« AnteriorContinuar »
To this We may add the rectification of the circle, or the computation of the length of its circumference made by a rule known in India before it was known in Europe, and remarkable for its accuracy. This we are informed of in the Institutes of Akbar, where the proportion of the circumference to the diameter is said to be stated by the Hindoos, at 3927 to 1250, which is the same with that of 3.1416 to 1 ; an approximation very near the truth, and the same which we now employ in our computations, though we believe, that it was hardly known in Europe at the time when the Emperor Akbar reigned in India. (Ayeen Akbery, Vol. III. p. 32.)
The consideration of these facts, and of many more which it would be easy to produce, ought to keep our curiosity alive to the remains of science in the East. Their extent and accuracy are so considerable,—their origin and genealogy so completely unknown,—they are united with so much extravagance and superstition, and so totally separated from any general stock of knowledge, that we cannot but consider them as forming altogether the most enigmatical monument of antiquity that is to be found on the face of the earth. We wish to consider this subject as still requiring much investigation, and we would wish to prevent opinion from taking, on this head, any fixed and determinate position. The probability seems to us to be much in favour of the great antiquity of these curious remains; and we hope that the preceding statement ,jmay do something to keep awake the wonder which their first appearance and the commentaries of M. Bailly had tended to excite. We are the more adverse to Mr Bentley's opinion, that it tends to lessen the interest in this subject,—to remove that admiration • which is the most powerful stimulus to inquiry,—and to make us. sit down contented with the supposition, that all the remarkable* coincidences in the Indian Astronomy are the mere effects of chance or artifice. We have no doubt that the zeal of this learned and ingenious author, to diminish the surprise which the Indian Astronomy has produced, arises from the love of truth, and the natural desire of bringing what seems extraordinary down to a conformity, or a level, with the ordinary course of things. But, in doing this, let him beware of extinguishing curiosity, while any thing of value remains to be known; and let him take care that while he would do away the delusions of others, he is not trying to recommend a phantom of his own.
A great degree of scepticism on this subject ought most carefully to be preserved, till the industry and learning of the Asiatic Society, to which we have already so great obligations, shall fur
nish us with a more complete catalogue and description of the remains of Oriental science. We may then decide, whether the East has only borrowed from the West; or whether it be true, as Lucian says, • that it was in India that philosophy first alighted on the earth.'
Art. XIII. Some Account of New Zealand, particularly tie Bay of Islands, and fitrrounding Country, with a Defcription of the Religion and Government, Language, Arts, Manufactures, Manners and Cujioms of the Natives, &c. (sfc. By John Savage, Efq. Surgeon and Correfponding Member of the Royal Jennerian Society. 8vo. pp. 118. London, Murray. 1807.
rT"'His is a publication of confiderable merit, and of very modeft •*. pretenfions. The author having had occafion, we prefume in the way of his profeffion, to vifit a part of the world very little known to Europeans, noted down fuch particulars, refpecting the country and its inhabitants, as he had an opportunity of obferving. The knowledge of thefe remarks was likely to intereft men of fpeculative habits, and affift fucceeding navigators. He therefore has made them public. As his materials, from the nature of the fubject, and his fhort refidence, were neceffarily fcanty, he has given them juft as he collected them, without the trick of expanding them into a large and coftly volume, by means of excerpts from former works, the introduction of things foreign to the fubject, and the various other refources of the book-making art. Fot fetting fo good an example, he deferves our thanks. Thofe who, from accidental circumftances, become poflefled of curious information, fhould, without fcruple, give it to the world, although its triffing bulk may fubject them to the imputation of publifhing a little book, and bar them from the gains of a coftly quarto. That we may contribute our fhare towards the encouragement of fo gbdfl a practice, we fhall endeavour to make our readers acquainted with this frhall volume.
New Zealand, from its difcovery by the celebrated Tafman in 1642, did not attract the particular attention of navigators until 1770, when Captain Cook accurately furveyed a confiderable portion of it, and found that it was divided into two large iflands by a ftraight. He collected likewife a number of interefting particulars respecting the country and the natives; but his gbfervations were confined to the fouthern ifland. Since the time of Captain Cook, we have no information refpectlng New Zealandt except
a a few unconne£ted details given by Mr Collins in his account of New South Wales, upon the authority of two New-Zealanders, who refided for fome months in that colony. Mr Savage palled a part of the months of September and October 1805 in the Bay of Iflands, a fine bay on the north-eaft coaft of the northern iiland. During that time, he had conftant intercourfe with the natives; and he brought one of them away with him, from whom, in the ccurfe of the long voyage home, he obtained confiderable additions to his information. The Bay of iflands, to the neighbourhood of which his remarks are confined, is not far diftant from the moft northerly point of New Zealand. The obfervation of Captain Cook was directed to the oppofite quarter. Mr Savage has given his information in a plain and unambitious.mannerv He begins at once with the fubject, and neither ekes out his book by accounts of the outward voyage, nor amufes us with narratives of perfonal adventures. The voyage home is only alluded to as illuftrative of the habits of the native who accompanied him.
The Bay of Iflands lies in latitude 35° 6' fouth, and longitude 174° 43' eaft, between two points called in the maps Cape Brit and Cape Colville. The anchorage is excellent, and of eafy approach. The neighbourhood furnifhes an abundant fupply of the beft potatoes. For this reafon, it is a point of great importance to navigators to be acquainted with the appearances of the land from the fea, and with fuch other circumftances as may affift them in reaching the harbour. Our author gives feveral neat fketches, and a number of directions, which cannot fail to prove highly ufeful in this refpect. We regret that he did not attempt to lay down the Bay, of which we believe no chart whatever exifts. A few obfervatious, in addition to thofe which he or his companions feem to have made, would have enabled him to do fo; and at any rate, he fhould have given us a map of the iflands of New Zealand, according to the received notions of their extent and pofition, although he had merely taken it from the works of former navigators, or the common charts.
