IN ASANTE AND GOLD IN ASANTE CULTURE
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|Negros washing gold in a
Gravure from Olfert Dapper, Naukeurige
Besschryvinge der Afrikaensche gewesten, Amsterdam, 1668
From A. van Dantzig, Het Nederlandse
aandeel in de Slavenhandel, Fibula-van Dishoeck, Bussum, 1968
Credit: Den Haag,
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 185 B 11
Edward S, Ashanti Gold, The African Legacy of the World's Most Precious
Metal, Ashanti Goldfields, 1997
- 68 EARLY
ASHANTI PANNING TECHNIQUES
- . . .
women and children worked along the river banks and coastal shorelines
panning for gold. Some would plunge beneath the surface of rivers
and streams to scoop up gold-bearing material from the river beds,
others would dig pits in the sands and gravels that were exposed as the
river level dropped.
pan used was usuallly a flat-bottomed vessel with a wide mouth, and a
mixture of gold bearing sand or gravel and water was swirled around
inside it. By using a swirling and tilting action, the panner
gradually separated the lighter materials, such as the sand and grit,
from the heavier gold. These materials were tipped over the edge
of the pan, and at each stage the remaining mixture was transferred to
smaller and smaller pans as the separating process continued.
Usually a panner had a set of four or six of these wooden bowls of
graded sizes ranging from about 60 cm to 15 cm in diameter.
a smaller pan was used inside a much larger one to ensure that not even
a speck of gold was accidentally lost: panning requires great skill and
is very hard work. The final bowl was sometimes dyed black so that the
remaining gold dust was easier to find. Usually this was done with
the aid of a feather and the particles of gold were then carefully
placed in some handy container such as a snail shell or quill.
The Ashantis were certainly very expert at panning and they
extracted vast quantities of gold by this method. . .
- 70 Shallow
mining was the main way of extracting gold from below the earth's
immediate surface. For digging a wide variety of holes, shafts,
ditches and tunnels to reach gold close to the earth's surface, the
Ashanti used only the simplest of tools. The main ones were sturdy
digging sticks fitted with pointed or broad bladed iron tips, the type
of tip used depending on the hardness of the material to be dug out. . .
of this shallow mining was done individually or by small family groups,
but where the gold was plentiful hundreds, even thousands of people
might be involved at the same site. There are accounts of as many as
4,000 people working at a mining ditch 0.5 km long. . .
the Chief used his own slaves to win gold, he would appropriate it all
himself. . .
- 71 SINKING
were so narrow that miners could brace themselves between their walls in
the descent. Usually steps were cut into the shaft's sides to help
miners climb up and down . . . At the bottom, the shaft opened out into
a more or less circular chamber as more of the rock and soil was dug
out. This was pulled up to the surface in baskets, calabashes or
wooden containers tied to the end of fibre ropes. The men then
ground the soil to a fine powder on a slab of granite, and the powdered
ore was collected in calabashes and washed by the women in order to
obtain gold. . . The bases of two shafts might eventually be joined by a
- 72 DEEP
the 19th century, some Akan gold miners were tunnelling deep into the
earth, going down 30 m or more and then driving sideways in order to
extract gold-bearing quartz. When the British started to explore
the gold-producing areas of Ashanti in 1896, for example, they were
astonished to find a mine that followed a reef into a hillside for 75-90
m, with huge galleries, timbered throughout their length.
- Lovejoy, Paul, Caravans of Kola: Hausa Kola Trade
was on a `bimetalic' monetary standard (gold and cowries) in which gold
was the key. The state maintained large monetary reserves in gold, as
symbolised in the Golden Stool and other regalia and including the
Treasury's Great Chest, which when full contained 200,000 oz., and other
stores. The other circulating medium, cowrie shells, was confined to the
northern provinces, i.e. those parts of the state in direct contact with
other parts of West Africa, including the Central Sudan, where cowries
were current. Thus, Asante represents an interesting example of a state
maintaining two currency systems within its own territories - gold in
the metropolitan region and on the coast, and cowries and gold in the
northern provinces. In fact the state appears to have maintained a
fairly successful control over gold exports, so that in effect the
northern provinces used only cowries. Hence the Asante currency system
was a curious example of a `bimetalic' system, gold in the area where it
was produced, and cowries in the export sphere for kola. The Asante
state was, therefore, within the cowrie zone of its major trading
partners in the north and north-east, but restricted the movement of
traders and use of the currency to the northern territories.
addition to state domination of gold production and trade, this policy
was seen as necessary in order to compensate for losses resulting from
the decline in revenue from slave exports.
Mungo Travels in the Interior of Africa 1799 (notes)
- 447 Gold
dust. About the beginning of December, when the harvest is over
and the streams and torrents have greatly subsided, the chief appoints a
day to begin gold washing and the women ...(are ready) A
hoe, or spade for digging up the sand, two or three calabashes for
washing it, a few quills for containing the gold dust are all the
implements needed. On the morning of their departure, a
bullock is killed for the first day's entertainment and a number of
prayers and charms are used to ensure success.
- 449 The
most common and profitable mode of washing is practised in the height of
the dry season by digging a deep pit, like a draw well, near some hill
which has previously been discovered to contain gold. The pit is
dug with small spades or corn hoes and the earth is drawn up in large
calabashes. As they dig through different strata of clay or sand,
a calabash of each is washed by way of experiment, In general when
they come to a stratum of fine reddish sand with some small black specks
therein, they find gold in it. They send up large calabashes full
of sand for the women to wash. A portion of sand or clay is put
into a large calabash and rinsed with water. The woman shakes it
and gives it a rotary motion, first gently then more quickly until a
small portion of sand and water flies over the brim at each revolution.
Sand is allowed to settle. Water is poured off. Coarse? sand
near the top is removed by hand. Repeated until the water is
nearly clear. Residue at the bottom is examined and grains of gold
picked out. Gold dust kept in quills, stopped with cotton.
Washers display quills in their hair. Negroes weigh gold in
small balances which they always carry around with them.
W, Africa The Quest for God and Gold 1454-1578
Dumett, Raymond E. EL
DORADO IN WEST AFRICA: The Gold-Mining Frontier, African Labour, & Colonial
Capitalism in the Gold Coast, 1875-1900. B/w illus, tables, gloss, notes, bib, index, 441pp, James
Currey UK & Ohio University Press USA 1998 PB
the goldrush in late nineteenth century Ghana in all its dimensions: land,
labour, capital, traditional African mining, technology, transport,
management, the clash of cultures, and colonial rule. Dumett reviews the
controversy between himself and Emmanuel Terray concerning the extent to which
traditional mining was based on slave labour. He concludes that "there
were at least three different ways or organizing gold production in Akan
traditional gold mining" but that "this does not rule out the
occasional use of royal slaves to mine for gold, especially in the more
centralized states such as Asante and Gyaman."
Garrard, Timothy F. Akan Weights and the Gold Trade. London:
Stuart J M, The Ancient Gold Fields of
Africa (in The Gold Coast to Mashonaland, London, 1891)