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Gold-weight (abrammuo): elephant

Arts of Africa

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.”
  • Place Made: Ghana
  • DATES 19th or 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 1 11/16 x 3 3/4 in. (4.3 x 9.5 cm) mount: 5 × 3 1/2 × 1 3/4 in. (12.7 × 8.9 × 4.4 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    CREDIT LINE Bequest of Laura L. Barnes
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Hollow elephant gold weight, trunk juts between large crescent tusks, raised eyes, large spiral ears, double-crescent tail, semi-circular elements in groups of trees on flat feet. Opening at stomach.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Akan. Gold-weight (abrammuo): elephant, 19th or 20th century. Brass, 1 11/16 x 3 3/4 in. (4.3 x 9.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Laura L. Barnes, 67.25.15. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 67.25.15_PS6.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 67.25.15_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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