in 
the course of the history of mankind, than this change of 
opinion as to the nature and relations of what is in the mind 
and what is out of it. To say nothing of its vast effects upon 
Ethics and Religion, the whole course of Science, and of Art, 
of which Science is a principal element, has been deeply in- 
fluenced by this mental change. Man's views of the difference 
between imagination and reality, of the nature of cause and 
eifect, of the connexion between himself and the external world, 
and of the parts of the external world among themselves, have 
been entirely altered by it. To the times before this movement 
had gone too far, belong the developments of Mythology, so 
puzzling to later ages which had risen to a higher mental 
state, and had then thrown down the ladder they had climbed 
by. The modern deciphering of ancient myths has been per- 
haps more valuable than any direct examination of savage races, 
in giving us the means of realizing that early state of mind in 
which there is scarcely any distinct barrier between fact and 
fancy, to which whatever is similar is the same. If the clouds 
are driven across the sky like cows from their pasture, they are 
not merely compared to cows, but are thought and talked of as 
though they really were cows ; if the sun travels along its course 
like a glittering chariot, forthwith the wheels and the driver and 
the horses are there; while by treating a name as though it 
necessarily represented a person, it becomes possible to evolve out 
of the contemplation of nature those wonderful stories in which 
even the earth, the sea, and the sky, combine with their natural 
attributes a kind of half-human personality. The opinion that 
dreams and phantasms have an objective existence out of the 
mind that perceives them, and that when two ideas are asso- 
ciated in a man's mind the objects to which those ideas belong 
must have a corresponding physical connexion, are views over 
which the long course of observation and study of nature has 
brought a vast change. These things belong to that early con- 
dition of the human mind, from which, to say nothing of tli j 
special views of metaphysicians and leaders in science, tho 


ordinary ideas of Man and Nature held by educated men differ 
so widely. However far these ideas may in their turn be left 
behind, the growth which can be traced within the range of our 
own observation and inference, is one of no scant measure. It 
may bear comparison with one of the great changes in the 
mental life of the individual man, perhaps rather with the 
expansion and fixing of the mind which accompanies the 
passage from infancy into youth, than with the later steps from 
yoath into manhood, or from manhood into old age. 



Abipones, 140, 146, 294, etc. 

Adobe, 97. 

./Eolian flutes, 177. 

Africa, Beast-Fables of, 10-2, 365 ; 

Stone Age in, 220-3. 
Alnajah of Ethiopia, 216. 
Alphabets and Syllubaria, 100-3 : 

Finger-alphabet, 17. 
America, connexion of its civilization 

with that of the Old World, 206, 

276, 339-71. 

American chroniclers, 252. 
Andaman Islanders, 160. 
Archimedes, his burning mirrors, 249. 
Architecture, evidence of progress in, 


Ark, 331. 

Arrow-heads, stone, 209, 211, 224. 
Articulation of deaf mutes, 71-5. 
Arts, transmission of, 166, etc., 376. 
Aryan race, their use of metal, 213 ; 

their lire apparatus, 242, 255. 
Astrology, 132. 
Aubin, M., on phonetic characters of 

Mexicans. 94-6. 
Australians, 141, 145, 175-7, 201, 

265, 282, 289, 373, etc. 
Axes, stone, 200. 

Bacliofen, J. J., on couvade, 298. 

Bakalahari, 185. 

Baking in hollow trees, ant-hills, pits, 

Balsam of Judea, 218. 

Bamboo, lire produced from, 238. 

Barbecue, 262. 

Basques, 301. 

Beaet-Fablea in Europe and Africa, 
10-2, 365 ; Lion and Mouse, 350. 

Bee-hunting, Australian and American 
method of, 177. 

Bellows for iron-smelting, 167. 

Bewitching, by images, 119-22, 124 ; 
by earth-cutting, 119 ; by names, 
124-7 ; by locks of hair, parings of 
nails, leavings oi food, etc., 127- 
30 ; by symbolic charms, 130, 133 ; 


by ' wishing,' 134 ; by the evil eye, 


Bible, tales derived from, 337-39. 
Bird-trap, rudimentary, 170. 
Blast-pump for iron smelting, in E;ist 

Archipelago and Madagascar, 107-9, 

Boats, remains of, on mountains, etc., 


Boats and rafts, 162. 
Boiling, 263-74 ; with hot stones, 

263-7 ; vessels for, 269-72. 
Bolas, 177. 

