Historical Reprints History History of Ancient Civilization

History of Ancient Civilization

History of Ancient Civilization
Catalog # SKU3654
Weight 3.00 lbs
Author Name Charles Seignobos
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


History of
Ancient Civilization

Charles Seignobos

Prehistoric Remains.-One often finds buried in the earth, weapons, implements, human skeletons, debris of every kind left by men of whom we have no direct knowledge. These are dug up by the thousand in all the provinces of France, in Switzerland, in England, in all Europe; they are found even in Asia and Africa. It is probable that they exist in all parts of the world.

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These remains are called prehistoric because they are more ancient than written history. For about fifty years men have been engaged in recovering and studying them. Today most museums have a hall, or at least, some cases filled with these relics. A museum at Saint-German-en-Laye, near Paris, is entirely given up to prehistoric remains. In Denmark is a collection of more than 30,000 objects. Every day adds to the discoveries as excavations are made, houses built, and cuts made for railroads.

These objects are not found on the surface of the ground, but ordinarily buried deeply where the earth has not been disturbed. They are recovered from a stratum of gravel or clay which has been deposited gradually and has fixed them in place safe from the air, a sure proof that they have been there for a long time.

Prehistoric Science.-Scholars have examined the debris and have asked themselves what men have left them. From their skeletons, they have tried to construct their physical appearance; from their tools, the kind of life they led. They have determined that these instruments resemble those used by certain savages today. The study of all these objects constitutes a new science, Prehistoric Archaeology.1 The Four Ages.-Prehistoric remains come down to us from very diverse races of men; they have been deposited in the soil at widely different epochs since the time when the mammoth lived in western Europe, a sort of gigantic elephant with woolly hide and curved tusks. This long lapse of time may be divided into four periods, called Ages:

1. The Rough Stone Age.
2. The Polished Stone Age.
3. The Bronze Age.
4. The Iron Age.

The periods take their names from the materials used in the manufacture of the tools,-stone, bronze, iron. These epochs, however, are of very unequal length. It may be that the Rough Stone Age was ten times as long as the Age of Iron.

The Rough Stone Age

Gravel Debris.-The oldest remains of the Stone Age have been found in the gravels. A French scholar found between 1841 and 1853, in the valley of the Somme, certain sharp instruments made of flint. They were buried to a depth of six metres in gravel under three layers of clay, gravel, and marl which had never been broken up. In the same place they discovered bones of cattle, deer, and elephants. For a long time people made light of this discovery. They said that the chipping of the flints was due to chance. At last, in 1860, several scholars came to study the remains in the valley of the Somme and recognized that the flints had certainly been cut by men. Since then there have been found more than 5,000 similar flints in strata of the same order either in the valley of the Seine or in England, and some of them by the side of human bones. There is no longer any doubt that men were living at the epoch when the gravel strata were in process of formation. If the strata that cover these remains have always been deposited as slowly as they are today, these men whose bones and tools we unearth must have lived more than 200,000 years ago.

The Cave Men.-Remains are also found in caverns cut in rock, often above a river. The most noted are those on the banks of the Vezere, but they exist in many other places. Sometimes they have been used as habitations and even as graves for men. Skeletons, weapons, and tools are found here together. There are axes, knives, scrapers, lance-points of flint; arrows, harpoon-points, needles of bone like those used by certain savages to this day. The soil is strewn with the bones of animals which these men, untidy like all savages, threw into a corner after they had eaten the meat; they even split the bones to extract the marrow just as savages do now. Among the animals are found not only the hare, the deer, the ox, the horse, the salmon, but also the rhinoceros, the cave-bear, the mammoth, the elk, the bison, the reindeer, which are all extinct or have long disappeared from France. Some designs have been discovered engraved on the bone of a reindeer or on the tusk of a mammoth. One of these represents a combat of reindeer; another a mammoth with woolly hide and curved tusks. Doubtless these men were the contemporaries of the mammoth and the reindeer. They were, like the Esquimaux of our day, a race of hunters and fishermen, knowing how to work in flint and to kindle fires.

Polished Stone Age

Lake Dwellings.-In 1854, Lake Zurich being very low on account of the unusual dryness of the summer, dwellers on the shore of the lake found, in the mud, wooden piles which had been much eaten away, also some rude utensils. These were the remains of an ancient village built over the water. Since this time more than 200 similar villages have been found in the lakes of Switzerland. They have been called Lake Villages. The piles on which they rest are trunks of trees, pointed and driven into the lake-bottom to a depth of several yards. Every village required 30,000 to 40,000 of these.

A wooden platform was supported by the pile work and on this were built wooden houses covered with turf. Objects found by the hundred among the piles reveal the character of the life of the former inhabitants. They ate animals killed in the chase-the deer, the boar, and the elk. But they were already acquainted with such domestic animals as the ox, the goat, the sheep, and the dog. They knew how to till the ground, to reap, and to grind their grain; for in the ruins of their villages are to be found grains of wheat and even fragments of bread, or rather unleavend cakes. They wore coarse cloths of hemp and sewed them into garments with needles of bone. They made pottery but were very awkward in its manufacture. Their vases were poorly burned, turned by hand, and adorned with but few lines. Like the cave-men, they used knives and arrows of flint; but they made their axes of a very hard stone which they had learned to polish. This is why we call their epoch the Polished Stone Age.

They are much later than the cave-men, for they know neither the mammoth nor the rhinoceros, but still are acquainted with the elk and the reindeer.

Megalithic Monuments.-Megalith is the name given to a monument formed of enormous blocks of rough stone. Sometimes the rock is bare, sometimes covered with a mass of earth. The buried monument is called a Tumulus on account of its resemblance to a hill. When it is opened, one finds within a chamber of rock, sometimes paved with flag-stones. The monuments whose stone is above ground are of various sorts. The Dolmen, or table of rock, is formed of a long stone laid flat over other stones set in the ground. The Cromlech, or stone-circle, consists of massive rocks arranged in a circle. The Menhir is a block of stone standing on its end. Frequently several menhirs are ranged in line. At Carnac in Brittany four thousand menhirs in eleven rows are still standing. Probably there were once ten thousand of these in this locality. Megalithic monuments appear by hundreds in western France, especially in Brittany; almost every hill in England has them; the Orkney Islands alone contain more than two thousand. Denmark and North Germany are studded with them; the people of the country call the tumuli the tombs of the giants.

356 pages - 8½ x 11 softcover

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