Alexander Goldenweiser.

Early civilization; an introduction to anthropology online

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sure it was impossible for the women to pay visits to one
another without permission, or for other visitors to pass
in or out without special leave. . . . On the road from the
main entrance to the council chamber were the best houses
and there the strongest guards were stationed. The roads
were lined with retainers, who guarded the king and were
ready for any emergency. These retainers lived in tents
made from cow hide, as less inflammable than grass, in order
to diminsh the risks of fire in the royal houses, which were
entirely constructed of reeds and grass, so that when once a
fire broke out, it was a serious question whether any of the
buildings could be saved. The chiefs who were acting as
guards to the king had to provide their own tents during the
months that they were in office. The sovereign's retainers
wore a special dress of antelope skins, slung over the right
shoulder, passed under the left arm, and tied round the waist
with a plaintain fibre girdle ; their wants were supplied from
the king's own lands . . . ; they were on duty in relays for
months at a time. As there were no lamps or candles for
night work, torches were made from dry reeds; the manu-
facture of these reed torches became quite an industry and


enabled the king to have the forts lighted up every night.
Bark cloth trees were planted near the main entrance by the
priests of each principal deity, at the time when the king's
houses were built, and offerings were placed under each of
them for each particular god; the trees were carefully
guarded and tended, because it was believed that as they
grew and flourished so the king's life and powers would

The enclosures of the queen and the king's mother were
situated at some distance from the royal residence, sepa-
rated from it by a stream of running water, for it was said
that "two kings could not live on the same hill." The royal
residence was connected with these enclosures of the queen
and the queen's mother, by straight roads lined on both
sides with homes of important chiefs, so that communica-
tion could always be maintained without fear of attack by
wild animals.

"The King sent presents to each of the important deities ;
female slaves, animals, cowry-shells and bark cloth. He
returned the royal spear to Budo and sent with it an offering
of nine women, nine cows, nine goats, nine loads of cowry-
shells and nine loads of bark cloth, together with one of the
widows who was to be the wife of the god Budo ; this woman
was given the title Nakato, the name of Budo's first wife,
who when she gave birth to a child caused the sacred well
Nansove to spring forth on Budo Hill."

A vast army of cooks was always busy at the royal en-
closure. They were mostly women servants and slaves, who
worked urider one of the king's wives. Baskets of food for
the entire retinue were placed before the King for inspec-
tion twice a day. He himself ate alone, served by one of his
wives, who, however, was not permitted to see him while
he was engaged in eating. "The Lion eats alone," said the
people. If any one happened to come in and overtake the
King in the process of eating, he was promptly speared to
death by the latter, and the people said: "The Lion when
eating killed so and so." What the king left could not be


touched by any one but was given to his favorite dogs. In
the course of this early period of the king's reign, a number
of other ceremonies were performed, in connection with one
of which some unsuspecting passersby were seized on the
high road and put to death to invigorate the king.

When the rightful heir was a minor or was for some
other reason unacceptable to the chiefs, the prime minister
appointed a regent, a post always filled by a man, as a
woman would not be tolerated on the throne, even tem-
porarily. If the king had no son, the king's brother ruled,
but if, in the meantime, the king had a son born to him, he
became the heir, not one of the king's brothers' sons.

The Uganda country was divided into ten districts pre-
sided over by ten chiefs. Among these two of the biggest
chiefs were not included, namely, Katikiro, who was prime
minister and chief justice, and Kimbugwe, who had charge
of the king's umbilical cord. These two chiefs had no dis-
tricts of their own, but like the king himself, they owned
estates in the different districts. These administrative sub-
divisions of Uganda were so arranged as to have the boun-
daries marked by some natural feature : a stream of water,
a small wood, and the like. In addition to the divisions of
Uganda proper, certain tributary countries must be men-
tioned which were in part subject to the Baganda. In the
north lived the Bosoga, from whom a regular tribute of
goats, cows and slaves was expected. The country to the
southwest of Budu belonged to the people of Koki, who
paid tribute in iron hoes and cowry-shells. These people
had a king of their own, but they could not withstand the
raids of the Baganda. To the west were the Ankole, who
kept peace with the Baganda at the cost of periodic contribu-
tions of herds of cattle. The Kiziba, finally, who occupied
the district south of Budu, sent tribute of cowry-shells and
trade goods which they themselves obtained from tribes liv-
ing further south.

