Page images

'More than once,' says Mr Clark Wissler, the Curator of Anthropology in the American Museum of Natural History, 'attention has been called to certain vague similarities between certain Paleolithic races and the Eskimo, and in the New World certain older skulls from the remoter parts of South America are not far removed from this same Eskimo type. Incidentally, we may note that the Chancelade skeleton in Western Europe, belonging to Magdalenian time, is quite similar to the modern Eskimo. The earlier races appearing in Europe tend to be long-headed, and we have noted a less marked but still noticeable tendency for the long-heads in the New World to cluster in the extreme margins. That this is rather fundamental appears when we regard mammals as a whole.'

If we regard the parallel series of European and North American life-forms where these are sufficiently complete, they appear to have been periodically recruited by more progressive stages, apparently from a common centre of dispersal. The relations are like those of one side and the other of a branching tree whose trunkregion is unknown to us.'

Still other writers and searchers believe that future archæological research in Asia will provide grounds for the assumption that Crô-Magnon Man and contemporaneous New World peoples were collateral branches springing from a Central Asian type. Mr Wissler sums up by inferring that :

'suggestive parallels between earlier types of Western Europe and America arise in a much earlier period of man's history. That the New World native is a direct descendant of the Asiatic Mongolian is not to be inferred, for the differentiation is evidently remote; what is implied, is that somewhere in the distant past the Asiatic wing of the generalised type diverged into strains, one of which we know as Mongolian and another as American.'

On the other hand, some of the younger American anthropologists have sought to treat the whole matter independently and de novo. Mr N. B. Nelson, working in the Mammoth Cave district of Kentucky, found two cultures, the earlier of which is without pottery, and with very little polished stone. Mr Leslie Spier, making an independent study of conditions at Trenton, New Jersey, found conclusive evidence of the existence of an

earlier culture, also without pottery or polished stone. Both of these sites are east of the Mississippi River, and it may therefore be concluded that the existence of two cultural periods in the Eastern United States is probable.

According to Holmes, archæological evidence for early European penetration is not lacking. In New England and farther North is found a highly specialised form of the stone adze known as the gouge, which is abundant in the region mentioned, but disappears as we approach the Carolinas and the Ohio Valley. It is to be found in Northern Europe where the Atlantic is narrowest and most nearly bridged by the intervening islands. Within the same area in North-East America, and thinning out, as does the gouge, is to be found an object of rare and highly specialised form, an axe-like implement known as the hammer-stone, with a perforation for hafting, and wing-like blades. In Northern Europe is found a drilled axe of similar type. It is, says Mr Sven Nilsson, exactly like the axe which the Amazons of classical mythology are represented as carrying in many friezes and statues, and resembles the Amazonia securis of Horace, which is also mentioned by Xenophon in the 'Anabasis.' Its American homologue, says Holmes, had no other than sacred and ceremonial functions.


'It may not be amiss to suggest,' he remarks,' that possibly in prehistoric times examples of that type of implement were carried by some voyager across the intervening seas. Who will venture to say that these greatly varied, beautifully finished, and widely distributed objects may not have come into existence among the tribes during the 620 years separating the discovery of Vineland and the arrival of the English Pilgrims?'

Holmes also ventures to indicate Mediterranean cultural affinities in America.

[ocr errors]

Along the middle Atlantic shores of America,' he says, 'certain forms of artifact are found which resemble more closely the corresponding fabrications of the Mediterranean region than do those of other parts of America. The roundsectioned, petaloid polished celt is found in highest perfection in Western Europe, and in the West Indies and neighbouring American areas. It is absent or rare on the opposite shores

of the Pacific. In the Isthmian region we find works in gold and silver and their alloys which display technical skill of exceptional, even remarkable, kind, and it is noteworthy that the method of manufacture employed, as well as some of the forms produced, suggest strongly the wonderful metal-craft of the Nigerian tribes of Old Benin; and, as possibly bearing on this occurrence, we observe that the trade winds and currents of the Atlantic are ever ready to carry voyagers from the African shores in the direction of the Caribbean Sea.'

Again, the close resemblance between the architectural and sculptural remains of Middle America and SouthEastern Asia invite comparison. In both regions the salient structures are pyramids ascended by four steep stairways of stone, bordered by serpent balustrades, and surmounted by temples. The walls of temples are embellished with a profusion of ornaments, and surmounted by roof-combs of a very similar design, and the caryatid is common to both environments. It does not seem impossible that the energetic builders of Cambodia and Java of two thousand years ago should have had sea-going craft capable of the voyage to America. That they had in the sixth century of our era we know. But by that time Central American civilisation was already on the wane.

