Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/231

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223
BURYING THE DEAD.

wedge-shaped piece of the two centre teeth in the upper jaw, and at a later period they extract entirely from the lower two or three teeth. The first operation is usually performed by means of a piece of iron, a flint, or simply a stone.

The Damaras bury their dead. Immediately after dissolution, the back bone of the corpse is broken with a stone,[1] and it is then bent together with the chin resting on the knees. Afterward it is wrapped in ox-hides, and deposited in a hole in the ground dug for the purpose, care being taken to place the face toward the north. This is done, they say, to remind them (the natives) whence they originally came. The Bechuana mode of disposing of the dead is very similar.

Upon the death of one of the tribe, the whole population of the place assemble to deplore the event. The howlings and lamentations on such occasions are most discordant and dreadful. Tears are considered favorable signs, and the more plentifully they fall on the corpse the better. Two months is the usual period for a son to mourn his father, but the time is modified according to circumstances. The wealthier the deceased, the greater the outward signs of sorrow—a kind of feeling which, at any rate, bears some approximation to that of civilized life. During the season of mourning, the mourner wears a dark-colored skin cap, conically shaped on the top, with certain ornaments affixed to it. Round the neck is suspended a "riem," to the two extremities of which is attached a small piece of ostrich egg-shell. In case of the death of a valued friend, the adults will occasionally shave the head completely, and keep it in that state for years.

When a woman in reduced circumstances dies and leaves a child, it is not unfrequently buried alive with its mother. Mr. Rath was once fortunate enough, to be the means of

  1. I am told that this is not unfrequently done before life is quite extinct! It is moreover affirmed, that when the sick man begins to breathe hard a skin is immediately thrown over his face, which, no doubt, often causes premature death.