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19th Century Akan Gold Weight Depicting a Snake Catching a Bird, Ghana


19th Century Bronze Gold Weight Depicting a Snake Capturing a Bird. Akan Culture, Ghana

This finely cast bronze Akan gold weight depicts a coiled snake, gripping a bird in its mouth. Representing the horned puff adder, the bronze snake has been cast with two tiny horns on its head, and its body features a series of lines which replicate the pattern of its scales. This scene, in which a snake is shown catching a bird, relates to the following Ashanti proverb: 'The puff adder that cannot fly has caught the hornbill that flies'.

In the late fourteenth-century, the Akan developed a system of using cast brass weights for measuring gold dust, their main currency, which remained in use until about 1900. Gold weights could also be worn as charms to cure ailments, gifted with dowries of gold dust or sent as pertinent messages. Proverbs depicted in the form of the weight could provide a piece of advice, recall a debt, serve as a warning or token of friendship.

Estimated Period: 19th Century

Height: 1cm

Width: 4cm


Royal Museums Greenwich, 'Akan Gold Weight'

(Click on images to enlarge)

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H: 1 CM D:4 CM
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