A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians.

Among the Indians of the Mosquito coast, in Central America, canoe burial in the ground, according to Bancroft, was common, and is thus described: 

The corpse is wrapped in cloth and placed in one-half of a pitpan which has been cut in two.  Friends assemble for the funeral and drown their grief in mushla, the women giving vent to their sorrow by dashing themselves on the ground until covered with blood, and inflicting other tortures, occasionally even committing suicide.  As it is supposed that the evil spirit seeks to obtain possession of the body, musicians are called in to lull it to sleep while preparations are made for its removal.  All at once four naked men, who have disguised themselves with paint so as not to be recognized and punished by Wulasha, rush out from a neighboring hut, and, seizing a rope attached to the canoe, drag it into the woods, followed by the music and the crowd.  Here the pitpan is lowered into the grave with bow, arrow, spear, paddle, and other implements to serve the departed in the land beyond, then the other half of the boat is placed over the body.  A rude hut is constructed over the grave, serving as a receptacle for the choice food, drink, and other articles placed there from time to time by relatives.

STONE GRAVES OR CISTS

These are of considerable interest, not only from their somewhat rare occurrence, except in certain localities, but from the manifest care taken by the survivors to provide for the dead what they considered a suitable resting place.  In their construction they resemble somewhat, in the care that is taken to prevent the earth touching the corpse, the class of graves previously described.

A number of cists have been found in Tennessee, and are thus described by Moses Fiske[14]

There are many burying grounds in West Tennessee with regular graves.  They dug them 12 or 18 inches deep, placed slabs at the bottom ends and sides, forming a kind of stone coffin, and, after laying in the body, covered it over with earth.

It may be added that, in 1873, the writer assisted at the opening of a number of graves of men of the reindeer period, near Solutre, in France, and they were almost identical in construction with those described by Mr. Fiske, with the exception that the latter were deeper, this, however, may be accounted for if it is considered how great a deposition of earth may have taken place during the many centuries which have elapsed since the burial.  Many of the graves explored by the writer in 1875, at Santa Barbara, resembled somewhat cist graves, the bottom and sides of the pit being lined with large flat stones, but there were none directly over the skeletons.

The next account is by Maj.  J.W.  Powell, the result of his own observation in Tennessee.

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A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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