Historical Event

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Date:

January 3, 1906

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Short Description:

Mr. Gason, not a very reliable authority, says that the fat of the corpse is eaten.

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Natives of Australia - Disposal of Dead

Topics: (click to open)

Food Taboos
Cannibalism
Man The Fat Hunter
Pre-civilization races
Fat

Important Text:

Further to the north-east, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, the tribes eat the flesh of the dead man, and then, after some elaborate ceremonies, bury the bones. In the Binbinga tribe a fire is made in a hole in the ground, the head is cut off, the liver taken out, and the limbs dismembered. No woman may take part in the cannibal feast. The bones are taken to the camp of the dead man's father, and he puts them in a parcel : a stout stick is placed upright in the ground, and in the fork of this the parcel is placed ; a fire is lighted in a clear space round it, and in the smoke of this fire is supposed to be seen the spirit of the dead man. Only his father and mother may approach the fire. After a time the bones are placed in a log, and this in the boughs of a tree overhanging a water-hole, to be finally disposed of by a great flood or some similar catastrophe. 


South of the Arunta are the Dieri. After a death they wail for hours at a time and smear their bodies with pipeclay. Tears course down the cheeks of the women, but when they are addressed the mourn- ino- stops as if by magic. As soon as the breath leaves the body of the sick man, the women and children leave the camp, the men pull down his hut so as to get at the body, and it is prepared for burial by being tied up. The great toes are fastened together, and the thumbs are secured behind the back ; this they say is to prevent 'walking.' Eight men take the corpse on their heads, and the grave is filled, not with earth, but with wood, in order to keep the dingo at bay. The space round the grave is carefully swept, and the camp is moved from its original situation, so as to evade the attentions of the spirit if it should happen to get back to its old haunts. Mr. Gason, not a very reliable authority, says that the fat of the corpse is eaten ; the mother eats of her children, the children of their mother, brothers-in-law eat of sisters- in-law and vice versd ; but the father does not eat of his offspring, nor they of him.

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