Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

been only the descendants of the stone' race, improved in point of civilisation so as to acquire the art of working metals? The Swiss antiquaries reply, with confidence, no; and mainly for the following reason. Bronze is a mixed metal, of copper and tin. Had the natives learnt, and then improved, the art of working in metal, their first essays would undoubtedly have been in a single metal. Implements of copper alone have been in fact discovered in some Eastern countries; but none such have as yet been found in Switzerland. Again, tin, one of

. the materials of bronze, is one of the scarcest of metals, and derived by the ancients apparently from one quarter alone, the British Islands. It seems, therefore, much more probable that the metal should have reached Switzerland, in general, in its composite state, than that the amalgamation should have been effected there ; although it cannot be denied that the art of amalgamation was at some time known to the Swiss Lacustrines, since blocks of copper and tin were discovered in one locality separate from each other, and with traces of a foundry (at Thonon, on the Lake of Geneva; see Troyon, p. 310.). Again: though many settlements founded in the stone era were also peopled by the bronze race, there are many others which show no signs of such occupancy, but exhibit apparent traces of violent destruction by fire. Putting all these things to-gether, the antiquaries adopt, as the most probable conclusion, that, in Switzerland at least, the men of bronze were new comers, who conquered, and ultimately exterminated, their feebler predecessors.

But the subsequent age of bronze was of very long duration. This is proved by the thickness of the strata of relics, and by the considerable difference of length in the uncovered portions of the stakes in different bronze villages respectively. Its society perished at last by violence, as that of the former age had done. This is shown by the recurrence of the same signs of destruction. The people who destroyed it wielded swords and

spears of iron, as their relics testify. The destruction was nearly complete, for out of sixty or eighty villages of which the existence in the bronze age is hitherto established, eleven only show signs, and these slight, of having still been occupied in the iron age. This mysterious bronze nation, intercalated between the first pre-historical' and the modern race, seems in Switzerland to have perished absolutely. The men of iron were in all probability the Celts, or Helvetians, who were the first inhabitants of Switzerland known to the Romans : and at this point written history seems, according to the light of our present knowledge, to dovetail in with that inscribed on those mouldering relics which have now been tortured by the logic of science into yielding their strange confessions.

One fact only, connected with this invasion by the iron race, is so curious in its general bearing on history, as to deserve mention here. We have seen that they did not occupy, or soon abandoned, the lacustrine dwellings. They were stronger and better armed, and did not need the feeble protection which these afforded to their predecessors. They were pot traders, and bad no habits which wedded them to a waterside life. But men in later ages returned to those spots of peculiar natural advantage which the primavals had utilised. The cities of Zurich and Geneva, as well as various smaller towns, rest on the sites of buried lake-villages.

But the same process of induction which has led us to these general conclusions as to the history of these lacustrine races, reveals to us also the most curious and minute circumstances respecting their mode of life. A few fragments of stone or bronze, pottery, and bones, heaped up confusedly with some other objects in a bed of silt, serve the office of a volume of cotemporary memoirs.

These people, especially of the stone age, were of smaller ståture than the present inhabitants of Europe. This is proved by the size of their ornaments, and in particular by the grasp of the handles of their implements. They were a race of hunters: this is shown by their arrow-heads and lanceheads, and, further, by the bones of wild animals,—the élan, the deer, the wild boar, and others,— heaped together round their dwellings. But they were also pastoral : for the bones of sheep and oxen, and more rarely of a small species of horse, are found in close juxtaposition with the former. They were to some extent agricultural: for grains of wheat and six-rowed barley, kernels of cultivated fruit, nuts, nay, slices of small apples and pears as if cut for preserving, and cakes of unleavened meal, are found among the other relics. There are traces, though less certain, of mats, or cordage, of hemp or flax. All these are in general found charred by fire: the remnants of the last dinner perhaps of the unfortunate Lacustrines, before the men of bronze, or those of iron, destroyed them and their habitations together. Few human bones are found among the relics of the earlier periods: there were, therefore, no savage or murderous rites practised; and such bones as are found may have belonged to individuals slain in the last assault. But appearances are very different in the age of iron: then human sacrifice seems to have been abundantly performed ; in one place, the skeletons of four young women, in distorted attitudes, have been disinterred, along with fragments of broken ornaments; the victims probably of some of those sanguinary rites :

- quibus immitis placatur sanguine diro

Teutates, horrensque feris altaribus Hesus.' The pre-historical men had their domestic animals, and fed their dogs with the relics of their dinner; for it is found that almost all the bones containing marrow are broken, while many of them are marked by the teeth of dogs. They preferred spring water to the flat beverage of their own lakes; for among their pottery are found fragments of vases two or three feet in diameter -- and it is difficult to conjecture what other purpose these can have served. But there are other vases curiously and artistically punched with round holes, disposed in lines. These could not have held any liquid, but they probably did hold curd, from which the liquor had been expressed; the inhabitants of the Pfahlbauten on Lake Leman, like their successors in the modern châlets, were therefore skilled in the confection of laitages. Lastly, however great their antiquity, they were not, in the common phrase, antediluvian; they belonged to the modern era, geologically speaking. They do not seem to have been contemporaneous with different animals or a different climate from those of modern Switzerland. Their animals are all of races existing in that country; their vegetables, all but one or two, of which the water-chestnut (Trapa natans) is mentioned as the most remarkable.

