- Museum number
- Series: Asante Gold
Lost wax casting in gold of a head-dress decoration in the shape of a cockle-shaped shell (adam). There are holes at the top and bottom for attachment/suspension.
- Production date
Length: 2.70 centimetres
Weight: 9.36 grammes
Width: 3.20 centimetres
Depth: 1.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The wearing of real and cast gold shells originated from a widespread belief among Akan communities that they protected people from lightning strikes, from bullets and other projectiles. Sea creatures with shells such as crabs and sea /land snails were also seen to inhabit two or more spheres and as a result, their hard carapaces symbolised to others that the wearer could do the same as well as provide a measure of physical and spiritual protection.
The most common amulet-type appears to have been imported red sea-shells that decorated the bandoliers and cartridge belts of gun-bearers and their gun stocks, although occasionally cast gold ones were substituted. As early as the fifteenth century the Portuguese had imported these shells from the Indian Ocean. Bowdich’s image of the ‘First day of the Yam Custom’ shows almost all of the Asantehene's soldiers, who are seated in the foreground, wearing bandoliers adorned with these red cockle shells.
Cast gold cockle shells exactly like this example continue to decorate items of state regalia. Cockle shells are most often seen on headbands (abotire) but they are also attached to chief’s hats, sandals and on the bandoliers and cartridge cases (ntoa) of gun-bearers, who form the bodyguard of a ruler. Other shells appear on similar equipment carried by the Asantehene’s court executioners, (abrafo/abrafoo and adumfo/adumfoo) and one of these men also carries a rifle whose stock has a large cast gold cockle shell attached to it. The substitution of cast gold replicas for real shells is done to indicate the elevated status of the Asantehene or a paramount chief.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1980 Sept., London, BM, Asante: Kingdom of Gold
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number