Page images


THE investigation of prehistoric antiquities is still in its earliest infancy. From northern Europe, we may even add, more especially from the Scandinavian North, where even in our own times its cradle stood, it has succeeded with surprising rapidity in overspreading well-nigh all lands both in Europe and beyond. Based on contemporary facts and thus strengthened in the struggle with the traditional prejudices of literature nationality and, in part, of politics, it has begun to open new vistas into various and still measureless ages of man's existence on the earth prior to sure written history. Thus much may with certainty be now predicted, that the theories formerly accepted in science and derived solely from written sources concerning the comparatively late origin of the human race the rise of diverse national stocks their development in culture and gradual extension over various lands will either be completely overthrown, or at least undergo a searching change.

But as a matter of course a mode of inquiry so new and so unusually comprehensive in the study of prehistoric antiquities cannot yet offer many general firm and universally convincing scientific results, to replace the old prejudices hitherto prevailing. The foundations. of the comparative method of investigation have been successfully laid. Research is no longer confined solely to the prehistoric monuments everywhere preserved. Ethnography natural science the science of language and the oldest and most trustworthy documents must all lend their aid. Yet it will be long ere each single group of lands and peoples can be assigned its right place in the whole steadily progressive development of man during the far-reaching pre-historic ages.

Nor will it as a rule be possible yet to give a comprehensive and generally trustworthy representation of the peculiar form presented by the earliest prehistoric stages of culture in each country. The older the civilisation and written records of such lands as India Egypt Greece and Italy, the more evidently are the prehistoric traces effaced or difficult to distinguish from the numerous extant memorials of later conditions of civilisation.

The right way to solve this problem is to be sought for most directly in remoter regions, which have been disturbed by the great historical streams of civilisation only at a later time and in a less degree. For in such lands the last relics of the bygone and preparatory

primitive stages have been preserved longest and purest. Once gain a firm hold of the thread which unmistakably winds through the earliest portions of man's life over the whole world, and it will be easier gradually to unravel this closely twisted and tangled knot.

In this respect the distant Scandinavian North and the nearest neighbouring countries southward on the Baltic and North Seas occupy a specially favourable position. It was no mere chance that this very quarter should prove one of the first and most important starting-points of the new prehistoric archæology. Careful and systematic examinations of the unusually large number of prehistoric memorials preserved in the North have succeeded in showing here the succession of the Stone Bronze and Iron Ages. Thus observation has long been turned to a corresponding succession in the primitive stages of human culture elsewhere, nay, in almost every part of the world. Hence we may with truth maintain that the first clear ray has been shed across the universal prehistoric gloom of the North and of the world in general. Gradually as the domain of research is widened and cleared by the road of comparison, may we here, more than in most other lands, hope occasionally from the rich and pure material at hand to present larger glimpses over the territory gained, illuminating the course of colonisation and the last heaving of the waves on the main course of culture in Scandinavia, and thus materially contri

buting to a juster comprehension of the earlier nature and development of the streams of culture in the rest of Europe, and even in other quarters of the globe, as they at last made their way up to the remote North.

In such general surveys many great changes and improvements must necessarily be made in accordance with later and more successful investigations. But this cannot weigh in comparison with the progress attained, if we thus succeed more and more in riveting attention on some of the principal starting-points for future investigations, and so help to point out more definitely the plain natural way, by which research both here and elsewhere will most readily and best be able to open up new roads.


First Part.




FROM the earliest dates of which we possess the sure written records, Europe received from Asia and North Africa steady fertilising influences of culture, the result partly of new immigrations. That this was the case in pre-historic periods, and that the later movements of culture thus merely followed the track of the older, is in itself probable. At all events there is no sufficient evidence forthcoming as yet in Europe to show that in the primeval ages of mankind Europe had an earlier or at least as early and in comparison as developed a population as in the most favoured regions of Asia. More and more do archæological facts testify that in the oldest culture lands of Asia and North Africa, as


« PreviousContinue »