Prehistoric Man

Prehistoric Man

W. L. H. Duckworth
W. L. H. Duckworth

Author: Duckworth, W. L. H. (Wynfrid Laurence Henry), 1870-1956
Prehistoric peoples
Prehistoric Man
The Cambridge Manuals of Science and Literature


C. F. CLAY, Manager

London: H. K. LEWIS, 136, GOWER STREET, W.C.
Berlin: A. ASHER AND CO.
Leipzig: F. A. BROCKHAUS
Bombay and Calcutta: MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd.

All rights reserved

First Edition, 1912
Second Edition, 1912
With the exception of the coat of arms at the foot, the design on the title page is a reproduction of one used by the earliest known Cambridge printer, John Siberch, 1521


This book deals with the earliest phases in the past history of Mankind: the selected period ends at the Aurignacian division of the Palaeolithic Age. I regret to be unable to affix definite dates in years to the several divisions of time now recognised. To illustrate the difficulty of forming conclusions on this subject, it should be noted that in 1904 Professor Rutot (p. 103) assigned a duration of 139,000 years to the Pleistocene period, while in 1909 Dr Sturge claimed 700,000 years for a portion only of the same period. Evidently the present tendency is to increase enormously the drafts on geological time, and to measure in millions the years that have elapsed since the first traces of human existence were deposited.
But in the face of estimates which differ so widely, it seemed preferable to distinguish subdivisions of time by reference to animal-types or the forms of stone-implements, rather than by the lapse of years.
In the attempt to summarise a considerable amount of evidence, I have tried to select the facts most relevant to the subject in hand. And where an opinion is expressed I have endeavoured to indicate the reasons for the decision that is adopted.
Additional evidence is pouring in at the present time, and there is no doubt but that the next few years will witness great extensions of knowledge. In this connection, I take the opportunity of mentioning the discovery made a few weeks ago by M. Henri Martin at La Quina, of a human skeleton resembling the Neanderthal type but presenting (it is said) definite features of inferiority to that type. Another subject of vast importance is Mr Moir’s recent demonstration (p. 106) of elaborately worked implements resting beneath strata referred to the Pliocene period.
For the loan of blocks, or for permission to reproduce illustrations, my cordial thanks are due to the editors and publishers of the journals mentioned in the following list. The authors’ names are appended to the several illustrations.
Anatomischer Anzeiger,
Archiv für Anthropologie,
Archivio per l’Antropologia e la Etnologia,
Beiträge zur Urgeschichte Bayerns,
Korrespondenzblatt der deutschen anthropologischen Gesellschaft,
Royal Dublin Society,
Royal Society of Edinburgh,
Zeitschrift für Ethnologie.
December 11, 1911


I. The Precursors of Palaeolithic Man 1
II. Palaeolithic Man 17
III. Alluvial Deposits and Caves 63
IV. Associated Animals and Implements 85
V. Human Fossils and Geological Chronology 112
VI. Human Evolution in the light of recent research 127
  Table Ato face p. 85
  Bto 118


1. Outline tracings of skulls of Pithecanthropus etc. (From Dubois) 5
2. Outline tracings of Jawbones, (A) Mauer (B) ancient Briton 11
3. Tooth from Taubach: surface of crown. (From Nehring) 22
4. Tooth of Chimpanzee. (From Nehring) 22
5, 6. Tooth from Taubach: inner and outer sides. (From Nehring) 23
7. Human skull from Krapina. (From Birkner) 25
8. Tracings of teeth from Krapina and Mauer. (From Kramberger) 29
9. Human skull from La Chapelle-aux-Saints. (From Birkner) 33
10. Outline tracings of skull from La Chapelle-aux-Saints etc. (From Boule) 35
11. Contours of skulls, (A) New Guinea man (B) European woman 36
12. Outline tracing of human skull from Le Moustier 40
13. Outline tracings of jawbones from Mauer and Le Moustier 41
14. Outline tracings of jawbones from Mauer, La Naulette, etc. (From Frizzi) 42
15. Outline tracings of jawbones, (A) ancient Briton (B) Le Moustier (C) Mauer 43
16. Outline tracings of the Forbes Quarry (Gibraltar) skull. (From Sera) 48
17. Human skull of the Grimaldi-type. (From Birkner) 51
18. Outline tracings of skulls from Galley Hill etc. (From Klaatsch) 58
19. Section of the strata at Trinil in Java. (From Dubois) 64
20. View of the Mauer sand-pit. (From Birkner) 65
21. Section of the Krapina rock-shelter. (From Birkner) 69
22. Plan of the cave at La Chapelle-aux-Saints. (From Boule) 72
23. Two sections of the Grotte des Enfants, Mentone. (From Boule) 77
24. Chart of the relative duration of Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene time. (From Penck) 107
25. Chart of oscillations of snow-level in the Glacial period. (From Penck) 119
26. Outline tracings of skulls of Pithecanthropus etc. (From Dubois) 129
27. Position of Palaeolithic Man in the scale of evolution. (From Cross) 131
28. Thigh-bones arranged to illustrate Klaatsch’s theory. 136
29. The human skeleton found beneath the Boulder-clay at Ipswich. (From a drawing by Dr Keith, reproduced with permission) 153


