Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/252

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

somewhat better off at Woodyates. A smaller proportion of the bodies were buried in a crouching position than in either of the other villages, fifteen out of seventeen having been buried extended, some lying on the back, others on the side. Five bodies buried in a square enclosure, whose use is one of the problems left open, were in graves nearly east and west, with their heads to the west; but it is impossible to say whether this was done from regard to a religious motive, or simply from convenience of situation. Elsewhere it seems clear that convenience only was consulted. Some of the bodies were buried in coffins either of oak or of some coniferous wood, fragments of which—the only fragments left—were found adhering by rust to the nails. In several instances hobnails were found about the feet, showing that they must have been buried in boots. A bronze fibula, which had no doubt fastened the dress, was found on the thigh of one; and a portion of an iron torque was on the neck of a female skeleton, while a bronze torque was also found in the soil of the same grave.

It is quite possible that in these observances we have a belief in future life indicated. Burial in boots may have reference to the journey which the soul must take to the spirit-land; and the finery wherein the bodies were enveloped, and the care taken to preserve them as far as possible by the use of coffins, may have been due to a regard for the after-life. As much as this, however, was found in the village graves at Cranborne Chase; nor could anything beyond the barest conjecture be based upon it. But the dwellers at Woodyates, in their care for their dead, have told us more. Out of the seventeen skeletons, three had each a coin in its mouth. Under the leg of another, half a brass coin was lying. A fifth skeleton had a coin on its pelvis. Some little doubt may perhaps attach to the last case. The skeleton in question was one of two buried in a grave cut out partly from the undisturbed chalk, and partly in the filling of the ditch of a portion of the