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Jade Tools in Switzerland

[Chapter XXXIX of volume 2 of Rolleston's Scientific Papers ...]

Intro: The Geneva Correspondent of the 'Times' newspaper, Dec. 17, 1879, having referred to the 'find' of a jade instrument in the bed of the Rhone in the course of excavations then being conducted, and having raised the question of the region from which the mineral Jade had been derived, a correspondence extending over some weeks took place, in which Professor Max Müller, Mr Hodder M. Westropp, Dr Rolleston, Professor Story-Maskelyne, Major Raverty, and A.B.M. [1] took part. Dr Rolleston's letters were principally directed to show that the source of the jade is Oriental, and in this he was supported by Professor Story-Maskelyne.--Editor

Letter 1

Dec. 25, 1879.

Your correspondent Mr H.M. Westropp calls the supposition that the jade tools found in the Swiss lake-dwellings came frm the East 'a wild hypothesis.' Now, we must judge of the difficulties of the past by what we can see of the possibilities of the present, and I make bold to say that some thousands of men who read those words this morning must have had in their pockets implements which had travelled with the single individuals carrying them, in their single lifetimes, over much greater distances than this 'wild hypothesis' supposes the westward migrating Stone-Age men to have traversed in many generations. Hence I submit there is no a priori improbability attaching to the view in question.

The view is, indeed, one of the best-established facts which recent prehistoric research has brought to light.

So long ago as 1865, M. Fellenberg, père, [2] analysed four implements of nephrite from Meilen and Concise, and one of jadeite from Mooseedorff. This nephrite was found to have precisely the same chemical composition as the well-known New Zealand nephrite, analysed by Scherer; and the jadeite to be similarly identical with the mineral known under that name from China, and analysed by Damours. Now, of nephrite and jadeite, it is known that, with the single exception constituted by the discovery of an unworked fragment at Schwemmsal in Saxony, no unworked specimen of either has been found nearer to Switzerland than, for nephrite, Turkestan and the environs of Lake Baikal; and, for jadeite, China.

Mr Max Müller says it was a harder business for the westward emigrants of the Stone Age to carry the ponderous tools, which their Aryan language represents than the lighter ones which the Messrs Fellenberg, père et fils, have taught us so much about. It is not for me to defend the Professor; but once more to illustrate the past from the present, I may say that many parents, if there are any who feel sceptical as to this ponderation, can have the opportunity of convincing themselves of its correctness by taking stock of the amount of Greek and Latin their sons have been successful in transporting home with them through the perils and trials of a railway journey this Christmas.

But there are some things harder to transport with you than pocket-knives, whether of jadeite or nephrite, and harder to carry with you even than Aryan or any other languages. These are domestic animals. The sheep and the goat are both found in the Stone-Age pile-dwellings along with these weapons. Does Mr H.M. Westropp think a goat would be easier of transport than a celt (of jade)? Let him try. Yet it would be a 'wild hypothesis' indeed which should aver that these animals came otherwise into the Switzerland pile-dwellings than by slow transportation from the East.

I am anxious to hear how your correspondent will meet this difficulty. But before I write again I shall be glad to be assured that any antagonist who may reply to my suggestions had consulted the following references:--

Keller--'Lake Dwellings;' English translation by J.E. Lee, F.G.S.; I. p. 195, 2nd ed. 1878; and Fischer and Fellenberg, citt. in loc. Edmund von Fellenberg--'Bericht an die tit. Direction der Entsumpfungen über die Ausbeutung der Pfahlbauten,' Bern, 1875. L.R. von Fellenberg--'Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie,' p. 619. 1866.


Added Notes

[1] Friedrich Max Müller (1823-1900) Professor of Comparative Philology, University of Oxford ; Hodder Michael Westropp (1820-1885) Irish archaeologist, he introduced term 'Mesolithic' in 1872; Mervyn Herbert Nevil Story Maskelyne (1823-1911) Professor of Mineralogy 1856-1895, University of Oxford; Major Henry George Raverty (1825-1906) British Indian Army officer and linguist. The identity of ABM is unknown but he could be the German zoologist and comparative anatomist Adolf Bernard Meyer (1840-1911) though his recorded interests do not appear to be very apposite [all  details from wikipedia]

[2] Presumably Edmund von Fellenberg (1838-1902) apparently carried out work on Lake Bienne, see here for more about him and Rolleston

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