Diving for Gold Nuggets, Gold Coast, late 17th cent.


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Image Reference
DAP1

Source
D. O. Dapper, Description de l'Afrique . . . Traduite du Flamand (Amsterdam,1686; 1st ed., 1668), p. 293. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

Comments
Dapper describes diving for gold nuggets in river pools by waterfalls: "... pieces of gold are removed by the force of the river currents, and these small pieces then fall under the weight of their metal in places where there is a high and straight waterfall. The Blacks go to this place and dive, carrying in their hand a wood container which they fill with all they can carry from the bottom of the river bed . . ." (Dapper, p. 293; our translation). In an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, Adam Jones writes "there is virtually no evidence" that Dapper "took much interest in what sort of visual material was to accompany his text," and that it was the publisher, Van Meurs, "who probably did all the engraving himself." With respect to the plates, in particular, Jones concludes: "For those interested in seventeenth-century black Africa rather than in the history of European perceptions, few of the plates showing human beings and artefacts are of any value . . . . [and] originated solely from Van Meurs' imagination . . . .[although] they have been used as historical evidence in modern works" (Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence (History in Africa [1990], vol. 17, pp. 187-190).