Lime spatula

Registration number
Item name
Lime spatula 
Indigenous name
Associated cultural group
Pacific > Papua New Guinea > Milne Bay Province > Alotau > Massim style
Mr Atherton 
Acquisition date
April 08, 1950 
Acquisition method
Donated by Miss Atherton 
Raw material
H: W: 42 mm L: 600 mm D: 15 mm Circum:


Lime spatula carved from wood with a handle in the form of a narrow loop that is wide at the end and narrow at the base. The inner edge of the loop is raised and a small, rectangular section is carved at the handle end. The outer, flat edge of the loop and top section of the blade are incised with curvilinear designs. The blade tapers toward the handle and has a pointed end. The registration number 4392 is marked on the blade in black.

Research notes

Betel nut chewing is a pastime known in parts of Asia and the Pacific where betel nut, the seed of the areca palm (Areca catechu), is chewed with betel leaves and lime made from burnt shell and coral. Used frequently as a mild stimulant and for medicinal purposes, the betel nut stains user's saliva, lips and teeth red. The highly carved spatulas are accessories showing rank and are often used for ornament only [ref H. Beran, Betel-chewing Equipment of East New Guinea].

'Miss Atherton's father was stationed at Cooktown, may years ago, and she gave to me what specimens he had collected. She told me still remembers a native boat calling into Cooktown with a crew of Kanakas on board, and that they had sailed down from either New Guinea or the Torres Straits' [ref. Catalogue Book 1].

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