OF THE EARTH
THE POST-PLIOCENE PERIOD—Continued.
As regards the life of the Post-Pliocene period, we have,
in the first place, to notice the effect produced throughout the
northern hemisphere by the gradual
supervention of the Glacial period. Previous to this the climate
must have been temperate or warm-temperate; but as the cold
gradually came on, two results were produced as regards the
living beings of the area thus affected. In the first place,
all those Mammals which, like the Mammoth, the Woolly Rhinoceros,
the Lion, the Hyæna, and the Hippopotamus, require, at
any rate, moderately warm conditions, would be forced to
migrate southwards to regions not affected by the new state
of things. In the second place, Mammals previously inhabiting
higher latitudes, such as the Reindeer, the Musk-ox, and the
Lemming, would be enabled by the increasing cold to migrate
southwards, and to invade provinces previously occupied by the
Elephant and the Rhinoceros. A precisely similar, but more
slowly-executed process, must have taken place in the sea, the
northern Mollusca moving southwards as the arctic conditions of
the Glacial period became established, whilst the forms proper
to temperate seas receded. As regards the readily locomotive
Mammals, also, it is probable that this process was carried on
repeatedly in a partial manner, the southern and northern forms
alternately fluctuating backwards and forwards over the same
area, in accordance with the fluctuations of temperature which
have been shown by Mr James Geikie to have characterised the
Glacial period as a whole. We can thus readily account for the
intermixture which is sometimes found of northern and southern
types of Mammalia in the same deposits, or in deposits apparently
synchronous, and within a single district. Lastly, at the final close
of the arctic cold of the Glacial period, and the re-establishment
of temperate conditions over the northern hemisphere, a reversal of
the original process took place—the northern Mammals retiring
within their ancient limits, and the southern forms pressing
northwards and reoccupying their original domains.
The Invertebrate animals of the Post-Pliocene deposits
require no further mention—all the known forms, except a
few of the shells in the lowest beds of the formation, being
identical with species now in existence upon the globe. The
only point of importance in this connection has been previously
noticed—namely, that in the true Glacial deposits
themselves a considerable number of the shells belong to
northern or Arctic types.
As regards the Vertebrate animals of the period, no extinct
forms of Fishes, Amphibians, or Reptiles are known to occur, but we
meet with both extinct Birds and extinct Mammals. The remains of
the former are of great interest, as indicating
the existence during Post-Pliocene times, at widely remote
points of the southern hemisphere, of various wingless, and for the
most part gigantic, Birds. All the great wingless Birds of the order
Cursores which are known as existing at the present day upon
the globe, are restricted to regions which are either wholly or
in great part south of the equator. Thus the true Ostriches are
African; the Rheas are South American; the Emeus are Australian;
the Cassowaries are confined to Northern Australia, Papua, and the
Indian Archipelago; the species of Apteryx are natives of New
Zealand; and the Dodo and Solitaire (wingless, though probably not
true Cursores), both of which have been exterminated within
historical times, were inhabitants of the islands of Mauritius
and Rodriguez, in the Indian Ocean. In view of these facts, it
is noteworthy that, so far as known, all the Cursorial Birds
of the Post-Pliocene period should have been confined to the
same hemisphere as that inhabited by the living representatives
of the order. It is still further interesting to notice that
the extinct forms in question are only found in geographical
provinces which are now, or have been within historical times,
inhabited by similar types. The greater number of the remains of
these have been discovered in New Zealand, where there now live
several species of the curious wingless genus Apteryx;
and they have been referred by Professor Owen to several generic
groups, of which Dinornis is the most important (fig.
257). Fourteen species of Dinornis have been described by
the distinguished palæontologist just mentioned, all of them
being large wingless birds of the type of the existing Ostrich,
having enormously powerful hind-limbs adapted for running, but
with the wings wholly rudimentary, and the breast-bone devoid
of the keel or ridge which characterises this bone in all birds
which fly. The largest species is the Dinornis giganteus,
one of the most gigantic of living or fossil birds, the shank
(tibia) measuring a yard in length, and the total height being at
least ten feet. Another species, the Dinornis Elephantopus
(fig. 257), though not standing more than about six feet in height,
was of an even more ponderous construction—"the framework of
the skeleton being the most massive of any in the whole class of
Birds," whilst "the toe-bones almost rival those of the Elephant"
(Owen). The feet in Dinornis were furnished with three
toes, and are of interest as presenting us with an undoubted
Bird big enough to produce the largest of the foot-prints of
the Triassic Sandstones of Connecticut. New Zealand has now been
so far explored, that it seems questionable if it can retain in
its recesses any living example of Dinornis; but it
is certain that species of this genus were alive during the human
period, and survived up to quite a recent date. Not only are the
bones very numerous in certain localities, but they are found in
Fig. 257.—Skeleton of Dinornis elephantopus, greatly
reduced. Post-Pliocene, New Zealand. (After Owen.)
