Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/141

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117
NEOLITHIC MAN IN EUROPE

found great difficulty in making a deep excavation. Nor do we find such excavations beside the barrows. Instead of going down into tough sub-soil, the mound-makers probably scraped up some of the surface soil and carried it to the mound. All this seems probable, and it gives just that wide area of bared and turned-over earth upon which an eared grass, such as barley, millet, or primitive wheat, might have seeded and grown. Moreover, the mound-makers, being busy with the mound, would not have time to hunt meat, and if they were accustomed to store and eat wild grain, they would be likely to scatter grain, and the grain would be blown by the wind out of their rude vessels over the area they were disturbing. And if they were bringing up seed in any quantity in baskets and pots to bury with the corpse, some of it might easily blow and be scattered over the fresh earth. Returning later to the region of the mound, they would discover an exceptionally vigorous growth of food grain, and it would be a natural thing to associate it with the buried person, and regard it as a consequence of his death and burial. He had given them back the grain they gave him increased a hundredfold.

At any rate, there is apparently all over the world a traceable association in ancient ceremonial and in the minds of barbaric people between the death and burial of a person and the ploughing and sowing of grain. From this it is assumed that there was once a world-wide persuasion that it was necessary that some one should be buried before a crop could be sown, and that out of this persuasion arose a practice and tradition of human sacrifice at seedtime, which has produced profound effects in the religious development of the race. There may have been some idea of refreshing the earth by a blood draught or revivifying it with the life of the sacrificed person. We state these considerations here merely as suggestions that have been made of the way in which the association of seedtime and sacrifice arose. They are, at the best, speculations; they have a considerable vogue at the present time, and we have to note them, but we have neither the space nor the time here to examine them at length. The valuable accumulations of suggestions due to the industry and ingenuity of Sir J. G. Frazer still