Akan Goldweights from Ghana



Location: Howard University Art Gallery 2455 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20059

“Customarily, the basic unit in the Akan system of weights was the tiny, hard, red and black spotted seed of the Abrus precatorius, a tree that is found throughout the tropics. Seeds such as these (damma) were freely available to all and were probably in use long before cast metal weights became widely available. Every gold-weight, irrespective of its design, size and weight, is called abrammuo (pl. mrammuo) in Twi, the language spoken by the Asante.

The introduction of metal-working techniques from Western Sudan and the spread of the trans-Saharan gold trade into the tropical forests of the Gold Coast in the 14th century stimulated the production of locally made weights….” British Museum 

“For centuries, peoples throughout West Africa, the Sudan, and beyond the Sahara Desert have created precious objects from gold dust obtained in mines controlled by the Akan kingdoms of present-day Ghana. For the Akan peoples, gold not only brought fabulous prosperity through trade but was also considered the earthly counterpart to the sun and the material embodiment of kra, or life force. To better control and regulate the trade in gold, Akan merchants and rulers developed brass weights called abrammuo (sing. mrammuo) that set standard units of measure. While the earliest weights were cast in geometric forms that reflected the gold trade’s intimate links to North African Islam, later examples displayed figurative imagery inspired by the great wealth of Akan proverbs….” Metropolitan Museum of Art


British Museum 

Metropolitan Museum of Art


Photo credit: Africa Access