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Katanga Cross

Culture Group: Katangan
Culture: Congolese, Katangan
Medium: Copper
Dimensions:
6 9/16 x 6 5/8 x 3/16 inches (16.6 x 16.8 x 0.5 cm)
Classification: Numismatics
Credit Line: Gift of Mary Meyers May
Label Text:This X-shaped ingot of cast copper, known as a Katanga Cross, is is one of the best known forms the best known form of African tribal currency.

This classic currency is from the region of Katanga, in south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It was formed using the lost-wax process; molten brass was poured into a sand mould and allowed to cool.

In subsaharan Africa the most common forms of traditional money were made of forged or cast metal - which could be melted down and fashioned into a tool or a weapon should it be necessary. The Congolese regarded non-ferrous metals such as copper, lead, and tin - as very precious. Objects made of these metals served as a wide spread means of exchange and served an important role in the settling of social contracts, such as marriage. Because they are found in burial sites, they are also believed to be associated with funerary rituals.

For centuries Katanga Crosses served as indicators of wealth and were used for trade. In the early 20th century, one Katanga Cross might have been used to purchase of about five or six chickens, approximately eight pounds of rubber, or two lengths of good quality cloth.
Object number: 1994.5.6
In Collection(s)