Lime spatula-wood

Production date
19th Century
Papua New Guinea
Milne B
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Object Detail

Lime Spatula: 300 x 23
Production place
Media/Materials description
Wood, glass trade beads
History and use
Betelnut chewing is practised throughout Papua New Guinea as well as parts of Asia and East Africa. The ‘betel-nut’ actually comes from the seed of the areca palm, which is chewed along with the leaf of the betel plant, and mineral lime to produce a mildly narcotic effect.

In Papua New Guinea, the equipment associated with the preparation and consumption of betelnut is often highly decorated. Among the most elaborate betel equipment are the lime spatulas produced in the Massim region of south eastern Papua New Guinea. Massim lime spatulas are carved in a variety of designs, with human and animal figures among the most common.

This piece is an example of the ‘clapper’ style of spatula, which can be identified by the slit that runs down the middle of the handle creating a sound box. The carving on such spatulas is said to represent a lizard. In parts of Milne Bay clapper spatulas are used for magic, and the objects are reserved for chiefs.

This lime spatula was collected in the late 19th Century by Sir William Macgregor, who served as Administrator of British New Guinea from 1887 to 1898. MacGregor later went on to become Governor of Queensland.
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