the most recent and superficial deposits, and they still contain a
considerable proportion of animal matter; whilst in some instances
bones have been found with the feathers attached, or with the horny
skin of the legs still adhering to them. Charred bones have been
found in connection with native "ovens;" and the traditions of
the Maories contain circumstantial accounts of gigantic wingless
Birds, the "Moas," which were hunted both for their flesh and
their plumage. Upon the whole, therefore, there can be no doubt
but that the Moas of New Zealand have been exterminated at quite
a recent period—perhaps within the last century—by the
unrelenting pursuit of Man,—a pursuit which their wingless
condition rendered them unable to evade.
In Madagascar, bones have been discovered of another huge wingless
Bird, which must have been as large as, or larger than, the
Dinornis giganteus, and which has been described under the
name of Æpiornis maximus. With the bones have been found
eggs measuring from thirteen to fourteen inches in diameter, and
computed to have the capacity of three Ostrich eggs. At least two
other smaller species of Æpiornis have been described by
Grandidier and Milne-Edwards as occurring in Madagascar; and they
consider the genus to be so closely allied to the Dinornis
of New Zealand, as to prove that these regions, now so remote,
were at one time united by land. Unlike New Zealand, where there
is the Apteryx, Madagascar is not known to possess any
living wingless Birds; but in the neighbouring island of Mauritius
the wingless Dodo (Didus ineptus) has been exterminated
less than three hundred years ago; and the little island of
Rodriguez, in the same geographical province, has in a similar
period lost the equally wingless Solitaire (Pezophaps), both
of these, however, being generally referred to the Rasores.
The Mammals of the Post-Pliocene period are so numerous,
that in spite of the many points of interest which they present,
only a few of the more important forms can be noticed here, and
that but briefly. The first order that claims our attention is
that of the Marsupials, the headquarters of which at the
present day is the Australian province. In Oolitic times Europe
possessed its small Marsupials, and similar forms existed in the
same area in the Eocene and Miocene periods; but if size be any
criterion, the culminating point in the history of the order was
attained during the Post-Pliocene period in
Fig. 258.—Skull of Diprotodon Australis, greatly
reduced. Post-Pliocene, Australia.
Australia. From deposits of this age there has been disentombed
a whole series of remains of extinct, and for the most part
gigantic, examples of this group of Quadrupeds. Not to speak of
Wombats and Phalangers, two forms stand out prominently as
representatives of the Post-Pliocene animals of Australia. One
of these is Diprotodon (fig. 258), representing, with
many differences, the well-known modern group of the Kangaroos.
In its teeth, Diprotodon shows
itself to be closely allied to the living, grass-eating Kangaroos;
but the hind-limbs were not so disproportionately long. In size,
also, Diprotodon must have many times exceeded the
dimensions of the largest of its living successors, since the
skull measures no less than three feet in length. The other form
in question is Thylacoleo (fig. 259), which is believed by
Professor Owen to belong to the same group as the existing "Native
Devil" (Dasyurus) of Van Diemen's Land, and therefore to
have been flesh-eating and rapacious in its habits, though this
view is not accepted by others. The principal feature in the skull
of Thylacoleo is the presence, on each side of each jaw,
of a single huge tooth, which is greatly compressed, and has a
cutting edge. This tooth is regarded by Owen as corresponding to
the great cutting tooth of the jaw of the typical Carnivores,
but Professor Flower considers that Thylacoleo is rather
related to the Kangaroo-rats. The size of the crown of the tooth
in question is not less than two inches and a quarter; and whether
carnivorous or not, it indicates an animal of a size exceeding
that of the largest of existing Lions.
Fig. 259.—Skull of Thylacoleo. Post-Pliocene,
Australia. Greatly reduced. (After Flower.)
The order of the Edentates, comprising the existing Sloths,
Ant-eaters, and Armadillos, and entirely restricted at the present
day to South America, Southern Asia, and Africa, is one alike
singular for the limited geographical range
of its members, their curious habits of life, and the well-marked
peculiarities of their anatomical structure. South America is the
metropolis of the existing forms; and it is an interesting fact
that there flourished within Post-Pliocene times in this continent,
and to some extent in North America also, a marvellous group of
extinct Edentates, representing the living Sloths and Armadillos,
but of gigantic size. The most celebrated of these is the huge
Megatherium Cuvieri (fig. 260) of the South American Pampas.
