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EARTHMEN OF AFRICA.
Their Country and History.
The true native country of this diminutive race is the immense elevated plateau lying between the Gariep or Orange River, in Africa, and the mountains which extend from the Roggeveld earth to the Snow mountains. This river, which flows into the Atlantic in lat. 28° 38' S., long. 16° 28' E., bounds, westwardly, the settlement of Port Natal, 1200 to 1400 miles distant from Cape Town, and rises in the mountainous district inhabited by this singular people. This district is more barren and in hospitable than that wild and barren tract, the Karoo itself. At certain times of the year, the latter is refreshed with genial rains; the arid patches become green and lovely to the eye ; for a brief period, the sandy plain is almost hidden with a bright carpet of flowers. But no such expressions of Nature's goodness are ever seen to play on the hard features of the stony-hearted region inhabited by the poor Earthmen, and long periods glare on with, unceasing heat, and without the soil being fertilized with a single drop of rain. Nothing is seen there but rocks, and nothing flourishes naturally but serpents and lizards, a few succulent plants being the only harvest it ever knows. It is walled in by two different climates—that of the Cape Colony, and that of the Caffre country; but it is never visited with the genial winter rains of the former, nor benefited by the purifying thunder-storms of the latter. At rare intervals, a hasty cloud, in passing over, will discharge itself, as if by chance, and that is all. Such is the savage country of the Earthmen-cultivation being thrown away on the land, and its inhabitants driven to
But two of these Earthmen have ever been brought to any civilized nation, and the unfortunate death of one of them leaves the present survivor as the only specimen of this strange people who will be seen by the Enlightened World for many generations, if not for all time; for the persecutions of their enemies, and their habits of non-intercourse with other tribes, as regards marriage, bid fair, eventually, to sweep them utterly away from among the family of men. The tribe is now to be met with along the entire range of the Orange River; yet such is their secrecy of living, so secluded are they in their habits, and so shrinking and timidly sensitive are they at the approach of any but their own people, that many of the longest residents at Port Natal have never seen, and but scarcely heard of them. These habits arise from the ferocity with which they are hunted by the savage tribes which surround them.
The Earthman has no friends. He lives in a large, unvarying circle of enemies, from whom his only escape is invisibility, and this he accomplishes by burrowing holes into the ground, and there finding shelter beyond the reach of man or beast. It is this singular habit from which their name of “Earthmen” is derived." A colony of them resembles a gigantic warren of rabbits. Along the precipitous sides of a range of mountains, the sunny border of which lies by a stream of fresh water, and high up from its banks, thousands of holes are constructed, which extend back into the
from which penetrate from one mountain to another, upwards of twenty miles. These holes are so numerous and intricate, that in the course of time whole mountains become honey-combed, and a colony of Earthmen, who have been hunted from one side of a mountain, will speedily reappear on the other side. Busy settlements in one section of the country are quickly deserted, and its flying population find homes, many miles distant, without betray. ing the slightest movement in the open air. Thousands of little figures are constantly busy hewing out new excavations, at which long practice has made them most expert. For this purpose, their toe and finger nails are cultivated in the shape of scoops or shovels, and the arms and legs being worked rapidly together, a fountain of dirt flies from the ground under the efforts of the busy little creature, who penetrates into it like the point of an auger, scattering rocks and dirt in every direction. On a hole being commenced, for a few minutes this pile of rubbish grows larger, until the little creature is fairly out of sight, and then the loose earth is carefully removed to some subterranean receptacle, while rocks and moss are placed so as to conceal the entrance, leaving upon the mountain side the same unbroken surface as before
A more interesting scene can scarcely pe imagined than that of their settlement, when undisturbed. For several miles' distance the hill-sides are teeming with a busy population, actively passing to and fro among their habitations. Thousands are in pursuit of game; thousands are building new habitations, while other thousands are peeping from the surface of the ground, or chatting together in little groups near the entrances. If a Bushman, Hot
even when he is miles distant, and in a moment the busy thou. sands vanish ; the entrances to their holes are quickly covered, and not a sound is heard, nor a twig stirs, where all before was life and
animation. If the native African, or beast of prey, discovers one of the holes, and is small enough to penetrate therein, nothing will be seen and nothing heard, but soon being blocked up before and behind, a lingering death is sure to await the adventurer.
