A Journey to the Interior of the Earth HTML version
The Professor In His Chair Again
To understand this apostrophe of my uncle's, made to absent French savants, it will be
necessary to allude to an event of high importance in a palaeontological point of view,
which had occurred a little while before our departure.
On the 28th of March, 1863, some excavators working under the direction of M. Boucher
de Perthes, in the stone quarries of Moulin Quignon, near Abbeville, in the department of
Somme, found a human jawbone fourteen feet beneath the surface. It was the first fossil
of this nature that had ever been brought to light. Not far distant were found stone
hatchets and flint arrow-heads stained and encased by lapse of time with a uniform coat
The noise of this discovery was very great, not in France alone, but in England and in
Germany. Several savants of the French Institute, and amongst them MM. Milne-
Edwards and de Quatrefages, saw at once the importance of this discovery, proved to
demonstration the genuineness of the bone in question, and became the most ardent
defendants in what the English called this 'trial of a jawbone.' To the geologists of the
United Kingdom, who believed in the certainty of the fact--Messrs. Falconer, Busk,
Carpenter, and others-- scientific Germans were soon joined, and amongst them the
forwardest, the most fiery, and the most enthusiastic, was my uncle Liedenbrock.
Therefore the genuineness of a fossil human relic of the quaternary period seemed to be
incontestably proved and admitted.
It is true that this theory met with a most obstinate opponent in M. Elie de Beaumont.
This high authority maintained that the soil of Moulin Quignon was not diluvial at all, but
was of much more recent formation; and, agreeing in that with Cuvier, he refused to
admit that the human species could be contemporary with the animals of the quaternary
period. My uncle Liedenbrock, along with the great body of the geologists, had
maintained his ground, disputed, and argued, until M. Elie de Beaumont stood almost
alone in his opinion.
We knew all these details, but we were not aware that since our departure the question
had advanced to farther stages. Other similar maxillaries, though belonging to individuals
of various types and different nations, were found in the loose grey soil of certain
grottoes in France, Switzerland, and Belgium, as well as weapons, tools, earthen utensils,
bones of children and adults. The existence therefore of man in the quaternary period
seemed to become daily more certain.
Nor was this all. Fresh discoveries of remains in the pleiocene formation had emboldened
other geologists to refer back the human species to a higher antiquity still. It is true that
these remains were not human bones, but objects bearing the traces of his handiwork,
such as fossil leg-bones of animals, sculptured and carved evidently by the hand of man.