Betel nut chopper with handle in form of a crocodile head

Lombok or Bali

Horn, iron, bone inlay

19th or early 20th century

Ex Laurence A. G. Moss (purchased in Bali, 1980) 

8.5 in / 21.5 cm

A piece of betel nut from the areca palm, Areca catechu, would be placed in a metal cylinder and this chisel-like blade would serve as a chopper, moving up and down masticating the mildly intoxicating nut and making it possible for an old person with bad teeth to be able the chew. The buaya crocodile spirit is remarkably well captured here through bone inlays that bring emphasis to the apex predator's intelligent gaze and tough reptilian skin. The buaya is a totem animal better to honor as a friend than to have as an enemy, and the superb quality of this handle suggests a strong allegiance with it.