The sustenance of the Earthmen is poor and precarious. Ixias, wild garlic, the core of aloes, the gum of acarias, and several other plants, berries, and roots, constitute their fruits; while almost every kind of living creature and creeping thing, lizards, locusts, and grasshoppers not excepted, form their staple meats. The poisonous, as well as innoxious serpents, they roast and eat. They cut off the head of the former, which they dissect, and extract the bags, or reservoirs of poison which communicate with the fangs of the upper jaw. Eggs also are favorite sources of sustenance, and whether they be of the ostrich, mud turtle, or those of the white ant, they are all eagerly sought for. In the winter, if provisions run short, the Earthman is glad to dine off an old gnu-skin. This he steeps in water, rubs off the hair, and then gnaws it, extracting enough nourishment to last him, in his almost torpid state, for months together. The Earthmen have no household utensils, except tortoise-shell cups, ostrich-egg gourds, and similar rude implements. Some of them have . knives, but more for ornament than use, as they eat flesh raw, and masticate it but little while roots and esculent plants are dug up with the hands.
The necessity of procuring food by artifice, since they have no flocks, herds or plants which they can call their own, has led to their use of poisoned arrows, in the preparation of which they excel all known tribes. The poison, when first applied, is of a brown color and glutinous quality. When fresh, it has the consistency of wax, but soon dries, and becomes hard. The principal ingredient is the poison of serpents, but as this is of itself too thin, they mix it with the poisonous sap of the euphorbia plant. Another poison is extracted from the bulb of the humanthus tuxicartus, which is a sharp alkali, and when mixed with the blood decomposes it immediately. Another sort bears the name of rock poison, from being a viscous substance occasionally found upon the rocks. The ingredients are mixed according to the object against which the arrows are to be used. If against a man, there is used a larger proportion of the serpent poison ; while for beasts, that of the euphorbia plant is found most fatal. The different poisons are prepared and mixed in hol. low stones, previously heated, and with the most extreme care, as instant deaths occur when the slightest puncture is made by the poison tipper. The preparing of the arrows and mixing the poison are considered by the Earthmen as arts in which but few of their countrymen attain perfection, and the art of correctly distinguishing the poisonous serpents from those which are not so is deemed SO worthy an acquisition, that those of the tribe who are thus gifted enjoy a superior rank over the common people. The most active reptiles are generally deemed to be those of the most nox
ious kind. Thus, the well-horned serpeno, which, among the white colonists, is considered so very dangerous, is well esteemed by the Earthmen, since, although very poisonous, it does not move rapidly, and is easily taken. Others, usually good for poisonous purposes, are denounced by the Earthmen as having no effective poison when about to cast their skins. The greater the trouble which the Earthmen have in catching a serpent, and the harder they have to hold it down, with the stones which they retain, for this purpose, in their hands, the more pungent and deadly is the poison deemed likely to be by the Earthmen connoisseurs. Their dexterity and courage in catching these serpents are truly astonishing; no sooner do they find the reptile upon a clear spot, than they place one foot upon its back, their legs and feet encased in skins wrapped around for this purpose. The serpent at once snaps at the foot, and while its attention is thus diverted, the native instantly snatches at the head from behind, with his open hand, and closes the eyes and mouth of the reptile with a grasp of such certainty and strength as is only acquired by long practice and rare boldness. They then separate the head from the body with a knife, or, for want of that, bite it off! The bag of poison is then taken from the head and prepared at once for use, to allow no time for its pungency to evaporate.
The Earthmen have no recognized language beyond the simple and almost unintelligible patois which designates their simple wants : they are almost without names, among themselves; are without enjoyments, beyond extravagant feasting and the use of tobacco; they have no knowledge of the Supreme Being ; they know no marriage state, and make no distinction of girl, maiden or wife. They seem naturally to be animated with but one fear-that of death-while the persecution to which they are subjected and the general nature of their intercourse with each other render love to kith and kin unknown, but love to their whole race strong and fervent indeed.
