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The Story of Old France by  H. A. Guerber
Table of Contents


 

 

FRANCE LONG AGO

[11]

T
HE beautiful stretch of land bounded by the Rhine, the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, and the Atlantic Ocean was once a wild extent of forests and swamps, inhabited by men of a strange race.

These first settlers were so rough and uncivilized that they dwelt in caves, or in round huts which they built from leafy branches. They gathered nuts, berries, and [12] other fruits wherever they grew, and with sharp stones or shells they dug up roots which they ate raw. They made stone arrowheads and spearheads, which they used in hunting all kinds of animals, such as the mammoth, the cave bear, and especially a species of wild or which no longer exists.

The woods were full of game in those early days, and the rivers and streams were alive with fish, which the people caught and ate raw, or dried for future use. The dress of these savages was made of the skins of the animals they had slain, pinned together with big thorns, skewers of hard wood, or sharp fishbones.

What became of the cave men, no one knows. Later settlers were dark-haired Iberians and fair-haired Celts, who knew how to plant, keep cattle, cook their food, and make pottery. They were divided into many great families, or tribes, each of which formed a little nation by itself. As each tribe wished to have the best fishing and hunting grounds, and the best pastures, all its members were ready to fight any one else so as to win and keep them.

These early peoples had a religion of their own, and believed in life after death. Therefore they buried their dead in caves or rough stone tombs, placing beside them the weapons, ornaments, and clothing which they thought the dead would need in their new life. They also left in the tombs supplies of food in earthen vessels, so that the dead might have provisions enough for their journey to a better world, and be able to begin their new lives there comfortably. Of course most of the bodies thus buried fell in time into dust; but a few were laid in such dry [13] caves or tombs that their remains were found hundreds of years later, still well preserved.

Human skeletons, bones of animals and fishes, stone weapons, bone combs, earthen vessels, ornaments, and even shreds of garments have been discovered in such places, and are now carefully treasured in museums. Thus people of the present day can see for themselves what tools, weapons, and household articles these savages used, and can imagine how they lived long years ago.


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