The Katikiro, in his capacity of chief justice, settled the
cases which were beyond the competence of the other chiefs.


His decisions were not regarded as final, however, until con-
firmed by the King. The enclosure, in which Katikiro held
his residence, resembled the royal enclosure, with its courts
and gate keepers, so that only friends, important chiefs and
specially privileged individuals could reach him freely.

The chiefs spent a large part of their time at the capital,
nor were they at liberty to leave for their own districts
without the king's permission. In their absence, their ad-
ministrative duties were performed by temporary officials.

All the land belonged to the King, excepting only the free-
hold estates of the gentes, over which the King had no direct
control. Contributions to the state in taxes and labor were,
however, expected from these estates. The king had the
right to depose a chief at will. When a chief was turned
out of his estate, but no offense could be shown against him,
he was permitted to take his wives and cattle along with
him; if, on the other hand, he was guilty of some misdeed,
the cattle as well as the wives were taken by the king, pro-
vided he was able to find them. In the minor estates the
sub-chiefs were masters and within the range of the local
affairs their control was absolute; in all matters appertain-
ing to state work, however, they were expected to consult
the district chiefs.

Each district chief had to maintain a road about four
yards wide, leading from the capital to his district, and the
sub-chiefs had to do the same with the roads connecting their
sections with the residence of the district chief. In cases
where these roads led over swamps the builder's task re-
quired a tremendous amount of labor. Not infrequently
bridges were erected over streams. If the stream was too
wide for a bridge, and the detour to a bridgeable place was
too great, papyrus stems were broken over their roots, and
in this way a precarious crossing was secured. If, in crossing
such a bridge any one slipped, he was doomed. No attempt
was made to rescue him as it was believed that he had
been claimed by the spirits of the river, whose vengeance
was feared in case a rescue was attempted.


In the capital itself roads about twenty yards wide were
maintained. The labor required for the erection of resi-
dences, enclosures, fences, roads, had to be supplied by the
entire country, and it was the duty of the prime minister
to see to it that this was done expeditiously. Every house-
hold called upon for workers was also expected to furnish
twenty-five cowry-shells. Of the large quantity of shells
thus amassed, the king took two-thirds and the Katikiro
one-third, which he divided as follows : one-third was given
to the chiefs who supplied the laborers, one-third to the
overseers, and one-third the prime minister kept for him-
self. When work was being done on a road, any passerby
could be stopped and forced to help for a while, before
being permitted to proceed.

To defray the cost of various state enterprises, taxes
were imposed by the king, a process described by Roscoe in
the following words:

"When the time to collect the taxes was drawing near,
the King, the Katikiro and the Kimbugwe fixed the exact
date, and it was then announced in the council that the
taxes would be collected on such and such a date. The king
appointed the special tax collector for each district; to these
district collectors, the Katikiro, the Kimbugwe, the Queen
and the King's mother, each added their own representa-
tives, and the district chief also added a representative.
These six men who were appointed to a district went to
each part of it; the principal sub-chiefs were first visited
by them in person, but they chose and sent other messengers
to each of the less important chiefs. The King's tax col-
lector and his associates returned to the district chief's en-
closure, where they were entertained while the work was
being carried out by their men. The first thing to be done
was to count the houses in each sub-district, and to ascertain
the number of the inhabitants; the tax collector would then
settle with each chief what amount he was expected to send
to the King. One cowry-shell was brought by the collector's
assistants to represent each cow, and after these had Been