The two little Eartamen, who alone of all this people have ever been captured, were brought to England from Southern Africa, under the care of Captain Wetherall, in the brig Hannah, in the year 1850. The agent of a large Dutch mercantile house, at Port Natal, had fallen in with them on the Drakenburg Mountains, among the tribes of which he was penetrating for the purchase of elephants' tusks. He was especially interested by the singular intelligence of a little boy and girl, and ascertaining that their parents had been murdered, he succeeded in purchasing them for a few beads and buttons, and they returned with him to his residence at Pietermaritzberg, on the coast, where their aptitude at mental culture was so soon made manifest, that he disliked to see the little crea.. tures neglected and running wild about his counting house. He therefore sent them to England for education, where they arrived in 1851, and where they were placed under the care of Mr. Daniel George, at Waddon, near Croydon. Arriving there, ignorant and
uncouth to the last extent, speaking n Language except a few words of Dutch, picked up since their capture, they so rapidly pro. gressed in knowledge and culture, that on the 6th August, 1853, they were presented to the Queen, at Buckingham Palace, who was greatly pleased with their vivacity, intelligence and courtesy. There was a difference of two years in their ages, the account sent over with them representing the boy, who was christened by his captor as Martinus, to have been 16 years of age, and the girl, whom he named Flora, as 14 years old. Full-length models of them were taken by Dr. R. J. Latham, for the Ethnological Department, at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, England, and for a long period these unique specimens of a pigmy race received the attention of the most noted Savans and Philosophers of Europe, and that of the English Press, from among the abundant notices of which the two following extracts are made :
ETHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY—THE EARTHMEN.-At a conversation at the rooms of the Society, on the evening of the 8th January, these pigmies of the human race were examined by the chief Scientific Professor of the metropolis, and by many Ethnologists from various parts of the kingdom, distinguished by the ardor of their pursuit in this interesting branch of knowledge. Sir Benjamin Brodie presided on the occasion. The greatest interest was elicited by the perfect proportion of their forms; and their marked intelligence, gentleness of manners, and gracefulness of movement, were the ruling topic of conversation. The conclusion arrived at by the principal examiners, after a vast array of conflicting arguments, founded on the contradictory reports of travelers and missionaries, who had visited Southern Africa, was, that the “Erdmanner" then present wero members of a race entirely distinct from the Hottentot, the Kaffir, the Bosjesman, or the Batarde ; that, although possessing certain characteristics which were common to the various races hitherto discovered in the interior of the vast unexplored region of Southern Africa, these little beings were specimens of a pure, uncontaminated people, becoming, from certain moral and physical causes, rapidly extinct. It was unanimously pronounced by all present-Dr. Latham included-that these Earthmen were the most curious, as well as the most interesting-whether viewed morally or physically-of any of the several varieties of the human family which have hitherto been brought to Europe. Their models, cast in bronze, form a part of the Ethnological department of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.- London Morning Post
THE EARTHMEN.-Two specimens, male and female, of the last link in the human chain, termed the Earthmen, or Erdmanniges (the penultimate being the Bosjesman), have been in this country since 1851. The taller of the two is not three feet and a half in height; but they have lost no time in acquiring the rudi. ments of European civilization, and they play on the piano and sing in a pretty, childish style. The expression of their countenances is very pleasing, and the figures and movements of the children are remarkably graceful. They are, in a drawing room, quite at their ease, so that the visitor literally gives them a call, and becomes one of their society.-London Times.
At the period when these notices were given, the children had attained the height of thirty-nine and a half inches, which did not vary materially from what it was when they left Africa. Those who recollected them on the passage could then discern no perceptible increase of size, but, as the children advanced from youth to maturity, their forms gradually developed to a height of about four feet. This is rather above the usual size of their race, but is amply accounted for by the generous diet and comfortable circumstances of civilized life, over the habits of starvation and want peculiar to