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Crossroads of Gold


© AMNH / Rod Mickens

Asante Mask.

The Sun on Earth: African Gold

In sub-Saharan West Africa the Akan people formed the powerful Asante state in the late 1600s, in what is today the nation of Ghana. By the mid-1700s, the Asante state had gained control over trade in gold, textiles and slaves. The southern coast of Ghana was called the Gold Coast by European traders who established the first fort in tropical Africa, called El Mina, "the mine." Portuguese traders sold slaves to Asante for work in the gold mines. All nuggets were surrendered by the finder to the king.

In Akan thought, gold is considered an earthly counterpart to the sun and the physical manifestation of life's vital force, or kra.

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