counted, the assistants went back to collect the tax. The
amount usually demanded was a fixed number of cattle from
each sub-chief, and a fixed number of bark cloth and one
hundred cowry-shells from each peasant; of the smaller
chiefs each paid a number of goats and also a few hoes.
It frequently took two months, or more, to collect the taxes,
because the bark cloth and hoes had to be made, and the
cattle had to be collected. When this was accomplished,
each servant took his amount on the appointed day to the
district chief; the cowry-shells and bark cloth were counted
and tied up in bundles, while the cattle were sent on ahead
to travel slowly to the capitol. The King's tax collector
took the whole amount to the Katikiro, who had to examine
it, and to hear the details as to the number of houses and
people in each sub-district, and as to how many bark cloths
and cowry-shells had been collected from them. If the
amount was correct, the Katikiro took the whole to the
King; if it was wrong, the tax collector was required to re-
turn to the district and to gather what was missing, accord-
ing to instructions which he received from the Katikiro.
The chief of a district received a portion of the taxes for
himself and for his sub-chiefs; the King took half for him-
self, while the Katikiro, the Kimbugwe, the Queen and the
King's mother also had their portions. Each sub-chief was
given a small portion of the amount which came from his
own district; the King, the Queen, the King's mother, the
Katikiro and the Kimbugwe, kept the whole of what came
from their own estates, in addition to the portion which
they received from the taxes of the entire country. The
tributary states paid their tribute through the chiefs under
whom they were placed, making their payments with cattle,
slaves, ivory, cowry-shells, salt, hoes, etc."

For minor services the king was wont to secure young
boys and girls from people in different parts of the country.
The relevant statistics were obtained by a representative
of the king, who would induce people to supply information
about their neighbors and acquaintances. Then an arrange-


ment was made with the district chief, and the children were
furnished. The king would keep for himself the boys and
girls he liked best, turning the others over to his mother,
the Queen, the Katikiro and the Kimbugwe.

A great many individuals throughout the land lived on
the private estates of chiefs, working, and on occasion fight-
ing for them in compensation for the tenure.

A considerable variety of crimes were recognized before
the courts held by the sub-chiefs, the chiefs, the prime
minister and the king. Distinction was made between
murder and homicide, murder involving malicious intent.
For homicide the fine was twenty cows, twenty goats, twenty
bark cloths and twenty women. The whole fine was never
paid, but only a part, while the rest remained unpaid for
years, until a debt was incurred by the creditor gens for
these were gentile matters whereupon the two debts were

The Baganda believe in spirit and ghosts, fetiches and
amulets. There is also a pantheon of higher deities. The
main national deities are in the king's charge. Their temples
are situated upon the chiefs' estates in the different dis-
tricts of Uganda, the owner of an estate usually officiating
as the priest in the local temple. With him, one or more
mediums are associated, who have the power of communicat-
ing directly with the god. The spot occupied by a temple
is sacred, so is the person of the priest; sacred are also his
robes, all ceremonial paraphernalia, and the like. Persons
become mediums accidentally. If a man or a woman acts as
if possessed by a spirit, this is interpreted as a call from the
god, and the person is sent to the temple.

Before entering into communication with the deity, the
medium takes a smoke of tobacco and drinks a cup of beer,
after which a frenzied condition sets in, during which com-
munication with the god is established. After the perform-
ance, all memory of the incidents of the trance disappears
from the medium's mind. A medium is usually a man, but


women mediums are not unknown, in which case the woman
is called the wife of the god.

When a woman asks a god for girls and the request is
granted, the girls are dedicated to the god, and when
weaned, they are taken to the temple. These girls take care
of the sacred fire as well as of the grass floor covering, and
guard the sacred pipes and tobacco. This continues until
maturity is reached, when they are permitted to leave the
temple and marry.

Priests and mediums are not the only religious officials,
for medicine-men are also known who, in some respects, are
regarded as more powerful than the priests. They make
amulets and fetiches, an accomplishment they share with no
one else, cure sickness and act as surgeons, particularly
when the need arises to stop the flow of blood after a wound
has been inflicted in battle, or a limb has been amputated in
punishment for an offense. If not for the medicine-man's
assistance, such individuals would be likely to bleed to death.
Medicine-men also exorcise ghosts.

