Ancient African Weapons

The continent of Africa is so incredibly large that each of the kingdoms and cultures often grew and evolved independently and were then influenced as some conquered each other.

Various African cultures became excellent at metallurgy, with the first being the Nok people around 550 BCE, forging iron tools and weapons.

The people of Ghana started creating higher quality iron weapons around 750 A.D.

African Weapons

The ancient Africans created their weapons in far more elaborate designs than some other cultures.

They forged iron to create knives, axes, currency blades, and spears, and the workmanship is often closer to art than just battle weapons. The reason that they did this was that they used these items for more than just wars.

They were often used for rituals or ceremonies as well as to show up status and even as currency. One such sword type are the boa swords which were strictly used as currency.

These were not designed as weapons but simply to display prestige. Various tribes and kingdoms developed their own unique

Ancient African Fighting

To understand why the ancient Africans designed their weaponry as they did, you have to understand their fighting techniques. Most of their swordsmanship involved slashes and cuts, which meant close hand-to-hand combat.

Their style resembles that of the Greeks which involved slashing instead of cutting or stabbing. Due to this combat style, warriors also devoted a lot of time crafting elaborate protective shields.

These were typically made of wood that was covered with tough animal hides or the thickest tree bark.

Berber Daggers

These were popular daggers that hung for display, and the handle and sheath were typically made of brass.

African Swords

Kuba “Ikula” Knives (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The Kuba people and those related to them in parts of central Africa relied on knives, spears, axes, and currency blades.

They were highly skilled in metallurgy and they demonstrated their artistic craft with inventive forms and workmanship that went beyond being functional in combat. Many had handles that were intricately inlaid with metal work.

Ngombe Ngulu Sickle Blades (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The Ngulu sickle blade is also referred to as Ngolo, Ngwolo, M’Bolo, Gulu, Ntsaka, Bwakoya, or Mbeli na Banz.

People in the Western World mislabeled this blade as an “executioner’s knife,” and the stories that surround the name seem to have been made up by Westerners that were focused on trying to make the people of Africa appear to be savages. Ngombe translates to “men of the forest,”

and the Ngulu is a beautifully designed asymmetrical iron blade that has an embellished wooden handle that appears more like art than a weapon.

The blades were often used for currency, as ceremonial dance implements, and as a sign of prestige.

Kuba Mongo Knives and Spears (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

There is a distinct appearance to the Mongo knives that includes the characteristic two-part hilt.

The Kuba/Mongo people and most of those that are related to them in central Africa were highly skilled in forging iron. Many of their knives and spears are designed with incredible workmanship.

Bamana Knife (Mali)

The Bamana blacksmiths were renowned for their artistry and technical skills that they brought to creating their knives.

They smelted the iron ore and then heated and hammered the metal to create both knives for weaponry and objects used in rituals.

The Kingdom of Kush – Land of the Bow

The Kingdom of Kush was once so powerful that they took over the rule of Egypt. Their area was rich in both iron and gold and this led them to develop incredible talents in metallurgy combined with art.

The blacksmiths of their day made some of the strongest weapons and tools. They were known for their bows and arrows and the best archers.

The success of the kingdom was due to extensive trade in iron, gold, knives, ivory, slaves, wild animal hides, and incense.


Why are most of the ancient African weapons based on knives, daggers, and shields?

Fighting techniques are hand-to-hand close combat

What was the berber dagger designed for?

To hang as decoration

The Kingdom of Kush was called by what name that referred to their preferred weaponry?

Land of the Bow

Other than weapons, what were some of the knives and daggers used for in ancient Africa?

ceremonies, status, prestige, currency, decoration

What is the first group of ancient Africans that learned metallurgy?

The Nok

What does ngombe translate to?

Men of the forest