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Geometric counterweights ("abrammoo”) used for weighing gold

Description: The trade in gold across Africa’s Sahara desert, called the Trans-Saharan gold trade, dominated West African commerce from the 7th to the 14th centuries. In search of gold for coinage, Arabs from the Mediterranean made annual camel treks across the Sahara to trade salt and other goods in exchange for gold. Known as the Gold Coast, Africa’s Atlantic coast held many sources rich in gold, in both rivers and the ground. Located at the crossroads of the trans-Saharan trade routes, the Kingdom of Ghana (located in the southwestern region of modern-day Mali) dominated the trade in gold up until the 13th century. During the colonial era, gold merchants continued to trade with Europeans. The trading of gold was commonplace in everyday transactions between gold traders, chiefs, kings and merchants. Traders had a special system of weighing out gold. They used a brass pan scale which held gold dust or nuggets on one pan and brass counterweights or abrus seeds on the other to determine the weight of the gold. Brass, copper and bronze counterweights were created in many different shapes and forms, often symbolic of traditional Akan proverbs or stories. These geometric weights were made using the lost-wax casting process and used in Ghana about 1960.
Collection: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Copyright: This file is licensed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Geography: Ghana
Subjects: Ghana
Ghana--Social life and customs
Gold Coast
Weights and measures
Measuring instruments

Further information on this record can be found at its source.