The Lake-dwellings of Europe: Being the Rhind Lectures in Archaeology for 1888

Cassell, limited
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Publisher
Cassell, limited
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Published on
Dec 31, 1890
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Pages
600
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Language
English
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This content is DRM free.
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As the word "prehistoric" has no limitation in the past history of the country, it logically follows that a treatise on "Prehistoric Britain" would have an equally wide range; but by a judicious discretion we limit the scope of this book to the period during which man was an inhabitant of Western Europe, prior to the invention of written records. But the Britain of that early period differed widely from the Britain of to-day both in climate and geographical area, and to some extent in its flora and fauna. Consequently our first duty is to describe with as much precision as modern researches will admit of, but very briefly, the physical conditions which obtained in prehistoric Britain when it comes within the above-defined scope of the present work. From this standpoint we have practically to discuss the entire field of the development of human civilization, as disclosed by the remains of Palæolithic and Neolithic races, both of which, have left traces of their existence within the British area.

On the other hand, the pre-history of our island, outside the limitation imposed on it by the appearance of man on the scene, goes back to the dawn of life on the globe; and it is largely to the modifications effected under the influence of cosmic agencies during this infinitely longer period that the country became a suitable habitat for Homo sapiens. A few preliminary words on this aspect of the subject will not, therefore, be considered out of place, as thereby the true starting-point of our main thesis will be brought into clearer relief. As we cannot endorse the opinion long held as a dogma in theological cosmogonies, that the multitudinous phenomena of the material world—the distribution of land and water, the evolution of plants and animals, the recurrence of seasons, etc.—were specially designed to minister to the welfare of man- kind, we are bound to account for them on some other hypothesis. On this point all we affirm is that they were the outcome of the fixed laws which then governed, and still govern, the universe. Evidence in support of this conclusion is not far to seek. In the Geological and Palæontological records we have ample details of the successive changes the earth has undergone since it cooled down sufficiently to admit of organic life on its surface.

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