You're viewing this item in the new Europeana website. View this item in the original Europeana.

Ashanti gold weight with geometric design

CULT Ashanti probably C18th or C19th Gold Coast Ghana The weights were used to measure out specific quantities of gold and gold dust, the local currency, which was mined and panned in great quantities within the kingdom.
This geometric weight may have been intended to symbolise a shield as articles used in war were motifs frequently chosen for Ashanti weights. This is quite a simple representation made up of only the framework of a shield.
The weights were usually made using the 'lost wax method', in which the goldsmith made a beeswax model of the weight and covered it with thin layers of clay, brushed on with a feather. The clay was then baked, which caused the wax to melt and run out. The clay was then used as a mould for the bronze: both were encased in an aubergine-shaped clay mould with the original clay mould at the top and the bronze sitting on the bottom, and then put into the furnace. When the bronze was molten, the smith turned the mould upside down, so the bronze ran into the clay mould below. The mould was later destroyed to reach the bronze weight.
The earliest known period of weight production began in approximately 1400, however during the 18th and 19th centuries manufacture increased as the Ashanti's economy grew, mainly due to war, conquest, booty and trade. This explains why the majority of the Hunterian Museum's collection of Ashanti weights are from this period, rather than the earlier, post-contact periods. In 1894, the colonial administration in the region banned the use of gold dust as currency, and in 1896 outlawed the use and making of weights.