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.


It was not so, as anthropologists knew from sad experience.  Suppose a traveler came to a camp where he saw thousands of men and women dancing round the image of a young bull.  Suppose that the dancers were all stark naked, that after a time they began to fight, and that at the end of their orgies there were three thousand corpses lying about weltering in their blood.  Would not a casual traveler have described such savages as worse than the negroes of Dahomey?  Yet these savages were really the Jews, the chosen people of God.  The image was the golden calf, the priest was Aaron, and the chief who ordered the massacre was Moses.  We might read the 32d chapter of Exodus in a very different sense.  A traveler who could have conversed with Aaron and Moses might have understood the causes of the revolt and the necessity of the massacre.  But without this power of interrogation and mutual explanation, no travelers, however graphic and amusing their stories might be, could be trusted; no statements of theirs could be used by the anthropologist for truly scientific purposes.  If anthropology was to maintain its high position as a real science, its alliance with linguistic studies could not be too close.  Its weakest points had always been those where it trusted to the statements of authorities ignorant of language and of the science of language.  Its greatest triumphs had been achieved by men such as Dr. Hahn, Bishops Callaway and Colenso, Dr. W. Gill and last, not least, Mr. Man, who had combined the minute accuracy of the scholar with the comprehensive grasp of the anthropologist, and were thus enabled to use the key of language to unlock the perplexities of savage customs, savage laws and legends, and, particularly, of savage religions and mythologies.  If this alliance between anthropology and philology became real, then, and then only, might we hope to see Bunsen’s prophecy fulfilled, that anthropology would become the highest branch of that science for which the British Association was instituted.

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Contained in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN SUPPLEMENT during the past ten years, sent free of charge to any address.  MUNN & CO., 361 Broadway, New York.

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