Our knowledge of prehistoric man is based naturally upon the study of certain parts of the human skeleton preserved in a fossil state. In addition to these materials, other evidence is available in the form of certain products of human industry. These include such objects as implements of various kinds, owing their preservation to the almost indestructible nature of their material, or again artistic representations, whether pictorial or glyptic.
The evidence of the bones themselves will be considered first, partly for convenience and partly in view of the cogency possessed by actual remains of the human frame. Other branches of the subject will come under review afterwards.
Of all the discoveries of ancient remains, whether possibly or certainly human, two in particular stand out pre-eminently in marked relief. The specimens thus distinguished are known as the remains of Pithecanthropus erectus, on the one hand, and on the other a jaw-bone which is attributed to a human type described (from the locality of the discovery) as Homo heidelbergensis.
The geological antiquity assigned in each instance is greater than that claimed for any bones acknowledged unreservedly to be human.
It is thus clear that a high value attaches to these specimens if they be regarded as documents testifying to the course of human evolution. When the bones are examined, the contrast they provide with all human remains is so marked as to emphasise at once the necessity for a thorough and critical examination of their structure.

Pithecanthropus erectus.

In the case of these bones, the facts are now so widely known and so easily accessible as to render unnecessary any detailed exposition here. The discoveries were made in the years 1891 and 1892 by Professor Dubois[1], who was engaged at the time on an investigation of the remains of various animals found embedded in a river-bank in Java. As is well known, the actual remains are scanty. They comprise the upper part of a skull, part of a lower jaw (which has never been described), three teeth, and a left thigh-bone.
[1] The numbers refer to the Bibliography at the end of the volume.
Before entering upon any criticism of the results of Professor Dubois’ studies, it is convenient to give a general statement of his conclusions. Here we find described a creature of Pliocene age, presenting a form so extraordinary as hardly to be considered human, placed so it seems between the human and simian tribes. It is Caliban, a missing link,—in fact a Pithecanthropus.
With the erect attitude and a stature surpassing that of many modern men were combined the heavy brows and narrow forehead of a flattened skull, containing little more than half the weight of brain possessed by an average European. The molar teeth were large with stout and divergent roots.
The arguments founded upon the joint consideration of the length of the thigh-bone and the capacity of the skull are of the highest interest. For the former dimension provides a means of estimating approximately the body-weight, while the capacity gives an indication of the brain-weight. The body-weight is asserted to have been about 70 kgm. (eleven stone) and the brain-weight about 750 gm. And the ratio of the two weights is approximately 194. The corresponding ratios for a large anthropoid ape (Orang-utan) and for man are given in the table following, thus:

Orang-utan 1183
Pithecanthropus erectus 194
Man 151

The intermediate position of the Javanese fossil is clearly revealed.
The same sequence is shewn by a series of tracings representative of the cranial arc in the middle line of the head (Fig. 1). And the results of many tests of this kind, applied not only by Professor Dubois but also by Professor Schwalbe, are confirmatory of the ‘intermediate’ position claimed for Pithecanthropus erectus. The molar teeth are of inadequate size if the skull-cap is that of an ape, whereas they are slightly larger than the corresponding teeth furnished by primitive existing human types. And now some of the objections to this account may be taken.
In the first place, the claim to Pliocene antiquity is contested. So keen an interest was excited by Professor Dubois’ discovery that more than one expedition has been dispatched to survey and review the ground. It is now declared in certain quarters that the horizon is lower Quaternary: I do not know that any attempt has been made to reduce the age of the strata further. As the matter stands, the difference is not very material, but Professor Dubois refuses to accept the revised estimate and still adheres to his own determination. Incidentally the more recent work (Blanckenhorn[2], 1910) has resulted in the discovery of a tooth claimed as definitely human (this is not the case with the teeth of Pithecanthropus erectus), and yet of an antiquity surpassing that of the remains found by Professor Dubois. The latter appears unconvinced as to the genuineness of the find, but no doubt the case will be fully discussed in publications now in the course of preparation.

