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It is in this way that philology, hitherto considered, and justly so, as but a learned kind of trifling, may become the handmaid to history.
Many a habit and custom, become obsolete and lost in practice, may be made known to us by the name and term for it, which it may have left as its memorial behind it. Words are the representatives of deeds and actions. We cannot make known the one without the intervention of the other. If words, then, be but imperfectly or improperly understood, the representations through them are weakened and, so far, their use impaired, and their value, as the currency of men's minds, lessened. Of this matter, even when we speak and write, we think too little. Hence language becomes lax, vague, fluctuating, and the import of what we say or write, by mere negligence, uncertain. Over dead languages we spend, some of us, much of our time. Yet unless we make our knowledge of dead languages available to the elucidation and improvement of our own living one, our minds might almost as well be dead within us. When we converse with the dead we do not fully do our duty unless we make their language, as well as their thoughts, a benefit to the living.
[EDITORIAL Note.—This view of the value of philology in relation to history is one with which we are happily familiar; but at the time when this paper was written (before 1849) it was otherwise : and one reason for now printing it is to show how the course of events and current experience demonstrate the soundness of the esteemed author's views, dating, as they do, from a period anterior to that since which the works of Trench, Max-Müller, Latham and others have made the subject popular.]
THE PRE-HISTORIC MAN OF CHESHIRE :
OR, SOME ACCOUNT OF A HUMAN SKELETON FOUND
UNDER THE LEASOWE SHORE IN WIRRAL.
By Lieut.-Gen. the Hon. Sir Edward Cust, D.C.L. dc.
(READ 12th May, 1864.)
Upon the coast of the hundred of Wirral in the county of Chester, under the loftiest of the sandhills that bound the shore from the Dee to the Mersey, there was found on the 22nd January, 1864, by the workmen employed on the Leasowe Embankment, a nearly perfect male human skeleton, which must have lain there from some very remote period. The body could not have been recently placed on the spot where it was found by any conceivable means, since the sandhill which existed there was nearly 100 feet in height and, within my own memory, was as much as three or four hundred yards removed from the tide. No casualty from shipwreck, nor other act of violence, could, by possibility, have stowed away a victim in such a place; and moreover it must have been prior to the formation of these hills, of which there is no extant historic record, that this most ancient inhabitant of our land here laid down his earthly tabernacle.
The skeleton was discovered under the following circumstances : a navvy, preparing for his work as the tide receded, saw amid the black peat a white substance which he thought to be a broken basin, but, on removing it with his hands, proved to be a human skull. He immediately carried it to bis ganger, who had the rest of the bones carefully removed
for safety to a neighbouring building. The body was observed to lie by compass E. and W.; and, when first exhumed, the bones were very white but, shortly after exposure to the air, they became dark and inky. The whole district about Leasowe Castle is sand based upon three or four feet of peat soil, which itself rests upon blue silt or clay. The skeleton was placed below the peat and upon the blue clay. The late rapid inroads of the sea have destroyed the sand-hills, but, when these are washed away, the peat deposit is exposed, just as it is found inland in form, substance and thickness; and, until very recently, great masses of peat soil with the remains of trees in them have existed down to the lowest low water mark.
The bones were carefully collected; but it is possible that some may have been washed away before they could be removed. They consisted of a skull with all the teeth but one in excellent condition ; the humerus and pelvis complete and proving the subject to have possessed great strength; both arm-bones and one leg-bone complete, but the finger and toe bones having, for the most part, perished : the left shin bone was also broken half way down ; the vertebræ and ribs were incomplete. The remains have been carefully deposited in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London, where they have been examined by Sir Charles Lyell and other eminent osteologists. On Tuesday the 22nd of March they were lectured on at the meeting of the Ethnological Society by Professor Busk, who said “the cranium was well
formed; but there were some peculiarities in it which indi"cated an original race or savage tribe. Other skeletons had “ been found similarly situated in other parts of the country;" and he suggested "that, by the examination of their crania, “it might be possible to distinguish the differences in the “ three tribes by whom Britain was occupied on the invasion “ of the Romans.”
The entire Hundred of Wirral was an ancient forest until the reign of Edward III ; and remains of oak, pine and yew may still be traced along its shore, as well as upon the opposite coast of Lancashire. This great submarine forest is continually yielding to the rude shocks of ocean the skulls and horns of extinct and recent animals and many fine balks of timber fit for the upholsterer’s use. The library at Leasowe Castle is fitted up with this oak, partly black and part only discoloured, but perfectly close and sound. Stumps of trees still stand where they were at first rooted, at about a mile distant from the place of the skeleton's grave. An almost perfect skull of Bos Primigenius was found not far removed from it. Many antlers and skulls, with their branching horns attached, of Cervus Elephas occur, and specimens of the defences of the prickets of the same species may be seen with the above in the staircase hall of the Castle. The skull of Bos Longifrons has been found in the adjoining Estuary called Wallasey Pool, together with other remains ; these have been seen and lectured on by Professor Owen and they are therefore well known through the medium of books. It has been stated in the Transactions" of the Liverpool Institution that a gentleman resident in Birkenhead had constructed an almost entire skeleton of a horse of small size, equalling a Shetland pony in height, from remains made from the ancient forest bed at Leasowe, but that the gentleman is dead and the work of his hands scattered and lost. The bones of the ox, pig, deer and dog and the pectoral bones of a Silurus are stated by the same lecturer (Mr. Hine) to have been taken from the peat or from the natural soil below it on the Leasowe shore. I am not aware, however, that a discovery has ever occurred of any memorial of primæval man's industry, either in stone or metal, in pottery or implements of war or the chase, in any portion of this extensive forest. Some writers of note have imagined that,
below the sandhills, there has been an intervening bed of blue silt between two peat beds, and that shells, bones and teeth of animals have been found in the upper of these, and Roman remains in the lower; and they have imagined a
convergence of the strata" into one another at some stated points, by way of accounting for there being for the most part only one stratum of peat: but this must be regarded as a mistaken account of the soil, the nature of which will be found to pervade equally the entire district whenever it has been turned up by the plough or has been exposed by the attacks of the sea, viz., 1, Sand ; 2, Peat; 3, blue Silt with boulders of various sizes ; and, 4, a strong impracticable red Marl, almost of the consistency of stone. This is the constant succession of strata, but in the lowest bed there are neither boulders nor fossil remains of any kind to be met with, though there are occasionally nuts &c.
What account, then, can be given of Our Pre-historic Cheshireman ? We look in vain for some information respecting him in the pages of our Hon. Secretary's “Antiquities of " the Sea-Coast of Cheshire ;” our learned friend is too modern for us by a great deal : his Fibulæ, his Tags, his Straps and Buckles illustrate more civilised days. Our search is after Britons more ancient than even the
“ Pictos Britannos Hospitium ferox”—
men of a time which must have been before the Roman invasion by land or before that of the Phænicians by water. Nay, we must even struggle past the time of Druidism, for we have neither Cromlechs nor Sacrificial Stones to direct
way ; and we may assume that when this our countryman lived, neither the oak nor the misletoe had become a mystic symbol. We claim for him an antiquity beyond any existing parchments, for we cannot hope to find anything written concerning him, nor has the art of Sculptor