• $190.00
    Unit price per 


The lime pounders and containers of the Trobriand Islands are among the most collectible carvings in Oceania. Lime spatulas, pounder and receptacles are related to the betel nut chewing habit and are of great importance in the Massim area.

These 3 pieces  are very old, each unique with a nice patina too, hand carved light or dark wood with nice hand carved or etched motifs on the pestle or the cups, created with rudimentary tools.

Please inspect photos carefully to be satisfied with the details and condition of each one, pictures speak louder than words.

This is a CHOICE between:

Item BP22 (on the left), BP23 in the middle and BP24 (on the right.), each carved in a different native precious wood from the area.

BP22 is on the left on photo 1: as seen on that photo with the spatula inside it is 14" tall & separated the 2 pieces are 10" & 7". Nice inserts of mother of pearl and hand etching geometric motifs on cup and pestle. Good patina (C. 1960). Belonged to a Chief.

BP23 in center on photo 1: forgot to measure but it can be estimated looking at the other 2. Nice patina and some nice hand etching geometric motifs and grooves on cup. Good patina. (C. 1920)

BP24 on the right on photo 1: as seen on that photo with the spatula inside it is 11" tall & separated the 2 pieces are 8" & 6".  Golden wood, Good patina, some etched motifs. (C. 1950) 

Papua New Guinea, Trobriand Islands, early 20th century: These hand-carved wooden betel receptacles with pounder or pestle included, were each finely carved and adorned with incised curvilinear and stylized geometric details, once adorned with white pigment in the grooves. The middle pestle presents an intricate design featuring two maskettes, one on each side of the cylindrical pounder.

Trobriand Island lime pounders and containers are among the most collectible examples of carved material culture from Oceania. They are related to betel nut chewing, an activity that accompanies many social and ritualistic occasions. 

They are related to betel nut chewing, an activity that accompanies many social and ritualistic occasions.

The practice of betel nut chewing actually involves the chewing of three substances together: the nut of a palm (which purportedly tastes similar to nutmeg); the leaf, bean, or stem of the betel vine, which is a member of the pepper family; and hydrated or slaked lime (from burned seashells or coral or from mountain lime).

Betel chewing is part of working in the gardens, attending feasts, meeting friends, trade rituals, and making love for the people of East New Guinea and the Trobriands.

A traditional part of a man's personal paraphernalia in New Guinea and the Trobriands was his lime container and the spatula for betel chewing, a custom practiced on social and ritual occasions.

Three substances are actually chewed together: the nut of a palm, which has a hot, acrid taste similar to nutmeg; the leaf, bean, or stem of the betel vine, which is a member of the pepper family; and slaked lime made from burned sea shells or coral or from mountain lime and kept in this container while not in use. Once chewed, the mixture becomes a mild stimulant said to reduce hunger, pain, create a sense of well-being, and increase a person's capacity for work. Chewing betel nut makes people teeth turn red and eventually rot.  

The Massim district from which these lime spatulas originate consists of the southeastern tip of New Guinea, the Louisade Archipelago, the D'Entrecasteaux Islands, and the Trobriand Islands. There is much trade between the islands; both ceremonial trading, called hula in which shell-disc necklaces and shell armbands are exchanged, and utilitarian, in which canoes, clay pots, wooden bowls, pigs, food, betel-nuts, and betel chewing utensils are traded. Betel chewing plays an important role in the hula. Lime spatulas are sometimes offered to get the trade partner to yield the desired hula item and the power of betel chewing is also used to influence trading.

Compare at $500.00 and up for older ones such as these at auction. I have seen one go at a New York SOTHEBY AUCTION for $1,000.00.

All our collector and rare items come with pages and pages of research about provenance, and with history of the tribes and photos as well, depending on item and whenever possible. When shipping internationally, we group ship multiple purchases to save you money, and find the best rates available. If you have any questions or want to see research conducted on these pieces, let us know.