Bone-caves, 197, 321 ; stone imple- 
ments of, 197. 
Bones burnt for fuel, 1 83. 
Boomerang, 175, 187, 374. 
Bread-fruit paste, 179. 
Bridge of Dead, 358-63. 
Bronze Age in America, 206 ; iu Asia, 


Bucaneers, 262. 
Bncaning, 262. 
Burial in canoes, etc., 362. 
Burning-lens, 248. 
Burning-mirror, 249-53. 
Bushmen, 77, 185. 

Calculation by stones, 163. 

Calendars of N. A. Indians, 90; of 

Mexicans, 91, 339. 
Caliban, 247. 
Celts, stone, 199-202. 
Central America, ruined cities of, 182, 


Charms, 130, etc. 
Cherokees, their syllabarium, 102. 
Chinampas, 171. 

China, aboriginal tribes of, 208, 300. 
Chinese, their clan names, 280 ; their 

phonetic writing, 9S-100. 
Chocolate, 178. 
Christy, Mr. H., 13 ; his exploration 

of bone-caves of 1'erigord, 197 ; liil- 

ing stone-implement* in .North 

Africa, 224. 
Churn worked witli cord, 242. 




Circumcision : with stone knives 
among Jews, 214-19 ; Rabbinical 
law as to instrument, 216 ; among 
Alnajah in Ethiopia, 216 ; in Fiji 
islands, 216; in Australia, 219. 

Cistercians, their gesture-language, 

Civilization, progress of, 2, 117, 136, 
148, 150, etc., 198, 295, 372, etc., 
decline of, 181-90, 375. 

Clan-names : in China, 280 ; Austra- 
lia, 282 ; persons of same, may not 
marry, 280-84. 

Climbing by hoops, etc., 170. 

Cloth of bundles ot fibre, 188-91. 

Cock and Bull stories, 10. 

Colour of feathers changed in live 
birds, 177. 

Cooking, 261-70 ; en papillate, 173 ; 
roasting and broiling, 261 ; baking, 
261 ; underground ovens, 261 ; bu- 
caning or barbecuing, 262 ; boiling, 
'263-70 ; stone-boiling, 263-7. 

Copper, native, used by stone-age races 
in North America, 205. 

Cord, hand-twisting of, 189. 

Corsicans, 303. 

Couvade, 291, 305, 380 ; in South 
America and "West Indies, 292, etc. ; 
North America, Africa, and Eastern 
Archipelago, 300; Asia, 300; Europe, 
301 ; its ethnological value, 302. 

Customs, 275, 305, 378 ; tying clothes of 
couple in wedding, 46 ; kissing, rub- 
bing noses, etc., 51 ; fire not touched 
with sharp instrument, 277 ; suck- 
ing-cure, etc., 277-9, 302 ; restric- 
tions from marriage of kindred, 279- 
88 ; Spartan marriage, 286 ; restric- 
tions to intercourse of parents-in-law 
and children- in-law, 288-91 ; tabued 
relationships, 291 ; couvade, 291, 
etc., 379 ; usages concerning sneez- 
ing, 379. 

Cybele, priests of, 218. 

Dasent, Dr., his argument from Beast- 
Fables, 10, 365. 

Dead, names of, not mentioned, 142, 

Dead, Bridge of, 358-63 ; River or 
Gulf of, 362. 

Deaf and dumb, their mental condition 
and education, 17, 65-75 ; of them- 
selves utter words, 71-4 ; their lip- 
imitation of words, 72. 

Decline of culture, 161, 181-8, 375 ; 
Dr. Von Martius's theory of, 135, 
375 ; A. von Humboldt on, 187. 


Deluge, 88, 325-32, 337, 348. 

Devil painted white, 112 ; attributes 
of Fire-god, etc., given to, 369. 

Diable Boiteux, 369. 

Digger Indians, 186. 

Divination, 130. 

Doing, in sense of practising magic, 

Dolls and toys, 106-9. 

Dreams and phantasms, argument 
from, 5-10. 

Drift gravels, stone implements in, 
194-8 ; Mr. Prestwieh on age of, 
195 ; extinct animals of, 311-14. 

Drills for boring holes and for fire- 
making, 188, 240-6. 

