Throwing spear "Assegai"

480 €

Zulu people, South Africa, late 19th century, private collection from Finland.

Zulu people are a Bantu ethnic group, probably the largest single population group in South Africa. They originated from Nguni-communities who took part in the Bantu migrations. The word Zulu means "sky" or "heaven". The Zulu was originally a minor clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded c. 1709 by Zulu Kantombhela. They are known for their strong fighting spirit which has fashioned renowed warriors in history including the likes of Shaka Zulu who played a prominent role in various Zulu wars.

Shaka was the illegitimate son of Senzangakhona, King of the Zulus. He was born c. 1787. He and his mother, Nandi, were exiled by Senzangakhona, and found refuge with the Mthetwa. Shaka fought as a warrior under Jobe, and then under Jobe's successor, Dingiswayo, leader of the Mthethwa Paramountcy. When Senzangakhona died, Dingiswayo helped Shaka become chief of the Zulu Kingdom. Shaka was ruled from 1816 to 1828, when he was assassinated in September by his half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, together with an officer (induna) named Mbopa. During his reign, Shaka recruited young men from all over the kingdom and trained them in his novel warrior tactics. Like all the clans, the Zulu were armed with oxhide shields and spindly throwing spears. Shaka first rearmed his men with longbladed, short-hafted stabbing spears (Iklwa or Umkhonto we Sizwe), which forced them to fight at close quarters. He then institued the regimental system based on age groups, quartered at separate villages (kraals) and distinguished by uniform markings on shields and by various combinations of headdress and ornaments. After defeating competing armies and assimilating their people, Shaka established his Zulu nation. Within twelve years, he had forged on of the mightiest empires the African continent has ever known. During the reign of King Shaka, the Zulu became the mightiest military force in Southern Africa, increasing their land holdings from 100 square miles to 11,500.

Majority of the modern day Zulus are living in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Related ethnic groups are Xhosa, Swazi and Nguni. The rural Zulu economy is based on cattle and agriculture. They grow maize and vegetables for subsistence purposes. The men and herd boys are primarily responsible for the cows, which are grazed in the open country, while the women do most, if not all, of the planting and harvesting. The Zulu village is a great circle, made up of a spherical homestead (umuzi), which is a cluster of beehive-shaped huts arranged around a cattle kraal (isibaya). Each homesteads is a self-contained  economic and legal unit with its own cattle and crops, ruled by the homestead head (umnumzana).

Traditional Zulu religion includes belief in a supreme God or a supernatural being called Unkulunkulu (the greatest of the great), who "sprang from a bed of reeds" and created all wild animals, water and mountains, as well as the sun and moon. The strong belief are also formed around the presence of ancestral spirits (amadlozi, amathongo and abaphansi) who had the power to intervene in people's life, for good or ill. It is believed that all bad things, including death, are a result of evil sorcery or offended spirits. No misfortune is ever seen as the result of natural causes. Traditionally, the Zulu recognize several elements to be present in a human being: the physical body (umzimba) the breath, or life force (umoya) and a spirit, or soul (idlozi). In addition, there is (inhliziyo) "heart or feelings", the brain, mind and understanding (ingqondo) and the shadow or personality (isithunzi). Once the umoya leaves the body, the isithunzi may live on as an ancestral spirit (idlozi), but only after important ceremony (ukubuyisa) has been performed, during which the spirit is "brought back home".

The assegai (or assagai) throwing spear was one of the most common weapon in Africa prior to the introduction of firearms. The design is relatively light, with a heavy tapered blade. This spear was intended as a throwing weapon, meant for long and mid-range combat. It was the prototype for the later Iklwa spear, as later popularized by Shaka Zulu.

An exceptional late 19th century Zulu assegai spear. Gorgeous old throwing spear with long finely flattened steel blade mounted with a tight woven bound sinew binding on to a thin polished hardwood shaft. Good condition. Age-related wear. Well made steel blade with roughened spots, rust and deep dark age patina. Long shaft with rich brown patina and few minor worm holes. The size of the spear blade c. 33,5cm x 2,5cm, overall 152,5cm.

NB! Due to the length of the spear we do not post this item. Pick-up from the shop.