One of the principal gods was Mukasa, the god of plenty,
who sent food, cattle and children. A much less important
deity was Nulwanga, Mukasa's chief wife, who assisted
childless women to become mothers. When war was waged
by the Baganda, Kibuka, the god of war, was served by as
many as forty mediums, but at other times only one of these
was in attendance. Then there was Kaumpuli, the god of
the plague, and Katonda, the creator, called the "Father of
the Gods," who was believed to have created all things;
outside of that, little was known about him and but slight
respect was shown him. Finally, there was Walumbe, the
god of death.

The belief in ghosts was general and they were greatly
feared. In their habits and wants, ghosts were like men.
They were, moreover, shaped like their former owners, so
that, when a limb was amputated in punishment for an of-
fense, the ghost of the culprit was similarly afflicted: hence
the general dread of such amputations. Ghosts were wont


to play about the graves as well as among the trees in the
glowing sunshine of midday, and children were warned
against them at these times. Ghosts clung with a special
tenacity to the lower jawbone, and if this was removed,
the ghosts would follow it anywhere, hence the jawbones of
kings were preserved for many generations and their power
was great.

The king was expected to visit the temple of his predeces-
sor, which was in charge of the dowager queen. When
about to leave, the king would suddenly give an order that
all persons who had not passed a certain spot arbitrarily
named by him, should be seized. This order was at once
carried out by his bodyguard, and the persons seized were
bound and gagged. Then they were sacrificed to the ghost
of the dead king, so that their ghosts might administer
to his.

Lions, leopards, crocodiles, buffaloes and other animals
had ghosts of their own. A special fear was aroused by the
ghosts of light colored persons, of persons born feet first,
of those who were strangled at birth, and of suicides.
The bodies of such persons were buried at cross-roads, and
grass was thrown on their graves by passersby to appease
the ghosts. If a suicide was committed in a house, the
house was destroyed, or if a man hanged himself on a tree,
the tree was uprooted and burned with the body.

There were also water and forest spirits, some of whom
had priests as well as temples.

Great powers were ascribed to certain artificial objects,
usually of portable size, made from definite substances com-
bined in a fixed way. These were the fetiches, the prepara-
tion of which was a secret art, usually known to no one but
the medicine-men. One of these was Mbajwe, the king's
main fetich, to which were attached a temple, a priest and
a female medium. This fetich was made of rope in the
likeness of a serpent, with a head formed of clay and fash-
ioned like that of a serpent. A number of individuals, each
belonging to a particular gens, had duties associated with


this fetich. In addition to all of these deities and sacred
spots, there were thirteen sacrificial places, at which hu-
man sacrifices were made. These were controlled by cer-
tain gods, who, it was thought, informed the king how many
victims were required. Each sacrificial spot was in charge
of a custodian, while the more important ones had their own
temples with attendant priests. A large number of human
victims was demanded for some of these sacrificial cere-



The material civilization of Central Australia and of
Australia as a whole is very crude. The negatives pre-
dominate. There is no pottery, only very crude basketry.
Agriculture does not occur, not even in the early form of
garden culture, which is characteristic of wide areas in
Melanesia and Polynesia. Domestication appears only in
the case of the dingo, an Australian variety of wolf, which,
caught young and brought up under the care of a boy or a
woman, develops into a fairly manageable dog. Some ani-
mals, such as the cassawary, are kept as pets, but these are
not infrequently permitted to starve from neglect.

Thus the life preserving activities are few and simple.
The women gather yams, roots and berries; the men hunt;
while fishing is once more in the hands of women, who use
crudely woven baskets with which they catch the fish. In
cases where a creek is narrow and shallow, a hedge is built
nearly across it, and the congestion of fish thus brought
about often makes it possible to catch it with the bare
hands. The yams are dug by means of a pointed stick with
a charred end; in case of necessity, the same contrivance is
also used as a weapon. It is reported that in the fights be-
tween groups of men and groups of women which occur in
some sections of Australia, the latter, armed with digging
sticks are able to hold their own against the men who wield
their clubs.