Drink = river, 37. 

Drum, 138. 

Dumb, becomes term for foreign, bar- 
barian, stupid, young, 34, 64. 

Fairings, etc., 1. 

Eclipse, 164. 

Klh'gies, 122. 

Eggs, artificial hatching of, 181. 

Egypt : hieroglyphics. 96-100 ; Coptic 

alphabet, 100 ; decline in arts, 1>1 ; 

stone arrow-heads, 210 ; stone em- 

balmer's knives, etc., 217. 
Elephant, white, 276. 
K.riiian, on rukh and griffin, 319. 
Esquimaux, 166, 205, 242, 287, 327,etc. 
Evans, Mr. J., on wattled cloth of 

Swiss lake-dwellings, 189. 
Evil eye, 53, 134. 

Father put to bed, etc., on birth of 
child, see Couvade, 291-305, 379 ; 
parentage ascribed only to, 2U9. 

Fergusson, Mr., on wooden forms in 
architecture, 166. 

Fetish, 135. 

Finns, stone-boilers, 268. 

Fire, myths of origin of, 229, etc., 

Fire; new, 250-60 ; Vestal, 250 ; in 
Peru, 250 ; in India, 255 ; on 1, 
eve, 257 ; in Russia, 259 ; see aL-o 

Fire, not touched with sharp instru- 
ment, 277. 

Fiie, races reported to be destitute of, 
229-36 ; Guanches. 229 ; Isiniidus 
of Los Jardines, 231 ; of Fakaat'o, 
231 ; of the Ladrones and Philip- 
pines, 232 ; tribe in French Guiana, 
233 ; Ethiopian tribes, 234. 

Fire-drill : -simple, 238-41, 251-61 ; 
as carpenter's brace, 241 ; thong- 




drill, 241, 255 ; bow-drill, 244 ; 
pump-drill, 244-6. 

Fire -making :-Tasmanians and Aus- 
tralians said to have no means of, 
236 ; methods of, in different coun- 
tries, 237-61 ; stick-and-groove, 237 ; 
striking fire with baml<oo, 238 ; fire- 
drill, 233-46 ; striking fire with iron 
pyrites, 247, 260 ; with stones, etc., 
248 ; flint and steel, 248 ; burning- 
lens, 248 ; burning-mirror, 248-52 ; 
lucifer matches, 253 ; wooden fric- 
tion-apparatus, kept up to modern 
times, 253 ; evidence of early use of, 
in different countries, 253-61. 

Fire-syringe, 246. 

Flamen Dialis, 137. 

Flint and steel, 248. 

Floating gardens, etc., 171. 

Food superstitions, 131. 

Footmarks, in Mexican picture- writings, 

Footprints, mythic, 114-6. 

Fork, eating-, 173-5. 

Fossil bones, shells, etc., myths of ob- 
servation connected with, 316-31. 

Fountain of Youth, 36-65. 

Fox, Col. A. Lane, on boomerangs, 175. 

Fuegians, 162, 247, 200, 263, etc. 

Gauchos, 241. 

Gesture-language, 14-81 ; of deaf-and- 
dumb, 16-33 ; nature of, 15, etc. ; 
arbitrary signs, 22 ; epithets, 24 ; 
absence of grammatical categories, 
24, 62 ; grammar and syntax, 25-82 ; 
g. 1. of savage tribes. 34-40 ; syntax, 
39 ; g. 1. of Cistercian monks, 40-2 ; 
the Pantomime, 42-4 ; g. 1. as an ac- 
companiment to speech, 44, etc. ; 
common to mankind, 54 ; evidence 
of mental similarity, 54 ; compared 
with speech, 58-71 ; its dualism 
compared with that of speech, 59-63 ; 
prepositions, 61 ; theory that g. 1. 
was the original utterance of man, 
64 ; for numerals, 79. 

Gesture-si^ns, 3d, 43-53 ; translated in 
language, 37 ; nodding and shaking 
head, 37, 52 ; kissing hand, 38 ; sign 
of benediction, 38; beckoning, etc., 45, 
50 ; snapping fingers, 45 ; grasping 
anil shaking hands, 45-7 ; crouching, 
bowing, kneeling, etc., 47 ; gestures 
of prayer, 48 ; uncovering head, feet, 
and body, 48-51 ; rubbing noses, 
kissing, blowing, etc., 51 ; signs of 
contempt,etc.,52; against evileye,ii3. 

