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There is a theory that fairy folklore evolved from folk memories of a prehistoric race: newcomers superseded a body of earlier human or humanoid peoples, and the memories of this defeated race developed into modern conceptions of fairies. Proponents find support in the tradition of cold iron as a charm against fairies, viewed as a cultural memory of invaders with iron weapons displacing peoples who had just stone, bone, wood, etc. , at their disposal, and were easily defeated. 19th-century archaeologists uncovered underground rooms in the Orkney islands that resembled the Elfland described in Childe Rowland, which lent additional support. In folklore, flint arrowheads from the Stone Age were attributed to the fairies as "elf-shot", while their green clothing and underground homes spoke to a need for camouflage and covert shelter from hostile humans, their magic a necessary skill for combating those with superior weaponry. In a Victorian tenet of evolution, mythic cannibalism among ogres was attributed to memories of more savage races, practising alongside "superior" races of more refined sensibilities.

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