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Estimate of Dr. Wilson's Work.


We cannot extend our commendation so unreservedly to the arrangement of the work as to the matter. There is a lack of real systematic method; information is frequently found in an earlier or later stage of the book than the table of contents would have led us to expect. Again, while one chief object of the book is to connect archæology with ethnology, and while no one is more skilful in applying archæological facts to prove ethnological conclusions, the author nowhere gives his ethnological system in a connected form, but leaves his readers to patch it up how they may, from various statements and allusions scattered up and down the volume.

Moreover, he does not seem to have thoroughly grasped the wide distinction between a paper in publications like the Archæological Journal, and a formal and standard treatise on a general subject of archæology. The former is of course a mere occasional composition, descriptive of some individual object or class of objects, mere "mémoires pour servir," in which the minuter the description of every object, and everything relating to it, the better. But in a volume like Dr. Wilson's we want results, we want some general view, to which the individual examples should serve merely as illustrations. This Mr. Worsaae has seen and acted upon with his usual clearness and method. But Dr. Wilson gives us long stories about individual swords, tombs, or bracelets, and often leaves us to find out the general view to which they subserve from mere scattered allusions. Nothing is more perplexing to a reader than this confusion of the theorem and the demonstration; but though Dr. Wilson carries it to a greater length than any writer whom we have come across for some time, we must confess that he sins in good company; it is the fault of the immortal work of Niebuhr.*

Now every one who has read either Eschylus or Byron, to say nothing of Herodotus or Thirlwall, is pretty well acquainted with the fact that the bow was the Persian, the spear the Grecian weapon, and, as Herodotus distinctly mentions (iii. 69) tribes with arrow and javelin heads of stone and bone among the followers of Xerxes, we may easily conceive warriors with similar equipments to have swelled those of Datis and Artaphernes. With one or two exceptions, Dr. Wilson's mistakes, arising from this source, do not bear upon the immediate subject of Scottish Archaeology, and, consequently, do not greatly detract from the direct value and authority of his book, but they are blemishes in a work of this character which we should be glad to see corrected in the next edition. One, and that among the most singular of all, does seem to affect his main argument. A good deal of his reasoning as to the comparative antiquity of the use of different metals in different parts of Europe, turns upon the dates of the earliest barbaric irruptions into the Roman territory. Now, after diligently examining Dr. Wilson's statements (in p. 351,) we cannot avoid the conclusion, that he believes that the capture of Rome by Brennus took place "circa B.C. 113-100," so that Camillus and Marius encountered, we must suppose, different divisions of the same army.

* Dr. Wilson sometimes uses terms in a loose way, so that it is not easy to reach his real meaning. This is peculiarly the case with the compound terms of Ethno

But we will pass from the unpleasant task of fault-finding, which we have performed from a sense of the great importance of the book, and a desire that it should be as nearly as possible free from defects which might diminish its value as a standard work in this department of literature. We should like to see Dr. Wilson recast his work in a more portable form, correct his occasional positive mistakes, and introduce more order and system. As a contribution to the latter object, we will now endeavour to put together the results of our study of the works at the head of this article, in the course of which we hope to shew, that although we have noted some points in Dr. Wilson's volume which require amendment, it contains very much which we deeply appreciate and admire.

By Primeval Archæology, in its more extended sense, we understand a science which endeavours, from internal evidence, to throw light on the condition of a country and its inhabitants in periods anterior to history. It seeks, from an investigation of whatever traces they have left behind them, to ascertain who were the inhabitants, and what was their amount of civilisation, in ages when no written records existed. From an examination of their weapons, their utensils, their sepulchres, and, above all, their skulls, it would reconstruct a picture of a state of things on which written history, and even tradition itself, is silent. Such a process of course cannot recover the names and actions of individuals, or, in many cases, even of nations, nor can it fix any other than an approximate and comparative date to the events which it rescues from oblivion, yet it can often establish the chronological succession, though not the duration, of various races in the same country, and can throw much light upon their social condition, their habits, and even their religious belief. Such a work requires no small powers and no small judgment; it can only be carried on by a sound process of induction from phenomena, equally opposed to the mere lifeless accumulation of facts, and to that spirit of insane speculation which has built up so many beautiful theories, which unfortunately have often not a solitary fact to stand upon. This line of investigation is that which is followed by all our authors; and we think that an attentive study of their works might have caused a recent historian, equally admirable in his own depart

logy. His application to one of the three primeval periods of the Scandinavian antiquaries, of the alias "Teutonic or Iron," involves an ethnological position which he neither proves nor distinctly states. In this respect Dr. Wilson contrasts unfavourably with Mr. Worsaae, who is the very personification of clearness and method. His arguments may not invariably bring conviction, but there can never be any doubt as to what his opinions really are.

Scope and Importance of the Study.

ment, to have abstained from a somewhat flippant and uncalled for denunciation of pre-historic studies altogether.*

