Explore highlights
Lime spatula


Length: 25.000 cm

Gift of Mrs H.G. Beasley

AOA Ethno 1944.Oc2.1901

Africa, Oceania, Americas

    Lime spatula

    From Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea
    Late 19th - early 20th century AD

    Made by Mutuaga

    In much of Papua New Guinea people chew betel nut (that is, the seed of the betel palm, Areca catechu). Chewed with powdered lime and a leaf of betel pepper, the seed has a mildly narcotic effect, and stimulates digestion. In many places, the equipment for betel chewing is beautifully carved and decorated, and this is particularly true for south-eastern Papua New Guinea.

    This wooden spatula is a flat spoon for extracting the lime from a container. Lime spatulas from this area are carved and decorated in both abstract and representational form. This is one of the few carved to represent a human figure, who here is holding and beating a hand-drum.

    Following detailed investigations, the researcher Harry Beran has identified this example as having been carved by a known individual. Such identifications are rare, given the traditions of ethnographic collecting, with the names of the people involved in the production of items often not recorded. This spatula appears to have been made by Mutuaga of Dagodagoisu Village, South Cape, Milne Bay Province, who lived from about 1860 to the early 1920s.

    H. Beran, Mutuaga: a nineteenth-century (University of Wollongong Press, 1996)

    H. Beran, Betel-chewing equipment of Eas (Princes Risborough, Shire Ethnography, 1988)


    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection

    Shop Online

    Fun-filled Egyptian hieroglyphic activity kit, £16.99

    Fun-filled Egyptian hieroglyphic activity kit, £16.99