Scientific American Supplement No. 822, October 3, 1891 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 149 pages of information about Scientific American Supplement No. 822, October 3, 1891.

Instead of attempting to classify mankind as a whole, students were now engaged in classifying skulls, hair, teeth, and skin.  Many solid results had been secured by these special researches; but as yet, no two classifications, based on these characteristics, had been made to run parallel.  The most natural classification was, no doubt, that according to the color of the skin.  This gave us a black, a brown, a yellow, a red, and a white race, with several subdivisions.  This classification had often been despised as unscientific; but might still turn out far more valuable than at present supposed.  The next classification was that by the color of the eyes, as black, brown, hazel, gray, and blue.  This subject had also attracted much attention of late, and, within certain limits, the results have proved very valuable.  The most favorite classification, however, had always been that according to the skulls.  The skull, as the shell of the brain, had by many students been supposed to betray something of the spiritual essence of man; and who could doubt that the general features of the skull, if taken in large averages, did correspond to the general features of human character?  We had only to look around to see men with heads like a cannon ball and others with heads like a hawk.  This distinction had formed the foundation for a more scientific classification into brachycephalic, dolichocephalic, and mesocephalic skulls.  If we examined any large collection of skulls we had not much difficulty in arranging them under these three classes; but if, after we had done this, we looked at the nationality of each skull, we found the most hopeless confusion.  Pruner Vey, as Peschel told us in his “Volkerkunde,” had observed brachycephalic and dolichocephalic skulls in children born of the same mother; and if we consider how many women had been carried away into captivity by Mongolians in their inroads into China, India, and Germany, we could not feel surprised if we found some long heads among the round heads of those Central Asiatic hordes.


Only we must not adopt the easy expedient of certain anthropologists who, when they found dolichocephalic and brachycephalic skulls in the same tomb, at once jump to the conclusion that they must have belonged to two different races.  When, for instance, two dolichocephalic and three brachycephalic skulls were discovered in the same tomb at Alexanderpol, we were told at once that this proved nothing as to the simultaneous occurrence of different skulls in the same family; nay, that it proved the very contrary of what it might seem to prove.  It was clear, we were assured, that the two dolichocephalic skulls belonged to Aryan chiefs and the three brachycephalic skulls to their non-Aryan slaves, who were killed and buried with their masters, according to a custom well known to Herodotus.  This sounded very learned, but was it really quite

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Scientific American Supplement No. 822, October 3, 1891 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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