The Migrations of Early Culture

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The present monograph [says Rivers] is the outcome of the chance examination of a Papuan mummy by one with an intimate knowledge of the history of Egyptian mummification. During a visit to his old medical school last year Professor Elliot Smith examined a mummy from Torres Straits and found evidence of processes, such as openings in flank or perineum, mode of suture, extraction of brain substance by the foramen magnum, and incisions on the extremities, which correspond with the technique of an advanced stage of Egyptian mummification. The view that these details of technique were discovered independently would make it necessary to believe that, in a climate most unfavorable for such experiments, the rude savages of Torres Straits discovered technical procedures which cost the highly civilized Egyptian many centuries of patient research. We have evidence from this mummy of the spread of Egyptian culture to a region so remote and inaccessible that it remained wholly unknown to our own civilization till the seventeenth century.

Having by the examination of this and other Papuan mummies established the Egyptian origin of the practice, the next step was to study the distribution of the practice of mummification. This study, carried out with the assistance of Mr. W. J. Perry, has shown a close agreement with the distribution of megalithic monuments and other uses of stone, of cult of sun and serpent, of divine kingship, and of such elements of culture as circumcision, tattooing, ear piercing, massage, head deformation, the swastika, and myths of flood and petrifaction. Moreover, the correspondence of the details of Papuan mummification with those of one period of Egyptian history have led Elliot Smith to regard a time about 800 B.C. as the approximate date at which this group of customs was carried over the world.1

With mummification Smith associated the large stone tombs and the stone images of Egypt as a nucleus of the complex (beginning to be formed about 3000 B.C.), and to these traits were added others (agriculture, metallurgy, writing, sun worship, political organization, irrigation, circumcision, tattooing, etc.), some of which did not originate in Egypt but were incorporated there before the voyages were begun which carried them to India, across the Pacific and to North and South America.

1Rivers, W.H. R., n/an/an/an/a , 2: 256–257 (review of Smith, ).

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Chicago: The Migrations of Early Culture in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024,

MLA: . The Migrations of Early Culture, Vol. 2, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: , The Migrations of Early Culture. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from