Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Adams' "Notes of a Naturalist in the Nile Valley
and Malta" (S194: 1871)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A book review printed in the 1 July 1871 issue of The Academy. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S194.htm


[[p. 336]] Notes of a Naturalist in the Nile Valley and Malta. A Narrative of Exploration and Research in connection with the Natural History, Geology, and Archæology of the Lower Nile and Maltese Islands. By Andrew Leith Adams, M.B., author of Wanderings of a Naturalist in India. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1870.

     Mr. Adams is so enthusiastic a naturalist, and has done such excellent work among the ossiferous caverns of Malta, that we are somewhat disappointed to find his valuable materials [[p. 337]] presented to us in a form so much like that in which they must have existed in his original note-books. The result is, that while the volume will be an invaluable handbook to every naturalist or archæologist visiting Malta, it will not prove very attractive to the general reader. As a guide to the natural history and pre-historic archæology of the Maltese islands, it leaves little to be desired. The geology of the islands is fully described, and is illustrated by an excellent coloured map. The best localities for fossils are indicated, and there is a full account of the caverns and superficial deposits which yielded to Captain Spratt and the author those wonderful relics of a by-gone age--the pigmy elephants, the hippopotamus, the great extinct swan and fresh-water turtle, and the great dormouse. This assemblage of animals points unmistakably to the connection of what is now Malta with Africa, and indicates the existence of great rivers, marshy plains, and a luxuriant vegetation where there is now only bare rock, stunted shrubs, and burnt-up herbage. Three fossil elephants were determined by Dr. Falconer and Professor Busk, from the remains sent home by Mr. Adams. The largest of these would have stood about 7 feet high, the next under 5 feet, while the smallest was not more than 2 feet 6 inches to 3 feet! Yet these were undoubtedly adult animals, sufficient materials having been found to trace all the stages of growth of some of them. We have here a very striking exception to the rule of extinct being larger than existing species. There seems however to be still a little doubt about the specific distinctness of these three forms, for we are told that, "in every situation in which more than one individual was discovered, teeth and bones of the two larger species were found lying side by side, and, what is also of importance, and should be well borne in mind, there are several general characters as regards the crown pattern of the molars common to all the Maltese elephantine fossils." The dormouse was as much a giant as the elephants were dwarfs, being as large as a squirrel; while the swan and tortoise were larger than any existing species.

     We have also a very full account of the aspects of Malta at different seasons of the year, of the character of the vegetation, and of the birds (most of which are migratory), and of the few indigenous reptiles and mammalia; while a complete list is given of the fossils, the birds, and the fishes, which have been yet discovered. An interesting chapter is devoted to the great pre-historic rock-temple of Hhagiar-Kim, with its strange pitted ornamentation and curious idols, and to the various dolmens, towers, rock-tombs, and other antiquities of the islands.

     That part of the work which treats of the Nile is of much less interest, consisting of notes on such objects of natural history as were observed during a three months' tour, with the determination of some of the species represented in the Egyptian sculptures.

Alfred R. Wallace.


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