Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture
Caves were the First Dwelling-places of Man, and — the First Artificial Houses of the Dead are — Imitations of Caves; hence the Mounds — and Megalithic Structures
Caves were the First Dwelling-places of Man, and
the First Artificial Houses of the Dead are
Imitations of Caves; hence the Mounds
and Megalithic Structures
(3) But in some countries the supply of natural caves is limited, as is also the opportunity of making artificial caves, page 11though in a less degree. Yet to preserve the bodies of the dead kin would be the primary duty of primitive man. If he did not make provision for their preservation for all time, how could he avoid the revengeful visits of their spirits? He set himself, therefore, to manufacture caves, even where there were no steep hillsides to build against. He chiselled out by long and patient toil, with his imperfect flint tools, aided by fire and water, great blocks of undressed stone, blocks such as he had been accustomed to close the mouths of caves with, or build up artificial caves with against precipitous faces. And he dragged these out far into the open heaths and plateaus on which he lived. He made inclined planes of earth, and drawing the huge monoliths up the slope tilted them over the steep sides into the holes in the earth which were prepared for them. Having made his giant circle or ellipse, his rectangle or square of these titanic blocks, he dragged over them other broad slabs to form a roof. Then he covered the chamber completely with earth. And here he could lay his dead and feel that they were safe for all time. The mouth of his chamber he narrowed to a low gallery or aperture which could be easily closed, and, when this was covered with earth on which the grass grew, no beast could approach the sacred remains to mutilate them, no enemy could find the secret of the entrance. He could leave his revered dead within their artificial hill and wander away over the face of the earth feeling that they were secure. But, lest he himself should forget the secret approach, he erected a stone column in front of it or placed at a certain angle two or three columns, or made an avenue of colossal stones leading to it, or surrounded the mound with a circle of stones, leaving a gap opposite the entrance. In some cases the mound disappeared under "Time's effacing fingers," and the great chamber or the colossal stones alone remained. And at last progressive man learned to build the stone sepulchre without the enveloping earth, or page 12to make his stone chamber beneath the surface of the earth and raise only a monolith or circle or avenue of stone columns above it. And here again the anthropologist has found his undecaying library of the old Stone Ages.