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• NATURAL CURIOSITY.
PRÌNTS OF HUMAN FEET IN ROCKS. IN “ Schoolcrafts' Travels in the central portions of the Mississippi valley,” page 173, we find the following interesting description of two apparent prints or impressions of the human foot in a tabular mass of limestone at New Harmony, Indiana. The stone had been previously conveyed from the banks of the Mississippi, at St. Louis, and carefully preserved in an open area. .“ Being aware of the conclusions which must result to geology from a fact of this nature, and that all former notices of the organic impressions of our species in well-consolidated strata, have been deemed apocryphal, we were induced to examine the subject with particular attention. To obtain an exact drawing of these interesting prints, we moistened a sheet of paper to a degree that permitted its being pressed by the palm of the hand into the most minute indentations. While thus pressed in, we drew the outlines in pencil. From this drawing the accompanying plate, by Mr. Inman, is a faithful transcript, on a reduced scale. We present it to the public as being more minutely accurate than our own figure of the subject, published in the American Journal of Science.
“ The impressions are, to all appearance, those of a man, standing in an erect posture, with the left foot a little advanced and the heels drawn in. The distance between the heels, by accurate measurement, is six and a quarter inches, and between the extremities of the toes, thirteen and a half. But, by a close inspection, it will be perceived, that these are not the impressions of feet accustomed to the European shoe; the toes being much spread, and the foot flattened, in the manner that is observed in persons unaccustomed to the close shoe. The probability, therefore, of their having been imparted by some individual of a race of men who were strangers to the art of tanning skins, and at a period much anterior to that to which any traditions of the present race of Indians reaches, derives additional weight from this peculiar shape of the feet.
“In other respects, the impressions are strikingly natural, exhibiting the muscular marks of the foot with great precision and faithfulness to nature. This circumstance weakens, very much, the supposition that they may, possibly, be specimens of antique sculpture, executed by any former race of men inhabiting this continent. Neither history nor tradition has preserved the slightest traces of such a people. For it must be recollected, that, as yet, we have no evidence that the people who erected our stupendous western tumuli possessed any knowledge of masonry, far less of sculpture,* or that they had even invented a chisel, a knife, or an axe, other than those of porphyry, hornstone, or obsi dian.
“ The average length of the human foot in the male subject may, perhaps be assumed at ten inches. The length of each foot, in our subject, is ten and a quarter inches : the breadth, taken across the toes, at right angles to the former line, four inches; but the greatest spread of the toes is four and a half inches, which diminishes to two and a half at the heel. Directly before the prints, and approaching within a few inches of the left foot, is a well-impressed and deep mark, having some resemblance to a scroll, whose greatest length is two feet seven inches, and greatest breadth twelve and a half inches.
“The rock containing those interesting impressions is a compact limestone of a grayish-blue color. It was originally quarried on the left bank of the Mississippi of St. Louis, and is a part of the extensive range of calcareous rocks upon which that town is built. Foundations of private dwellings at St. Louis, and the millitary works erected by the French and Spaniards, from this material, sixty years ago, are still as solid and unbroken as when first laid.
* The carvings of pipe bowls out of stratite, indurated clay, and other soft materials, executed by the Indians of the present day, du not, perhaps, merit the name of sculpture : but even of these, there is, we believe, no evidence that this simple art was practised before we had made them acquainted with the use of iron.
Geologists teach us that the character and relative age of rocks may be determined with considerable certainty, from the fossii crganic remains which they disclose in the most solid parts. They infer from the shells, plants, and other traces of organic structure,
now found in solid strata, that these rocks were once soft and pliable, so as to be capable of admitting these bodies. They point also to these substances, some of which are derived from the land and others from the ocean, as evidences of the dominion which the latter has formerly exercised over the surface of extensive portions of the earth, which are now dry and elevated ; and as the most indubitable proofs of the physical revolutions which have, at remote periods, devastated its surface, involving these genera of shells, plants, &c. in the general catastrophe. The bones of several large quad' rupeds, some of which are of extinct or non-descript species, and the osseous and enduring remains of birds, fishes and reptiles, which are often found, not only in alluvial deposite, but also in well consolidated strata, sufficiently indicate these changes, and point to several distinct submersions ; some of which were manifestly produced by salt, and others by fresh water. Most of these disturbances and reproductions of strata, have, we believe, been attributed to causes operating in a very remote period of the world. We wish only to discover the osseous or petrified remains of man, in situations similar to those in which we find the brute tribes of the creation, to bring the revolutions, to which we have adverted, down to a much later period of history. If we suppose the present marks to be genuine, we here perceive some evidences of this nature. And they aro found, as we should naturally expect, not upon those elevated mountains of granites and mica slates, which may be supposed to be sufficiently firm and well-based to have resisted the elemental shock, but in the central portions of a low and kindly valley, on the surface of one of those strata which are confessedly reproductions or resolutions from pre-existing species.
