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American ArchÆological Problems1

Nature volume 88, pages 428429 (25 January 1912) | Download Citation



MR. ALFRED P. MAUDSLAY delivered his presidential address at the annual general meeting of the Royal Anthropological Institute on Tuesday, January 23. Mr. Maudslay said that even at the present day the idea that the origin of man does not form a fit subject for scientific inquiry has not yet entirely died out, and this feeling has militated against anthropology becoming a popular study. Meanwhile, the immediate and energetic prosecution of anthropological studies is of vital necessity, since the material with which this science deals is becoming rarer every year, as primitive customs yield to civilisation. The fact that man's physique is less subject to alteration gives a permanent value to the study of physical anthropology. An example of the far-reaching effects of a change in culture is, let us say, the introduction of writing, which has a democratic tendency, since it places the tribal law, formerly preserved in the memories of the elders, at the disposal of the younger members of the tribe. Upon the present occasion attention may be confined to certain points of the archæology of America, where there are traces of many extinct civilisations. The word civilisation is used for want of a better; such a people as the Aztecs, though civilised in some respects, were barbarous, or even savage, in others. In fact, our terminology requires revision, for the existence of a savage custom, such as cannibalism, does not necessarily imply a low stage of culture. Want of recognition of this fact has caused many misunderstandings between Europeans and the “barbarous “races. Such misunderstandings might be avoided by a knowledge of elementary anthropology, and this institute has not ceased to press upon the Government the advisability of establishing in this country an Anthropological Bureau, which would be of material assistance to colonial administration.

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