After more than four centuries we are still much in the dark concerning the wonderful civilisation of the Maya Indian tribes of Guatemala, Chiapas, and Yucatan. The United States Bureau of Ethnology has heroically striven to achieve results in Central American archæology comparable with those arrived at by workers in the lore of the ancient East. But although the effort has been admirably organised, it has been, to some extent, devoid of imagination, and the gaps in our knowledge of the Maya and Mexican past are still so great as to arouse the feeling that as yet we are only at the beginning of a quest of extraordinary difficulty and complexity. For example, although the symbols employed in Maya arithmetical computation and dating have been unriddled, the hieroglyphs accompanying them, which probably relate to the details of religious festivals, still baffle the ingenuity of investigators. Again, the several epochs in the history of the Maya race can only be estimated broadly by a comparative

study of the development of their art-forms. But one arresting fact emerges from the welter of evidence and theory. The earliest known forms of Maya art and carven inscription differ so slightly from the latest examples as to induce the belief that this civilisation did not develop upon American soil, but had its inception elsewhere.

Authorities are slightly at variance regarding the best method of collating Maya chronology, as expressed in the dates sculptured on the walls of the temples of Guatemala, with our own system of reckoning time. But there is a general agreement that the earliest of these nearly coincide with the beginning of the Christian era. If this be granted, and we lean toward the notion of an Asiatic origin for an art and architecture which first appear on American soil as almost fully developed, we must look for signs of their introduction at some time shortly before the commencement of our present chronological era-in a word, at a period when Buddhist missionary enterprise was in its hey-day.

As is well known, evidence of a kind is not wanting that Buddhist monks from Kabul reached America at some time in the fifth century of our era. This is contained in certain Chinese annals, the antiquity and reliability of which is doubtful. After a close examination of this evidence, the present writer is of the opinion that the theory that these missionaries reached America is 'not proven.' The most satisfactory proof of the early Asiatic penetration of America must surely be sought for on American soil.

It is, perhaps, in the worship of the god known in Mexico as Quetzalcoatl, and in Central America as Gucumatz and Kukulkan (all of which mean 'Feathered Snake'), that perhaps the strongest proof of psychological contact with Asia is to be found. At the period of the Conquest he had developed into a god connected with the trade wind, and therefore with the fertilisation of the crops, but in an earlier day he possessed a very different significance. There are several versions of his myth, some of which state that he came from the East, while others give the impression that he entered the country by way of the west coast. However that may be, he is, in his earlier forms, decidedly Buddhistic in aspect and

insignia, as well as in the traditions which relate to him. His was a religion of pious contemplation and penance. His priests rose several times in the watches of the night to indulge in prayer and penance; they drew blood from their ears, noses, and thighs by means of sharp thorns; they bathed in the early watches of the dawn. They had their religious adepts and recluses, precisely as among the Buddhist fraternities, and the personal piety of Quetzalcoatl himself and his strenuous passive resistance to the horrid rites of human sacrifice, of which the lower Aztec religion was so prolific, lend colour to the theory of his Buddhist origin.

Nor is this weakened by the sculptured and other representations of Quetzalcoatl which have come down to us. In these he is shown, not as squatting with knees drawn up to chin, as in the native manner, but as sitting cross-legged, often in a shrine, in the most approved manner of the Buddhist saint, wearing necklaces of beads and other hierophantic insignia, and a head-dress which recalls those of numerous Buddhist personages. But there are other and still more disconcerting evidences of contact with Asia. At Copan is a stela of considerable proportions, which exhibits two strange supporters resembling elephants. These animals have coiled and elongated trunks, but are without tusks. The authorities of the United States Bureau and Ethnology are of opinion that these are exaggerated representations of the macaw bird. But Prof. Elliot Smith of London University, who has experience in mythology and symbolism as well as in comparative anatomy and zoology, assures us that these sculptures represent ‘undoubted elephants,' a statement which he clinches by saying that the auditory meatus observable is not that of the macaw, but of the elephant. Commenting on this theory, Mr Clark Wissler observes:

'In this case we may doubt the reality of the similarity between these figures and southern Asiatic drawings of elephants, because those who have studied the Maya sculptures themselves, instead of the pencil sketches made by earlier observers, find proof that another creature was in the artist's mind. In cases of this kind when we are dealing with the conventionalised drawings of the New World and the Old, it can scarcely be expected that the mere objective

« PreviousContinue »