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Category: Term of the day

A Zulu warrior with an assegai in his hand

An assegai (or assegai) is a pole weapon used for throwing or hurling, usually a light spear or javelin made of wood and pointed with iron.

The use of various types of the assegai was widespread all over Africa and it was the most common weapon used before the introduction of firearms. The Zulu and other Nguni tribes of South Africa were renowned for their use of the assegai.

Shaka of the Zulu invented a shorter-style assegai with a two foot shaft and which had a larger, broader blade one foot long. This weapon was known as the iklwa or ixwa, for it was the sound that was heard as it was withdrawn from the victim's wound. It was used as a stabbing weapon during mêlée attacks. The traditional assegai was not discarded but was used for a softening range attack on enemy formations before closing in for close quarters battle with the iklwa. This tactical combination originated during Shaka's military reforms.

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