Riau–Lingga, Sumatra, Indoneasia
Spittoon 19th century
11.5 x 20.0 cm
National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta
As a social ritual and pastime, the chewing of mildly narcotic betel-nut (pinang) was once an important part of Southeast Asian life. The ingredients (sirih pinang) were offered to honoured guests in both palace and village ceremonies. The implements for presenting and preparing the nuts, pods, leaves and lime for betel consumption became important indicators of status and prestige. In keeping with other aspects of Malay court life, the position of each container on the serving tray was subject to strict etiquette protocols. The spittoon was an essential part of betel ritual as the chewing of betel is a powerful stimulant on the saliva glands.