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Chinese Chronology. Like the early history of every ancient people the Chinese possess also their fabulous and semi-historical periods.
Ante-historical periods (Chine Panthier).
Pankon, the first symbolical man, followed by the three Hoangs. 1st, reign of the sky; 2nd, reign of the earth ; 3rd, reign of man. They are comprehended in a grand cyclic period of 129,000 years, composed of twelve parts, called conjunctions, each of 10,800 years. Semi-historical period commences with Fou-pi, first emperor, about 3,468 B.c. Several of his descendants are named who have made discoveries in arts.
The historical period commences with the first king Hoang-ti, about 2637 B.C., falling, according to Lepsius' computation, during the pyramidal period of Egypt. It is certain that art and science flourished in China at a remote period, and the Chinese possessed a high degree of civilization while the Hebrews led yet, under the patriarchs, a nomadic life.
Egyptian Chronology.—Manetho, the Egyptian priest's system of chronology, according to recent investigations, chiefly of Lepsius, is as follows:Cyclic periods anterior to Menes. Divine dynasties-19 gods reigned 13,870 Julian years. 30 demigods
20,840 years. Advent of Menes, the first king, commencement of historical period, 30 dynasties, 3893 B.C.
Lesueur places the beginning of the Egyptian kingdom 5773 B.C., while Bunsen assumes the 3,643 B.C. In either case, the history of Egypt reaches further back than that of any other nation. Brugsh is said to have brought from Egypt an old manuscript upon leather 4000 years old. How many thousand years have passed before the Egyptians could have become a mighty nation, and have acquired by mere self-tuition-for we have no record that they have learned anything from any other nation-the arts and sciences requisite for the conception and execution of the stupendous monuments and works of art still extant, cannot be determined.
Menes, of the ancient city of This, built the capital Memphis, between the Nile and the Lybian desert. But before Memphis was built there existed already the important cities of Thebes and This.
Language.--Much stronger than the evidence obtained from the chronology of different nations is that derived from the evolution, progress, and development of human language. Whatever view we adopt, it amounts almost to a physical impossibility that a grammatically constructed language should have issued from the mouth of the primitive man. For a very long period language was only transmitted from generation to generation by tradition, and an immense time must have elapsed before the living and dead languages, which are proved to have originated from a common stock, could have acquired a substantive form.
Bunsen, who, with many others, assumes one primitive language, observes,
“Philosophical inquiry shows the monosyllabic or particle language, as preserved in the ancient Chinese, must be supposed, theoretically, to have preceded the organic language, and either each language separately must once have been like the Chinese, or the Chinese itself is the wreck of that primitive idiom from which all organic languages have physically descended."
Arguing from such premises, Bunsen considers that, both from tradition and facts, the age of mankind cannot be less than 20,000 years, reckoning 10,000 years from Adam to Noah, and 10,000 years from Noah to the present era.
The question then arises, granting that the Chinese presents the primitive form does it present the primitive idiom? May it not, and has it not, been preceded by languages far more simple in form, and, if so, must not a long period have necessarily elapsed before it arrived at its present systematic form?
Again, assuming that the cradle of humanity was in a confined spot in the east, and that all the nations inhabiting the earth have proceeded from the same protoplasts, how many thousands of years have they required to spread upon the surface of the globe Have not the first navigators found human beings every where ? And again, what an immense period must have elapsed before the typical forms of the various races, supposing them to be the result of external influences, can have acquired that high degree of firmness and permanent development by which they are distinguished.
The naturally slow progress of civilization among primitive people deprived of experience to guide their steps, and forced, as it were, to grope in the dark, like a blind man, and to feel their ground, render the calculation to fix the age of mankind nearly impossible.
It belongs to Egyptologists and chronologists to separate the fabu
lous from the probability of these computations, they are adduced merely as collateral arguments, which may be taken for what they are worth.
Neither shall we dwell upon the argument that the fragment of pottery found by Mr. Horner at a depth of thirty-nine feet from the surface of the ground, consisting of true Nile sediment, must be held as a record of the existence of man 13,371 years before A.D., reckoning the rate of increase in that locality at three inches and a half in a century.
This much, however, is undoubted, that according to the earliest record the Egyptians possessed a degree of civilization superior even to that of many subsequent centuries, a result which is certainly not compatible with the short time said to have elapsed between the Deluge and the time of the Pharaohs. This applies also to the early civilization of the Chinese, the Assyrians, and the Hindoos.
These perplexing considerations have not escaped the attention of devout believers in scripture authority. They have therefore been hard at work to reconcile the apparent conflict between sacred history and profane facts. Thus, among other theories, has been engendered the Præ-Adamite hypothesis, which is too curious to be omitted, and from which it will be observed that the Antediluvian theory is by no means a modern conceit.
