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Gold-weight (abrammuo): scorpion

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.”
CULTURE Akan
MEDIUM Cast brass
  • Place Made: Ashanti Region, Ghana
  • DATES 19th-20th century
    DIMENSIONS 1 1/4 x 1/8in. (3.2 x 0.3cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 88.192.66
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin H. Williams
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Weight depicting scorpion, triangular-shaped body, top incised with intersecting vertical and horizontal lines. Pairs of narrow, joined metal strips curve up and inward, suggesting pinchers. Metal strip curves up and downward from apex of triangle, representing the tail. CONDITION: Stable; conservation has removed sticky wax from underside.
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