African weapons and armor - History and facts with pics

African weapons and armor - History and facts with pics

Before guns and modern arms, humans had to defend themselves. During the pre-colonial times, Africans created unique weaponry that was used in wars, ritual celebrations, grazing, hunting, and sometimes as emblems of power and prestige. Among the notable African weapons used are spears, bows, shields, arrows, and swords for some communities. Discover the most terrifying African weapons of all time here.

African weapons and armor - history and facts with pics
Image;, @arasa.malik
Source: Instagram

When talking about African weaponry, most will point to the Zulu Assegai or the Maasai spear. However, there are many rare and ancient African weapons, some of which are traded on the world market by collectors or kept as museum artifacts. These 12 terrifying yet real armaments used in Africa will impress you!

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African tribal weapons

Back in the days, these weapons that were used in prehistoric times used to frighten many people.

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1. Rungu

African weapons and armor
Image:, @razavi.ashkan
Source: Instagram

The Rungu is an 18-20 inch narrow shaft that comes with a massive knob at the end. The Maasai warriors of East Africa used it to hunt and fight during wars, and it is a symbol of a moran’s status.

2. Various ancient African swords

Different communities in Africa crafted unique styles of swords to use them amongst themselves.

  • Ida sword
African weapons
Image:, @kimpande_jewelry
Source: Instagram

The Benin people and Yoruba tribe in West Africa had a sword known as the Ida. This blade featured an elongated leaf shape with single or double cutting edges.

  • Kaskara sword

Within the Northwest part of Africa, particularly Morocco, Arabic influence was apparent in the curved and single-edged egion from as early as the 1500s. This African weapon presented a long, double-edged and spatulate tip. The sword was placed horizontally across the back or between the upper arm and thorax of its owner. dIn the West part of Sahel, the Tuareg, Fulani and Hausa tribes used the Takouba sword.

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  • Flyssa and Nimcha swords

Within the Northwest part of Africa, particularly Morocco, Arabic influence was apparent in the curve and single-edged Flyssa and Nimcha swords. Of the two, the Nimcha proved to have a more substantial blade than the Flyssa.

African weapons armor
Source: Instagram

3. Kpinga

African weapons and armor
Source: Instagram

The Kpinga is one of the African throwing weapons preferred by the Azande of Nubia, and it was found in parts of Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt. This knife was 22 inches long with three differently shaped blades protruding out from different angles of the shaft to maximize the damage caused to the enemy. The Azande used to give out the Kpinga knife as part of the dowry; a young man would bequeath his bride’s family.

4. Mambele

African weapons and armor - history and facts with pics
Source: Instagram

The Mambele is one of the ancient African weapons commonly used by the Makaraka and the Azande tribes of Central Africa. Even though the Mambele was a popular weapon in the classical era, its history remains a big mystery to date. Unlike other curved blades, the inside of the Mambele edge is sharp. Different versions of this weapon included the Makraka that was used in rituals and for execution.

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5. Assegai

African weapons and armor - history and facts with pics
Image:, @gingertomscuriouseclectic
Source: Instagram

The Assegai is a form of a spear or javelin crafted from wood with an iron part mostly used for hurling or throwing. Before the introduction of guns, The Assegai was one of the predominant African weapons used by the Zulu and other communities in South Africa such as the Xhosa and Nguni. These communities relied on the Assegai to fight against the British colonial armies. To use the Assegai, one throws it at the enemy, and after they struck them with it, they would go in for the kill with another shorter weapon.

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6. Sebastopol

This was one of the deadliest weapons that featured a big artillery cannon for firing explosive projectile bombs. Such machines were sent to Ethiopia during the rule of Emperor Tiewodros II in the mid-1800s. A Sebastopol weighs approximately 6.7 tons, and it was made of bronze.

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7. Igbo weapons

The Igbo community resides in the South-eastern part of Nigeria and is famous for its low-lying deltas and fertile pieces of land. Due to this, most of their battles were territorial, as they depended on their property to grow staple plants like taro, yams, and cassava. The tribe’s ideal weapons included bows and spears. Besides, they also had flintlock pistols and muskets, which were commonly used as psychological weapons as opposed to practical ones.

8. The Knobkerrie

African weapons and armor
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Source: Instagram

The Knobkerrie is one of the African melee weapons that was featured in the Black Panther movie. It is a form of a war club that was popular among the Zulu of South Africa, and it is created traditionally from several hardwoods. Smaller versions of this African weapon were used to injure and distract the enemy.

9. Sjambok

A Sjambok weapon is a whip manufactured from the skin of an adult rhino or hippopotamus. It was mainly used to drive cattle during grazing. However, plastic versions of the weapon were later created and used by the law enforcers to control crowds during riots. Even though this whip was used way before apartheid, it became synonymous with the apartheid period.

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10. Hakim Rifle

This ancient weapon was a gas-powered semi-automatic rifle. Even though the weapon was designed in Sweden, it was sold off to Egyptians who used it in the 1950s and 1960s. The flow of gas collides at the front face of the bolt carrier, returning it to the gun that releases the bolt.

11. Nzappa zap

This traditional African weapon was used by the communities of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It resembled a hatchet and was used in short distances or hand-to-hand battles. It is compared to the American weapon known as a tomahawk.

12. Maasai spear and shield

After initiation, a Maasai warrior would be seen around walking with a spear and shield. Besides prestige purposes, a spear and shield are used by the warriors to protect their herds and community from raiders.

The metal on the spear was polished by animal fat. Moreover, the color of the wood on the spear indicated the warrior’s prestige. Dark ebony wood was for senior morans while lighter wood signifies a junior. The Maasai shield was mainly for defense, and it was produced from buffalo hide. The markings on the shield are a blend of natural and commercial colorings.

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Q and A

  • What weapons did Africans use?

Most Africans used weaponry like swords, knives, axes, and spears since the fighting technique was hand-to-hand combat.

  • What are traditional weapons?

These are weapons that possess ceremonial tribal significance, such as the Assegai of the Zulu people.

  • What is a Rungu stick?

A Rungu is a Swahili word that denotes a wooden throwing club, baton, or stick. Tribes within East Africa use it.

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Now you know that even without modern arms, people can still defend themselves. These ancient African weapons of all time are just but a few of what our ancestors used. Is there a specific weapon associated with your community? Share with us your opinion in the comments section below to expand the knowledge on legendary African weapons.


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Source: Briefly News

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Jedidah Tabalia Jedi is a journalist with over 5 years working experience in the media industry. She has a BSc. in Human Resource Management from Moi University (graduated in 2014) and a working in progress MBA in Strategic Management. Having joined Genesis in 2017, Jedi is a passionate Facts and Life Hacks, Fitness, and Health content creator who sees beauty in everything. She loves traveling and checking out new restaurants. Her email address is