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    Karo Batak Etched Bamboo Lime Container (Tagan)

    Karo Batak People, North Sumatra, Indonesia
    circa 1900

    height: 20.5cm, diameter: 7.6cm



    formerly in the collection of Henry Browrigg, author of a book on the betel cutters in the Samuel Eilenberg Collection

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This tall container known as a tagan is of finely etched bamboo with horn mounts, a carved wooden foot, and a carved, domed wooden stopper. Such containers were used by the Karo Batak people of north Sumatra to hold powdered lime which was added to the betel quid, betel being a mild, social narcotic that was chewed.

    The lime was obtained by burning seashells and coral and then grinding it to a powder.

    Related examples are illustrated in Sibeth (1991, p. 155), and Sibeth & Carpenter (2007, p. 335).

    The container has a splendid patina and obvious age. It contains remnants of lime.

    See a related example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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

    Sibeth, A., & B. Carpenter, Batak Sculpture, Editions Didier Millet, 2007.

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