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Betel Mortar

Ramu, Madang Province, Ramu River region, Papua New Guinea
19th-early 20th century

Provenance: Old European collection
People of the Ramu region chew betel nut with lime, for its stimulant virtues. Elders use betel mortars when they cannot chew anymore, to regularly crush the nut with a pestle in order to release the active substance. Male elders carry betel mortars as marks of authority. The three stone tooled sculpted figures supporting the bowl may either be ancestors, spirits or supernatural creatures. The mortar, with its traces of red pigment and patinated surface, was used over a long period of time, attesting its magical efficiency.

Betel Mortar

Ramu, Madang Province, Ramu River region, Papua New Guinea 19th-early 20th century

Provenance: Old European collection
People of the Ramu region chew betel nut with lime, for its stimulant virtues. Elders use betel mortars when they cannot chew anymore, to regularly crush the nut with a pestle in order to release the active substance. Male elders carry betel mortars as marks of authority. The three stone tooled sculpted figures supporting the bowl may either be ancestors, spirits or supernatural creatures. The mortar, with its traces of red pigment and patinated surface, was used over a long period of time, attesting its magical efficiency.