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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/586

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

From the definite character of the myths, together with the internal evidence afforded by the language itself, it would seem that the Gaelic occupancy of Ireland dates from a very remote antiquity—going back, in fact, to the period of the earliest wave of migration from the primitive home of the Aryans.

 

Curiosities of African Custom.—Yet new phases of African life and custom are described in the diary of a journey from Bihe to the Bakuba country of the eminent Portuguese trader, Silva Porto. The Kiboko or Kashoko, when their chief dies, either return to their relatives or build themselves a new village. The new chief also builds a new village, and receives a man or a woman from each of his sub-chiefs as a contribution toward peopling it. The lukano, or bracelet, bestowed as a symbol of power upon one of the chiefs by his superior for faithful service, is made of brass or copper, interwoven with the sinews of a human being who has been sacrificed on some specially solemn occasion. It is covered with the skin of an antelope, and has charms attached to it. If the holder of this emblem loses the favor of his feudal lord, a messenger, bearing a similar bracelet, but of smaller size, and a two-edged knife, is sent to him, and the disgraced chief—and his brothers and wives usually with him—quietly submits to decapitation. A curious custom, called shikayandando, is observed by the Bakuba in concluding a bargain. An offer having been made and accepted, the vender plucks a leaf and presents it to the intending purchaser, who taking hold of it cuts it asunder, when the two pieces are thrown behind. If this mode of confirming a bargain is neglected, the vender can claim double the value of the merchandise in question.

 

Preservation of Mummies.—A supposition that the mummies of the Egyptian kings in the Archæological Museum at Ghizeh had begun to decay since they were unrolled and deprived of their bituminous coverings was suggested by the appearance of a white efflorescence on certain parts of the mummy of Seti I. In order to ascertain whether this was true, Dr. Fouquet, a person having special qualifications for the work, was invited by M. Grebaut to examine the mummies and the efflorescence, and determine whether signs of decay had been developed since the unrolling; whether the efflorescence was the result of damp, and whether the mummies were threatened with destruction. Dr. Fouquet reported that he had observed the efflorescence on the mummy of Seti I at the time it was unbandaged, June 16, 1886; that a specimen of it examined microscopically was found to be composed of scales and prisms of crystallized salts, with the origin of which dampness had nothing to do, and that in it were neither mycites nor spores; and that efforts to propagate mold on pieces of mummy and mummy-cloth exposed to damp resulted only in sterility. The efflorescence is, in fact, simply an extrusion of the salts employed in the embalming of the mummy, and of the repairs to the same when it was removed, about twenty-three hundred years ago, from its original resting-place to Dahr-el-Bahari. Hence, the mummies are supposed to be safe from atmospheric deterioration.

 

The Fijians.—In a lecture on the Fiji Islands, delivered at Hokitika, New Zealand, the Rev. S. J. Gibson said that the native population was about a hundred thousand, while the Europeans numbered three hundred thousand. All the natives have embraced Christianity; churches and schools are found in every village, and crime is almost unknown. In the construction of the native houses, chimneys and partitions are not appreciated. The sleeping-place is divided off by mosquito-curtains only. The men are powerful, well developed, with copper-colored skins, and some of the women are of prepossessing appearance. European clothing is used by some of the natives, and gives them occasionally a grotesque appearance. Oiling the body and liming the hair are customary. A dress consisting of a white shirt, a length of white sheeting round the waist, and a sash of native cloth is becoming. Young girls wear a waist-cloth and a sort of pinafore, without either headcovering or boots. The language is musical, but difficult to master; and it is, indeed, almost impossible for a white man to learn it thoroughly. A kind of bread is made by burying fruit with some substance to make