Diving for Gold in West Africa

Between 1678 and 1682, Jean Barbot, a French commercial agent, traded for gold along the Gold Coast (now Ghana), in West Africa. This drawing is taken from his journals, held by The National Archives.

In his journals, among a variety of observations on African life, Barbot describes how gold is mined. Methods used include panning for gold dust and, as shown here, diving for nuggets in the local rivers.

Intriguingly, and despite his having first-hand knowledge of the area, both Barbot’s report on gold mining and his drawing rely on material in other sources. This drawing, for example, almost entirely reproduces the one in an earlier work by Olfert Dapper, a Dutch scholar who had never even visited Africa.

ADM 7/830B, f. 39 (1688)



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