Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Gold was extremely important in the economic and political life of the Akan kingdoms of southern Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Until the mid-nineteenth century, gold dust was the primary form of currency in the region. In order to measure precise amounts of gold, an elaborate system of weights, usually made of cast brass, developed by the seventeenth century. Gold weights took many forms: simple geometric shapes; animals, such as leopards or birds; objects, such as chairs or swords; and human figures. The figures, animals, and objects are often associated with proverbs. The sankofa bird, with head turned backward, represents the proverb “One must turn to the past to move forward.”
19th or 20th century
1 1/8 x 1/4 x 1 1/4 in. (2.9 x 0.6 x 3.2 cm) (show scale)
The Franklin H. Williams Collection of Ashanti Brass Weights and Accessory Objects for Weighing Gold, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams
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Asante. Gold Weight, 19th or 20th century. Cast brass, 1 1/8 x 1/4 x 1 1/4 in. (2.9 x 0.6 x 3.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, The Franklin H. Williams Collection of Ashanti Brass Weights and Accessory Objects for Weighing Gold, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams, 74.218.58. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 74.218.58_front_PS6.jpg)
front, 74.218.58_front_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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Cast brass weight in shape of two beetles. Their form is ovoid and obverse is very smooth. There is a thin semi-circular line between the heads and the bodies. The reverse is irregular.
Condition: Very good.
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