button to main menu  Gents Mag 1789 p.799

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Gentleman's Magazine 1789 p.799

  Stone Age tools
Stone Age Tools

Kendal, Aug. 24.
IT appears from the discoveries of modern travellers, that in countries where iron has not been introduced, various hard bodies are substituted in its room by the natives; and the works they are able to accomplish, by instruments made of very unlikely materials, are truly surprising; their boats, their bows, and spears, are neatly formed, and curiously carved, with tools consisteing of nothing but stones, bones, shells, and various kinds of hard wood.
Now, since we are convinced by actual observation that man, in one part of the world can perform various mechanical operations by the help of such implements alone, it cannot be questioned that the inhabitants of a different climate would have recourse to the same methods under similar circumstances; and it is highly probable that the predecessors of the polished Europeans have, at some distant period, made use of such instruments as are now employed by the savages of America and the Southern islands. It would be in vain to expect, that the history of any nation should furnish facts to establish this opinion from the customs of the people whose transactions it commemorates, for man must always make a considerable progress in civilization before he will attend to letters; and as metals are so necessary to his refinement, these instruments have been laid aside and forgot in every country before the commencement of its history. Hence it happens that it is in the annals of more polished nations alone we find proofs of their existence, when the historians accidentally mentions the manners of his ruder neighbours. Thus it appears from Exodus iv. 25, that the Midianites used a sharp stone instead of a knife in the time of Moses. Stones and clubs were undoubtedly the first offensive weapons; and it is positively asserted by Pliny, that the latter were used by the Libyans in an antient war which this people had with the Egyptians. An author, whose name at present I cannot recollect, informs us, that the maritime nations of Italy formerly pointed their darts with the bony termination of the tail of the fireflair. Tacitus says, that the Germans, in his time, headed their spears very sparingly with iron, which they obtained by barter from the Gauls and Italians; but that the Finni, a very extensive tribe, but ruder than the rest, without cattle, and without habitations, depended on their bows for subsistence; and it would be folly to suppose that a people, thus destitute in arts and commerce; could procure any other tips for their arrows than those of the simplest kind. Perhaps more circumstantial proofs of the primitive simplicity of our ancestors might be brought to light, by an attentive enquiry into the subject; but the facts abovementioned are sufficient to make it appear, that both Europe and Asia have been indebted for their conveniences to those things which constitute the arts and riches of a modern savage.
There is not, as far as I know, any historic evidence proving that these primitive instruments were ever used by the antient Britons. Julius Caesar, who describes their manners, found them possessed of copper and iron, though sufficiently barbarous in other respects; the former they obtained by commerce, and the latter was extracted from the ore by the inhabitants of the coast, who, being of Gallic extractions, were acquainted with the arts of the Continent. By this early intercocurse between our ancestors and their more cultivated neighbours, the Romans were prevented from observing those sequestered islanders in their native simplicity: they had surmounted the more destitute condition of savage life previous to the first visit of their conquerors; and before the commencement of their history they were become too sensible of the superior advantages of metals, to depend on implements made of more imperfect materials. But the researches of the Antiquary have supplied the defects of written records, flints are found in different parts of Scotland, which have been fashioned with great labour into the heads of arrows. The stone from which these views are given (pl.II. fig. 6, 7, 8) is of the same date, and from the same hands. It was found in a rivulet in the North of Cumberland. The peculiarity of its form renders it impossible to determine its precise use. It has evidently been intended for an offensive weapon, and its employer, in all probability, either tied it to the end of a thong, or fixed it in a wicker handle. If we suppose it to have ebeen an instrument of
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