A Philological Essay Concerning the Pygmies of the Ancientsby Edward Tyson
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This volume forms a very important contribution to the sciences of ethnology and folklore. The book is almost equally divided between the reprint of Tyson's pamphlet and the editor's Introduction, of which the latter is vastly the more interesting:, although the former contains much that is deserving of consideration. Who Dr. Tyson was is explained in the Introduction; wherein it is stated that the essay now reprinted formed a supplement to his Anatomy of a Pygmie, which "pygmie," it appears, was no other than a certain chimpanzee whose skeleton may yet be been in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington. And the argument advanced by Tyson is that " the pygmies, the cynocephali, the satyrs and sphinges of the ancients, were either apes or monkeys, and not men, as formerly pretended." This, however, says Prof. Windle, is a theory which has been demolished by the discoveries of the present century. '' We now know not merely that there are pigmy races in existence, but that the area which they occupy is an extensive one, and in the remote past has without doubt been more extensive still."
The first two sections of the Introduction contain a comprehensive survey of the various dwarfish races known to science, and the editor endeavours, with much skill and success, to indicate the tribes that may reasonably be regarded as the descendants of the pigmies spoken of by classical writers. He shows, moreover, that Tyson, in his eagerness to prove that all such references denoted apes or monkeys, actually shut his eyes to the plain meaning of many passages which cannot possibly be held to sustain his argument. Yet, on the other hand, it is by no means certain that Tyson was wholly wrong.
As the greater part of the Introduction deals with " the little people of story and legend," with the view of considering how far such stories and legends owe their origin to veritable dwarf races, and as this necessitates several references to the writings of the present reviewer, it is not inappropriate to discuss this aspect of the question in some detail.
In speaking of dwarfs and pigmies there is the initial difficulty of not knowing exactly what is meant by these terms, especially with regard to stature. But Prof. Windle's upward limit of 4 ft. 9 in. is a liberal allowance, which cannot justly be called in question. With this definition in view, then, he proceeds to make various observations tending, on the whole, to the conclusion that, however applicable to races in Africa and Asia, "pigmy" could never have been suitably applied to any European race. But it will be seen that this general argument was found to require modification after the text had been in type. At p. xxxvii. Prof. Windle observes:
"Leaving aside for the moment the Lapps [whose average male stature he states to be five feet], there does not appear to have been at any time a really pigmy race in Europe, so far as any discoveries which have been made up to the present time show."
-The Academy and Literature, Volume 47 
- BN ID:
- D. Nutt
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- Barnes & Noble
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- 232 KB
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