Lime spatula

Registration number
Item name
Lime spatula 
Indigenous name
Associated cultural group
Iatmul (language) 
Pacific > Papua New Guinea > East Sepik Province > Angoram District > Kamindibit village
Mr Des Bartlett 
Acquisition date
February 06, 1954 
Acquisition method
Purchased from Mr Des Bartlett 
Raw material
Bone; pigment
H: W: 30 mm L: 425 mm D: 97 mm Circum:


Lime spatula carved from bone. The handle is carved into an irregular form resembling a bird figure with a long legs and neck. Four pieces of string are threaded through perforated holes in the handle and are knotted. The midsection and blade are narrow and taper to a sharp point. Brown pigment covers most of the spatula and part of the handle is missing. Registration number 7036 marked on a tag attached to the spatula.

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].

In 1953 Mr Bartlett spent four months in the Middle Sepik of Papua New Guinea to make the 16mm colour film 'Among the Headhunters' for an American film company. During this time he obtained many items, many of which were later purchased by the Anthropology Museum in 1954.

This particular lime spatula was used during the initiation of boys.

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