The vegetable produce of the spot in question, though limited in point of variety, is apparently very valuable. The flax, not.withstandiilg every disadvantage of an extremely rude culture, is of excellent quality.--the fibres five or six feet long, and the appearance beautiful and silky. The root of the fern, which grows in abundance wild, furnishes a nourishing juice to the natives, who chiefly live upon it. Potatoes, which they cultivate with considerable skill, and chiefly reserve for traffic with the ships that arrive, are produced in sufficient plenty, and perfect,
both Both in flavour and for keeping. They are carefully -preserved, upon platforms, supported by a single poet about ten feet from the ground, in order that, on the arrival of a vessel, they may be exchanged for iron, the article most of all wanted by those people, and for which they have only a wretched substitute, in a, species of semitransparent green talc, used for making their tools as well as ornaments, before their intercourse with Europeans, but now chiefly confined to the latter employment. Next to the fern root, and as much of the potato as they can afford to consume, their chief resource is in fishing, at which, like all the Southern Islanders, they are extremely skilful. Their hooks are formed of the car-shell, unless when they procure iron ones from Europeans. Their nets and lines are admirably well made of the native flax; so much so, indeed, that our author recommends all ships which touch there to lay in some of their lines for fishing on the voyage. A mode of dressing fish in use among them, is rather curious, as proving their want of one of our simplest operations, and a certain ingenuity in supplying it. When a fish is to be boiled, it is wrapt up in a quantity of cabbage leaves, which are •tied about it with tendrils. It is then laid on a heated stone, and turned repeatedly. The steam completely boils it, and the cabbage is eaten along with it. Our author assures us that this dish is excellent. They sometimes dress their potatoes in the same manner. The dog is almost their only animal food. Thus, from the abundance, especially of fish and fern, they are seldom in want of subsistence. Their canoes are well made of the trunk of the fir-tree, which grows to an enormous size. Sometimes they fix two together, when engaged in warlike operations; and the double canoe will contain thirty fighting men. Their huts are wattled, and exceedingly well thatched. They have separate sheds at some distance, for the purposes of cookery. In all these particulars/'they are greatly superior, as will easily be perceived, %o the natives of New Holland.
The character of the New-Zealanders is much more favourably spoken of by Mr Savage than by any of his predecessors. He admits, that, like all barbarians, they are liable to the sudden impulses of violent passions, over which they can exercise no con'troul. But he asserts, that they are, upon the whole, of a friendly and affectionate disposition, and gives the following anecdote as a proof of it.
• We had conftantly a number ef natives on board the (hip; many remained two or three days without vifuing the lhore, and others vifitcd it daily. One day, k blowing very ftrorg, a canoe, in which were women and children only, attempting to approach tbe (hip, upfet; the lamentations of thofe an boaid the Ihip were cxrii.5td in a mof| affe£t'FPL. X- Ho. 20. H h jng ing manner; but we were too much engaged in lowering down a boat to fave the lives of the , nor creatures, to attend to thofe who were expreffing fo much apprehe?*^ for their fafety. Happily the boat faved every life: the women clung to the canoe with one hand, and in almoft every inftance fupported a child with the other, their own fafety appearing evidently to be a fecondary confederation. Their fituation for fome time was extremely perilous, and that of the natives on board the fhip truly pitiable, till they found that the boat arrived in time to refcue the women and children from a watery grave. Then their diftrefs gave way to the moft tumultuous joy: and when the poor half-drowned fhivering females and their children were brought on board, the congratulations on their efcape, and their kind and foothing attentions, were fuch as would by no means have difgraced the moral character of the moft refined European; thofe who had remained on board immediately ftripping themfelves of their mats to cover their friends or relatives, who had a much greater occafmn for them.
'It was upon this occurrence only that the natives received any ftrong liquor; I prevailed upon them to take a little wine, which their confidence in me induced them to receive as a medicine to prevent the effects of cold; fhewing, however, the greateft folicitude for the health 'of their children, by helping them before they took any themfelves.' p. 3 —38.
Their character for cannibalism is well known; but our author here also attempts to vindicate them. They acknowledge, he says, that in times of great scarcity, they have been driven to eat human flesh; but since the introduction of potatoes, the practice has become much less prevalent, ' as they give that root a decided preference.' He states, however, that in war, as a token of victory and for the gratification of ' revenge,' they devour some of their prisoners ;—not the whole, Mr Savage observes, but only the chief, whose body they divide among them and eat. Of the proneness to suicide mentioned by Mr Collins, nothing whatever is said, It is indeed an exceeding unlikely story; and we believe that respectable author must have been misled by the two natives frora whom he received his information. They are exceedingly strong and well made; their expression of countenance good and open; their females far from ugly; the men, without any appearance of brutal ferocity, are full of courage as well as of activity. But the most singular circumstance which our author records of them, is their aversion to spiritous or other strong liquors; nor have they any method of intoxication, or stimulus, among them. They are fond of dancing and music; their instruments do not materially differ from those used in the other South Sea islands; but from Mr Savage's description of .their airs, we conceive that they are much iiker music. Their gestures in dancing are frequently indelicate, like these of the other islanders; but we believe they