Recent Discoveries Bearing On The Antiquity Of Man -- By: G. Frederick Wright
BSac 48:190 (April 1891) p. 298
Recent Discoveries Bearing On The Antiquity Of Man
A NEW epoch in the discussion concerning the antiquity of the human race began in 1841, when Boucher de Perthes first discovered rudely fashioned stone implements in the high gravel terraces which border the valley of the Somme at Abbeville, in Northern France. From the time of these discoveries onward, the question of man’s antiquity has been one of geological rather than of literary history. These discoveries of Boucher de Perthes occurred in undisturbed gravel deposits which must have accumulated when the flood-plain of this small stream was one hundred feet higher than now. But, as the valley is about a mile in width and has evidently been formed by the erosive action of the stream, the period of time required for its production seems immense. Its impressiveness, however, will be diminished somewhat, if we keep in mind that the strata consist of chalk, which is capable of rapid erosion. There is also the possibility that here, as in so many other places, there may have been a preglacial channel which became filled up with loose material during the glacial period, requiring only the subsequent erosion of loose sand and gravel to bring it into its present condition.
The discoveries of Boucher de Perthes failed to receive full recognition until 1859, when Sir Charles Lyell and other English geologists visited Abbeville, and after becoming
BSac 48:190 (April 1891) p. 299
convinced of the genuineness of the reported facts, deduced from the geological situation the great age of the deposits in which the implements occur. In connection with the human relics, it was discovered, furthermore, that the forms of animal life then associated with man in Europe were considerably different from those now existing there. At that time there roamed, through the forests and over the plains of Northern France and Southern England, in company with man, the mammoth, the straight-tusked elephant, the lion, the grizzly bear, the bison, three species of rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the cave bear, and many other gigantic animals now extinct.
After attention had once been securely fixed upon the matter, it was found that human implements of this early age were not confined to the valleys of Northern France, but that they also occurred in considerable number in Southern England in gravel deposits corresponding in character and age to those at Abbeville. Such indications of the early advent of man were found at Hoxney near Diss, in Suffolk, England, and in the vicinity of Southampton and of the Isle of Wight.
Many volumes have been written in Europe designed to throw light upon the age of the gravel deposits of France and England conta...
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