From the difficulty of obtaining specimens of gorillas we can well assume that they are not numerous - a few thousand all told, perhaps. Similarly the density of population of primitive man, in the eolithic stage or the protolithic when he used stones as mere weapons, was very little. This partly explains the rarity of the remains of these men - a matter which does not receive sufficient attention from the anthropologists. It probably explains the paucity of the remains of paleolithic man. Perhaps all of Europe contained but a few thousand men in these early times, widely scattered in tiny groups. Even in the next or neolithic stage, but few existed and in the bronze age there were no dense masses. The Veddas of Ceylon, one of the lowest types at present, scarcely number 2,000, though inhabiting vast areas.
Current ideas as to the density of populations even in ancient civilized times are very erroneous. When our ancestors in Denmark were in the stage of culture of the native Australians, only 500 could live in the 15,000 square miles of that country. When they raised themselves to the stage of the Patagonians 1,000 could live, and when they were like the native of the Hudson Bay country, only 1,500. Later, 4,000 or 5,000 B. C, when they became pastoral, one family required 300 cattle or 2,000 acres. At that time France could not support 50,000 and Europe had less than 1,000,000 people. It required several thousand years to produce those hordes which subsequently fell upon the South, and recent research has established the fact that the barbarous peoples who subdued the Roman empire were not nearly so numerous as we once believed. As late as the time of the Norman conquest, and for several centuries later, there were not 100,000,000 people in all Europe, which had but 40,000,000 in 500 A. D. and only 70,000,000 in 1500, and could not support 170,000,000 until 1800 A. D. As late as the time of Csesar, we know that there were immense forests in Europe - tremendous areas practically uninhabited. Very few people per mile lived in the rude North, though the more highly civilized South was quite densely populated. The Romans were agriculturists almost entirely, while the Germans were hunters to a large extent, and could not secure as much food.
The total population of Alexander's Empire and also that of Rome at its greatest extension was less than the present population of the United States. The whole world in 1800 contained only about 600,000,000 and holds only about 1,700,000,000 now. Biblical traditions are often absurd exaggerations due to tiny accretions from generation to generation. We can read between the lines and see undoubted proof of the fact that Judaic history is that of small petty tribes of recently settled nomads. The numbers of Israelites, for instance, alleged to have been taken to Babylon, would have paralyzed food supplies and brought famine. The captives really numbered but 4,600, and they were scattered throughout the empire.* Flinders-Petrie (Researches in Sinai) states that the Israelites of the Exodus were very few - possibly not more than 5,000. In its palmiest days Israel could muster but 40,000 fighting men. A "tribe" even now may consist of but four tents or twenty Bedouins. Josephus was notoriously untruthful who deliberately magnified Roman victories to flatter the generals. His statement that there were 1,200,000 people in Jerusalem when destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D., is equivalent to 2,400 per acre.
Likewise when we hear that millions of Jews lived in Egypt when it was a Greek province, and that those colonized in Alexandria by Alexander himself, made it the second Jewish city in the world* , we can well express disbelief. We know that they were unable to produce food and only engaged in distribution or herding cattle. Millions could not have been fed.
Eastern Siberia has had civilizations nearby for ages, and it should have a dense population if it could support them. That it has not many people is proof that it cannot raise the food or the material with which to buy it. The Russians have attempted to colonize, but so far have failed, and no doubt always will fail just as we have in the similar semi-arid land of our plains. It is not a question of the stupidity of the settler, but one of inability to find food, and writers on the subject are frequently oblivious of this point.
* Jeremiah lii, 28-30.
* Cornill's History of Israel.
America was saturated with Indians in pre-Columbian times. Some were civilized and in dense masses, but it is calculated from the tenuity of others, vast areas being used as game preserves by small tribes, that not more than 300,000 could have existed in all. By the 1900 census, there are 325,000 persons on our Indian Reservations and in the Indian Territory. There is some ground for the frequent assertion that there are more Indians in America than when Columbus came. They are now grouped into masses - then they were spread out. Morgan* estimated that New York State, with its 47,000 square miles of hunting land, never supported more than 25,000 Indians, and probably this is a great overestimate.
When civilization is stationary, so is the saturation point, and there can be no increase of population. China, for instance, is said to have had about 400,000,000 of people for many centuries, and there is a death for every birth. Occasionally, with a succession of good crops, the death rate lessens; but then comes a failure of crops and an awful famine, or pestilence sweeps off the millions. So that it is safe to say that in China, for many centuries, the death rate has equaled the birth rate.