Featured Any Idea What It Is? Where It's From? Game? Syllabics? Abacus?

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by Stray Dog, Jun 25, 2019.

  1. Stray Dog

    Stray Dog New Member

    Hey Y'all!

    Newbie. Happy to be here.


    I'm stumped...

    I bought a bunch of lots of antique Japanese Tonkatsu boxes, Kiseru and other Tobacciana from an estate auction and a while back. The lady was primarily a Japanese collector but was also a 'buyer' and you could tell she bought stuff when she saw it and it interested her. This was with some Tonkatsu but I am fairly certain it is not Japanese. Actually, the top of the piece was not in the same lot as the bone piece and it was only later that I put 2 & 2 together. I assume it is tobacco related? I assume has some sort of Pacific connection?

    What is stumping me is what the heck is carved on the bone. It looks like some sort of syllabics, or a syllabics key in the Double Dragon and then the symbols/syllabics show up again on the other side of the carving. Is it a game? Is it.?.?.?

    Who knows? Not me.

    Any help, insights, leads, directions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.


    Attached Files:

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  2. Stray Dog

    Stray Dog New Member

    More Pics...

    Attached Files:

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  3. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    It's a carved bone and wood lime container from Indonesia, used in the practice of chewing betel nut.
    Figtree3, KikoBlueEyes, judy and 9 others like this.
  4. scoutshouse

    scoutshouse Well-Known Member

    Hi, @Stray Dog
    please select "all full size" on you images
    your images will load into the thread
    and we can scroll thru them.... :)
    antidiem, Any Jewelry and judy like this.
  5. Any Jewelry

    Any Jewelry Well-Known Member

    Welcome Stray Dog. You posted a very nice item. Your idea of a Pacific origin is pretty close.

    It is a Batak medicine container, from Sumatra, Indonesia. These are made to contain medicinal substances for healing rituals.
    This one could have been made for the tourist trade, but it is nicely made and not brand new. The symbolism is traditional, and I'll try to explain as much as I know. Stories can vary slightly between different Batak groups, but this is the gist of it:

    The bottom figure on the lid is the Datu or Shaman who is riding a Singa, a protective mythological being.
    The head on top of the Datu's head could be another protective spirit. In Indonesia two heads can also be an allusion to the gift of second sight, so that is another possibility.
    Behind the two of them is a mythical being who assumed the shape of a lizard. He is a forefather of the Batak people.
    On top is a mythical bird, which represents the heavens.

    The figure at the base of the container is probably an ancestor figure, or the figure of an important Datu of past times, whose spirit can help in the healing ritual


    I am no expert on Batak mythology, but these creatures on the side look like two representations of the Naga Padoha, or sacred Sea Dragon/Serpent, as it circles around the directions of the earth.
    Naga Padoha helped create the earth fom the primordial sea and is paramount in the preservation of the earth. When he moves, there is an earth quake.

    The squares on the other side are a 'Porhalan', a Batak calendar, with which to calculate auspicious days for rituals.
    The Porhalan is important for everything in life, whether it is building a house, planting or healing. If you perform a certain ritual or act on the wrong day, it will have an adverse effect.
    Porhalans are used by Datus. If a lay person wants to know an auspicious day for a specific task, he/she consults the Datu, who in turn consults the Porhalan, often with a Pustaha or book of divination as well.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
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  6. Stray Dog

    Stray Dog New Member


    Y’all are the best!

    Thx SO much!

    Ok, enough exclamation points. But seriously folks, I appreciate your time and knowledge. Really.

    I will most certainly be back to share more tribal treasures as I find them.

    komokwa, antidiem and Any Jewelry like this.
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