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- The Antiquity of Man - 10/91 -
certain as could be wished. It is, however, beyond question that at a later era, namely, towards the close of the stone and beginning of the bronze period, the lake-dwellers had succeeded in taming that formidable brute the Bos primigenius, the Urus of Caesar, which he described as very fierce, swift, and strong, and scarcely inferior to the elephant in size. In a tame state its bones were somewhat less massive and heavy, and its horns were somewhat smaller than in wild individuals. Still in its domesticated form, it rivalled in dimensions the largest living cattle, those of Friesland, in North Holland, for example. When most abundant, as at Concise on the Lake of Neufchatel, it had nearly superseded the smaller race, Bos brachyceros, and was accompanied there for a short time by a third bovine variety, called Bos trochoceros, an Italian race, supposed to have been imported from the southern side of the Alps. (Caesar "Commentaries" lib 5 chapter 12.) This last-mentioned race, however, seems only to have lasted for a short time in Switzerland.
The wild bull (Bos primigenius) is supposed to have flourished for a while in a wild and tame state, just as now in Europe the domestic pig co-exists with the wild boar; and Rutimeyer agrees with Cuvier and Bell,* (* "British Quadrupeds" page 415.) in considering our larger domestic cattle of northern Europe as the descendants of this wild bull, an opinion which Owen disputes.* (* "British Fossil Mammal." page 500.)
In the later division of the stone period, there were two tame races of the pig, according to Rutimeyer; one large, and derived from the wild boar, the other smaller, called the "marsh-hog," or Sus scrofa palustris. It may be asked how the osteologist can distinguish the tame from the wild races of the same species by their skeletons alone. Among other characters, the diminished thickness of the bones and the comparative smallness of the ridges, which afford attachment to the muscles, are relied on; also the smaller dimensions of the tusks in the boar, and of the whole jaw and skull; and, in like manner, the diminished size of the horns of the bull and other modifications, which are the effects of a regular supply of food, and the absence of all necessity of exerting their activity and strength to obtain subsistence and defend themselves against their enemies.
A middle-sized race of dogs continued unaltered throughout the whole of the stone period; but the people of the bronze age possessed a larger hunting-dog, and with it a small horse, of which genus very few traces have been detected in the earlier settlements--a single tooth, for example, at Wangen, and only one or two bones at two or three other places.
In passing from the oldest to the most modern sites, the extirpation of the elk and beaver, and the gradual reduction in numbers of the bear, stag, roe, and freshwater tortoise are distinctly perceptible. The aurochs, or Lithuanian bison, appears to have died out in Switzerland about the time when weapons of bronze came into use. It is only in a few of the most modern lake-dwellings, such as Noville and Chavannes in the Canton de Vaud (which the antiquaries refer to the sixth century), that some traces are observable of the domestic cat, as well as of a sheep with crooked horns and with them bones of the domestic fowl.
After the sixth century, no extinction of any wild quadruped nor introduction of any tame one appears to have taken place, but the fauna was still modified by the wild species continuing to diminish in number and the tame ones to become more diversified by breeding and crossing, especially in the case of the dog, horse, and sheep. On the whole, however, the divergence of the domestic races from their aboriginal wild types, as exemplified at Wangen and Moosseedorf, is confined, according to Professor Rutimeyer, within narrow limits. As to the goat, it has remained nearly constant and true to its pristine form, and the small race of goat-horned sheep still lingers in some alpine valleys in the Upper Rhine; and in the same region a race of pigs, corresponding to the domesticated variety of Sus scrofa palustris, may still be seen.
Amidst all this profusion of animal remains extremely few bones of Man have been discovered; and only one skull, dredged up from Meilen, on the Lake of Zurich, of the early stone period, seems as yet to have been carefully examined. Respecting this specimen, Professor His observes that it exhibits, instead of the small and rounded form proper to the Danish peat-mosses, a type much more like that now prevailing in Switzerland, which is intermediate between the long-headed and short-headed form. (Rutimeyer "Die Fauna der Pfahlbauten in der Schweiz" page 181.)
So far, therefore, as we can draw safe conclusions from a single specimen, there has been no marked change of race in the human population of Switzerland during the periods above considered.
It is still a question whether any of these subaqueous repositories of ancient relics in Switzerland go back so far in time as the kitchen-middens of Denmark, for in these last there are no domesticated animals except the dog, and no signs of the cultivation of wheat or barley; whereas we have seen that, in one of the oldest of the Swiss settlements, at Wangen, no less than three cereals make their appearance, with four kinds of domestic animals. Yet there is no small risk of error in speculating on the relative claims to antiquity of such ancient tribes, for some of them may have remained isolated for ages and stationary in their habits, while others advanced and improved.
We know that nations, both before and after the introduction of metals, may continue in very different stages of civilisation, even after commercial intercourse has been established between them, and where they are separated by a less distance than that which divides the Alps from the Baltic.