Fig. 260.—Megatherium Cuvieri. Post-Pliocene, South
The Megathere was a colossal Sloth-like animal which attained a
length of from twelve to eighteen feet, with bones more massive
than those of the Elephant. Thus the thigh-bone is nearly thrice
the thickness of the same bone in the largest of existing Elephants,
its circumference at its narrowest point nearly equalling its
total length; the massive bones of the shank (tibia and fibula)
are amalgamated at their extremities; the heel-bone (calcaneum)
is nearly half a yard in length; the haunch-bones (ilia) are
from four to five feet across at their crests; and the bodies of
the vertebræ at the root of the tail are from five to seven
inches in diameter, from which it has been computed that the
circumference of the tail at this part might have been from five
to six feet. The length of the fore-foot is about a yard, and
the toes are armed with powerful curved claws. It is known now
that the Megathere, in spite of its enormous weight and ponderous
construction, walked, like the existing Ant-eaters and Sloths,
upon the outside edge of the fore-feet, with the claws more or
less bent inwards
towards the palm of the
hand. As in the great majority of the Edentate order, incisor and
canine teeth are entirely wanting, the front of the jaws being
toothless. The jaws, however, are furnished with five upper and
four lower molar teeth on each side. These grinding teeth are from
seven to eight inches in length, in the form of four-sided prisms,
the crowns of which are provided with well-marked transverse ridges;
and they continue to grow during the whole life of the animal.
There are indications that the snout was prolonged, and more or
less flexible; and the tongue was probably prehensile. From the
characters of the molar teeth it is certain that the Megathere was
purely herbivorous in its habits; and from the enormous size and
weight of the body, it is equally certain that it could not have
imitated its modern allies, the Sloths, in the feat of climbing,
back downwards, amongst the trees. It is clear, therefore, that
the Megathere sought its sustenance upon the ground; and it was
originally supposed to have lived upon roots. By a masterly piece
of deductive reasoning, however, Professor Owen showed that this
great "Ground-Sloth" must have truly lived upon the foliage of
trees, like the existing Sloths—but with this difference,
that instead of climbing amongst the branches, it actually
uprooted the tree bodily. In this tour de force, the animal
sat upon its huge haunches and mighty tail, as on a tripod, and
then grasping the trunk with its powerful arms, either wrenched it
up by the roots or broke it short off above the ground. Marvellous
as this may seem, it can be shown that every detail in the skeleton
of the Megathere accords with the supposition that it obtained
its food in this way. Similar habits were followed by the allied
Mylodon (fig. 261), another of the great "Ground-Sloths,"
which inhabited South America during the Post-Pliocene period. In
most respects, the Mylodon is very like the Megathere; but
the crowns of the molar teeth are flat instead of being ridged.
The nearly-related genus Megalonyx, unlike the Megathere,
but like the Mylodon, extended its range northwards as far as
the United States.
Just as the Sloths of the present day were formerly represented
in the same geographical area by the gigantic Megatheroids, so
the little banded and cuirassed Armadillos of South America were
formerly represented by gigantic species, constituting the genus
Glyptodon. The Glyptodons (fig. 262) differed from
the living Armadillos in having no bands in their armour, so that
they must have been unable to roll themselves up. It is rare
at the present day to meet with any
Armadillo over two or three feet in length; but the length of the
Glyptodon clavipes, from the tip of the snout to the end
of the tail, was more than nine feet.
Fig. 261.—Skeleton of Mylodon robustus. Post-Pliocene,
There are no canine or incisor teeth in the Glyptodon, but
there are eight molars on each side of each jaw, and the crowns
of these are fluted and almost trilobed. The head is covered
by a helmet of bony plates, and the trunk was defended by an
armour of almost hexagonal bony pieces united by sutures, and
exhibiting special patterns of sculpturing
in each species. The tail was also defended by a similar armour,
and the vertebræ were mostly fused together so as to form
a cylindrical bony rod. In addition to the above-mentioned forms,
a number of other Edentate animals have been discovered by the
researches of M. Lund in the Post-Pliocene deposits of the
Brazilian bone-caves. Amongst these are true Ant-eaters,
Armadillos, and Sloths, many of them of gigantic size, and
all specifically or generically distinct from existing forms.
Fig. 262.—Skeleton of Glyptodon clavipes.
Post-Pliocene, South America.
Passing over the aquatic orders of the Sirenians and
Cetaceans, we come next to the great group of the Hoofed
Quadrupeds, the remains of which are very abundant in Post-Pliocene
deposits both in Europe and North America. Amongst the Odd-toed
Ungulates the most important are the Rhinoceroses, of which three
species are known to have existed in Europe during the Post-Pliocene
period. Two of these are the well-known Pliocene forms, the
Rhinoceros Etruscus and the R. Megarhinus still
surviving in diminished numbers; but the most famous is the
Rhinoceros tichorhinus (fig. 263), or so-called "Woolly
Rhinoceros." This species is known not only by innumerable bones,
but also by a carcass, at the time of its discovery complete,
which was found embedded in the frozen soil of Siberia towards
the close of last century, and which was partly saved from
destruction by the exertions of the naturalist Pallas. From this,
we know that the Tichorhine Rhinoceros, like its associate the
Mammoth, was provided with a coating of hair, and therefore was
enabled to endure a more severe climate than any existing
Fig. 263.—Skull of the Tichorhine Rhinoceros, the horns
being wanting. One-tenth of the natural size. Post-Pliocene
deposits of Europe and Asia.