To accomplish this end it is necessary to inquire into a great many objects whose first aspect is far from interesting, and which only derive any charm or value from their connexion with other and higher pursuits. Certainly a mind which can delight in the investigation of old heaps of stones, broken pots, and flakes of flint, simply for their own sake, must be very curiously constituted, and to such an one the jests so commonly levelled at antiquarian researches would apply in their fulness. In other branches of archæology, those, for instance, which are concerned with really beautiful examples of the fine arts, there is a value in the objects themselves, irrespective of their proving anything. A statue or a picture, a castle or a cathedral, has a charm in itself, without at all bringing in its further undoubted value as throwing light upon the history and manners of the age which produced it. The principles of the arts themselves are a distinct branch of philosophy, as worthy of cultivation as any other. But the celt and the paalstab, even the gold armilla and the leafshaped bronze sword, have no such value as this; they are simply valuable as instrumental to a higher knowledge-as opening to us the wonderful stores of unrecorded history, and thereby contributing, in no small degree, to our general knowledge of man and his nature. Turn casually over an occasional paper on these subjects, and nothing seems more uninviting than the record of each particular discovery; even look at the objects themselves in an antiquarian collection, and the eye involuntarily turns away from the rough stone or the rusty iron, to the gorgeous works of a later period, to the brilliant enamel, the gold-tipped drinking-horn, or the jewelled chalice; but take the whole series of discoveries in their proper order and connexion, and they assume an interest absolutely fascinating. There is a peculiar charm, which the records of no historical period can supply, in thus groping through the darkness of the world's first ages, and exploring what was as mysterious to the earliest extant writers as it is in our own day. These relics, on which we hardly deign to cast a glance as we hurry on to more attractive objects, prove to be the most valuable of all lessons in the early history of mankind. They open to us the infancy of the world; we see the aboriginal settler, not only without the arts of civilized life, without letters and their results, but without metals, without agriculture, trusting himself to the waves in a firehollowed canoe, which he has wrought out of the primeval oaks of the forest, and waging war with no better weapons than bone

* Palgrave's History of England and Normandy, p. 469.


and flint against denizens of the wilderness which have been removed from the register of existing beings. If these considerations raise some questions which it would be difficult to answer respecting the early condition of man,-whether, for instance, this rude mode of life was man's original state, or whether those who were condemned to it had lost the knowledge of arts with which their forefathers had been acquainted; still, when we consider in how many remote countries the same phenomena are discovered, and how closely analogous is the course of improvement in nearly every case, they surely supply an additional argument in support of that revealed truth which every new scientific discovery seems the more strongly to confirm,— the essential unity of the human race.

The primeval period of Archæology in any given country begins from an epoch of indefinite antiquity, and is terminated by whatever event brings it within the pale of written history ;events such as the Roman Conquest of Gaul or Britain, or the introduction of Christianity into countries beyond the limits of the empire. In England the heathen age of Anglo-Saxon occupation may perhaps be considered as a sort of return to the primeval period. It may perhaps be most convenient not to draw the line very accurately at any particular date, but to use the word to designate, in the northern and western parts of Europe, all examples of native workmanship earlier than what would be recognised as mediæval.

This long range of time may in most countries be divided into the periods of Stone, Bronze, and Iron; so called from the material of which the most important weapons and utensils were made in each of them. They express three steps in a gradual march towards civilisation; the use of bronze being an advance over the entire ignorance of metals during the stone period, and that of iron, the most serviceable metal, being a further advance over that of bronze. Of the ornamental metals, gold seems to have been generally the first known, and accompanies the use of bronze articles; while silver, for the most part, does not appear till the age of iron.

Relics of the stone period are found over a very large portion of the earth. We find in the passage above referred to from Herodotus, that some of the " Ethiopians" had not got beyond it in the fifth century, B. C., and many barbarous and distant tribes remain in the same state till this day. "Implements of stone," says Mr. Worsaae, (p. 128,) which are exactly similar, occur in Japan, in America, in the South Sea Islands, and

*The antiquities of this period bid fair to be well illustrated in Mr. Akerman's "Remains of Pagan Saxondom," 'we do not much admire the name of which we have received the first part since this article was written.

The Stone Period.

elsewhere." They belong to a particular stage of human development or retrogression, and not to any particular race.


"The substitution," says Dr. Wilson, "of flint, stone, horn, and wood, in the absence of metal weapons and implements, must be abundantly familiar to all, in the customs of society when met with in a rude and primitive condition. The Fins and Esquimaux, the African Bushmen, and the natives of such of the Polynesian Islands as are rarely visited by Europeans, still construct knives and arrowheads of flint or fish-bone, and supply themselves with wooden clubs and stone adzes and hammers, with little consciousness of imperfection or deficiency in such appliances. Examples of such a state of arts and human skill might be multiplied from the most dissimilar sources. It seems, as has been already remarked, to be a stage through which all nations have passed, not without each developing a sufficient individuality to render their arts well worthy of investigation by their descendants. To this primitive era of history we refer under the name of the Stone Period."-P. 29.

It would seem to be a necessary consequence that the commencement of this state of things in any country coincides with the first appearance of human inhabitants in that country; that the stone period, wherever it occurs, must be the earliest of all; and the men of that period as strictly aborigines as any men are. Now, it is difficult to conceive how the knowledge of metals, which certainly existed in antediluvian times, could ever have been lost; but it is surely easier to imagine that it might be lost during long-continued wanderings than that such an all-important knowledge should have slipped out of the hands of its possessors after they had made the remotest approach to settled habitations in any country. We may therefore conclude that the earliest men of the Stone Period were the earliest inhabitants of Britain or of any other country where their relics exist; for people in such a condition cannot be conceived to have entered it as conquerors of a people more advanced; the only conceivable case would be the exceptional one of their occupying a territory deserted by a more civilized race.

When these first inhabitants, then, reached Britain it is of course impossible to prove chronologically, but it could not have been at a very early stage of the great dispersion of the human race. An island at the extreme west of Europe might probably remain uninhabited long after countries nearer the general Asiatic centre had received a settled population and a social polity.

"Britain," observes Dr. Latham,* "is an island. Everything relating to the natural history of the useful arts is so wholly uninvestigated, that no one has proposed even to approximate the date of the first launch of the first boat; in other words, of the first occupation of

* Man and his Migrations, p. 153. See also p. 95 of the same Work.

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