Giants, 316-25. 


Glass, legend of invention of, 150 ; 8 nb. 
stitmed for stone in making knive 
etc., 219. 

Gold work of Mexico, 206. 

Gourds, etc., plastered with clay, 272 

Griffins, 319. 

Gi hiding and polishing stone imple- 
ments, 197-203, 380. 

Guanchea, 229. 

Gumio, 178. 

Hair, bewitching by locks of, etc., 127- 

Hammers, stone, 192-4, 200, 225. 

Hammock, 175. 

Harpocratea, 41. 

Heads, preserved, of New Zealand, 266. 

Hebrides, inhabitants of, 270. 

Heyse, on thought and speech, 67. 

Horns, used to point weapons, etc.. 

Hot stones, baking with, 261 : boilin" 
with, 263-70. 

Hottentots, 10-2, 221. 

Humboldt, A. v., on connexion of Mexi- 
cans with Asia, 91, 270, 339 ; on 
human degeneration, 187 ; on Mexi- 
can elephant-like head, 313. 

Husband, name of, not mentioned by 
wife, 141. 

Ichthyophagi, 210. 

Ideas, association of, with images and 
words, 106-49. 

Idiots, use of gesture- language in edu- 
cation of, 79. 

Idols, 109-12 

Images, etc., 106-22. 

Incubi and Succubi, 7. 

India, stone implements in, 212 ; fire* 
making, 239, 255 ; marriage, 4", 
280, 286. 

Indians of N". America : gesture-lan- 
guage, 35-39 ; picture-writing. 82-91. 

Individuals, not held to b< physically 
separate by lower races, 295. 

Inventors and civilizers, legends of, 
150-4; 208, 231, 254, 307, etc. 

Irish, stone-boilers, etc., 270. 

Iron, meteoric, used by Indians of l& 
Plata and Esquimaux, 205. 

Irrigation, decline in art of. 184. 

Island, monster mistaken for, 342. 

Jack and the Beanstalk, 349-61. 
Japan, stone implements in, 211. 
Jews, their use of stone knives, 214-19. 
Jonah, 345. 

Jo-hua, stone knives in tomb of 214. 
Jupiter Lapis, 2-6. 





Kafirs, 141, 147, etc. 

Kamchadals, 270, 239, 265, 277, 327, 

Kang-hi, his Encyclopaedia, 209, 3 '.7, 


Kava or Ava. 1 80. 
Kettles, of bark, paunch, hide, split 

bamboo, potstone, etc., 269-72. 
Khorsabad, obsidian flake-knives under 

temple of, 211. 
Kings' and chiefs' names not mentioned, 


Kissing, etc., 51. 
Kjokkenmbddings, stone implements 

of, 196-8. 
Knives, stone flake-, 195-9, 211. 

Language, origin of, 15, 55-8, 62 ; Chi- 
nese myth of, 58 ; stories of attempts 
to discover o:iginal 1. by experiments 
on children, 79-81 ; speech compared 
with gesture-language, 58-65 ; pre- 
dicative and demonstrative roois com- 
pared with two classes of gesture- 
signs, 59-61 ; concretism, 62 ; verb- 
roots, 63 ; syntax, 63 ; relation of 
speech to thought, 67-74 ; deaf-and- 
dumb of themselves speak, 71-4 ; 
their lip-imitation of words, 72 ; lan- 
guage modified by superstitions con- 
cerning words in Polynesia, 145, 
Australia 145, Tasmania 145, among 
Abipones 146, Kafirs 147, Yezidis 
147, English and Americans 148 ; 
evidence from language as to progress 
in culture, 163-6, 256 ; as to Stone 
Age, 213-5. 

Lartet and Christy, on bone caves of 
Perigord, 197. 

Lazarus, Prof., 216. 

Letters. See Phonetic Characters. 

Life, future, 5-10, 296, 354-7. 

Little Red Kiding-Hood, 346. 

Livre des Sauvages, 88. 

Lubbock, Sir J. , division of Stone Age, 
194 ; on fireless tribes, 236. 

M'Lennan, J. F., marriage-laws of 
lower races, 279 ; form of capture, 

Madagascar, 167-9, 225, 240. 

