Folk-Lore/Volume 29/Review/The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia

The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia by W. J. Perry
The Megalithic Culture of Indonesia, by W. J. Perry, B.A. Manchester: University Press. Longmans, Green & Co. 1918.

The object of this book, as announced in the introduction, is to provide evidence in support of Prof. Elliot Smith's thesis that megalithic monuments wherever found must have been the work of people sharing a common culture, and that culture derived from Egypt. This thesis has been complicated by Dr. Rivers, who, dealing with the megalithic monuments of Oceania, has contended that they were probably the work of sun-worshipping immigrants. Mr. Perry's aim, therefore, is to trace the course of this immigration into Melanesia. Indonesia, he tells us, "occupies a position of peculiar importance in relation to the main argument as to the origin and nature of megalithic monuments, for it forms the sieve through which any extensive migration from the west to Oceania must pass. Any migration into the Pacific of sun-worshipping megalith-builders should have left traces of their passage in Indonesia." But these hypothetical sun-worshipping, megalith-building immigrants have proved a somewhat elusive people. It is true that Mr. Perry's investigations, as they proceeded, showed plenty of megaliths; they showed plenty of microliths also, inextricably mixed up with the megaliths. Worse than that, "the attempt to record only the facts concerning the sun-cult proved abortive; for it was difficult to discover any standard to which facts could be referred." In these circumstances Mr. Perry was compelled either to abandon the attempt to collect the evidence desired, or to include and present as such evidence very much more of doubtful value for his purpose." The problem became so involved that it was at length decided to collect and examine the whole of the evidence concerning stonework in Indonesia, irrespective of the purpose to which the latter was put, stone implements alone excepted." [Why except stone implements?] And with regard to the sun-cult "the difficulty of deciding which facts to retain for examination, and which to reject, was avoided by including in the survey all practices, beliefs and tales concerning the sun that it was possible to collect."

To make even this diluted evidence available, Mr. Perry has had to make a number of assumptions. There are a few, and only a few, places in the world where mankind has not passed through, or is still in, the stone-age. Mr. Perry practically admits this. "At every stage in the presentment of the evidence," he says, "customs and beliefs will be revealed in Indonesia for which more or less close parallels are found widespread throughout the world. As the aim of this book is to set forth the Indonesian evidence impartially and to extract the story it reveals, the wider issues have been deliberately suppressed for the present." In the face of this he assumes that everywhere in Indonesia the use of so universal and ready a material as stone was unknown to the primitive inhabitants, and that it was introduced from elsewhere by a mysterious band of immigrants (not necessarily in every case the same band), who added to their favours by becoming missionaries bringing the new cult of the sun. In most of the islands hereditary chiefs are now found: hereditary chieftainship, therefore, was introduced by the stone-using immigrants. Where stone seats are used, it is the chiefs who sit upon them: therefore such seats must have been due to their ancestors. The inference is the same whether the stones were set up for seats, or are no more than occasionally used as resting-places by wayfarers, or for coffins, or even if only ghosts sit on them. The same mysterious immigrants brought the cult of the dead. They are responsible for all sacred stones, whether small or large, and for the awe of, and observances at, natural rocks. Stories of petrifaction, so common all over the world, are referred to the same people. Traditions relating to beings from the sky are assumed to mean "the stone-using immigrants." Sometimes these beings are the supreme gods of the people who tell of them, as in the case of Lumawig, the Supreme Being of the Bontoc Igorot. No matter; Mr. Perry knows better. They were commonplace human "stone-using immigrants," subsequently elevated to that dizzy eminence. Some of these peoples have a tradition that they have descended from the incestuous union of a mythical pair. It is due to the naughty influence of the "stone-using immigrants," because they "practised incestuous marriages." Phallic magic and phallic symbols are not uncommon in some islands. The explanation is easy: the stone-using immigrants brought a phallic cult with them to Indonesia. Dead warriors or chiefs go to a different land of the dead from common people: of course; they are the descendants of "the stone-using immigrants."

