Six Karen Lacquer Betel Boxes
Karen People, Burma
late 19th century
height of each: 9.6 cm (approx.); diameter of each: 9.5 cm (approx.)
Each of these six boxes comprises a base, a cover and two internal trays. They are made of woven bamboo coated with a dark ochre lacquer and decorated with split bamboo bands left in their natural colour. Several retain traces of lime and other betel quid ingredients.
Whereas lacquer betel boxes in Burma generally are red the source of which is cinnabar, the betel boxes of the Karen ethnic group who live along the Thai-Burma border are coloured with a natural soil-based pigment.
A container identical to those here appears in Rooney, D.F., Betel Chewing Traditions in South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1993, colour plate 16.
Inventory no.: 271