The skin was not thrown into the folds
which characterise most of the existing forms; and the technical
name of the species refers to the fact that the nostrils were
completely separated by a bony partition. The head carried two
horns, placed one behind the other, the front one being unusually
large. As regards its geographical range, the Woolly Rhinoceros
is found in Europe in vast numbers north of the Alps and Pyrenees,
and it also abounded in Siberia; so that it would appear to be a
distinctly northern form, and to have been adapted for a temperate
climate. It is not known to occur in Pliocene deposits, but it
makes its first appearance in the Pre-Glacial deposits, surviving
the Glacial period, and being found in abundance in Post-Glacial
accumulations. It was undoubtedly a contemporary of the earlier
races of men in Western Europe; and it may perhaps be regarded as
being the actual substantial kernel of some of the "Dragons" of
The only other Odd-toed Ungulate which needs notice is the so-called
Equus fossilis of the Post-Pliocene of Europe. This made
its appearance before the Glacial period, and appears to be in
reality identical with the existing Horse (Equus caballus).
True Horses also occur in the Post-Pliocene of North America;
but, from some cause or another, they must have been exterminated
before historic times.
Amongst the Even-toed Ungulates, the great Hippopotamus major
of the Pliocene still continued to exist in Post-Pliocene times in
Western Europe; and the existing Wild Boar (Sus scrofa),
the parent of our domestic breeds of Pigs, appeared for the first
time. The Old World possessed extinct representatives of its
existing Camels, and lost types of the living Llamas inhabited
South America. Amongst the Deer, the Post-Pliocene accumulations
have yielded the remains of various living species, such as the
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), the Reindeer (Cervus
tarandus), the Moose or Elk (Alces malchis), and the
Roebuck (Cervus capreolus), together with a number of
extinct forms. Among the latter, the great "Irish Elk" (Cervus
megaceros) is justly celebrated both for its size and for
the number and excellent preservation of its discovered remains.
This extinct species (fig. 264) has been found principally in
peat-mosses and Post-Pliocene lake-deposits, and is remarkable
for the enormous size of the spreading antlers, which are widened
out towards their extremities, and attain an expanse of over
ten feet from tip to tip. It is not a genuine Elk, but is
intermediate between the Reindeer and the Fallow-deer. Among the
of the Post-Pliocene, the most noticeable is the
Reindeer, an essentially northern type, existing at the present
day in Northern Europe, and also (under the name of the "Caribou")
in North America. When the cold of the Glacial period became
established, this boreal species was enabled to invade Central
and Western Europe in great herds, and its remains are found
abundantly in cave-earths and other Post-Pliocene deposits as
far south as the Pyrenees.
Fig. 264—Skeleton of the "Irish Elk" (Cervus
megaceros). Post-Pliocene, Britain.
Fig. 265.—Skull of the Urns (Bos primigenius).
Post-Pliocene and Recent. (After Owen.)
In addition to the above, the Post-Pliocene deposits of Europe
and North America have yielded the remains of various Sheep and
Oxen. One of the most interesting of the latter is
the "Urus" or Wild Bull (Bos primigenius, fig. 265), which,
though much larger than any of the existing fossils, is believed to
be specifically undistinguishable from the domestic Ox (Bos
taurus), and to be possibly the ancestor of some of the larger
European varieties of oxen. In the earlier part of its existence
the Urus ranged over Europe and Britain in company with the Woolly
Rhinoceros and the Mammoth; but it long survived these, and does
not appear to have been finally exterminated till about the twelfth
century. Another remarkable member of the Post-Pliocene Cattle,
also to begin with an associate of the Mammoth and Rhinoceros,
is the European Bison or "Aurochs" (Bison priscus). This
"maned" ox formerly abounded in Europe in Post-Glacial times,
and was not rare even in the later periods of the Roman empire,
though much diminished in numbers, and driven back into the wilder
and more inaccessible parts of the country. At present this fine
species has been so nearly exterminated that it no longer exists in
Europe save in Lithuania, where its preservation has been secured
by rigid protective laws. Lastly, the Post-Pliocene deposits have
yielded the remains of the singular living animal which is known
as the Musk-ox or Musk-sheep (Ovibos moschatus). At the
present day, the Musk-ox is an inhabitant of the "barren grounds"
of Arctic America, and it is remarkable for the great length of
its hair. It is, like the Reindeer, a
distinctively northern animal; but it enjoyed during the Glacial
period a much wider range than it has at the present day, the
conditions suitable for its existence being then extended over
a considerable portion of the northern hemisphere. Thus remains
of the Musk-Ox are found in greater or less abundance in
Post-Pliocene deposits over a great part of Europe, extending
even to the south of France; and closely-related forms are found
in similar deposits in the United States.
