Assegai spear is a pole weapon belonging to the javelin class of weapon. This weapon is also known as the assegai spear invented initially by Zulu as a weapon to be used by warriors. Zulu is a community found in the Southern part of Africa. This weapon resembles other South African spears such as the Ngoni spear with slight variance in terms of features. This weapon was dominantly used for fighting the enemy and for hunting purposes. However, this weapon has been used in other regions such as Old French where it is known by the name azagaie, in Italy by the name Zagaglia and in Spain where it is known as azagaya. This confirms the fact that this weapon has been made by people from other cultures and in the process, modified to suit the needs.
History of Assegai spear
- Assegai spear was first designed and developed by the smiths in Zulu community located in the Southern part of Africa. In early 19th century, Zulu community assumed more power due to shift of their fighting tactics commonly known as skirmisher tactics. During this time, Shaka was their leader who brought about improvement of the existing spear hence coming up with this assegai weapon. The wars in which the assegai weapon was used were aimed at protecting the sweet land from being invaded by other ethnic tribes in the region. The need to protect the land was motivated by the need of the community for land to graze their cattle and do farming. Zulu community also needed to fight the neighboring communities, conquer them and drive them away from their land, which was an effort to secure more sweet land. During these wars, the assegai spear was being used in the battle field.
- In the mid 19th century, the assegai spear gained great popularity when the Zulu warriors used it to fight Anglo-Zulu wars. During these wars, the native Zulu warriors defeated the British soldiers. Zulu warriors used this spear together with knobkerrie club to defeat their opponents. The victory in Anglo-zulu wars fortified the Zulu kingdom making it superior thanks to assegai weapon and other fighting tactics introduced by Shaka.
- However, use of this weapon faded between 1787 and 1828 due to introduction of a modified weapon known as Iklwa. During this time, Shaka ordered all warriors to handover their assegai spears to the smiths present in the Zulu kingdom. The Smiths melted the assegai spears to make Iklwa spear which was shorter and broader than assegai.
Features of assegai spear
The following are distinct features of assegai spear;
- Shaft- Two models of assegai weapon are available with their variance being created by the length of the shaft. One of the models has a longer shaft measuring around 6ft long while the model with the shorter shaft is around 3ft long.
- Spear blade– The blade of the spear is relatively long and sharp. The blade is 2mm wide and 38” long with a pointed end.
Assegai spear is designed for throwing and hurling during combat in the battle field or hunting.