This week’s staff breakfast was presented by Fiona Sheales, of the Africa, Oceania and the Americas department, who introduced the forthcoming research catalogue on West African gold-weights, and gave an overview of this unique and historically important collection.
There are around 3480 examples of West African gold weights at the British Museum. The weights are made of brass (not gold!) in a variety of geometric and figurative forms, and the collection dates from c.1400 to the pre-colonial period (pre-1900). The weights are used to weigh gold dust, with the majority of the weights originating from the Akan people of southern Ghana.
With British colonialism and the introduction of sterling, this system of weighing gold dust became obsolete. Many weights were collected by Europeans, and many made their way to Britain after Ghanaian independence in 1957.
The catalogue will showcase about 2000 of the most significant examples, which will hopefully continue the increasing interest in the collection.
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