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Scarce Antique African Tribal Cast Bronze Ashanti Akan Gold Weight - An Antelope For Sale
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Fine Ashanti Antique (circa late 1800s), Cast Bronze Gold weight. From the old private collection of the internationally celebrated artist and ardent Most of the items were exhibited as a part of private collections at the various museums around the world.
This is a rare, museum quality authentic artifact (circa late 1800s) in the shape of an antelope. The item is about 2 1/2" X 2 1/4", in excellent antique condition.
Ashanti gold weights are also named Mbramoo (sing. abramoo). This is an Ashanti gold weight, used in the measuring of gold and gold dust, which was mined and panned in great quantities along the West Coast of Africa, hence the name Gold Coast. Gold was used in the Ashanti kingdom, now known as Ghana, in trading with outsiders, making personal adornments, and as an internal currency..
Ashanti weights such as these have a variety of accoutrements such as boxes, spoons and balances used to hold or measure out gold dust. A full kit would include boxes, spoons, balance and around forty weights; this was known as a futoo and carried wrapped together in cloth. The futoo would then be put into a leather container or wooden box, or if the owner was a wealthy man, a cast-brass kuduo box. These boxes, full of gold dust, could be buried with their owners and dug up again if needed, or hidden in times of trouble.
The weight itself is made of bronze or brass, which was obtained through trade in European imports from the late 15th century onwards. Weights were cast using the lost-wax method which is still the best way of preserving fine modeling and detail.
A Short History of Ashanti Gold Weights
The vast gold fields of Africa have produced not only great wealth, but have generated trade and art works. In Ashanti (present-day Ghana), a set of scales, and of brass weights for measuring out gold-dust, the local currency, was a treasured item for everyone, and their neighbors, and the vast quantities of gold mined and panned within the Asante kingdom were used for trading with outsiders, for making regalia and personal adornment, and as an internal currency (McLeod 1981, 122). Not for nothing was this area called the Gold Coast. It has been suggested that the average collection of weights was about forty. The very process of handling gold also required an extensive paraphernalia, from scales to boxes (in metal and leather), spoons and cloth.
Although weights have probably been made for several centuries, only several hundreds survive from the 18th and 19th centuries, until the colonial administration, in an attempt to exercise closer control on commerce, banned their use in 1896, having already outlawed the use of gold-dust as currency in 1894. Since Sir Garnet Wolseley sacked Kumasi in 1874, causing disastrous effects on trade and on the complexion of the Ashanti state, it is unlikely that many weights were made after this date.
The brass (largely from a vigorous trade in European imports, as early as the later 15th century), was cast using the lost-wax method - the best way of preserving fine modeling and detail in the finished product, but in no way suited to "production-line" methods.
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 wear in their bare arms certain forsleeves made of the plates of beaten gold. On their fingers also they wear rings, made of golden wires, like a knot or a wreathe; whilst a traveler 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.