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Goldweight Depicting a Bird


19th/mid–20th century


Asante or related Akan-speaking peoples
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

Weights for measuring gold dust were made and used throughout Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire for more than five centuries, from about 1400 to 1900. These weights are either figurative or abstract and are usually divided into an early period (c. 1400–1700) and a late period (c. 1700–1900). During the late period, an increased variety and number of figurative weights emerged, although abstract weights continued to be made. Around the late 14th century, gold mined in the Akan forest regions began to be traded northward—first to the centers of the West African Sahel and then across the Sahara to North Africa. In order to carry out this trade more efficiently, the Akan created two series of weights, one based on the Islamic ounce and one based on the miskal of gold dust. Other weights were later devised for trade with the Portuguese in the late 15th century and then with the Dutch after 1600. Brass cast gold weights ceased being used at the beginning of the 20th century when gold was replaced by bank notes and coinage. However, they continued to be made for sale to tourists.
Many types of animals, birds, and reptiles are represented in Akan gold weights. This one represents a bird with a long and arching coiled neck and abstract shapes on its back, head, and neck that suggest feathers and wide, alert eyes.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Goldweight Depicting a Bird


Ghana (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Copper alloy


3.8 × 3.8 × 4.6 cm (1 1/2 × 1 1/2 × 1 13/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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