A Victorian Zulu Assegai Letter Opener, 1879
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Length: 41cm (16in)
In the form of a Zulu assagai with broad silver blade and ivory shaft. The blade with maker's mark of Henry William Dee.
Contemporaneous with the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the present paper knife or letter opener represents a scaled version of the type of short assegai introduced into the Zulu military system by Shaka (1787-1828) and used by turns against indigenous groups, white settlers and British imperial forces. Employed in conjunction with the traditional throwing spear, the assegai was developed as close combat stabbing weapon. It was otherwise known as the iklwa or ixwa, after the sound that was heard as it was withdrawn from the victim's wound.