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.
washed out as the terraces have worn away, and which have since been carried off for door-steps and hearth-stones.  I have opened many of these cists; they nearly all contain fragments of human bones far gone in decay, but I have never succeeded in securing a perfect skull; even the clay vessels that were interred with the dead have disintegrated, the portions remaining being almost as soft and fragile as the bones.  Some of the cists that I explored were paved with valves of fresh-water shells, but most generally with the fragments of the great salt-pans, which in every case are so far gone in decay as to have lost the outside markings.  This seems conclusively to couple the tenants of these ancient graves with the makers and users of these salt-pans.  The great number of graves and the quantity of slabs that have been washed out prove either a dense population or a long occupancy, or both.

W.J.  Owsley, of Fort Hall, Idaho, furnishes the writer with a description of the cist graves of Kentucky, which differ somewhat from other accounts, inasmuch as the graves appeared to be isolated.

I remember that when a school-boy in Kentucky, some twenty-five years ago, of seeing what was called “Indian graves,” and those that I examined were close to small streams of water, and were buried in a sitting or squatting posture and inclosed by rough, flat stones, and were then buried from 1 to 4 feet from the surface.  Those graves which I examined, which examination was not very minute, seemed to be isolated, no two being found in the same locality.  When the burials took place I could hardly conjecture, but it must have been, from appearances, from fifty to one hundred years.  The bones that I took out on first appearance seemed tolerably perfect, but on short exposure to the atmosphere crumbled, and I was unable to save a specimen.  No implements or relics were observed in those examined by me, but I have heard of others who have found such.  In that State, Kentucky, there are a number of places where the Indians buried their dead and left mounds of earth over the graves, but I have not examined them myself. * * *

According to Bancroft,[17] the Dorachos, an isthmian tribe of Central America, also followed the cist form of burial.

In Veragia the Dorachos had two kinds of tombs, one for the principal men, constructed with flat stones laid together with much care, and in which were placed costly jars and urns filled with food and wine for the dead.  Those for the plebians were merely trenches, in which were deposited some gourds of maize and wine, and the place filled with stones.  In some parts of Panama and Darien only the chiefs and lords received funeral rites.  Among the common people a person feeling his end approaching either went himself or was led to the woods by his wife, family, or friends, who, supplying him with some cake or ears of corn and a gourd of water, then left him to die alone or to be assisted by wild beasts. 
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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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