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: 30 mm L: 320 mm D: 25 mm Circum:


Lime spatula carved from light wood with a handle in the form of a seated human figure. The figure has a prominent brow and nose and is incised with curvilinear designs. Two vertical lines are carved in relief down the midsection of the spatula between two bands of zigzags also carved in relief. A piece of the blade and handle are missing. Registration number 4396 marked on midsection 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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