Fig. 1. Outline tracings of skulls reduced in size to a common dimension, viz. the line Gl—Op, representing a base-line of the brain-case. Pe, Pithecanthropus. Papua, a New Guinea native. Hl, Sm, At are from skulls of monkeys. (After Dubois.)

Professor Dubois assigned the bones to one and the same skeleton, and for this he has been severely criticised. Apart from arguments affecting the geological age of the specimens, the question of their forming part of a single individual is very momentous. For if two skeletons are represented, one may be human, while the other is that of an ape. It is admitted that the larger bones were separated by a distance of forty-six feet. By way of meeting this criticism, it is submitted that the distance is by no means so great as to preclude the possibility of the common and identical origin of the various bones. Moreover it is at least curious that if two skeletons are here represented, no further remains should have been detected in the immediate vicinity.
The fact that the thigh-bone might easily have passed as that of a man, while the skull-fragment is so divergent from all modern forms as to be scarcely human, is of great interest. The contrast between the indications provided by the two bones was remarked at once. Some writers, rejecting certain other evidence on the point, then drew the inference that the human thigh-bone had been evolved and had arrived at the distinctive human condition in advance of the skull. The importance of this conclusion lies in the fact that the human thigh-bone bears indications of an erect attitude, while the form of the skull gives guidance as to the size of the brain, and consequently to some extent provides a clue to the mental endowment of the individual. Whether the erect attitude or the characteristic brain-development was first obtained by man has been debated for many years. In this case, the evidence was taken to shew that the assumption of the erect attitude came as a means of surmounting the crux of the situation. Thenceforth the upper limb was emancipated entirely from its locomotor functions. Upon this emancipation followed the liberation of jaws and mouth from their use as organs of prehension. Simultaneously the mechanism whereby the head is attached to the neck and trunk became profoundly modified. This alteration gave to the brain an opportunity of growth and increase previously denied, but now seized, with the consequent accession of intellectual activity so characteristic of the Hominidae.
The story thus expounded is attractive from several points of view. But while possessing the support of the Javan fossil remains, it is not confirmed in the embryonic history of Man, for there the growth of the brain is by far the most distinctive feature. Nor did those who adopted this opinion (in 1896), take into account all the characters of the ancient human remains even then available. For the evidence of those remains points to an order exactly the reverse of that just stated, and it indicates the early acquisition of a large and presumably active brain. And now that additions have been lately made to those older remains (other than the Javan bones), the same ‘reversed’ order seems to be confirmed. On the whole therefore, the soundest conclusion is that following a preliminary increment of brain-material, the erect attitude came as a further evolutionary advance.
But to return from this digression to the objections against the Pithecanthropus erectus, it must now be explained that the very contrast between the thigh-bone and the skull-cap in respect of these inferences, has been used as an argument against the association of these bones as part of one skeleton.
The objection may be met in two ways at least. For instance, the thigh-bone may yet possess characters which lessen its resemblance to those of recent men, but are not recognised on a superficial inspection. Careful investigation of the thigh-bone seems to shew that such indeed is the case (indeed the human characters are by some absolutely denied). But together with this result comes the discovery that the characters of straightness and slenderness in the shaft of the bone from which the inference as to the erect attitude was largely drawn, do not give trustworthy evidence upon this point. In fact, a human thigh-bone may be much less straight and less slender than that of arboreal animals such as the Gibbon, the Cebus monkey, or the Lemurs (especially Nycticebus). The famous Eppelsheim femur is straighter than, and as slender as that of Pithecanthropus. It was regarded at first as that of a young woman, but is now ascribed to an anthropoid ape. And in fact, even if the skull-cap and thigh-bone of Pithecanthropus should be retained in association, it seems that the title ‘erectus’ is not fully justified.
Another method of rebutting the objection is based on the suggestion that Pithecanthropus is not a human ancestor in the direct line. Thus to describe an uncle as a parent is an error not uncommon in palaeontology, and it was treated leniently by Huxley. To my mind this position can be adopted without materially depreciating the value of the evidence yielded by the conjoint remains, provided only that their original association be acknowledged. Should this assumption be granted, the claims put forward on behalf of his discovery by Professor Dubois seem to be justified. On the other hand, should the association of skull-cap and thigh-bone be rejected, the former has not lost all claim to the sa

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