Environmental explanations of racial and cultural difference had posited climate and geography as causes of human diversity, rather than innate biological difference: racial character was a contingent variation on a nevertheless common core of human features. These views lingered on into the 1850s, along with a related belief that ‘savage’ races had degenerated from once more civilised peoples. Michael Russell argued this was so for both Native American and Polynesian races. Taylor suggested Māori might be one of the lost tribes of Israel and evinced a gamut of evidence to point to their supposed Mosaic inheritance. There was even, he mooted, a close enough affinity between Māori and Sanskrit to suggest a time when Māori literature may not have been unknown. According to Pringle, the Xhosa may have sprung from a higher civilisation than any other in South Africa. They exhibited traces of belief in a Supreme Being, and their superstitions looked like ‘the shattered wrecks of ancient religious institutions’. They practised circumcision, although there was no vestige of Islam, and their traditions resembled those of Leviticus, indicating a connection with Arabs, Hebrews or Abyssinians. Knox, by contrast, was simply unconcerned with man’s origin. Such chronologies were worthless, he pronounced, and based his ethnology solely on man’s physical structure.


Indigenous Population Aboriginal Woman Mixed Race Original Emphasis Environmental Explanation 
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© Robert Grant 2005

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