Page:A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 1.djvu/58

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xxxvi
[Prior Discoveries.
INTRODUCTION.

Bampton and
Alt
1793.

natives, which were extensive and numerous in the plains, contained yams, sweet potatoes, plantains, and sugar canes, inclosed within neat fences of bamboo; and cocoa-nut trees were very abundant, particularly near the habitations. The hills, which mostly occupy the middle of the island, were covered with trees and bushes of a luxuriant growth; and upon different parts of the shores, the mangrove was produced in great plenty.

The habitations of the Indians were generally placed at the heads of the small coves; and formed into villages of ten or twelve huts each, inclosed within a bamboo fence of, at least, twelve feet high. The hut much resembles a haycock, with a pole driven through it; and may contain a family of six or eight people. The covering is of long grass, and cocoa leaves. The entrance is small; and so low, that the inhabitants must creep in and out; but the inside was clean and neat; and the pole that supports the roof, was painted red, apparently with ochre.

In each of the huts, and usually on the right hand side going in, were suspended two or three human skulls; and several strings of hands, five or six on a string. These were hung round a wooden image, rudely carved into the representation of a man, or of some bird; and painted and decorated in a curious manner: the feathers of the Emu or Cassuary generally formed one of the ornaments. In one hut, containing much the greater number of skulls, a kind of gum was found burning before one of these images. This hut was adjoining to another, of a different form, and much more capacious than any of the others. The length was thirty feet, by fifteen in breadth; and the floor was raised six feet from the ground. The hut was very neatly built of bamboo, supported by long stakes, and thatched with cocoa leaves and dried grass. It was judged to be the residence of the chief of the island; and was the sole hut in which there were no skulls or hands; but the adjoining one had more than a double proportion.

The corpse of a man, who had been shot, was found disposed of