Coming to the Proboscideans, we find that the
Mastodons seem to have disappeared in Europe at the
close of the Pliocene period, or at the very commencement
of the Post-Pliocene. In the New World, on the other hand,
a species of Mastodon (M. Americanus or M.
Ohioticus) is found abundantly in deposits of Post-Pliocene
age, from Canada to Texas. Very perfect skeletons of this
species have been exhumed from morasses and swamps, and large
individuals attained a length (exclusive of the tusks) of
seventeen feet and a height of eleven feet, the tusks being
twelve feet in length. Remains of Elephants are also
abundant in the Post-Pliocene deposits of both the Old and the
New World. Amongst these, we find in Europe the two familiar
Pliocene species E. Meridionales and E. Antiquus
still surviving, but in diminished numbers. With these are found
in vast abundance the remains of the characteristic Elephant
of the Post-Pliocene, the well-known "Mammoth" (Elephas
primigenius), which is accompanied in North America by the
nearly-allied, but more southern species, the Elephas
Americanus. The Mammoth (fig. 266) is considerably larger
than the largest of the living Elephants, the skeleton being
over sixteen feet in length, exclusive of the tusks, and over
nine feet in height. The tusks are bent almost into a circle,
and are sometimes twelve feet in length, measured along their
curvature. In the frozen soil of Siberia several carcasses of
the Mammoth have been discovered with the flesh and skin still
attached to the bones, the most celebrated of these being a Mammoth
which was discovered at the beginning of this century at the
mouth of the Lena, on the borders of the Frozen Sea, and the
skeleton of which is now preserved at St Petersburg (fig. 266).
From the occurrence of the remains of the Mammoth in vast numbers
in Siberia, it might have been safely inferred that this ancient
Elephant was able to endure a far more rigorous climate than its
existing congeners. This inference has, however, been rendered
a certainty by the specimens just referred to, which show that
the Mammoth was protected against the cold by a thick coat of
reddish-brown wool, some nine or ten inches long, interspersed
with strong, coarse black
hair more than a foot in length. The
teeth of the Mammoth (fig.267) are of the type of those of the
existing Indian Elephant, and are found in immense numbers in
Fig. 266.—Skeleton of the Mammoth (Elephas
primigenius). Portions of the integument still adhere
to the head, and the thick skin of the soles is still
attached to the feet. Post-Pliocene.
The Mammoth was essentially northern in its
distribution, never passing south of a line drawn through the
Pyrenees, the Alps, the northern shores of the Caspian, Lake
Baikal, Kamschatka, and the Stanovi Mountains (Dawkins). It
occurs in the Pre-Glacial forest-bed of Cromer in Norfolk,
Fig. 267.—Molar tooth of the Mammoth (Elephas
primigenius), upper jaw, right side, one-third of the natural
size. a, Grinding surface; b, Side view.
survived the Glacial period, and is found abundantly in
Post-Glacial deposits in France, Germany, Britain, Russia in
Europe, Asia, and North America, being often associated with the
Reindeer, Lemming, and Musk-ox. That it survived into the earlier
portion of the human period is unquestionable, its remains having
been found in a great number of instances associated with
implements of human manufacture; whilst in one instance a
recognisable portrait of it has been discovered, carved on bone.
Amongst other Elephants which occur in Post-Pliocene deposits
may be mentioned, as of special interest, the pigmy Elephants of
Malta. One of these—the Elephas Melitensis, or
so-called "Donkey-Elephant"—was not more than four and a
half feet in height. The other—the Elephas Falconeri,
of Busk—was still smaller, its average height at the
withers not exceeding two and a half to three feet.
