Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Ashantee, or Ashanti, a country in West Africa lying inland of the Gold Coast, and extending over some 70,000 square miles. Dense forests cover most of its surface, but round the villages clearings are made and abundant crops raised. The Assinie and the Volta are the two chief rivers, and alluvial gold is found rather plentifully in their beds. The government is in the hands of a king, but the local chiefs enjoy considerable independence. Polygamy is practised on a large scale, and the sovereign has a body-guard of female warriors. Coomassie is the capital, and there are many smaller towns. From the early part of the century the British have frequently come into collision with the Ashantis, and driven them back from the coast. In 1873 the disputes arising out of the cession of the Dutch forts to the English Government reached such a head that Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent out with a large force. He penetrated to Coomassie, burned the town, and forced King Koffee to conclude a treaty and to pay an indemnity. Hostilities were threatened again in 1881, but happily averted. The Ashantis belong to the same Tshi or Otsi family which also comprises the Wassaws, Tshiforos (Tufels), Safwhis, Gamans, Assins, Adansis, Akims, Akwapims, and others, collectively forming a distinct West African group, essentially forest people, of the true negro type, and speaking various dialects of the Tshi language. Traditionally the Ashanti came from Inta, an unknown region of the Sudan, and are by some writers described not as negroes, but as a very fine race, tall, well-made, with aquiline nose, and quite regular features. But this description applies only to the ruling class, probably Hamitic intruders from the north, who now constitute the hereditary aristocracy, and who have adopted the Negro Tshi language. Fetishism is an essential element of their religion, of which a chief feature is ancestry worship associated with human sacrifices. Hence the sanguinary "customs" at which hundreds of victims were immolated at the graves of departed kings and nobles. Since the British occupation these rites have ceased. The best work on the Ashanti nation is A. B. Ellis's Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast of West Africa (London, 1887).