A hundred and seventy thousand years elapse (as the play-bills put it), and then the curtain rises afresh upon neolithic Europe. Man meanwhile, loitering somewhere behind the scenes in Asia or Africa (as yet imperfectly explored from this point of view), had acquired the important arts of sharpening his tomahawks and producing hand-made pottery for his kitchen utensils. When the great ice sheet cleared away he followed the returning summer into Northern Europe, another man, physically, intellectually, and morally, with all the slow accumulations of nearly two thousand centuries (how easily one writes the words! how hard to realise them!) upon his maturer shoulders. Then comes the age of what older antiquaries used to regard as primitive antiquity—the age of the English barrows, of the Danish kitchen middens, of the Swiss lake dwellings. The men who lived in it had domesticated the dog, the cow, the sheep, the goat, and the invaluable pig; they had begun to sow small ancestral wheat and undeveloped barley; they had learnt to weave flax and wear decent clothing: in a word, they had passed from the savage hunting condition to the stage of barbaric herdsmen and agriculturists. That is a comparatively modern period, and yet I suppose we must conclude with Dr. James Geikie that it isn’t to be measured by mere calculations of ten or twenty centuries, but of ten or twenty thousand years. The perspective of the past is opening up rapidly before us; what looked quite close yesterday is shown to-day to lie away off somewhere in the dim distance. Like our paleolithic artists, we fail to get the reindeer fairly behind the ox in the foreground, as we ought to do if we saw the whole scene properly foreshortened.
On the table where I write there lie two paper-weights, preserving from the fate of the sibylline leaves the sheets of foolscap to which this essay is now being committed. One of them is a very rude flint hatchet, produced by merely chipping off flakes from its side by dexterous blows, and utterly unpolished or unground in any way. It belongs to the age of the very old master (or possibly even to a slightly earlier epoch), and it was sent me from Ightham, in Kent, by that indefatigable unearther of prehistoric memorials, Mr. Benjamin Harrison. That flint, which now serves me in the office of a paper-weight, is far ruder, simpler, and more ineffective than any weapon or implement at present in use among the lowest savages. Yet with it, I doubt not, some naked black fellow by the banks of the Thames has hunted the mammoth among unbroken forest two hundred thousand years ago and more; with it he has faced the angry cave bear and the original and only genuine British lion (for everybody knows that the existing mongrel heraldic beast is nothing better than a bastard modification of the leopard of the Plantagenets). Nay, I have very little doubt in my own mind that with it some aesthetic ancestor has brained and cut up for his use his next-door neighbour