Early civilization by Alexander Goldenweiser - Illustrated; an introduction to anthropology
|Early civilization - by Alexander Goldenweiser|
Those whose common preoccupation is with ideas are wont to cherish the illusion of originality. But if the history of mental contents were disclosed we should find that most of what we know and think is derived from others. My more clearly discernible obligations are due to many. It is hard to express the extent of my indebtedness to Professor Franz Boas, of Columbia, whose glowing enthusiasm and colossal knowledge have for many years served as guidance and inspiration.
Of the many intellectual companions of my academic years I want to single out four whose ideas and criticisms have aided in the formation and shaping of my own thoughts: Professors Robert H. Lowie and A. L. Kroeber, of Berkeley, Doctor Edward Sapir, of the Victoria Museum, Ottawa, and Paul Radin, now of Oxford, England. My gratitude is due to my friend and colleague, James Harvey Robinson and to Mrs Etta Stuart Sohier, of Los Angeles, for reading and criticising the first version of this book. Their suggestions proved so valuable that the original plan of revising the first draft was abandoned and a new book written.
Truth comes hard. The recognition of man's animal de- scent has been a slow growth. When Darwin wrote, over half a century ago, the evidence in favour of our animal ancestry began to be irresistible. This did not prevent a storm of protest from breaking over the head of the great biologist when in his "Origin of Species" he began to prepare the ground for the new doctrine. In 'The Descent of Man," his position became categorical.
But it remained for the more uncompromising and temperamental Haeckel to sweep man's pedigree clean of all traces of supernaturalism and to popularize the idea of man's natural evolution among wide circles of the educated and semi-educated laity.
Though similar to the animal in many ways, man difFers markedly from even the highest animals, including his closest known relatives, the anthropoid apes. Erect gait, the shape of the cranium, size of the brain, position of the head, development of the hand; and with these, the use of tools, articulate language, and the gift of abstract thought — such are some of the traits that set off a man as a unique achievement of biological evolution, as a super-animal, immeasurably re-moved from all his precursors. In this connection, the claim is sometimes made that some races are closer to the animal than others.
The prognathic jaws of the Negro, the prominent supraorbital ridges of the Australian, the dark skin colour of most primitive men, are a few of the features pointed to as suggestive of animal traits.
A somewhat more careful glance at the facts, however, at once introduces distracting complications. The ape-like character of the Negro's jaws cannot be denied, but his very jaws are fitted out with a pair of lips that remove him as far from the animal as the jaws bring him near it.
For developed external lips are a specifically human trait, and in this particular the Negro represents "man physical" more distinctly than any other race. Again, the prominent supraorbital ridges of the Australian carry an unmistakable animalistic suggestion, and one might be inclined to add to this another trait, namely, the great hairiness of the Australian, if it were not for the disturbing thought that in the latter respect the white man is his worthy rival, while the other races are much less hairy. And the same applies to other features.
Is it not clear, then, that the races, with their complexes of more or less characteristic traits, cannot be arranged in an ascending series from the animal upward? In particular instances, one race may prove to be an offshoot of another, the American Indians, for example, of the Mongolians; but if all structural peculiarities of each racial stock are taken into consideration, the races, all animal and all human though they are, must be regarded as anatomical varieties specialized in different directions.
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