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
- Copper alloy
- 2.2 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm (7/8 x 1 x 1 in.)
- Gift of the Britt Family Collection