A. 5.—Whether, indeed, they were “men” at all, in any real sense of the word, may well be questioned. For of the many attempts which philosophers in all ages have made to define the word “man,” the only one which is truly defensible is that which differentiates him from other animals, not by his physical or intellectual, but by his spiritual superiority. Many other creatures are as well adapted in bodily conformation for their environment, and the lowest savages are intellectually at a far lower level of development than the highest insects; but none stand in the same relation to the Unseen. “Man,” as has been well said, “is the one animal that can pray.” And there is nothing amongst the remains of these “river-bed men” to show us that they either did pray, or could. Intelligence, such as is now found only in human beings, they undoubtedly had. But whether they had the capacity for Religion must be left an unsolved problem. In this connection, however, it may be noted that Tacitus, in describing the lowest savages of his Germania [c. 46], “with no horses, no homes, no weapons, skin-clad, nesting on the bare ground, men and women alike, barely kept alive by herbs and such flesh as their bone-tipped arrows can win them,” makes it his climax that they are “beneath the need of prayer;”—adding that this spiritual condition is, “beyond all others, that least attainable by man.”
Neolithic Age—“Ugrians”—Polished flints—Jadite—Gold ornaments—Cromlechs—Forts—Bronze Age—Copper and tin—Stonehenge.
B. 1.—Whatever they were, they vanish from our ken utterly, these Palaeolithic savages, and are followed, after what lapse of time we know not, by the users of polished flint weapons, the tribes of the Neolithic period. And with them we find ourselves in touch with the existing development of our island. For an island it already was, and with substantially the same area and shores and physical features as we have them still. Our rivers ran in the same valleys, our hills rose with the same contour, in those far-off days as now. And while the place of flint in the armoury of Britain was taken first by bronze and then by iron, these changes were made by no sudden breaks, but so gradually that it is impossible to say when one period ended and the next began.