AUD $130.00

Timorese Beaded Lime Pot


This old beaded tubular beaded bamboo box was made by the Atoni in Western Timor, to carry powdered lime for use in "betel" (areca nut and betel leaf) preparation, and worn in the small flat weave shoulder bags of which we may still have two examples, see also (Plainer incised bamboo lime pots were less fragile and more easily worn tucked into a Timorese man's woven waist sash.) 

The bamboo tube is covered in a fine net threaded with a "simple" diagonal diamond pattern of really tiny, very old opaque and translucent glass Trade Beads. These tiny beads, which are very variable in both size and colour, could have either European or Chinese origins, but I think they are Chinese, they are so mixed that I also think they have been recycled from much older pieces of beadwork. These beads were greatly prized and valued as treasured heirlooms, worn to show wealth and status, they were used over and over. (These tiny beads are the most exotic that I have handled.)

I admire the skill and refinement used to produce such a light, well fitting storage unit, locked with a carved wooden plug. There is what remains of a faded, brown cotton cord "handle" broken in half, holding the plain wooden plug. At the other end of the tube a few beaded forking strands remain from a larger tassel.

Apart from this cord and tassel breakage the rest of the beadwork is in near perfect preservation but is very eccentric in its beading, colours are used where you wouldn't expect them and colour fields have mixes of opacity and colour including "ring ins"  making the colours visually vibrant, rather like "abrash" in Persian Rugs.

These thinner more elongated tubes are for storing powdered lime for use in "betel" (areca nut and betel leaf) preparation, whilst the broader or more squat designs are for tobacco. I was actually surprised to find a bundle of dark, dry tobacco in one, as I usually handle "lime pots" which often have a residue of fine white powdered lime. (We may also still have some incised bamboo and beaded Timorese Lime  and Tobacco Pots available, which like the Turkoman Tobacco Snuff Bottles offer a great field for collectors.)

The parallels and meanings found in these beadworks, engravings and their textile traditions offer a whole field of study. At the time I collected these pieces I was carrying an embroidered Turkoman shoulder bag. The Timorese traders all responded to the Turkoman "rams horn" designs and yes, they showed me, there they were in the engraved Timorese bamboos and Borneo beadworks.

(Note, I was told this was Atoni, which is most likely, but I'd asked "Is it Atoni?" And they agreed. I should have been more careful how I asked. However, it may also be Dawan as a similar one is described as "Atoni or Dawan" on page 238, Ethnic Jewellery...)


Age: Early 20th Century.

Size: H 100 mm x W 26 mm.

Weight: 20 grams