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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

II. — The Antiquity of Man


The Antiquity of Man.

As it is probable that a large number of persons under whose notice this paper may come are unfamiliar with geological terms, it will assist them in understanding our remarks on the antiquity of man if we explain, first of all, that the word pliocene is the name applied to the last completed strata of the earth. It is the page 11 newest division of the tertiary formation. Overlying the pliocene in places are alluvial and other deposits such as are now in constant process of formation by the action of rivers, lakes, mountain drifts, and various familiar causes. The pliocene formation abounds with the remains of animals now on the earth, every species of which is represented in its fossil bones—man alone is absent. It is well to bear this fundamental fact in mind, because not only does it prove that, according to our present ascertained knowledge, drawn from purely scientific data, man is a recent tenant of the earth, but it also shows that his advent was subsequent to the creation of that animal kingdom over which he now holds undivided sway. The obvious bearing of this question upon Biblical chronology, as well as on the evolution theory, gave a special impulse to the search for human remains, and in no department of geological inquiry has more activity been exhibited. Hitherto, these researches have resulted in an agreement amounting practically to unanimity among all classes of investigators, that no trace of man has yet been discovered in the pliocene formation. Alleged discoveries impugning this position have occasionally been put forward, but the application of scientific tests has quickly dissipated the assumption and confirmed the former observations. We take the recent declaration of Professor Boyd Dawkins in the lectures at Owen's College, Manchester, as conclusive proof that the question remains unaltered by any recent discovery. Professor Dawkins has, for many years, been the most ardent and successful British worker in this special department of science; he is also a member of the committee appointed by the British Association to conduct the excavations in Kent's Cave. To a wide experience he adds great scientific attainments and a broad judgment. We are justified, therefore, in accepting his opinion as authoritative, confirming as it does the previous observations of Lyell, and other eminent geologists. Here, then, we find a secure starting point.