Lime Container & Spatula Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea
This fine old ceremonial Lime Container & Bone Spatula are from the middle Sepik River area in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Chewing betel nut in New Guinea is very common, men, women & sometimes even children chew betel nut from the areca palm or Areca catechu. People chew the Areca nuts for their effects as a mild stimulant . The nuts chewed with betel leaf and slaked lime made from burnt & crushed sea shells.
There is several types of Betel Chewing Implements that are made, Mortars & Lime Spatulas are the most common and often the most beautifully carved mortars are used by older men who have lost their teeth and now need to crush the nut before ingesting it.
During important ceremonies people in the Sepik will share betel nut & use special containers like this one. The cylindrical container is made from bamboo, it is finely decorated with incised clan designs. The top of the bamboo has a lid with a small whole where the bone lime spatula can be put into the container, when people want to add lime to their betel nut mixture, they lick the bone lime spatula and put into the container where the lime is, the lime sticks to the bone spatula and it is then licked off to mix with the betel nut already in their mouth .
This bone lime spatula made from Cassowary Bone a large flightless bird , the finial is finely carved in the form of a stylised bird with an ancestors face in front. The first time i looked at this lime spatula I was completely charmed by the sweet like face that looks amazing on side profile.
Collected in 1966 by the geologist Peter Austin. Much of Peter Austin collection was sold to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and published in a book “New Guinea : Big Man Island” by ES Rogers, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Canada 1970. The collection remains in the Toronto Museum today. His best objects were kept for 50 years until the collection was sold to me.
The Todd Barlin Collection of Papua New Guinea Art and Oceanic Art
To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.
For all inquiries, please contact us.