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Between and Mortarboard

UMMA Object Specific Fields

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Accession Number



Artist Nationality
Akan (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
20th century

Medium & Support

1 9/16 in x 5/16 in x 3/8 in (4 cm x 0.8 cm x 0.9 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis

Subject matter
Figurative gold-weight in the form of a side-blown elephant horn (akoben) with three crotal bells (donnomma) around the wider end (cf. British Museum object number Af1979,01.3661). One of the most common musical instrument depicted in gold-weights, these horns were created using ivory from the tusks of elephants. The use of these horns was associated with those victorious in war as well as chiefs, whose arrival was announced with musicians blowing these horns and beating drums. Phrases that copied the tonal language of Twi were played to praise the chief and his achievements, heard not only by the community but by ancestors and spirits as well. In this way, these musical instruments were used to communicate with the living and the dead, which rallied all members of the community around the chief on important occasions (cf. Sheales, African Goldweights, 2014). The proverbs associated with these horns reflect their past use in war and their communicative properties: 'The war horn (akoben) means trouble is on the way' (cf. Sheales, African Goldweights, 2014); 'When an army is defeated a horn is not blown in its honour' (cf. MacLeod, The Asante, 1981, p. 110); 'The horn allows us to know the rank of the chief'; and 'If a horn deserves a jawbone they attach one to it' (cf. Garrard, Akan Weights and the Gold Trade, 1980, p. 209).

Physical Description
Gold-weight in the shape of a curved line, wider at one end, with raised sections along the shaft. The narrow end is topped with a cap with a rounded point. The wider end has three round protrusions with horizontal incisions. 

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communication (function)
miniature (size attribute)
musical instruments
weighing devices

& Author Notes

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On display