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 247 pages of information about A Further Contribution to the Study of the Mortuary Customs of the North American Indians.

It is proper to add that all the material obtained will eventually be embodied in a quarto volume, forming one of the series of Contributions to North American Ethnology prepared under the direction of Maj.  J.W.  Powell, Director of the Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, from whom, since the inception of the work, most constant encouragement and advice has been received, and to whom all American ethnologists owe a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid.

Having thus called attention to the work, the classification of the subject may be given, and examples furnished of the burial ceremonies among different tribes, calling especial attention to similar or almost analogous customs among the peoples of the Old World.

For our present purpose the following provisional arrangement of burials may be adopted, although further study may lead to some modifications.

Classification of burial. 1st.  By inhumation in pits, graves, or holes in the ground, stone graves or cists, in mounds, beneath or in cabins, wigwams, houses or lodges, or in caves.

2d.  By embalmment or a process of mummifying, the remains being afterwards placed in the earth, caves, mounds, boxes on scaffolds, or in charnel-houses.

3d.  By deposition of remains in urns.

4th.  By surface burial, the remains being placed in hollow trees or logs, pens, or simply covered with earth, or bark, or rocks forming cairns.

5th.  By cremation, or partial burning, generally on the surface of the earth, occasionally beneath, the resulting bones or ashes being placed in pits in the ground, in boxes placed on scaffolds or trees, in urns, sometimes scattered.

6th.  By aerial sepulture, the bodies being left in lodges, houses, cabins, tents, deposited on scaffolds or trees, in boxes or canoes, the two latter receptacles supported on scaffolds or posts, or placed on the ground.  Occasionally baskets have been used to contain the remains of children, these being hung to trees.

7th.  By aquatic burial, beneath the water, or in canoes, which were turned adrift.

These heads might, perhaps, be further subdivided, but the above seem sufficient for all practical needs.

The use of the term burial throughout this paper is to be understood in its literal significance, the word being derived from the Teutonic Anglo-Saxon “birgan,” to conceal or hide away.

In giving descriptions of different burials and attendant ceremonies, it has been deemed expedient to introduce entire accounts as furnished, in order to preserve continuity of narrative, and in no case has the relator’s language been changed except to correct manifest unintentional, errors of spelling.



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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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