Did you know money can have a soul? West African kissi pennies do! Beginning in the 19th century, these rods of African-smelted iron were bundled together and traded in what is now Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. In addition to being used as currency, the kissi pennies were associated with spirits of the deceased. If broken, these rods need to be repaired by someone who has the ability to restore their souls before they could be traded again. Kissi pennies — “the coins with a soul” -- were used until colonial powers abolished the practice, but continue to hold significance in religious ceremonies in some areas of Liberia.
Stephen E. Nash, PhD
Senior Curator of Archaeology and Director of Anthropology
Michele Koons, PhD
Associate Curator of Archaeology
Erin Baxter, PhD
Acting Curator of Anthropology