What is established in these respects concerning the habits of the age of stone, seems also generally true of that of bronze. The men of that age had made, no doubt, that advance which the more powerful nature of the means at their disposal secured to them. Their · Pfahlbauten' were, as a rule, somewhat farther advanced into the lakes than those of the men of stone; showing, either that they had more powerful enemies to dread from landwards, or, that the possession of metals enabled them to cut timber more easily, and use it more profusely. But their general mode of life on the lakes remained much the same with that of their predecessors. It has been attempted, however, to establish one difference between them, so remarkable as to require distinct notice ; namely, as to their mode of sepulture.

The men of stone certainly followed (in Switzerland as in Scandinavia) that most primæval of sepulchral usages, which spread from the far East, perhaps, over all the old world,

of which the records are said to be found deep under the foundations of Babylon; insomuch that the migrations of these first colonists of the West may be traced, according to some authorities, by

6

their graves. Their dead were deposited in stone-chests' or cells, constructed generally of three or four large flat slabs, adapted to contain bodies doubled up, face and knees together, and the arms crossed over the breast. Few of these have indeed been found in Switzerland; but such as there are exhibit these peculiarities. Whether this posture was adopted, as some fancy, from analogy to that of the infant in the womb, or whether (which seems the simpler interpretation) because it required least room and exacted the smallest amount of labour, it is, at all events, characteristic of extreme antiquity, and still subsists, like other usages of the like antiquity, only in the remotest corners of the world, such as the southern extremities of Africa and America. Such was the mode of sepulture of the primitive race. But how long it continued is not so clear. We must not be too systematic on the subject. Mr. Lubbock says (Natural History Review, Jan. 1862) that the very same position was, 'to say the least of it, very common in early British tombs,' which are, in comparison, but of yesterday. And the Swiss authorities themselves (like those of the North) seem very uncertain as to its employment in the age of bronze. We rather infer, from M. Troyon's book (notwithstanding some expressions which seem contradictory, see p. 302.), that he believes interment, without burning, to have continued throughout the era of bronze. At Sion, and at Chardonne, near Vevey, instruments of bronze have been found in primitive tombs. But the bodies seem to have been deposited there in the natural attitude. The ancient practice of bending the body together would seem then to have been discontinued at some time in the intermediate age. On these questions, however, the records are scanty, and speak but doubtfully. This much alone is certain: that the custom of burning the dead, or 'incineration,' as antiquaries call it, together with the 'tumulus,' or mound raised over the ashes, appears universally to commence with the advent of the age of iron, and clearly designates the establishment of the Helvetian race ' at the foot of the Alps.' (Troyon, p. 328.) With the arrival of these strangers our present researches terminate. They were a people considerably advanced both in the arts and in commerce long before the Romans knew them; how long, we have no means of judging. At Tiefenau, near Berne, is the field of a great unrecorded battle, in which these Helvetian immigrants appear to have turned their arms against each other. Fragments of chariots, a hundred swords, remnants

of coats of mail, lance-heads, rings, fibulæ, ornaments, various 'utensils, coarse earthenware, and fragments of glass bracelets, accompanied by some thirty coins, of Gaul and Marseilles,

6

а

anterior to our era,' have been picked up on the ground, and may serve as the memorials of some bloody day, when these conquerors revenged on each other, in civil conflict, the wrongs inflicted on the exterminated ‘men of bronze.'

Of the religion of the earliest race nothing is known; some crescent-shaped stone articles have been termed amulets, or fetiches,' by antiquarians, rather from not knowing what else to call them than from any settled premises. The same may be said of the age of bronze. For we cannot attach much importance to M. Troyon's ingenious speculations about men* hirs,' • lacustrine chapels,' and the like, there being really nothing to appropriate these monuments, if authentic monuments at all, to any age preceding the Celtic (pp. 381-3.). Nor are we very much impressed by the arguments which make him believe that the primitive mode of burial shows that his pre-historical race ' believed in the resurrection of the body.' Not until we arrive at the period of iron do we find substantial traces of those objects and ruins of a religious character which constitute such marked features, all over Europe, in Celtic antiquity.

And now, we think, we have said enough to show that M. Troyon is really not drawing on his imagination, but on reasonably sufficient stock of materials, allowing only for some tincture of that kind of sober romance which antiquaries love, when he sketches the life of these primitive people in language like that of an actual observer :

* The first possessors of the soil (the wild beasts) had to retire step by step before a new population, which came to raise upon the waters its picturesque groups of cabins, the smoke from whose hearths spread itself in the air. Fires lighted on the beach, where the domestic animals were folded, served to keep at a distance during the night the carnivorous ones, who as yet had only learnt to know that element by the electric flashes of the storm. As soon as the lacustrine habitation had attained some development, thousands of piles supported a platform crowned by numerous circular huts, with conical roofs. A narrow bridge connected these dwellings with the shore ; boats, fastened to the piles, served for fishing and for voyages of discovery. Among the trophies of the chase which decorated the dwellings, were the antlers of huge stags, bear-skins, the manes of wild boars, and the skulls of wild bulls. The furniture was of the most primitive kind. Leaves, dried grass, moss and straw heaped on the floor, served the purpose of beds. On the hearth, situate in the middle of the room, was placed the pôt-au-feu of the family. The earthenware vessels were grouped in some corner. The arms and various utensils hung from the roof. These slight habitations sheltered thousands of families during a number of centuries; but who will ever tell of all the scenes of joy and grief which they have witnessed!. .

« PreviousContinue »