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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Genesis of a Special House set apart for the — Dead is the belief in the After Existence of the — Spirit

The Genesis of a Special House set apart for the
Dead is the belief in the After Existence of the

(2) We may reject as fiction most of these local legends unless they assign these great stone remains to the neolithic page 10people, who early developed the desire and art of preserving their dead. They are in their origin mortuary monuments; not memorials, but houses of the dead, whatever other purpose they may afterwards have served. Even the cave-dwellers of the European Palaeolithic or chipped-stone age must have, like most primitive peoples, believed in the existence after death, and in some vague connection between the departed spirit and the body that remained. They must have feared the power of the dead to retaliate for neglect, and ultimately come to worship their kin who had passed away. Hence the ancestor-worship which is at the root of all primitive religions, if not of all religions. As soon as this reverence and fear of the dead became rooted, the place where the death occurred came to have attached to it a certain awe, and ultimately sacredness. It was set apart as the peculiar possession of the departed spirit where he could visit his body when he chose. In the West, and especially around the Mediterranean, caves are known to have been the primitive dwelling-places of palaeolithic man, if not of neolithic. And, as the sacredness of the dead and of the place of death grew, the practice would arise of abandoning the cave to those who died in it. And in order to secure the remains from the attacks of wild beasts, the mouth would be built up, only to be opened when some other of the kin had to be deposited therein. Hence it is that in the Western world at least caves have been the open book of the palaeolithic anthropologist. In them he finds the skulls and bones, the weapons and implements of early stone man.