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Nor do Mr. Perry's assumptions end here. But a point comes at which the reader, remembering Mark Twain, is ready to exclaim : " Enough, enough ! Lump the whole thing ! Say the stone-using immigrants created Indonesian civihzation to exhibit Mr. Perry's amazing audacity of assumption, his in- genuity, and the tenuity of his proofs." The truth is that he has taken too large an order, and he has not set about the right way to execute it. It may be quite correct that a civilization marked by megalithic monuments has penetrated the great archipelago. The way to prove it is by the slow and patient method applied to our own megaliths — by the spade, by anthro- pometry of the living and dead, by linguistics, by minute investigation of the customs of the people and their traditional tales, such as Dr. Rivers' methods further east have exemplified, not by a rapid and superficial sketch in which assumptions are multiplied and interpretations posited " according to the scheme of this book." Far be it from me to wish to discourage any earnest worker in the field of anthropology — least of all one who, like Mr. Perry, has youth with all its immeasurable advantages on his side, has ability and enthusiasm for research. Such workers are needed more than ever. But let him see to it that his methods are scientific, that his inferences are sound, carefully thought out and checked, and that the authorities he makes use of are accurately represented.

This last point is important. It corresponds to one of the cardinal rules in forensic advocacy — not to overstate the evidence of the witnesses you are about to call. For example, whatever might be the meaning of a distinction the author is seeking to establish between the fate after death of the nobles and that of the common people in these islands (and it is manifestly capable of more than one interpretation), it is certain that his authorities do not always support his facts. In Watubela the ghosts of warriors as a class do not go to the moon : what Riedel, whom he cites, says is that those who fall in war go immediately to the moon and seldom return like the ghosts of other people to the earth. Their residence there is a special personal reward. Nor do the ghosts of Bontoc Igorot warriors go to the sky indiscriminately. Only the warrior whose head has been taken Reviews. 1 7 5

in war is believed as a special honour to go to Lumawig, the Supreme Being. There is no ground in Prof. Wilken's statement, which Mr. Perry cites, for saying that after death notables in Minahassa go to the sky, while commoners go to the forest : the distinction is solely between rich and poor. The passage quoted from Wilken on another page is inaccurately translated. What he says is : " The surmise that the worship of Pulodoliru and Pulodorae [on the island of Savu] has developed from an original worship of the sun and the earth [not the sun only] is certainly not hazardous. Here merely a conjecture can be made as to the meaning of [not ' There can be only one opinion as to '] the names of these two deities. Pu means lord and lodo sun, while liru is heaven, firmament, and roe earth. The expression Pu-lodo is rightly to be translated Lord Sun [not the sun-lord], and must originally have been used without addition of the word liru or rae when as yet the sun itself, the visible heavenly body, was adored." He continues : " Gradually it is probable, as this fetishistic adoration more and more receded into the back- ground, Pu-lodo became an expression for god, superior being, without thereby definitely thinking of the god of the upper regions derived from sun-worship. So also the deity contem- poraneously evolved from the worship of the earth may have been stamped with this name ; but it would then have been necessary for the purpose of distinguishing them to add in the one case liru, heaven, in the other rae, earth. Pulodoliru means thus god of the heaven, and Pulodorae, god, or perhaps goddess, of the earth." The point which Mr. Perry misses, which indeed does not fit in with his theory, is that the worship of these islands is not, and probably never was, a sun-cult exclusively, but a worship of the heavens and the earth, the two powers male and female on whom jointly the population acknowledges con- stant dependence. Mr. Perry always forgets this dual worship, important as it is. On another page he represents Ten Kate as describing an offering-place at Kewar, Lamakera (a misprint for Lamakenen) in central Timor, " close to some platforms made of immense stones." Ten Kate only says " in the im- mediate neighbourhood of some other larger platforms of stone." There is nothing to show that he refers to a megalithic structure. 176 Reviews.

Without going further it is obvious that Mr. Perry's references require to be verified. We are all liable to jump to conclusions and to find in our authorities what we wish or expect to find. This very human weakness requires watchfulness and discipline, for it is apt to lead us to astonishing results. It is impossible to follow Mr. Perry in all his conclusions — too frequently nothing more than assumptions " according to the scheme of this book." But as the investigation, it appears, is only part of a wider enquiry " into the distributions and associations of these and other cultural elements, and into their mode of dispersal," in the course of which it will be necessary " to examine all the regions of the earth in detail, as well as to synthesize the results obtained," he may safely be left to the task, in the assurance that long before he comes to the end of it he will have learned many things and unlearned many things that will put a very different complexion on the phenomena he has dealt with here.

E. Sidney H.'\rtland.

ERRATUM. Vol. xxix. p. 89, line "&, for "Arnold Burley " ;-f(7r/ " Arnold Bayley."

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