Whilst herbivorous animals abounded during the Post-Pliocene,
we have ample evidence of the coexistence with them of a number
of Carnivorous forms, both in the New and the Old World. The
Bears are represented in Europe by at least three species, two
of which—namely, the great Grizzly Bear (Ursus ferox)
and the smaller Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)—are in
existence at the present day. The third species is the
(Ursus spelœus, fig. 268), which is now extinct. The
Cave-bear exceeded in its dimensions the largest of modern Bears;
Fig. 268.—Skull of Ursus spelpeus. Post-Pliocene,
Europe. One-sixth of the natural size.
and its remains, as its name implies; have been found mainly in
cavern-deposits. Enormous numbers of this large and ferocious
species must have lived in Europe in Post-Glacial times; and that
they survived into the human period, is clearly shown by the common
association of their bones with the implements of man. They are
occasionally accompanied by the remains of a Glutton (the Gulo
spelœus), which does not appear to be really separable from
the existing Wolverine or Glutton of northern regions (the Gulo
luscus). In addition, we meet with the bones of the Wolf, Fox,
Weasel, Otter, Badger, Wild Cat, Panther, Hyæna, and Lion,
&c., together with the extinct Machairodus or "Sabre-toothed
Tiger." The only two of these that deserve further mention are
the Hyæna and the Lion. The Cave-hyæna (Hyœna
spelœa, fig. 269) is regarded by high authorities as nothing
more than a variety of the living Spotted Hyæna (H.
Crocuta) of South Africa. This well-known species inhabited Britain
and a considerable portion of Europe during a large part of the
Post-Pliocene period; and its remains often occur in great abundance.
Indeed, some caves, such as the Kirkdale Cavern in Yorkshire, were
dens inhabited during long periods by these animals, and thus contain
the remains of numerous individuals and of successive generations of
Hyænas, together with innumerable gnawed and bitten bones of
their prey. That the Cave-hyæna was a contemporary with Man in
Western Europe during Post-Glacial times is shown beyond a doubt by
the common association of its bones with human implements.
Lastly, the so-called Cave-lion (Felis spelœa), long
supposed to be a distinct species, has been shown to be nothing
Fig. 269.—Skull of Hyœna spelœa, one-fourth
of the natural size. Post-Phocene, Europe.
more than a large variety of the existing Lion (Felis leo).
This animal inhabited Britain and Western Europe in times posterior
to the Glacial period, and was a contemporary of the Cave-hyæna,
Cave-bear, Woolly Rhinoceros, and Mammoth. The Cave-lion also
unquestionably survived into the earlier portion of the human
period in Europe.
The Post-Pliocene deposits of Europe have further yielded the remains
of numerous Rodents—such as the Beaver, the Northern
Lemming, Marmots, Mice, Voles, Rabbits, &c.—together with
the gigantic extinct Beaver known as the Trogontherium Cuvieri
(fig. 270). The great Castoroides Ohioensis of the
Fig. 270.—Lower jaw of Trogontherium Cuvieri, one-fourth
of the natural size. Post-Pliocene, Britain.
Post-Pliocene of North America is also a great extinct Beaver,
which reached a length of about five feet. Lastly, the Brazilian
bone-caves have yielded the remains of numerous Rodents of types
now characteristic of South America, such as Guinea-pigs, Capybaras,
tree-inhabiting Porcupines, and Coypus.
The deposits just alluded to have further yielded the remains of
various Monkeys, such as Howling Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, and
Marmosets, all of which belong to the group of Quadrumana
which is now exclusively confined to the
South American continent—namely, the "Platyrhine" Monkeys.
We still have very briefly to consider the occurrence of Man
in Post-Pliocene deposits; but before doing so, it will be well
to draw attention to the evidence afforded by the Post-Pliocene
Mammals as to the climate of Western Europe at this period. The
chief point which we have to notice is, that a considerable
revolution of opinion has taken place on this point. It was
originally believed that the presence of such animals as Elephants,
Lions, the Rhinoceros, and the Hippopotamus afforded an irrefragable
proof that the climate of Europe must have been a warm one, at any
rate during Post-Glacial times. The existence, also, of numbers
of Mammoths in Siberia, was further supposed to indicate that
this high temperature extended itself very far north. Upon the
whole, however, the evidence is against this view. Not only is
there great difficulty in supposing that the Arctic conditions of
the Glacial period were immediately followed by anything warmer
than a cold-temperate climate; but there is nothing in the nature
of the Mammals themselves which would absolutely forbid their
living in a temperate climate. The Hippopotamus major,
though probably clad in hair, offers some difficulty—since,
as pointed out by Professor Busk, it must have required a climate
sufficiently warm to insure that the rivers were not frozen over
in the winter; but it was probably a migratory animal, and its
occurrence may be accounted for by this. The Woolly Rhinoceros
and the Mammoth are known with certainty to have been protected
with a thick covering of wool and hair; and their extension
northwards need not necessarily have been limited by anything
except the absence of a sufficiently luxuriant vegetation to
afford them food. The great American Mastodon, though not certainly
known to have possessed a hairy covering, has been shown to have
lived upon the shoots of Spruce and Firs, trees characteristic of
temperate regions—as shown by the undigested food which has
been found with its skeleton, occupying the place of the stomach.
