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The Cave of Kirkdale.- Dr. Buckland's Theory founded on its Fossil Remains.-Contradictory Nature of this Theory
– Fossil Bones from the Hymalaya Glaciers, and from the Heights of South America.—Natural Mode of accounting for them. The Habits of the Elephant.-His most perfect form.-His love of the Water, and of a swampy and woody Country.-Habits of the Rhinoceros.-Cuvier's Opinion of Fossil Remains,Inconsistency of this Opinion. -Evidence of Astronomy.—Evidence from Fossil Trees.
-Conclusive Nature of this Evidence.—Evidence derived from Peat Moss.— Foot-marks of Antediluvian Animals.
-Scratches occasioned by the Diluvial Action.— Formation of Valleys.-Scripture alone capable of explaining
these Evidences. There probably never has appeared any geological work, that excited so much attention and interest at the time of its publication, as the Reliquiæ Diluviana of Professor Buckland; in which that excellent and learned geologist endeavours to account for the fossil remains found in our own island, of quadrupeds which are now confined to much more southern latitudes.
It is with the most sincere respect for the well-known talents of Professor Buckland, that I consider it a duty, in this place, and while considering this part of my subject, to advance
any thing in opposition to one whose opinions are so influential in the geological world. But the whole theory, under the impression of which that work is written, is so directly opposed to what has now been advanced, that I feel it due to myself, as well as to my readers, to make some observations upon it; not only in the fair support of an opposite argument, but for the sake of advancing, in at least a nearer degree, towards the same great end, to which all such enquiries ought invariably to point.
After describing the remarkable and indiscriminate mixture of fossil bones, found in a cave at Kirkdale, in Yorkshire, in 1821, Dr. Buckland proceeds with the following remarks upon the general theory of the fossil remains of quadrupeds.
“ It was probable, even before the discovery “ of this cave, from the abundance in which " the remains of similar species occur in superficial gravel beds, which cannot be referred to
any other than diluvial origin, that such ani“ mals were the antediluvian inhabitants, not only
of this country, but generally of all those northern “ latitudes in which their remains are found : the
PROOF, however, was imperfect, as it was possible they might have been drifted or
floated hither by the waters, from the warmer regions of the earth ; but the facts deve
loped in this charnel-house of the ante“ diluvian forests of Yorkshire, demonstrate “ that there was a long succession of years “ in which the elephant, rhinoceros, and
hippopotamus, had been the prey of the hyænas, which, like themselves, inhabited
England at the period immediately preceding “ the formation of the diluvial gravel; and if os
they inhabited this country, it follows as a
corollary, that they also inhabited all those “ other regions of the northern hemisphere, in " which similar bones have been found under
precisely similar circumstances, not mineralised, but simply in the state of grave bones, imbedded in loam, or clay, or gravel, over great part of Northern Europe, as well as North America, and Siberia.” “ It is in the highest degree curious to
observe, that four of the genera of animals, “ whose bones are thus widely diffused over “ the temperate, and even over the polar re
gions of the northern hemisphere, should “ at present exist only in tropical climates, “ and chiefly south of the equator ; and that “ the only country in which the elephant, “ rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and hyæna, are now associated, is in southern Africa. In the im“ mediate neighbourhood of the Cape, they all
live and die together, as they formerly did in “ Britain ; whilst the hippopotamnus is now “ confined exclusively to Africa, and the ele
phant, rhinoceros, and hyæna, are diffused widely over the continent of Asia.
“ To the question which here so naturally “ presents itself, as to what might have been “ the climate of the northern hemisphere, when
peopled with genera of animals, which are
now confined to the warmer regions, it is not “ essential to the point before me to find a solution. “ MY OBJECT Is, to establish the fact, that the “ animals lived and died in the regions where their “ remains are now found, and were not drifted “thither by the diluvial waters from other lati“ tudes.”
In the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, (in 1827,) a letter was published by Dr. Buckland, which he had received from Colonel Sykes, on the subject of hyænas dens in India; and the object of this publication was, to shew the solidity of the foundation on which the Professor's theory of the Kirkdale Cave was built. This letter from India gives the exact description which we should naturally expect, of the earth, or hole of a carnivorous animal. A good many bones were found in it; but not more in proportion to the size of the animal, and the prey on which he usually feeds, than we always find in a fox's hole in our own country. I have lately had the pleasure of conversing with Colonel Sykes, and of diseussing this, and other subjects of equal interest, connected with a tropical climate, and of the animals natural to it. His description of the hyæna is any thing but favourable to the theory of the Cave of Kirkdale, even sup: posing that we had no stronger ground on which to combat it, He considers that the hyæna does not live in a gregareous manner; on the contrary, he never but once saw three full grown animals in the same hole; and he supposes that one of them was a young one, not yet expelled from the family, which always happens as soon as the young are able to shift for themselves. This is the well-known habit of foxes and of wolves, between which, and the hyæna, there seems to be considerable similarity of character. Colonel Sykes inclines to think that they do not live so much in caves of a large size, as in fissures and burrows similar to fox earths; and that it is probable that they do not haunt even these, except when they have young; but lie out in the open country, or in the woods, as wolves are known to do.