Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/442

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

like a basin, and fitting tightly over the rim of the urn. They took off the covers and emptied the vessels, when they were astonished to find that the surface of the sand in one of them was apparently covered with a deep-black peruke, ornamented with pearls of about the size of a pea. A more careful examination showed them that this curiously discovered "head-dress" was composed of the fibrous roots of the horse-tail rush, which grew abundantly on the top of the hill in which the graves had been made. The roots of the plant having penetrated the soil to the depth of three feet and a half, had made their way through the narrow crevices between the stones of the grave, had found the urns, had then pushed up perpendicularly through the minute space between the rim of the cover and the neck of the urn, and had arranged themselves within the urn into a regular network. After the formation had been dried, the course which the principal root had taken could be traced. The fibrous roots had branched out from it, and covered the whole surface of the sand in such a manner as to deceive the observers for a time with the resemblance to a beautiful head-dress. The knots, which were taken for pearls, were irregularly distributed, and were manifestly thicker in places-in the principal root. The formation affords an interesting illustration of the faculty which the roots of plants possess of seeking for and reaching the most suitable nourishment. The operation in the present instance involved a reversal of the common direction of the growth of roots, and that which resembled an effort to reach hidden food. The case furnishes a curious parallel to the one which was described in this country a few years ago, in which the root of an apple-tree, which grew over the grave of Roger Williams, was found to have taken the place and shape of the body buried below.

 

Artesian Wells on our Western Plains.—A proposition to make an appropriation of fifty thousand dollars for the purpose of sinking experimental artesian wells in the Western Plains, has been advocated in Congress, and has been mentioned favorably in the press. It is urged in behalf of the scheme that of about nine hundred million acres of arid lands in Arizona, Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada, which must remain practically a desert unless some method is found to supply them with water, about five hundred million acres of plain and valley lands would be susceptible of profitable cultivation if they could be watered. Of this, not more than three per cent, can be irrigated by the use of existing streams and rivers. It has been demonstrated, wherever settlement has been made and irrigation applied, that the lands when watered are as good as any; and the operations of the French in Algeria, which are still continued, give an encouraging promise of what can be accomplished with artesian wells.

 

African Fetich-Worship and Witchcraft.—Dr. Buchholz, a German entomologist, in his account of his wanderings in west Africa, notices many of the peculiar customs of the negroes of Upper Guinea, particularly those relating to fetich-worship and witchcraft. While among the Akkra tribes of the Gold Coast, he found that fetiches, generally clay dolls representing a man and a woman, had been laid at the foot of the termite-hills which he was interested in examining, with offerings around them. The fetich-processions are celebrated with considerable pomp, in which the fetich-drum, a stick provided with rings on which a little hollow ball, a gourd-shell, is rapidly struck, plays an important part. At the village of Abreri, farther inland, the ceremonies were held in a large, open place, at one end of which silvered images of the gods, rude figures representing a bird, a turtle, an ear of corn, and a figure holding different vessels, were set up in an orderly manner on a pillar, while the priest performed his ritual at the other end. The music, of drums, bells, and other instruments, including a drum of bronze, was accompanied by the multitude with a rhythmical hand-clapping. At the feast of the new moon, in addition to the music and the singing, each participant had a white streak drawn over his face, and the master of ceremonies, swinging a peculiar brush and gesticulating frantically, had his face painted all over white. The Bakhniri believe, when any one dies or is sick, that he has been bewitched; or if