A Short History of
Ashanti Gold Weights

Since gold was always kept as dust (not as worked objects, or as ingots with fixed values), scales and weights were always required. They were already in use when the Portuguese arrived in the late 15th century, where observers remarked on the use of gold for personal adornment. As John Locke wrote following his voyage in 1554-5, Some of their women weare in their bare arms certain forsleeves made of the plates of beaten golde. On] their figers also they weare rings, made of golden wires, like a knot or a wreathe; whilst a traveller in 1693 mentions that The gold they took here was all in Fetishes, which are small pieces wrought in many pretty figures, which the Blacks tie to all Parts of their Bodies for Ornament, and are generally very good gold (both extracts cited from McLeod 1981, 73). The subject-matter of Ashanti weights is frequently symbolic - bound up not only with their social life, but also with their rich fabric of folk-tales (a legacy not, of course, restricted to the Ashanti), in that many weights illustrate tales and proverbs, many of them profound and humorous.

Again, the history of the Ashanti state is intimately connected to the gold trade, which cemented its power throughout West Africa, and its prestige abroad.

Joseph Dupius, in his Journal of a residence in Ashantee, shows an Audience for representatives of the British Govenment, and a portrait of an Ashanti soldier:

Earlier this century Capt. R.S. Rattray collected together a large number of weights, and illustrated them in his Ashanti. Here are his plates, with larger JPEG images behind them:

Add some historical photos and prints here?

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