Thursday, 23 February 2012

Baden-Powell Asante chest, London

Daniel Scott-Davies, Archive and Heritage Manager of the Scout Association, has kindly sent through some details of the Asante chest in the Baden Powell collection, to compare with the one on loan to Leeds by the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment of Yorkshire. The Baden-Powell collection chest has very similar chased and beaten motifs visible on its dark brown copper alloy lid, including birds, circles and possibly elephants.

Two bronze or copper alloy loops for attaching locks can be seen on this photograph of the front, where the designs continue. The base seems to project out from the sides at the bottom, and the biggest surprise, evident from the third photograph of the chest when open

is that this chest does not appear to have any wooden European chest core. The underside of the beaten metal work shows clearly on the inside of the lid, and the back.  The description of this chest in the Baden-Powell records is:

"A King’s coffin of an Ashanti Chief made out of brass, 1ft x 1ft x 2ft. Accompanied by a note in Baden-Powell’s own hand about the coffin and burial of an Ashanti King. When the King died the body would have been set out on an ant hill to have the bones picked clean. They would then have been broken up and gilded with the gold he had acquired in his lifetime. Any surplus would have been placed in the coffin and then placed on a mound in the Kings House".

Baden Powell's description of the use of the chest is framed and stored separately. Like the Yorkshire regiment chest this coffin was acquired empty in 1896, as Baden-Powell also took part in the fourth Anglo-Asante war.

Hopefully we can examine the Baden-Powell chest in more detail later this year, and then make a full comparison between it, the one shown in Leeds, and the one in the British Museum.

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