It is not our design to pursue this speculation into those details which it is calculated to invite. But we are naturally led to inquire ;
-are these marks natural or factitious? If genuine, at what period of the world were they impressed? Whether by the present race of Indians, or by any other nations who have inhabited this continent during its primeval age! Have the calcareous rocks of the Mississippi Valley been in a state sufficiently soft to receive such impressions, since their original formation? Were these rocks deposited during the Noachian deluge, or at any subsequent time? If deposited at that perio‘l, is there any reason to conclude that this continent was then inhabited ? Finally were these tracks not impressed at a comparatively modern period, probably by that race of men who erected our larger mounds? May we not suppose a barrier to have existed across the lower part of the Mississippi, converting its immense valley into an interior sea, whose action was adequate to the production and deposition of calcareous strata? We do not consider such a supposition incompatible with the existence of transition rocks in this valley, the position of the latter being beneath the secondary. Are not the great northern lakes the remains of such an ocean?' And did not the sudden demolition of this ancient barrier enable this powerful stream to carry its banks, as it has manifestly done, a hundred miles into the Gulf of Mexico : CIRCLE OF THE SCIENCES, WITH SUITABLE
REFLECTIONS. ASTRONOMICAL SKETCHES.—NO. VII. The principal division of the year is into months, which are of two sorts, namely, astronomical and civil. The astronomical month is the time in which the moon runs through the zodiac, and is either periodical or synodical. The periodical month is the time spent by the moon in making one complete revolution from any point of the zodiac to the same again, which is 27 days 7 hours 43 min. The synodical month, called a lunation, is the time contained between the moon's parting with the sun at a conjunction, and returning to him again, which is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 min. The civil months are those framed for the use of civil life, and are different as to their names, number of days, and times of beginning, in several different countries.
A month is divided into four parts, called weeks, and a week into seven parts, called days; so that in a Julian year there are 13 months or 52 weeks, and one day over.
A day is either natural or artificial. The natural day contains 24 hours; the artificial, the time from sunrise to sunset. The natural day is either astronomical or civil. The astronomical day begins at noon, because the increase and decrease of days terminated by the horizon, are very unequal among themselves ; which inequality is likewise augmented by the inconstancy of the horizontal refraction; and therefore the astronomer takes the meridian for the limit of diurnal revolutions, reckoning noon, that is, the moment when the sun's centre is on the meridian, for the beginning of the day. The British, French, Dutch, Germans, We think such an hypothesis much more probable than that this remarkable prolongation of its valley, has been caused by the comparatively limited every-day deposites of recent times. We have been acquainted with the mouths of the Mississippi, like the Falls of Niagara, for more than a century; and yet its several channels, the distance from known points above, and all its essential grand features, like the cataract of Niagara, remain to all observation, essentially the same as when first discovered.
Spaniards, Portuguese, and Egyptians, begin the civil day at midnight; the Greeks, Jews, Bohemians, Silesians, with the modern Italians, and Chinese, begin it at sunset; and the ancient Babylonians, Persians, Syrians, with the modern Greeks, at sunrise.
A natural day is divided into 24 equal parts, called hours, as shown by well-regulated clocks and watches; but those hours are not equal, as measured by the returns of the sun to the meridian, because of the obliquity of the ecliptic, and the Earth's unequal motion in her orbit.
An hour is divided into 60 equal parts, called minutes ; and these are subdivided into 60 equal parts, called seconds. But the Jews, Chaldeans, and Arabians divided the hour into 1080 equal parts, called scruples.
Besides the measure of time by years, &c., it was found convenient to introduce the use of Cycles; that is, a circulation of the time between the returns of the same event. The cycle of the sun is a space of 28 years; in which time the days of the month return again to the same days of the week; and the sun's place to the same degrees of the ecliptic on the same days, so as not to differ 1° in 100 years; and the leapyears again in respect to the days of the week on which the days of the month fall.
ANTS. * The history of this insect presents examples of an industry which has become proverbial, and traits of affection and feeling which would do honor to our own species. Love and courage, patience and perseverance almost all the higher virtues of human nature, when arrived at the highest pitch of earthly perfection, seem to be the ordinary springs of action in the ant. Of ants, as of other social insects, the largest portion of the community consists of neuters; beings possessing the most exquisite sentiments of maternity unalloyed by passion ;
* See notice of recent publications, page 368.