Magia and sorcery, theory of, 116-39, 
304, 380. 

Malay stone-implements, 215. 

Malayo-Polynesians, 167, 178, etc. 

Mammoths and other extinct animals, 
possible recollection of, 311 ; myths 
derived from remains of, 313-20. 

M n his degeneration in size and length 


of life, 324 ; mental uniformity o^ 
372-4 ; primary condition of, 379. 

Miin in the Moon, etc., 334. 

Man swallowed by Fish, 344-46. 

Map-making. 89. 

Marriage, prohibition of, among Kin- 
dred. 279, etc., ; in Eurpe, 279 ; 
Asia, 280-2; Africa, 282; Australia, 
282 ; America, 283-6 ; extended to 
imaginary kindred, 288 ; wife carried 
off by force, 286, 287 ; crossing male 
and female lines, v83-8. 

Martins, Dr. v., his theory of degenera- 
tion, 135, 375. 

Massagetae, 207. 

Metal-working in Mexico and Peru, 20fi. 

Mexico ; picture-writing, 91-7, 312 ; 
calendars, 91, 339 ; phonetic charac- 
ters, 92-6 ; Quetzalcohuatl and the 
Toltecs, 151-4 ; stone implements, 
191 ; metal-work, 206 ; tire drill, 
240 ; Humboldt on connexion of 
Mexican civilization with Asia, 91, 
207, 276, 312, 339. 

Mirrors of pyrites and obsidian, 250, 260. 

Moslems, their opinion on images, 120. 

Mound-builders of Mississippi Valley, 

Miiller, Prof. Max, 61, 147. 

Myths, 311-71, 378 ; of origin of lan- 
guage, 58 ; connected with shapes of 
rocks, stone circles, statues, 113 ; of 
footprints, 114 ; of sympathetic plants, 
132 ; of Qnetzalcohuatl, 151-4 ; Sun- 
myths, 150-3, 346-52, 364 ; myths 
relating to stone arrow-heads, 224 ; 
to dolmens in North Africa, 222 ; of 
thunderbolt, 223-7 ; of Prometheus, 
229, 255 ; of origin of fire in Poly- 
nesia, 231 ; Chinese, 254 ; Phoenicia, 
254; of monstrous tribes, '234 ; growth 
of, 233 ; permanence of, 234 ; of Old 
World transferred to New, 249 ; geo- 
graphical distribution of, 333-71 ; 
common nature and character of, 
among different races. 333-37 ; man 
in the moon, etc., 334 ; sun and moon, 
brother and sister, 335 ; Castor and 
Pollux in Tasmania, 335 ; transmis- 
sion of, 337, etc., 378 ; derived from 
Bible stories, etc., 337-9 ; of America 
compared with those of Old World, 
339-71 ; World - Tortoise, Tortoise 
Island, etc., 340-4 ; Man swallowed 
by fish, 344-6 ; Sun-Catcher, 346-52; 
Tom Thumb, 344-6 ; Little lied Kid- 
ing-Hood, 346 ; .Tack and the Bean- 
stalk, 349-57 : ascent to heaven l>y 
the Tree, 350-7 ; Swan-coat, 355 ; 




Bridge, River, etc. of Dead, 358-63 ; 
Fountain of Youth, 363-5 ; Tail- 
fisher, 3(55 -9 ; Moon taken for cheese, 
366 ; stumpy-tailed animals, 366 ; 
Diable Boiteux, 369 ; value of myths 
as historical evidence, 378. See also 
Myths of Observation, Beast-Fables 
and Traditions. 

Myths of Observation, 306-32 : 
petrified lentils, 315 ; sun hissing in 
sea, 315 ; rain of stones, 316 ; con- 
nected with fossil remains, 316-32 ; 
mammoths, mastodons, etc., 316-23 ; 
rhinoceros horns, 318-20 ; grilh'ns, 
318-20 ; animals coming out of caves, 
321 ; creatures which die on seeing 
daylight, 318, 321 ; giants, 322-5 ; 
degeneration of man's stature, 324 ; 
bearing of fossils and remains of boats 
on Deluge-traditions, 325-32 ; bones 
of whales on high mountains, 327. 

Nails, bewitching by, 128. 

