HOW THE STONE-AGE CHILDREN PLAYED

BY CHARLES C. ABBOTT
NOT long since I wandered along a pretty brook that rippled through a narrow valley. I was on the lookout for whatever birds might be wandering that way, but saw nothing of special interest. So, to while away the time, I commenced geologizing; and, as I plodded along my lonely way, I saw everywhere traces of an older time, when the sparkling rivulet that now only harbors pretty salamanders was a deep creek, tenanted by many of our larger fishes.

How fast the earth from the valley's slopes may have been loosened by frost and washed by freshet, and carried down to fill up the old bed of the stream, we will not stop to inquire; for other traces of this older time were also met with here. As I turned over the loose earth by the brook-side, and gathered here and there a pretty pebble, I chanced upon a little arrow-point.

Whoever has made a collection, be it of postage stamps or birds' eggs, knows full well how securing one coveted specimen but increases eagerness for others; and so was it with me that pleasant afternoon. Just one pretty arrow-point cured me of my laziness, banished every trace of fatigue, and filled me with the interest of eager search; and I dug and sifted and washed the sandy soil for yards along the brook-side, until I had gathered at least a score of curious relics of the long-departed red men, or rather of the games and sports and pastimes of the red men's hardy and active children.

THE HATCHET THE HATCHET

For centuries before Columbus discovered San Salvador, the red men (or Indians, as they are usually called) roamed over all the great continent of North America, and having no knowledge of iron as a metal, they were forced to make of stone or bone all their weapons, hunting and household implements. From this fact they are called, when referring to those early times, a stone-age people, and so, of course, the boys and girls of that time were stone-age children.

But it is not to be supposed that, because the children of savages, they were altogether unlike the youngsters of to-day. In one respect, at least, they were quite the same—they were very fond of play.

Their play, however, was not like the games of to-day, as you may see by the pictures of their toys. We might, perhaps, call the principal game of the boys "Playing Man," for the little stone implements, here pictured, are only miniatures of the great stone axes and long spear-points of their fathers.

In one particular these old-time children were really in advance of the youngsters of to-day; they not only did, in play, what their parents did in earnest, but they realized, in part, the results of their playful labor. A good old Moravian missionary says: "Little boys are frequently seen wading in shallow brooks, shooting small fishes with their bows and arrows." Going a-fishing, then, as now, was good fun; but to shoot fishes with a bow and arrow is not an easy thing to do, and this is one way these stone-age children played, and played to better advantage than most of my young readers can.

Among the stone-age children's toys that I gathered that afternoon, were those of which we have pictures. The first is a very pretty stone hatchet, very carefully shaped, and still quite sharp. It has been worked out from a porphyry pebble, and in every way, except size, it is the same as hundreds that still are to be found lying about the fields.

No red man would ever deign to use such an insignificant-looking ax, and so we must suppose it to have been a toy hatchet for some little fellow that chopped away at saplings, or, perhaps, knocked over some poor squirrel or rabbit; for our good old Moravian friend, the missionary, also tells us that "the boys learn to climb trees when very young, both to catch birds and to exercise their sight, which, by this method, is rendered so quick that in hunting they see objects at an amazing distance." Their play, then, became an excellent schooling for them; and if they did nothing but play it was not a loss of time.

The five little arrow-points figured in the second picture are among those I found in the valley. The ax was not far away, and both it and they may have belonged to the same bold and active young hunter. All of these arrow-points are very neatly made.

ARROW-HEADS ARROW-HEADS

The same missionary tells us that these young red men of the forest "exercise themselves very early with bows and arrows, and in shooting at a mark. As they grow up, they acquire a remarkable dexterity in shooting birds, squirrels, and small game."

Every boy remembers his first penknife, and, whether it had one or three blades, was proud enough of it; but how different the fortune of the stone-age children, in this matter of a pocket-knife! In the third picture is shown a piece of flint that was doubtless chipped into this shape that it might be used as a knife.

I have found scores of such knives in the fields that extend along the little valley, and a few came to light in my search that afternoon in the brook-side sands and gravel. So, if this chipped flint is a knife, then, as in modern times, the children were whittlers.

FLINT KNIFE FLINT KNIFE

Of course, our boys nowadays would be puzzled to cut a willow whistle or mend the baby's go-cart with such a knife as this; but still, it will not do to despise stone cutlery. The big canoe at the Centennial, that took up so much room in the Government Building,—a boat sixty feet long,—was made in quite recent times, and only stone knives and hatchets were used in the process.

I found too, in that afternoon walk, some curiously shaped splinters of jasper, which at first did not seem very well adapted to any purpose; and yet, although mere fragments, they had every appearance of having been purposely shaped, and not of accidental resemblances to a hook or sickle blade. When I got home, I read that perfect specimens, mine being certainly pieces of the same form, had been found away off in Norway; and Professor Nilsson, who has carefully studied the whole subject, says they are fish-hooks.

Instead of my broken ones, we have in the fourth illustration some uninjured specimens of these fish-hooks from Norway. Two are made of flint, the largest one being bone; and hooks of exactly the same patterns really have been found within half a mile of the little valley I worked in that afternoon.

The fish-hooks shown in our picture have been thought to be best adapted for, and really used in, capturing cod-fish in salt water, and perch and pike in inland lakes. The broken hooks I found were fully as large; and so the little brook that now ripples down the valley, when a large stream, must have had a good many big fishes in it, or the stone-age fishermen would not have brought their fishing-hooks, and have lost them, along this remnant of a larger stream.

But it must not be supposed that only children in this bygone era did the fishing for their tribe. Just as the men captured the larger game, so they took the bigger fishes; but it is scarcely probable that the boys who waded the little brooks with bows and arrows would remain content with that, and, long before they were men, doubtless they were adepts in catching the more valuable fishes that abounded, in Indian times, in all our rivers.

So, fishing, I think, was another way in which the stone-age children played.

FISH-HOOKS FISH-HOOKS