The Lions and Hyænas, again, as shown by Professor Boyd Dawkins,
do not indicate necessarily a warm climate. Wherever a sufficiency
of herbivorous animals to supply them with food can live, there
they can live also; and they have therefore no special bearing
upon the question of climate. After a review of the whole evidence,
Professor Dawkins concludes that the nearest approach at the
present day to the Post-Pliocene climate of Western Europe is
to be found in the climate of the great Siberian plains which
stretch from the Altai Mountains to the Frozen Sea. "Covered
by impenetrable forests, for the most part
of Birch, Poplar, Larch, and Pines, and low creeping dwarf Cedars,
they present every gradation in climate from the temperate to that
in which the cold is too severe to admit of the growth of trees,
which decrease in size as the traveller advances northwards, and
are replaced by the grey mosses and lichens that cover the low
marshy 'tundras.' The maximum winter cold, registered by Admiral
Von Wrangel at Nishne Kolymsk, on the banks of the Kolyma,
is—65° in January. 'Then breathing becomes difficult;
the Reindeer, that citizen of the Polar region, withdraws to the
deepest thicket of the forest, and stands there motionless as
if deprived of life;' and trees burst asunder with the cold.
Throughout this area roam Elks, Black Bears, Foxes, Sables, and
Wolves, that afford subsistence to the Jakutian and Tungusian
fur-hunters. In the northern part countless herds of Reindeer,
Elks, Foxes, and Wolverines make up for the poverty of vegetation
by the rich abundance of animal life. 'Enormous flights of Swans,
Geese, and Ducks arrive in the spring, and seek deserts where
they may moult and build their nests in safety. Ptarmigans run in
troops amongst the bushes; little Snipes are busy along the brooks
and in the morasses; the social Crows seek the neighbourhood of
new habitations; and when the sun shines in spring, one may even
sometimes hear the cheerful note of the Finch, and in autumn
that of the Thrush.' Throughout this region of woods, a hardy,
middle-sized breed of horses lives under the mastership and care
of man, and is eminently adapted to bear the severity of the
climate.... The only limit to their northern range is the difficulty
of obtaining food. The severity of the winter through the southern
portion of this vast wooded area is almost compensated for by the
summer heat and its marvellous effect on
vegetation."—(Dawkins, 'Monograph of Pleistocene Mammalia.')
Finally, a few words must be said as to the occurrence of the
remains of Man in Post-Pliocene deposits. That Man existed in
Western Europe and in Britain during the Post-Pliocene period, is
placed beyond a doubt by the occurrence of his bones in deposits
of this age, along with the much more frequent occurrence of
implements of human manufacture. At what precise point of time
during the Post-Pliocene period he first made his appearance is
still a matter of conjecture. Recent researches would render
it probable that the early inhabitants of Britain and Western
Europe were witnesses of the stupendous phenomena of the Glacial
period; but this cannot be said to have been demonstrated. That
Man existed in these
regions during the
Post-Glacial division of Post-Pliocene time cannot be doubted
for a moment. As to the physical peculiarities of the ancient
races that lived with the Mammoth and the Woolly Rhinoceros,
little is known compared with what we may some day hope to know.
Such information as we have, however, based principally on the
skulls of the Engis, Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, and Bruniquel
caverns, would lead to the conclusion that Post-Pliocene Man
was in no respect inferior in his organisation to, or less
highly developed than, many existing races. All the known
skulls of this period, with the single exception of the
Neanderthal cranium, are in all respects average and normal in
their characters; and even the Neanderthal skull possessed a
cubic capacity at least equal to that of some existing races. The
implements of Post-Pliocene Man are exclusively of stone or bone;
and the former are invariably of rude shape and undressed.
These "palæolithic" tools (Gr. palaios; ancient;
lithos, stone) point to a very early condition of the
arts; since the men of the earlier portion of the Recent period,
though likewise unacquainted with the metals, were in the habit
of polishing or dressing the stone implements which they
It is impossible here to enter further into this subject; and
it would be useless to do so without entering as well into a
consideration of the human remains of the Recent period—a
period which lies outside the province of the present work. So
far as Post-Pliocene Man is concerned, the chief points which
the palæontological student has to remember have been
elsewhere summarised by the author as follows:—
1. Man unquestionably existed during the later portion of what
Sir Charles Lyell has termed the "Post-Pliocene" period. In other
words, Man's existence dates back to a time when several remarkable
Mammals, previously mentioned, had not yet become extinct; but he
does not date back to a time anterior to the present Molluscan
2. The antiquity of the so-called Post-Pliocene period is a matter
which must be mainly settled by the evidence of Geology proper,
and need not be discussed here.
3. The extinct Mammals with which man coexisted in Western Europe
are mostly of large size, the most important being the Mammoth
(Elephas primogenius), the Woolly Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros
tichorhinus), the Cave-lion (Felis spelœa), the
Cave-hyæna(Hyœna spelœa), and the Cave-bear
(Ursus spelœus). We do not know the causes which led
to the extinction of these Mammals; but we know that hardly any
Mammalian species has become extinct during the historical period.