The attempts of the Swiss geologists and archaeologists to estimate definitely in years the antiquity of the bronze and stone periods, although as yet confessedly imperfect, deserve notice, and appear to me to be full of promise. The most elaborate calculation is that made by M. Morlot, respecting the delta of the Tiniere, a torrent which flows into the Lake of Geneva near Villeneuve. This small delta, to which the stream is annually making additions, is composed of gravel and sand. Its shape is that of a flattened cone, and its internal structure has of late been laid open to view in a railway cutting 1000 feet long and 32 feet deep. The regularity of its structure throughout implies that it has been formed very gradually, and by the uniform action of the same causes. Three layers of vegetable soil, each of which must at one time have formed the surface of the cone, have been cut through at different depths. The first of these was traced over a surface of 15,000 square feet, having an average thickness of 5 inches, and being about 4 feet below the present surface of the cone. This upper layer belonged to the Roman period, and contained Roman tiles and a coin. The second layer, followed over a surface of 25,000 square feet, was 6 inches thick, and lay at a depth of 10 feet. In it were found fragments of unvarnished pottery and a pair of tweezers in bronze, indicating the bronze epoch. The third layer, followed for 35,000 square feet, was 6 or 7 inches thick and 19 feet deep. In it were fragments of rude pottery, pieces of charcoal, broken bones, and a human skeleton having a small, round and very thick skull. M. Morlot, assuming the Roman period to represent an antiquity of from sixteen to eighteen centuries, assigns to the bronze age a date of between 3000 and 4000 years, and to the oldest layer, that of the stone period, an age of from 5000 to 7000 years.
Another calculation has been made by M. Troyon to obtain the approximate date of the remains of an ancient settlement built on piles and preserved in a peat-bog at Chamblon, near Yverdun, on the Lake of Neufchatel. The site of the ancient Roman town of Eburodunum (Yverdun), once on the borders of the lake, and between which and the shore there now intervenes a zone of newly-gained dry land, 2500 feet in breadth, shows the rate at which the bed of the lake has been filled up with river sediment in fifteen centuries. Assuming the lake to have retreated at the same rate before the Roman period, the pile-works of Chamblon, which are of the bronze period, must be at the least 3300 years old.
For the third calculation, communicated to me by M. Morlot, we are indebted to M. Victor Gillieron, of Neuveville, on the Lake of Bienne. It relates to the age of a pile-dwelling, the mammalian bones of which are considered by M. Rutimeyer to indicate the earliest portion of the stone period of Switzerland, and to correspond in age with the settlement of Moosseedorf.
The piles in question occur at the Pont de Thiele, between the lakes of Bienne and Neufchatel. The old convent of St. Jean, founded 750 years ago, and built originally on the margin of the Lake of Bienne, is now at a considerable distance from the shore, and affords a measure of the rate of the gain of land in seven centuries and a half. Assuming that a similar rate of the conversion of water into marshy land prevailed antecedently, we should require an addition of sixty centuries for the growth of the morass intervening between the convent and the aquatic dwelling of Pont de Thiele, in all 6750 years. M. Morlot, after examining the ground, thinks it highly probable that the shape of the bottom on which the morass rests is uniform; but this important point has not yet been tested by boring. The result, if confirmed, would agree exceedingly well with the chronological computation before mentioned of the age of the stone period of Tiniere. As I have not myself visited Switzerland since these chronological speculations were first hazarded, I am unable to enter critically into a discussion of the objections which have been raised to the two first of them, or to decide on the merits of the explanations offered in reply.
IRISH LAKE-DWELLINGS OR CRANNOGES.
The lake-dwellings of the British isles, although not explored as yet with scientific zeal, as those of Switzerland have been in the last ten years, are yet known to be very numerous, and when carefully examined will not fail to throw great light on the history of the bronze and stone periods.
In the lakes of Ireland alone, no less than forty-six examples of artificial islands, called crannoges, have been discovered. They occur in Leitrim, Roscommon, Cavan, Down, Monaghan, Limerick, Meath, King's County, and Tyrone.* (* W.M. Wylie "Archaeologia" volume 38 1859 page 8.) One class of these "stockaded islands," as they have been sometimes called, was formed, according to Mr. Digby Wyatt, by placing horizontal oak beams at the bottom of the lake, into which oak posts, from 6 to 8 feet high, were mortised, and held together by cross beams, till a circular enclosure was obtained.
A space of 520 feet diameter, thus enclosed at Lagore, was divided into sundry timbered compartments, which were found filled up with mud or earth, from which were taken "vast quantities of the bones of oxen, swine, deer, goats, sheep, dogs, foxes, horses, and asses." All these were discovered beneath 16 feet of bog, and were used for manure; but specimens of them are said to be preserved in
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