Engels on Early German History 1882

The Dawn of Human Culture


From: Frederick Engels, A Contribution to Early German History;
Source: Marx Engels On Literature and Art, Moscow 1976;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

After the second Ice Age, as the climate gradually grew warmer, man appeared all over Europe, North Africa, and the Anterior Asia all the way to India, accompanied by now extinct large pachyderms (the mammoth, the straight-tusked elephant, and the woolly rhinoceros) and predatory animals (the cave lion and cave bear), as well as by surviving species (the reindeer, horse, hyena, lion, bison, and aurochs). The implements belonging to this period indicate an extremely low level of culture; the crude stone knives, pear-shaped stone hoes or axes used without handles, scrapers used to clean animal hides, borers, all made of flint, are at about the level of those used by the present-day natives of Australia. Those bones that have been found permit no conclusions regarding the build of these men, but from their wide dissemination and the uniformity of their culture we may presume that the period lasted for a very long time.

We have no idea what became of this early Paleolithic man. None of the present-day races in any of the areas where he existed, even in India, can be considered as descending from him.

The implements of this extinct race have been discovered in the caves of England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Southern Germany, mostly in the undermost layers of soil deposit. Above this lowest level of culture, frequently separated from it by a thick or thin layer of stalactite, is a second layer containing implements. Belonging to a later period, these are far more skilfully crafted and made of various materials. True, the stone implements are not polished, but they are designed and executed so as to be more expedient. Next to these we discover spear- and arrow-heads of stone, reindeer antlers and bones, daggers and sewing needles made from bones or antlers, as well as necklaces made of bored animal’s teeth, etc. Some implements bear vivid drawings of animals — reindeers, mammoths, aurochs, seals, whales — and hunting scenes with figures of naked men, even the beginnings of sculpture in horn.

Early Paleolithic man occurred together with animals of largely southern origin, while late Paleolithic man existed alongside animals of northern origin: two extant species of northern bears, the polar fox, the glutton, the snow owl. Late Paleolithic. man probably moved down from the north-east together with these animals. The Eskimoes are probably his last surviving descendants. The implements of both cultures correspond fully not only in isolated instances, but as a totality. The same is true of the drawings. Both derived their sustenance from nearly the same animals, and the mode of life of the extinct race, insofar as we can ascertain it, was absolutely the same.