Accession Number



Artist Nationality
African (general, continental cultures)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support

1 7/16 in x 1 in x 3/8 in (3.6 cm x 2.6 cm x 1 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Doran H. Ross

Subject matter
The Akan gold fields were an important source of West African gold from antiquity through the 20th century. Gold was traded on a global scale through both the trans-Saharan and trans-Atlantic trades. The use of gold in long-distance exchange was facilitated by the use of standardized weight measurements. Goldweights, based on divisions of the Islamic ounce, were widely employed throughout the Akan area to measure the quantity and value of gold.
Akan goldweights take many shapes. Different sized goldweights measure different amounts and values of gold dust. Goldweights also vary by their aesthetic attributes. Geometric designs are common and are found in the earliest archaeological contexts. Later goldweights take many figurative forms, often linked to proverbs, jokes, and poems. Still other goldweights duplicate adrinka, a system of visual symbols used in cloth decoration.

Physical Description
Goldweights are small objects cast from brass used to weigh out quantities of gold and gold dust. They are cast using a lost-wax casting technique, wherein wax is sculpted into the desired shape and a mold is pressed around the wax model. Then, the mold is heated and the wax drained out, leaving a void in the shape of the original wax model. Liquid brass is poured into the mold and allowed to set before the caster cracks the mold open and retrieves the finished goldweight.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.


& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved