There is an ancient tradition associated with the Katanga Cross and copper in this part of Africa.
A Katanga Cross is an important symbol of Congo and its name is related to a rich copper mining region – Katanga, in the southeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Copper mining in Katanga dates back over 1,000 years and the mines of Katanga have been operated for centuries. The copper was exported as far as the coast of Angola to the south and to Europe, as early as the 16th century.
In the past, copper extraction and casting was the privilege of a mysterious organization called “the copper eaters”, members of a sort of secret society, a “bwanga”. They were the only ones who were able to remove the copper ore and work it.
The copper ore was mined around the middle of May, during the drought season and production of this precious metal was surrounded by rituals, professional secrets, magic and mysterious traditions.
Those who controlled production and distribution of the copper cross currencies were the group leaders — ‘The Elders’.
The precious metal was continuously dug by “copper eaters” until 1903.
Katanga Crosses are solid pieces of copper, which were once used as a form of currency by various ethnic groups in the Katanga region in the 19th and early 20th centuries and during the years 1960-1963, these crosses were used on the Flag of Katanga, used by the State of Katanga (1960-1963) as a national symbol.
Local coppersmiths poured molten copper into sand molds and made the crosses in various sizes, usually about 20 centimeters (7.9 in) across, and weighing about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb).
One cross could pay for five to six chickens, two lengths of good quality fabric, nine pounds of rubber or six axes and four to six crosses was enough to pay for one goat. For ten such crosses, one would buy a gun.
For centuries these crosses were used as currency and indications of people’s wealth; they paid for trade and were often used as dowry payments.
However, the exact value of crosses in units of weight is unknown .
Many of the Katanga Crosses have been discovered in burials and it is believed they were used in local rituals. These crosses were also considered a symbol of power and dignity.
The Congolese people considered the non-ferrous metals such as tin, copper and lead as very valuable materials.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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