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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter I
Chapter I
An Essay on Archery.
Part 3 of 4

The preparation of fkins, it is faid, introduced a very important and ufeful difcovery. I mean the art of forming the wool, or fur, which was feparated in the dreffing, into a thread by platting, twifting, and, at length, fpining:—An art whofe invention has a very early ftation in hiftory, and appears to have exifted, in fome degree, in all places. The Scripture mentions it very early10; and the many fables of antiquity authenticate the fuppofition of its early origin. It is afcribed by the inhabitants of every ancient country to their founder. By the Greeks, Minerva is faid to have firft taught it,—and Arachne was turned into a Spider for challenging the Goddefs in that art. By a kind of weaving, alfo, very elegant veftments are fabricated from the bark of trees, leaves, and other vegetable productions, which muft excite the wonder and admiration of every one who examines them. Captain Cooke has brought to this country fpecimens of the ingenuity, and the exquifite workmartfhip fome of the more refined favages of the Pacific Ocean are able to execute, without the knowledge of the Metallurgic art.

While the intellectual powers of man, however, remain little improved, the arts cannot attain any confiderable degree of excellence; and hence it proceeds, that in uncultivated nations they differ but little. People fituated in circumftances nearly fimilar, oppreffed by fimilar wants, and unallured by artificial pleafures, continue cuftoms and opinions, in an unvaried courfe, through years and centuries;—nor does the Tartar differ from the Scythian, but in name. Every one is an epitome of the whole hord, and every day the picture of a life.

This is not peculiar to the rude inhabitants of Afia, travellers report the Arabs to live in a manner very fimilar to that of the Tartars. They dwell in tents, which, as occafion requires, are tranfported from place to place; and as their chief care is but to fubfift, they often move, and generally purfue that path where plenty invites With thefe the old fimile is ftrictly verified,—That life is a journey.11 The depths of Africa are found to comprehend people of the fame kind; and in America there are others who, in moft particulars, refemble the Afiatic and African races. From Hudfon's Bay northward to the Pole, the Efkimaux favages inhabit an immenfe, and almoft boundlefs continent. Affociating in fmall troops, and ranging through the forefts, they preferve the fame manners, and the fame general character of Arabs, but much inferior in underftanding, and in the poffeffion of the comforts of life. The Germans, as defcribed by Tacitus, differed little from the people before mentioned. They had no towns, but lived in fmall huts, diftinct, and in the depths of the foreft, which at that time overfpread their country, and fubfifted by their bow in hunting.12

The paftoral ftate feems to have fucceeded that of the hunter13; for as fome animals were capable of being rendered tame by difcipline and habit, this method of preferving food, by domeftication, would foon be adopted, as affording a more certain refource than the chace. Indeed, a numerous fociety of people Could not exift long unlefs a refervoir of food was perpetually at hand, to affift in cafe thofe who foraged were unfuccefsful.

In the prefent time, the moft barbarous nations fubfift, in fome meafure, by this practice, particularly thofe which are moft populous ; yet there are others which ftill lead a life of hunting for prey, as before defcribed, not having the arts of domeftication in ufe, or thofe of agriculture.14

In this way did the firft inhabitants of the world exift; but after fome ages, we find, a cuftom of eating even human flefh, to have obtained among many nations. What could tempt men to this practice, is not very obvious; but the original caufe, in fome inftances, perhaps, might be neceffity. Another caufe has been affigned by fome authors, who obferve, that human facrifices have been as common as the eating of human flefh; and they fuppofe thefe facrifices might have induced men to have eaten of the flefh from the fire, as was common in other facrifices. Thefe practices, however ftrange they may appear, have polluted the altars of almoft every people under the Sun, in fome period or other of their hiftory. In America, Afia and Africa they ftill exift; and the teftimonies of the beft hiftorians will prove them to have been in Europe before the laws of civilized fociety were introduced. The Romans found a race of cannibals in a part of this ifland; they were named the Attacotti, and are faid to have lived upon human flefh:—"When they hunted the woods for prey, they attacked the fhepherd rather than the flock, and curioufly felected the moftdelicate parts of both males and females, which they prepared for their horrid repafts."15 The Druids are faid to have eaten human flefh, and to have facrificed the prifoners taken in war, and performed the ceremony with brutifh cruelty.

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