4. The extinct Mammals with which man coexisted are referable in
many cases to species which presumably required a very different
climate to that now prevailing in Western Europe. How long a period,
however, has been consumed in the bringing about of the climatic
changes thus indicated, we have no means of calculating with any
approach to accuracy.
5. Some of the deposits in which the remains of man have been
found associated with the bones of extinct Mammals, are such as
to show incontestably that great changes in the physical geography
and surface-configuration of Western Europe have taken place
since the period of their accumulation. We have, however, no
means at present of judging of the lapse of time thus indicated
except by analogies and comparisons which may be disputed.
6. The human implements which are associated with the remains
of extinct Mammals, themselves bear evidence of an exceedingly
barbarous condition of the human species. Post-Pliocene or
"Palæolithic" Man was clearly unacquainted with the use
of any of the metals. Not only so, but the workmanship of these
ancient races was much inferior to that of the later tribes, who
were also ignorant of the metals, and who also used nothing but
weapons and tools of stone, bone, &c.
7. Lastly, it is only with the human remains of the Post-Pliocene
period that the palæontologist proper has to deal. When we
enter the "Recent" period, in which the remains of Man are
associated with those of existing species of Mammals, we
pass out of the region of pure palæontology into the domain
of the Archæologist and the Ethnologist.
The following are some of the principal works and memoirs to which
the student may refer for information as to the Post-Pliocene
deposits and the remains which they contain, as well as to the
primitive races of mankind:—
||'Elements of Geology.' Lyell.
||'Antiquity of Man.' Lyell.
||'Palæontological Memoirs.' Falconer.
||'The Great Ice-age.' James Geikie.
||'Manual of Palæontology.' Owen.
||'British Fossil Mammals and Birds.' Owen.
||'Cave-Hunting.' Boyd Dawkins.
||'Prehistoric Times.' Lubbock.
||'Ancient Stone Implements.' Evans.
||'Prehistoric Man.' Daniel Wilson.
||'Prehistoric Races of the United States.' Foster.
||'Manual of Geology.' Dana.
||'Monograph of Pleistocene Mammalia' (Palæontographical
Society). Boyd Dawkins and Sanford.
||'Monograph of the Post-Tertiary Entomostraca of Scotland,
&c., with an Introduction on the Post-Tertiary Deposits
of Scotland' (Ibid.) G. S. Brady, H. W. Crosskey, and D.
||"Reports on Kent's Cavern"—'British Association
||"Reports on the Victoria Cavern, Settle"—'British
Association Reports.' Tiddeman.
||'Ossemens Fossiles.' Cuvier.
||'Reliquiæ Diluvianæ.' Buckland.
||"Fossil Mammalia"—'Zoology of the Voyage of the
||'Description of the Tooth and Part of the Skeleton of
the Glyptodon.' Owen.
||"Memoir on the Extinct Sloth Tribe of North
America"—'Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge.'
||"Report on Extinct Mammals of Australia"—'British
Association,' 1844. Owen.
||'Description of the Skeleton of an Extinct Gigantic
Sloth (Mylodon robtutus).' Owen.
||"Affinities and Probable Habits of Thylacoleo"—'Quart.
Journ. Geol. Soc.,' vol. xxiv. Flower.
||'Prodromus of the Palæontology of Victoria.'
||'Les Ossemens Fossiles des Cavernes de Liège.'
||'Die Fauna der Pfahlbauten in der Schweiz.'
||"Extinct and Existing Bovine Animals of
Scandinavia"—'Annals of Natural History,' ser. 2, vol.
iv., 1849. Nilsson.
||'Man's Place in Nature.' Huxley.
||'Les Temps Antéhistoriques en Belgique.'
||"Classification of the Pleistocene Strata of Britain and
the Continent"—'Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc.,' vol. xxviii.
||'Distribution of the Post-Glacial Mammalia' (Ibid.), vol.
xxv. Boyd Dawkins.
||'On British Fossil Oxen' (Ibid.), vols. xxii. and xxiii.
||'British Prehistoric Mammals' (Congress of Prehistoric
Archæology, 1868). Boyd Dawkins.
||'Reliquiæ Aquitanicæ.' Lartet and
||'Zoologie et Paléontologie Françaises.'
||'Notes on the Post-Pliocene Geology of Canada.' Dawson.
||"On the Connection between the existing Fauna and Flora of
Great Britain and certain Geological Changes"—'Mem. Geol.
Survey.' Edward Forbes.
||'Cavern-Researches.' M'Enery. Edited by Vivian.
||"Quaternary Gravels"—'Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc.,' vol.