Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/101

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88 THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

bodies of such as had passed the middle age were privileged to be disposed of in the manner referred to, and which is hence to be esteemed the more honourable mode of sepulture. The bodies of young people were buried in the ordinary way, or otherwise disposed of, according to the custom of the tribe, such as by placing the corpse, enveloped in folds of bark, on a raised hurdle, or across the limbs of a tree. Sometimes a portion of the weapons or utensils of the deceased, as a basket, spear, and fizgig, were buried along with the corpse. In connection with this branch of aboriginal customs one of the worst features in the character of the New Hollander is brought to light. This is the crime of child-murder, accompanied with the extreme of barbarity. When an infant happens to be deprived of its mother by death, it appears that it is no uncommon thing to bury the living infant in the same grave with its deceased parent; the reason alleged by the perpetrators for the cruel act is that the infant being bereaved of its natural nurse, and other females being adverse to take it under their guardianship, its life would be a course of lingering misery worse than death itself. The existence of this species of infanticide was first made known in the early days of colonization by a party of officers who witnessed the interment of a female, whose surviving infant was thus interred by the father, the work of death being gone through ere the Europeans, who were previously unacquainted with the intent, had time to interpose their influence to save the little victim.