Animals in the open are often hunted by means of a sur-
round. The whole tribe participates, including the old
men, women and children. A wide circle is formed, the
participants making as much noise as possible. As the
circle gradually narrows, the animals inside the circle be-


come aroused, and as they jump from the grass and run to
and fro, they are slaughtered without great difficulty.

The kangaroo is hunted in more individual fashion. In
chasing one, a man may want the assistance of a woman
and one or more children, or he may follow it all alone.
When a kangaroo is sighted the hunter follows it, trying
hard not to arouse its attention. If the kangaroo becomes
suspicious, the hunter stops short and remains motionless.
After a while the animal regains its calm and the chase
is resumed. If the man succeeds in coming near enough
to throw a club or a large boomerang or spear, he does so-
Usually, however, the hunter fails to bring the animal down
without a prolonged chase. Often he follows it for hours,
a feat requiring great endurance.. During the last stage of
the chase, the kangaroo is wont to rise on its haunches, and
with its back against a large tree, await the approaching
hunter. The latter must be careful to avoid the dangerous
hind legs of the animal; outside of this, no difficulty is ex-
perienced in clubbing it to death. To bring down a kangaroo
thus single-handed is no small feat, and a man who succeeds
in doing so is greatly esteemed by the natives.

The habitations of these natives are of the crudest kind:
th^re are no huts of any sort, the only protection against
inclement weather consisting of a windshield made of longi-
tudinal pieces of bark supported in a slanting position by a
number of poles. When in use, the shield is turned about
so as to offer protection against the wind.

Navigation is very little developed. Australia is a land
of few rivers. A large number of these are so-called creeks
which have the distracting habit of losing their way to the
ocean. Soon after the beginning of the dry season they be-
come transformed into elongated pools and finally dry out

The only canoes reported from Australia are two bark
varieties, both crudely made. One is cut whole from the
bark of a large tree, the ends then being tied together with
bark strings. The other is made of several pieces of bark


sewed together as a canoe. Even these canoes may repre-
sent but a local adaptation derived from the neighboring

The list of weapons is fairly extensive but reveals one
interesting gap : the bow and arrow, which are almost uni-
versal in early communities, do not occur in Australia. A
stone knife, on the other hand, is ubiquitous here. Then
there are two varieties of spears, a long one and a shorter
variety, the so-called javelin; two varieties of shields, an
assortment of clubs, and the boomerang. The spears are
either thrown directly by the hand or a spear-thrower is
used, an ingenious contrivance which occurs also in New
Guinea, as well as in a region far removed from the South
Seas, namely, as was shown before, among the Eskimo of
arctic America. Of the two varieties of shields the wider
is used for protection against spears, while the narrower
shields are employed against clubs. The latter variety of
shields represents but a slightly transformed club with a
handle in the middle, and there can be little doubt that this
shield has actually evolved from a club.

As to the boomerang, several varieties of this curious
weapon are in use. The larger ones, with or without a
thickening at one end, are often used as clubs in fighting
men or large animals; while the smaller ones are flat elon-
gated boards, straight or curved in the shape of a banana.
When used by the natives for hunting small animals they
are thrown with remarkable accuracy and power. A very
small straight boomerang is employed for killing birds. The
so-called returning boomerang, a variety responsible for the
world-wide repute of this device, consists of a curved board
with a double twist, one end having a twist in one direction,
the other in the opposite one. When this contrivance is
thrown in a certain prescribed way, it encounters compli-
cated aerial resistances in its flight, due to the twists. As a
result, it performs curious manoeuvres in the air before fall-
ing to the ground, and may, on occasion, return to the very
spot from which it was thrown. This type of boomerang,


however, is not used for fighting or hunting, but only for
target practise and like tests of skill.

Online LibraryAlexander GoldenweiserEarly civilization; an introduction to anthropology → online text (page 8 of 36)