Names : their association with objects, 
124 ; their use in magic, etc., 124-7 ; 
concealed, 125 ; changed to deceive 
evil spirits, 125 ; exchanged in token 
of amity, 126 ; avoidance of use of 
certain personal names, own, of 
others, of husbands, of parents- and 
children-in-law, of < ther connexions, 
of kings and chiefs, of dead, of 
spirits, of superhuman beings, 139- 
49, 288-91. 

Needfire, 253, 256-61. 

New Zealanders, 161, 189, 202, 266, 

North- American Indians, their picture- 
writing, 82, 91, calendars, 91 ; syl- 
laburium of Cherokees, 102. 

Numa Pompilius, 250. 

Numerals, by gesture, 79 ; Roman, etc., 

Objective and subjective impressions 
and connexions confused, 117-49, 
295, 304, 381. 

Ornamentation of urns, 273. 

Ostyaks, images of dead, 109. 

Parentage from father, 297. 

Parents-in-law and children-in-law, ob- 
servances concerning, 141-7 ; restric- 
tions to intercourse of, 288-91. 

p eru : _metal-work of, 206 ; New Fire, 
250 ; Virgins of the Sun compared 
with Vestal Virgins of Rome, 251. 

Phonetic characters, 1)2-105 ; of .Mexi- 
cans, 92-7 : Egyptian hieroglyphs, 


96-100 ; of Chir.ese, 99 ; of Central 
America, 98 ; alphabets and sylla- 
baria, 100-5. 

Picture-writing, etc., 82-105, 159 ; of 
North American Indians, Sl-91 ; of 
Mexicans, 91-7 ; numerals, 104. 

Plants, sympathetic, 132. 

Polynesians, 142-5, 161, 173, 237, 265, 
307, 346, etc. 

Pottery, 174, 179, 264-8 ; Goguet's 
theory of origin of, 270-4 ; transition 
vessels, 269-74 : gourd-shapes, 272 ; 
ornamentation, 273. 

Prometheus, 229, 255. 

Pnris and Coroados, 76-8. 

Pygmies, 236. 

Pyrites striking fire with, 248, 260. 

Quaternary deposits, 194 ; possible tra- 
ditions of animuls of, 311-14. 
Quet/alchuatl, 116, 151-4. 
Quipus, 154-8. 

Rabbinical law as to circumcision, 215. 

I'ainbow, bridge or ladder, 361. 

Rainmakers, 133. 

Rattles, 138. 

R'-indeer-tribes of Central France, 197. 

Reynard, the Fox, 11, 365. 

Rice, traditions of introduction of, 

309-11, 355. 
River of Death, 360. 
llonsting and broiling food, 261. 
Rukh, 319. 

Sago, 179. 

Samovar, 165. 

Samson, 347, 352. 

Sanchoniathon, cosmogony of, 254. 

Semitic race, their alphabet, 101 ; stone 
implements, 215-19. 

Shell heaps, stone implements of, 194, 

Signatures, doctrine of, 122. 

Similarity in arts, customs, beliefs, etc., 
in distant regions, arguments from, 
5, 139, 169, 201-3, 261, 275, 302, 
331, etc., 370-2. 

Snce/ing, customs relating t<>. 37'.'. 

Sorcerers: their arts, 127-'i'.i ; nttlei 
and drums, 138 ; curt by sucking, 
etc., 277-9. 

Soul, future life of, 5-10, 206, 35S_ 03. 

S.'Uiid and colour, comparison of, 71. 

SIM ran maniige, 286. 

Spindle, 190. 

Spirits : of dead, affected through re- 
mains of bodies. 123 ; uaiiu-s of . 
not mentioned, 143. 




Steinthal, Prof., on gesture-language, 
14; on thought and speech, 68. 

Stick-aml-groove, 237. 

Stoue, omaiiH'iits of hard, made by low 
South American tribes, 187. 

Stuue Age, 192-228 ; unground, 194- 
8, 380 ; ground, 198-204 ; evidence 
of, in dillVrent parts of the world, 
204-28: evidence of language as to, 21 3. 

Stone-boiling, 263-9, 310. 

