Skip to Content
Today Open today 11–5

Goldweight Depicting a Pyramid Surmounted by Spiral

A work made of copper alloy.

Image actions

  • A work made of copper alloy.


Mid–18th/early 20th century


Asante or related Akan-speaking peoples
Coastal West Africa

About this artwork

The Akan used the lost-wax technique to create these brass-cast weights for economic transactions involving gold. Although it is not clear when the convention of weights was first introduced, there is evidence that the Akan people traded gold with Islamicized merchants from the West African interior grasslands many centuries before the arrival of Europeans. Some goldweights correspond to the Islamic weight system of North Africa, and appear to be fundamentally linked to the trans-Saharan trade, in which Arabs were deeply involved.

Stylistic studies of goldweights have yeilded relative dates for these works that can be divided broadly into early and late periods. Abstract goldweights, such as this stepped pyramid motif, are assigned to sometime between 1500 and 1720. The cast, upright spiral that embellishes the weight’s summit, is unusual. Precise interpretations of such abstract patterns remain conjectural, but a few have parallels in archiectural and textile design, where their meanings can be more readily discerned.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Goldweight Depicting a Pyramid Surmounted by Spiral


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


2.2 × 2.5 × 2.5 cm (7/8 × 1 × 1 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of the Britt Family Collection

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.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions