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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.
ancient shell-heap, and here we found, in a precisely similar sarcophagus, the remains of a skeleton, of which also only the cranium retained sufficient consistency to admit of preservation.  This inclosure, however, was filled with a dense peaty mass not reduced to mold, the result of centuries of sphagnous growth, which had reached a thickness of nearly 2 feet above the remains.  When we reflect upon the well-known slowness of this kind of growth in these northern regions, attested by numerous Arctic travelers, the antiquity of the remains becomes evident.

It seems beyond doubt that in the majority of cases, especially as regards the caves of the Western States and Territories, the interments were primary ones, and this is likewise true of many of the caverns of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, for in the three States mentioned many mummies have been found, but it is also likely that such receptacles were largely used as places of secondary deposits.  The many fragmentary skeletons and loose bones found seem to strengthen this view.


Following and in connection with cave burial, the subject of mummifying or embalming the dead may be taken up, as most specimens of the kind have generally been found in such repositories.

It might be both interesting and instructive to search out and discuss the causes which have led many nations or tribes to adopt certain processes with a view to prevent that return to dust which all flesh must sooner or later experience, but the necessarily limited scope of this work precludes more than a brief mention of certain theories advanced by writers of note, and which relate to the ancient Egyptians.  Possibly at the time the Indians of America sought to preserve their dead from decomposition, some such ideas may have animated them, but on this point no definite information has been procured.  In the final volume an effort will be made to trace out the origin of mummification among the Indians and aborigines of this continent.

The Egyptians embalmed, according to Cassien, because during the time of the annual inundation no interments could take place, but it is more than likely that this hypothesis is entirely fanciful.  It is said by others they believed that so long as the body was preserved from corruption the soul remained in it.  Herodotus states that it was to prevent bodies from becoming a prey to animal voracity.  “They did not inter them,” says he, “for fear of their being eaten by worms; nor did they burn, considering fire as a ferocious beast, devouring everything which it touched.”  According to Diodorus of Sicily, embalmment originated in filial piety and respect.  De Maillet, however, in his tenth letter on Egypt, attributes it entirely to a religious belief, insisted upon by the wise men and priests, who taught their disciples that after a certain number of cycles, of perhaps thirty or forty thousand years, the entire

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