Stone implements. 192-228 ; late sur- 
viving, 192 ; natural stones used, 
192 ; implements of Drift, 194-7; simi- 
lar ones elsewhere, 196 ; of bone caves, 

197 ; of Scandinavian shell -heaps, 

198 ; grindingand polishing, 198-202; 
flake-knives, 200 ; celts, 199-202 ; 
hammers, 200 ; axes, 200 ; special in- 
struments, 200 ; high-class celts in 
Australia, 201 ; patu-patu, of New 
Zealand. 202 ; general similarity of 
stone implements of different coun- 
tries, 203 ; countries found under 
Stone Age conditions, 204 ; stone im- 

g'einents of N. and S. America, 206 ; 
amchatka, 208 ; China, 208 ; Tar- 
tary, 209 ; lightning-stones, 209 ; 
stone arrow-heads of Tunguz, 209 ; of 
Egyptians, 210 ; of the field of Ma- 
rathon, etc., 210 ; stone implements 
of Ichthyophagi, 21o ; of W. ami X. 
Asia, 211 ; Japan, 211 ; Java, Malay 
Peninsula, etc, 212; India, 196, 
212 ; Europe, 213 ; Aryans, 2 3 ; 
evidence of language as to, 213, 
etc., ; use of stone implements by 
Jews and Alnajah, 214-217 ; used 
forciicumcising, 214-217 ;tbr slaugh- 
tering beasts. 217, 223, 227, for in- 
cision of corpse to he embalmed in 
Egypt. 2i7 ; for extracting balsam 
of Judaea, 219 ; stone implements in 
Arahii. 218 ; Africa, 220-3: Canary 
Islands. 222 ; thought to be thunder- 
holts, 223 ; to be natural stones, 209, 
225 : used to sacrifice victims with 
in Africa, 223 ; in Kome, rJ7. 

Stumpy- tailed animals, myths relating 
to, 365. 

Sugar, 179. 

Sun-mvths, 150-4, 346-53, 364. 

Supernatural beings, 109 ; names of, 
not mentioned, 143, 147. 

Superstitions, 123-49, 218, 304, 378 ; 
relating to thunderbolt, 225 ; need- 
fire, 256 ; albino elephant, 276 ; seeds 
put with gold-dust, etc., 276 ; touch- 
ing fire with knife, etc., 277 ; as to 
god-parents, 304. See also Customs. 

Swan-coat, 355. 
Swiss lake-dwellers, 189, 193. 
Symbolic offerings, 121 ; charms, 181, 

Tabu. 130, 141, etc., 291. 

Tail-fishing, etc., 365-9. 

Tally, 166." 

Tasmanians, 76, 196, 235, 335. 

Tea-urn, 165. 

Teeth, artificial, 173 ; stopping teeth 
with gold, 173. 

Textile fabrics, 188-91. 

Thunderbolt, 209, 212, 222, 224-8. 

Toddy, 179. 

Toltecs, 151-4. 

Tom Thumb, 346-9. 

Tortoise-myth, 313, 341-4. 

Totem, 284. 

Traditions, 306 14 ; of inventors and 
civilizers, 150-4 ; of quipu in China, 
154, 307 ; of Polynesia, 307 ; Central 
America, 308 ; in tropics, apparently 
belonging to high latitudes, 308 ; of 
introduction of rice, 309 ; first ap- 
pearance of white men among N. W. 
American tribe, 310 ; possible recol- 
lection of mammoth, colossal tor- 
toise, great ape, etc., 312-4 ; deluge, 

Tree, Heaven-, 349-58. 

Tribes said to be deficient in speech, 
75-9 ; degraded, 184 ; said to have 
no fire, or no means of fire-making, 

Utterance, not by speech only, 14 ; its 
relation to thought, 68-74. 

Veddahs, 76-8, 239, 291. 

Vei syllabarium, 102. 

Vessels : for stone-boiling, 263-9, 
310 ; of bark, paunch, hide, bamboo, 
etc., for setting over fire, 269-71 ; of 
pot -stone, 270; pottery, 27i>-4 ; 
gourds, etc., plastered with clay, 27'-. 

Vestal Virgins, 250-2. 

Wattled cloth, 189. 
Weaving, 179, 189. 
Whately, Archbishop, his theory of 

civilization, 160-3. 
Wild fire, 2o4. 
Words, superstitions concerning, 124- 

7, 139-49. 
World, conception of, among lower 

races, 341, 358. 
Writing see Picture-writing. Phonr-tic 

characters ; use of, in magic, etc., liiii. 


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