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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

People Of The Past

People Of The Past.

Palestine has a past. I don't mean the Biblical period, but the dim, distant Stone Age, when people roamed around clad only in wild beasts' skins, and the weapons of war were rough hewn flakes of rock. Don't know much about the Prehistoric People from personal experience; but I've read a lot, and, before I donned khaki, did a bit of "kitchen midden" looting, etc., in Australia. Nearly got crimed once for disturbing the grave of a black fellow, who must have died when Pharaoh Necho was an infant: but that is another story.

Professor. Macalister, sometime Director of Excavations, Palestine Exploration Fund, thinks that man must have made his appearance in Palestine at a very remote date. Crude flint implements and other articles of Palæolithic type are still to be found, in caves and on the stony hills, if one takes the trouble to look for them. They are words from the Book of the Past, but it is not easy to form sentences from them. Imagination helps one, however. The folk who fashioned these implements were semi-human, uncouth figures that gibber at us across the gulf of time. They knew nothing of agriculture or any of the simplest crafts; they could neither spin nor weave nor mould clay into pots. Neither goat, donkey nor cow snared in their humble homes. Like beasts of prey, they lived only on the flesh of such creatures as they could snare or kill. Picture these skin-clad barbarians stalking gazelles where we have stalked "Jackos."

A learned Doctor has estimated that the Palæolithic Age ended in Palestine 10,000 years B.C. No, I'm not going to challenge this conclusion. At present my acquaintance with the Stone Age men of the Promised Land is far too limited; and, after all, a thousand years more or less makes no difference either to us or the folk of old time. Let us get nearer the Present. The Neolithic period comes next; and it is rather startling to learn that, in those roaring days, the woolly rhinoceros wandered over the land. We rarely see anything bigger than a jackal now. Well, the woolly rhino and Neolithic man have both become mere shadows of conjecture, though in the case of the former we at least have some bones to aid our imagination.

Most famous of the People of the Past in Palestine are the Gezer cave dwellers, who flourished quite recently, about 3000 B.C., to be accurate. In his fascinating "History of Civilisation in Palestine," Professor Macalister tells us much about them. They were rather more advanced in culture than the old Palæolithic folk; fragments of pottery, flint knives, etc, have been found in their caves. There were even artists in the Golden Age of Gezer; on the walls of some of then dwelling are scratched "drawings." One picture was evidently intended to represent a gazelle, another bears a faint resemblance to a goat. These rude sketches are interesting as evidence of the' love for pictorial expression existing among such primitive men as the cave dwellers, though, of course, they are not the oldest examples of Prehistoric art.

It is worth while delving, and searching the Judean hills for relics of the People of the Past Near Amman, some years ago, hundreds of stone axes were discovered. Arid if you see a Dolmen, well, dig. in, and you may find something worth the toil. There are still numbers of these ancient cairns scattered over Eastern Palestine.