In 1655 Izaak Peregre, a Calvinist scholar of Bordeaux, published a work entitled Pre-Adamite, in which he endeavours to prove, from certain passages in Genesis and the Epistles of St. Paul, that Adam and Eve were not the first human beings upon the earth. That there were in fact two separate creations of man, the first of which took place on the sixth day, along with the beasts of the earth, and in the same mode, namely, by the Creator merely bidding the earth to produce them. This he contends was the origin of the Gentiles, who spread upon the whole globe and peopled the earth. He further observes that the people of the new-world could not have been the descendants of Adam, separated as the new continent was from the old, they were obviously the descendants of the Præ-Adamites.
A long time, that is to say many thousand years after the first creation, God created Adam and Eve, but in a different manner; for God made man himself of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. In the first creation man and woman were created at once; in the second, woman was made out of the rib of man. In the second creation the persons are named, no special names are given in the first creation. From several other passages, specially from some verses from Paul's Epistles to the Romans, as well as from the chronology of the Egyptians, Hindoos, etc., he arrives at the conclusion that human beings had existed long before Adam was created.
Peyrere's theory met with much opposition. The Paris Parliament caused his work to be publicly burned. The Inquisition took hold of him and forced him to abjure both his Præ-Adamite heresy and his Calvinism. He died in a convent in 1676.
There is no doubt that poor Peyrere was much in advance of his times, and therefore fair game for persecution. That this spirit is not quite extinct among us is proved by the fact that an estimable author, who recently published a similar work under the title of Genesis of the Earth and of Man, has not ventured to affix his name to his book. This writer also contends that the Scriptures afford abundant evidence in favour of the existence of Præ-Adamites, and that physical, historical, and linguistic facts confirm this view. It is, however, not a little singular that though this author travels pretty nearly over the same ground as Peyrere, and even quotes some of the same passages, Peyrere's name is never mentioned. One thing seems certain, that science can never be advanced by reconciliation theories.
Leaving now the fields of speculation and religious belief, we must try whether the antiquity of man may not be legitimately deduced from actual phenomena. The records of the living world lie after all in the hidden crust of the earth, every stratum is a page in the book of nature, and tells its own tale of the extinct species of plants and animals. To Geology, then, we must chiefly look for a key to solve approximatively the enigma, so that facts may support or displace theory, and knowledge may be substituted for mere speculation and belief.
Discovery of Fossil Quadrumana.—The great Cuvier, as is well known, was not only of opinion that the date of man's advent upon the globe did not much exceed the common computation of 6,000 years, but that the creation of the simian tribes, so nearly resembling the human organization, was either coetaneous, or but little anterior to that of man. Hence his dictum that human fossils did not exist, and his disbelief that fossil bones of quadrumana would be found. Cuvier's name was a tower of strength, and the circumstance that up to his death no bones of quadrumanous animals had been found in a fossil state seemed to confirm his opinion, and was generally considered as a fundamental fact.
The grass, however, had not long grown on the grave of Cuvier, when his own countryman, Ed. Lartet, discovered in 1836, at Sansan,
VOL. I.-NO. I.
in the South of France, in fresh-water strata of the miocene tertiary period, a fossil monkey of the tailless or Gibbon tribe (Pliopithecus antiquus). Mr. Lartet, moreover, very recently communicated to the French Academy the finding of a new species of anthropoid monkey by M. Fontan, exhumed from a bank of marley clay at Saint Gaudens (Haute Garonne). The new fossil monkey appears to have surpassed in height living adult chimpanzees. M. Lartet proposed to call it Dryopithecus Fontani (Fontani's tree-monkey), as, like the Gibbon, it appears to have chiefly lived on trees. Later evidences, possibly referable to the same species, have been found at Eppelsheim, in Germany.
It is not a little curious that discoveries in one direction, when once made, either succeed each other rapidly, or are even made simultaneously. About the same time as Lartet discovered his fossil monkey in France, quadrumanous fossils were discovered in India by Messrs. Baker and Drummond in the lower range of the Himalayan mountains, where subsequently other fossils of the same kind were found and described by Dr. Falconer and Captain Cautley. They were found in the tertiary strata of conglomerate sand, marl, and clay. In Brazil Dr. Lund discovered, in 1837, similar fossils peculiar to America, and of a species now extinct. A fossil monkey, called by Professor Owen Macacus Pliocenus, from the stratum in which it was embedded, was found, in 1845, on the banks of the Thames at Gray's, in Essex.
A great breach having thus been effected in the master's theory, rendering the discovery of human fossils, at all events, less improbable, Cuvier's adherents became seriously alarmed, and a determined stand was and is still being made against anything presented in the shape of a human fossil.
We shall now endeavour to give a short resumé of the evidence as far as it goes in favour of the existence of human fossils, far from pretending that the evidence is sufficiently satisfactory to enable us to pronounce a decided judgment.
Fossil Man.—The belief in the existence of giants, founded as it was on the Scripture text, “ There were giants on the earth in those days,” (Genesis vi, 4), was formerly universal, and the finding of fossil bones of gigantic animals was well calculated to sustain that belief.
Thus we read that in 1577 a tremendous storm passed over the convent Reyden, near Lucerne ; large oaks were torn up by the roots, and heaps of bones were found, which Dr. Plater, of Basle, declared to be the bones of an antediluvian giant nineteen feet high.