benda

A West African unit of mass, the principal unit in the trade in gold dust along the coast of West Africa from the Tano River to Accra map link, 15th – 19th century, = 2 ounces, but the kind of ounce varied with time and location. link to a chart showing relationships between West African units of mass for gold. The pronunciation benda is Fanti, an Akan dialect found along the coast. Farther inland, the word was bennaa. asuasa ne suru

The Akan and other groups made balance weights, a number of which survive, to all those standards. For trade among themselves, however, they appear to have continued to use the benda based on either the Portuguese or Islamic standard.

Traditionally, the benda was a quantity of gold dust with a value of 7 monetary pounds.

The term great benda or large benda used by the Europeans has nothing to do with the benda and is actually the pereguan or ta, a unit based on an Islamic rather than European standard (it = 16 mitkals).

For a full discussion of the benda, see Forien de Rochesnard and especially Garrard (1980), from whom most of the above information is taken.

sources

1

The weights are made of copper of divers sorts 5 and have little round copper scales, like a hollow Orange pill for gold.

A Benda is the greatest weight, which weighs 2. ounces.

A Benda-offa is halfe a Benda, and is an ounce.

Asseva is two pesos and a halfe.

Egebba is two pesos, and accounted halfe an ounce or the fourth part of a Benda.

Seron is accounted for one peso and a halfe.

Eusanno is accounted a peso.

Quienta is three quarters of a peso.

Each Peso is held a loote.

Media taba is a quarter of a peso.

Agiraque is halfe a peso, so that by those that have made the triall of their weights with ours, they have found them to be in every pound Troy a peso and halfe in every pound hevier then our Troy I pound.

Lewes Roberts, 1638, page 85

peso is not an African weight but the Portu coin, Loote is Dutch

2

Sect. VIII. Of GAMBIA, GUINEY, &c.

In those Countries they have no Coins among them, they dealing with the Europeans, and among themselves only by Way of Bartering or Exchange, one Sort of Goods for another, for trifling Things of the Product of other Nations, or of the Manufactories of other Nations: They make Payment commonly with small Pieces of Gold by Weight, and where they have not the Art of melting it down, they make their Payments in Gold Dust; and in the Neighbourhood of Mina, they pay each other with Kacorawns, which is Gold drawn out into a small Wire, and cut afterwards into very small Pieces. In some Places they make Payments one to another with small Pieces of Iron stamp'd with particular Marks. About the River Niger, Fish-shells, or Blackmoor's Teeth, goes for Money ; and in Æthiopia Pepper passes for the same.

When the Europeans deal with these People, they commonly make Use of their own Weights and Measures, unless it be for Gold; the Europeans do then make use of a Weight called an Akey, being the 24th Part of an Ounce.

However, some Authors do say, that the black People have peculiar Weights to themselves, which pass under the following Denominations, viz.

A Benda, which is their largest Weight, and weighs about two Ounces.

A Benda-Offa, is half a Benda, and weighs one Ounce.

An Egebba is half an Ounce.

A Piso, or Eusanno, is ¼ of ditto.

A Seron is 1½ Piso.

A Quinto is ¾ Piso.

An Agiraque is ½ Piso.

A Media-Taba is ¼ Piso.

And it is said by those who have made Trial of the above Weights, that one Pound by their Weight weighs ⅜ of an Ounce heavier than the Pound Troy of London.

Hayes, 1739. Pages 424-426.

2

bεnnàa [bεnda] pl. m-. F. [Fante-ed]. bεndaa, pl. a-, a weight of gold = 2 ounces = 32 dollars or ackies = £7.4s. — 'pound'. Lk.19,13.

J. G. Christaller.
Dictionary of the Asante and Fante Language called Tshi (Twi). 2nd ed.
Basel: Basel Evangeical Missionary Society, 1933.
Page 14.

Imagine an acute accent on the first epsilon.

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