back bounded-next cafe calendar-large calendar cart close coat-check collapse donate download elevators expand explore filter grid-view hamburger heart hours join link list-view location mail more next nursing-room phone print programs ramp restrooms right-arrow search share shop thumbs-down thumbs-up tickets up toilet heart-filled zoom Skip to Content

57 Goldweights

African Art

Search and Share Tools

57 Goldweights

Artwork Details


Akan Artists


fourteenth–nineteenth century



Accession #



12 x 12 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 401


Crab claws and peanuts cast from life, tiny representations of a crocodile, a royal sword, an ivory trumpet, and other diverse forms ranging in style from geometric to representational appear in this set of goldweights—brass castings used as counterbalances for weighing gold and gold dust. Their weight corresponds to as many as sixty different units of measurement, including Akan, Arabic, and European standards. Goldweight imagery relates to Akan proverbs, folktales, and riddles.

For centuries before the rise of the Akan states and the founding of the Asante Kingdom, gold was mined in West Africa, south of the Sahara, and gold was the basis for the trans-Saharan trade. By 1482, Europeans began to establish trading forts in coastal Akan areas. As gold trade routes shifted from the Sahara to the coast, Akan royal courts became the most splendid in Africa. When the Asante confederacy was formed at the end of the seventeenth century, Asante kings controlled the use, sale, and taxation of gold, which was the main source of the kingdom’s wealth until the use of gold and gold dust as currency was outlawed by the British as they colonized the region, ca. 1900.


Gift of Dr. Milton Mazo and Billy K. Poole

Welcome back! The Museum is now open to the public.
Reserve your TIMED TICKETS now!