The Antiquity of Man in Europe

Natural Science January 1897

[12] The honours of this geological soirée went to Mr. W. J. Lewis Abottt, some of whose exhibits were indeed remarkable. From the Ightham Fissure alone he has increased Prestwich's list of thirty-seven British cave and fissure vertebrates to about ninety, all of which were shown, and among them one of the most interesting was Canis lagopus, the arctic fox. From the Hastings kitchen midden he has secured a large assemblage of diminutive implements, supposed for the most part to be fish-hooks, and to have been used by a peaceful race that in many parts of Europe were settled on the seashore, often in proximity to more warlike tribes. Concerning the customs of this race much information has been accumulated, and we hope in a forthcoming number to publish a paper by Mr. Abbott with illustrations of the extraordinary relics that he has found. He also had some remarkable specimens of stone-working discovered on the supposed sites of ruined cities of India. Their strangeness consisted in the fact that the stone had been chipped into almost perfect cubes and globes, a feat which the modern imitators of the stone-workers, including Mr. Abbott himself, are quite unable to perform; many of these specimens, too, were delicately ornamented, presumably by the burning of an alkali into patterns incised upon them.

But the interest of all these specimens was completely cast into the shade by some rough-looking stones lying on the table. These were flints which certainly bore a striking resemblance to the work of man, which we believe the most critical expert would say probably were the work of man, and which had been obtained by Mr. Abbott's own hands, in the presence of a witness, from the Cromer Forest Bed at Runton, where they were found sticking in the iron pan, portions of which were still attached to them. One of them showed an undoubted bulb of percussion. We shall publish next month an illustrated account of these specimens, which are among the most interesting evidences of human antiquity that have been turned up for many a long year. The Forest Bed, we may remind those of our readers who are not geologists, lies, according to Prestwich, at the base of the Pleistocene or Quaternary system, but is now usually regarded as forming the top of the Pliocene series; it contains remains of the cave-bear, of the rhinoceros, of the hippopotamus, various species of elephant, deer, and other species of mammals, both living and extinct. In this country, at all events, no one has ever professed to find the remains of man at so low a horizon, although the opinion [13] has before now been hazarded that if they occurred at the horizon at all, they would be found at the place where Mr. Abbott has actually discovered them.

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