Date Made/Found: 1870-1930
Material and Medium: whale bone
Dimensions: Overall: 65 x 15 x 410mm (2 9/16 x 9/16 x 16 1/8in.)
Place Object Found:
Papua New Guinea
Accession Number: 2006.221
Elongated tear drop shaped lime spatula (type 40) which tapers to a point on one end and is flat on both sides. Holes drilled around the top edges are not regular and larger on one side than the other, probably made with a stone drill. Holes would originally have been decorated with shells.
Such spatula made from bone is rather rare and is said to be owned only by wealthy individuals. It is a kula item used as a ritual of exchange in the islands of north east of New Guinea. The concept of kula was first studied by Bronislaw Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands. Men travel by canoe to visit their kula partners on other islands and exchange necklaces and bracelets made from shell. Necklaces are always exchanged for bracelets. This means that necklaces always travel clockwise around the ring of islands, and bracelets anti-clockwise. Participants in kula gain fame and status if they can give or receive well-known objects. Other items are exchanged also, such as stone axe blades and lime spatulas.Display Location: