S&SWM PR papers L1037


University Museum Oxford | Aug 19 1894

Dear General Pitt-Rivers

Reading your letter makes me regret that I did not catch the opportunity of passing through your hands the whole lot of Tasmanian implements, wasters, and chips, now here, approaching 200 in number, and mostly got by me from Brown's River near Hobart. At Section H [of BAAS] my point being to contrast the 3 ground specimens from Brighton with the ordinary chipped stones, I only put a few on the table beside similar ones from Le Moustier. I see now that I ought to have put on the most complete series possible. But I hope that before long you will give me the benefit of your opinion as to which are only to be considered wasters. One thing has to be noticed, however, that the Europeans saw the natives pick up a stone or knock off a flake, and either with a little further trimming, or put as it was, use it for their immediate purpose and then throw it away, which looks as if what elsewhere might be mere waste bits were here used often as implements. Milligan himself told me that when an implement was good, the women would take the trouble to carry it away with them, which looks as if many poorly shaped stones must have been used and thrown away. As yet among the worked stones which have come from Tasmania (putting the three ground Australians out of the question) none have appeared better than those figured in my paper (of which I send a copy with some passages marked). These seem to correspond with the descriptions of the natives trimming and edging them by blows taking off chips on one side only, but I cannot find as yet any description or specimen giving evidence that they did work of a higher class. To judge from the description of your 15 specimens which I trust will yet turn up, they seem much the same. But no one can be more sensible than myself that the matter ought to be settled by more careful examination on the spot, such as you say ought to be made. Can you suggest any way of getting this done? Perhaps the discussion now passed may stimulate the Van Diemeners to go into the problem again. The Anthropological Institute might write a formal letter to the Royal Society of Tasmania. I have nothing more to say but that Cartailhac tells me he has another cave where the worked stones correspond more closely to Tasmanian than those of Le Moustier.

Your visit to Oxford was a source of great profit and enjoyment to us, as your too rare visits always are, and you must have been gratified to see how Anthropology flourishes here.

Your very truly
EB Tylor

Pitt-Rivers had attended the 1894 BAAS meeting in Oxford, and had spent time with the Tylors. Obviously he had reacted either face-to-face or by letter afterwards to one of Tylor's presentations at the meeting. Tylor was particularly intrigued by Tasmanian stone tools and what they might tell about Tasmanian Aboriginal culture (then deemed to have died out).

The stone tools that Tylor mentions in the first sentence from Brown River, Tasmania did not form part of the Pitt Rivers Museum collections in 1894. There is a handlist of correspondence about Tasmanian stone tools in the Tylor papers at the Pitt Rivers Museum, the first entry is dated August 1893 and comes from W.L. Williamson and relates to material from Browns River. Further correspondence continues until 1897. I am very grateful to Ollie Douglas for pointing out this connection to me and adding that 'this appears to have been material that was bunched together with Moir materials and accessioned subsequent to Tylor’s death – see a subset of some 87 items within 1917.53. in the PRM collections, which all seem to contain reference to Williamson'. This relates to items 1917.53.157 and on, the accession book entry for which reads 'Accession Book Entry - COLLECTION of the late Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, D.C.L., F.R.S. Presented by LADY TYLOR, 1917. PREHISTORIC - [1 of] 87 Implements of stone more or less worked into shape or trimmed at edges (some of secondary work is very slight), TASMANIA. Collected by Alexander Morton, W.L. Williamson, J.P. Moir.' So the number appears to have dropped considerably. See E.B. Tylor 'On Stone implements from Tasmania. extracts from a letter from J. Paxton Moir' JAI vol 30 (1900) 257-262. In Tylor's introduction to H. Ling Roth 18999 'The Aborigines of Tasmania' 2nd edition '...Some of the best of these [stone tool collections from Tasmania in the Pitt Rivers Museum] were sent by Mr Alexander Morton of the Hobart Museum, and my own collection [he presumably means his private collection], containing numerous formed implements and chips of varied quality, was mostly procured for me by Mr Williamson of Brown's River...' [p. vii]. There actually appears to be 95 of these objects.

Judging by the letter it seems likely that the tools from Brighton were probably (but not definitely) borrowed from the founding collection, there are 18 stone tools from Pitt-Rivers excavations at Hollingbury all found on 10 June 1868 in that collection, Tylor would have had access to them as Keeper of the University Museum. He could also have borrowed the stone tools from Le Moustier from the Pitt Rivers Museum, at this time there were 15 in the collections from John Wickham Flower and Christy and Lartet (most of the latter via the founding collection). Emile Cartailhac (1845-1921) was a French prehistorian, one of the founding fathers of the study of cave art. At this time he was teaching at the University in Toulouse.



The Museum House Oxford | Sep. 30 1894

My dear General Pitt Rivers

It was a great satisfaction to have your opinion on the Tasmanian implements after going through the evidence. I wish however that another effort could be made to get the geologists and anthropologists at Hobart Town to have fuller searches in different districts of Tasmania, so as to see whether the rude chipped implements are the same everywhere, and whether the polished ones are ever to be found. If any way of getting this done occurs to you will you kindly tell me. We were much pleased to see the appreciative article in the Spectator on your Museum and Garden.

I am very glad that you think Section H did well. For myself, I found it a profit and pleasure to have more talks with your than I had had for a good while

Yrs very truly
EB Tylor


[Printed, extract from British Association Report]

On some Stone Implements of Australian type from Tasmania

By E.B. Tylor, D.C.L., F.R.S.

The ordinary stone implements used by the Tasmanians were remarkable for their rudeness. They come generally under the definition of substantial flakes, trimmed and edged by chipping on one side only, not ground even at the edge, and grasped in the hand without any kind of handle. The palaeolithic level of these implements, notwithstanding their often recent date, had been pointed out by the writer. [1] In illustration of this comparison, Tasmanian implements wre not exhibited side by side with flint implements from the cavern of Le Moustier, in Dordogne. But an important point of exception as to this comparison, mentioned in the paper referred to, demands reconsideration in view of the new evidence now brought forward. In the investigation as to native stone implements conducted about twenty years ago by the Royal Society of Tasmania, some exceptional statements were made as to stone axes or 'tomahawks' being ground to an edge, and fixed in handles, and these were explained as due to the Australian natives who have passed into Tasmania since the European settlement. What was meant by these statements now appears more clearly from three ground implements of distinctly Australian character, well authenticated as brought from Tasmania, and now exhibited by the courtesy of the Municipality of Brighton, to whose museum they belong. The largest has a label showing that it was obtained through Dr Joseph Milligan, probably from Mr G.A. Robinson, the first protector of the aborigines after the native war; and that it was grasped in the hand for notching trees in climbing. The other two specimens are merely marked 'Tasmanian.' with the initials 'G.A.R.' The coexistence of two such different types as the chipped and ground forms in Tasmania requires, however, further explanation. This may probably be found in the immigration of Australians either after or before the English colonisation, but it would be desirable that anthropologists in Tasmania should make further enquiry into the question on the spot, so as fully to clear up the interesting position of the Tasmanian Stone Age.

[1] 'On the Tasmanians as Representatives of Palaeolithic Man'' in Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vol xxiii 1893, p.141

Transcribed by AP for Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project June 2011

prm logo