"Second. That they are found in beds of gravel, sand, and clay, which have never been artificially disturbed.
"Third. That they occur associated with the remains of land, fresh-water, and marine testacea, of species now living, and most of them still common in the same neighborhood, and also with the remains of various mammalia--a few species now living, but more of extinct forms.
"Fourth. That the period at which their entombment took place was subsequent to the bowlder-clay period, and to that extent post-glacial; and also that it was among the latest in geological time--one apparently anterior to the surface assuming its present form, so far as it regards some of the minor features."
These reports brought the subject of the very significant human fossils at Abbeville prominently before the public; whereas the publications of the original discoverer, Boucher de Perthes, bearing date of 1847, had been altogether ignored. A new aspect was thus given to the current controversy.
As Dr. Falconer remarked, geology was now passing through the same ordeal that astronomy passed in the age of Galileo. But the times were changed since the day when the author of the Dialogues was humbled before the Congregation of the Index, and now no Index Librorum Prohibitorum could avail to hide from eager human eyes such pages of the geologic story as Nature herself had spared. Eager searchers were turning the leaves with renewed zeal everywhere, and with no small measure of success. In particular, interest attached just at this time to a human skull which Dr. Fuhlrott had discovered in a cave at Neanderthal two or three years before--a cranium which has ever since been famous as the Neanderthal skull, the type specimen of what modern zoologists are disposed to regard as a distinct species of man, Homo neanderthalensis. Like others of the same type since discovered at Spy, it is singularly simian in character--low-arched, with receding forehead and enormous, protuberant eyebrows. When it was first exhibited to the scientists at Berlin by Dr. Fuhlrott, in 1857, its human character was doubted by some of the witnesses; of that, however, there is no present question.
This interesting find served to recall with fresh significance some observations that had been made in France and Belgium a long generation earlier, but whose bearings had hitherto been ignored. In 1826 MM. Tournal and Christol had made independent discoveries of what they believed to be human fossils in the caves of the south of France; and in 1827 Dr. Schmerling had found in the cave of Engis, in Westphalia, fossil bones of even greater significance. Schmerling's explorations had been made with the utmost care, and patience. At Engis he had found human bones, including skulls, intermingled with those of extinct mammals of the mammoth period in a way that left no doubt in his mind that all dated from the same geological epoch. He bad published a full account of his discoveries in an elaborate monograph issued in 1833.
But at that time, as it chanced, human fossils were under a ban as effectual as any ever pronounced by canonical index, though of far different origin. The oracular voice of Cuvier had declared against the authenticity of all human fossils. Some of the bones brought him for examination the great anatomist had pettishly pitched out of the window, declaring them fit only for a cemetery, and that had settled the matter for a generation: the evidence gathered by lesser workers could avail nothing against the decision rendered at the Delphi of Science. But no ban, scientific or canonical, can longer resist the germinative power of a fact, and so now, after three decades of suppression, the truth which Cuvier had buried beneath the weight of his ridicule burst its bonds, and fossil man stood revealed, if not as a flesh-and-blood, at least as a skeletal entity.
The reception now accorded our prehistoric ancestor by the progressive portion of the scientific world amounted to an ovation; but the unscientific masses, on the other hand, notwithstanding their usual fondness for tracing remote genealogies, still gave the men of Engis and Neanderthal the cold shoulder. Nor were all of the geologists quite agreed that the contemporaneity of these human fossils with the animals whose remains had been mingled with them had been fully established. The bare possibility that the bones of man and of animals that long preceded him had been swept together into the eaves in successive ages, and in some mysterious way intermingled there, was clung to by the conservatives as a last refuge. But even this small measure of security was soon to be denied them, for in 1865 two associated workers, M. Edouard Lartet and Mr. Henry Christy, in exploring the caves of Dordogne, unearthed a bit of evidence against which no such objection could be urged. This momentous exhibit was a bit of ivory, a fragment of the tusk of a mammoth, on which was scratched a rude but unmistakable outline portrait of the mammoth itself. If all the evidence as to man's antiquity before presented was suggestive merely, here at last was demonstration; for the cave-dwelling man could not well have drawn the picture of the mammoth unless he had seen that animal, and to admit that man and the mammoth had been contemporaries was to concede the entire case. So soon, therefore, as the full import of this most instructive work of art came to be realized, scepticism as to man's antiquity was silenced for all time to come.