Inventory no.: 3344

Karo Batak Bamboo Lime Containers, Sumatra, Indonesia


Man & Woman’s Bamboo Lime Containers

Batak People, North Sumatra, Indonesia

early 20th century

heights: 17.7cm & 8.5cm

These two containers have been fashioned from wood and bamboo, and are from the Karo Batak people of north Sumatra. Usually, such containers are used to hold lime for use in making the betel quid. (Betel is a type of mild narcotic that is chewed.)

The bamboo body of the taller of the two has been etched with fine geometric patterns. It sits on a wooden base and has a wooden top and lid. The underside of the base has been inset with mirrored glass. The relatively flat lid denotes that it was meant to be used by a man. Lids that are more domed were intedned for women (Sibeth & Carpenter, 2007, p. 335).

The smaller container has a plain bamboo body with a base, top and lid all made of wood. The lid is domed and comes almost to a point. The base is a wooden disk, the underside of which has been finely carved with floral type patterns in a geometric framework. Lime remnants are inside. This type of lime container, like the taller version with domed lids, was intended to be used by women.

Similar examples to both are illustrated in Sibeth (1991, p. 155) and Sibeth & Carpenter (2007, p. 335-7).

Both are in fine condition. The taller has some light minor age-related chipping to an edge and some light, shrinkage-related cracking to the bamboo, but all is stable. Both have a fine, mellow patina.


Sibeth, A., The Batak: Peoples of Island Sumatra, Thames & Hudson, 1991.

Sibeth, A., & B. Carpenter,

Batak Sculpture, Editions Didier Millet, 2007.Provenance:

UK antique market

Inventory no.: 3344