This article examines the complex and fluid relationship between Denkyira and Asante in the period c. 1660–1720 that saw the former supplanted by the latter as the leading power among the Twi-speaking Akan peoples of the central southern Gold Coast (Ghana). Dense oral traditions supplemented by a range of other materials are used to identify the site of the ancient Denkyira capital of Abankeseso, and to give an account of the settlements that served it and the gold resources that supported it. These same sources provide a detailed understanding of the reasons for defections from Denkyira to Asante, and how this process contributed to the first Asantehene Osei Tutu's epochal military victory over Denkyirahene Ntim Gyakari at Feyiase (1701). Asante policy towards defeated Denkyira is then discussed, and the legacy of the events described is considered. At a general level, this article makes a case for looking in detail and depth at the local conditions that gave rise to particular – and particularly complex – sociopolitical arrangements, and argues that studies of this kind can advance understanding of the formation and nature of polity and identity in precolonial Africa.
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