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.
straightforward?  Besides the general division of skulls into dolichocephalic, brachycephalic, and mesocephalic, other divisions had been undertaken, according to the height of the skull, and again according to the maxillary and the facial angles.  This latter division gave us orthognatic, prognathic, and mesognathic skulls.  Lastly, according to the peculiar character of the hair, we might distinguish two great divisions, the people with woolly hair (Ulotriches) and people with smooth hair (Lissotriches).  The former were subdivided into Lophocomi, people with tufts of hair, and Eriocomi, or people with fleecy hair.  The latter were divided into Euthycomi, straight haired, and Euplocomi, wavy haired.  It had been shown that these peculiarities of the hair depended on the peculiar form of the hair tubes, which in cross sections were found to be either round or elongated in different ways.  All these classifications, to which several more might be added, those according to the orbits of the eyes, the outlines of the nose, and the width of the pelvis, were by themselves extremely useful.  But few of them only, if any, ran strictly parallel.  Now let them consider whether there could be any organic connection between the shape of the skull, the facial angle, the conformation of the hair, or the color of the skin on one side, and what we called the great families of language on the other.


That we spoke at all might rightly be called a work of nature, opera naturale, as Dante said long ago; but that we spoke thus or thus, cosi o cosi, that, as the same Dante said, depended on our pleasure—­that was our work.  To imagine, therefore, that as a matter of necessity, or as a matter of fact, dolichocephalic skulls had anything to do with Aryan, mesophalic with Semitic, or brachycephalic with Turanian speech, was nothing but the wildest random thought.  It could convey no rational meaning whatever; we might as well say that all painters were dolichocephalic, and all musicians brachycephalic, or that all lophocomic tribes worked in gold, and all lisocomic tribes in silver.  If anything must be ascribed to prehistoric times, surely the differentiation of the human skull, the human hair and the human skin would have to be ascribed to that distant period.  No one, he believed, had ever maintained that a mesocephalic skull was split or differentiated into a dolichocephalic and a brachycephalic variety in the bright sunshine of history.  Nevertheless, he had felt for years that knowledge of languages must be considered in future as a sine qua non for every anthropologist.  How few of the books in which we trusted with regard to the characteristic peculiarities of savage races had been written by men who had lived among them for ten or twenty years, and who had learned their languages till they could speak them as well as the natives themselves.  It was no excuse to say that any traveler who had eyes to see and ears to hear could form a correct estimate of the doings and sayings of savage tribes.

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