Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/228

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2 1 8 Reviews.

new institutions and new ideas" (ii. 293). For this, among other reasons, the proto-Melanesians must have been ready to accept the institutions and ideas of the kava people. But as a generalization the statement requires much qualification. It is true that great ancient civilizations like those of China and India are not easily impressed by the ways of foreigners. On the other hand, " peoples of the rudest culture " are equally impervious. The Bushmen have been for centuries at least in contact with Hottentots and Bantu, and have learned practically nothing from them. The story of the Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco and that of the Australian natives is to the same effect. Many other examples might be cited. As yet we know too little of the conditions of fruitful receptivity to venture to generalize with safety. In so far, therefore, as the statement is a necessary postulate of Dr. Rivers' argument it would seem to be too fragile for his purpose.

Again, I cannot but think he lays far too great a stress on the modes of disposal of the dead in use in the South Seas. On another recent occasion he has made a similar use of the very varied funeral rites in Australia. But there is distinct evidence there that variations in this matter are often dependent on local or economic conditions, while there is no evidence at all that they are derived from foreign contact. "The preservation of the dead in rocky tombs " is one that suggests itself wherever caves and clefts are available for the purpose. Burial in a contracted position is a very wide-spread custom, and, so far as I know, no real distinction has ever been determined between the attitudes of squatting and lying on the side. Either is a natural attitude, for it is the attitude usually assumed in rest ; and to make it a test of race is hardly convincing. The custom of preserving the corpse either temporarily or permanently in the. house seems more special ; but even this is found in various parts of Africa and America. It probably is connected, we may agree, with a develop- ment of the cult of the dead. The cult in question is, however, so widely distributed, even to the extent of keeping the skull and other bones in the house, or wearing them on the person, that the claim of a particular racial characteristic is difficult to maintain for such a practice.

Among the questions raised by the book is the interesting and