Papua New Guinea, Trobriand Islands, ca. late 19th to early 20th century CE. A hand-carved wooden betel nut pounder, including the pestle and container, both finely carved, pestle featuring a sweet bird with mesmerizing incised feather patterns perched on top, the container adorned with incised curvilinear and stylized geometric details. 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. Size: 12.25" H (31.1 cm)
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). When chewed, this mixture becomes a mild stimulant thought to alleviate pain, reduce hunger, create a general feeling of well being, and increase a person's capacity to work. Chewing betel nut often makes Trobrianders' teeth appear red.
Provenance: collection of the late Peter Arnovick, San Francisco, California USA
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