The nineteenth century witnessed the spread and development of a number of northern Nguni kingdoms throughout southern Africa. Central to the success and stability of these kingdoms was the regimental system. A critical aspect of this system was the military settlements or amakhanda (singular ikhanda). These settlements provided housing to soldiers, but also acted as centres of royal authority. Due to the specific function and nature of these settlements, they had a settlement organisation and layout that differed from that of a family homestead (umuzi). This study identifies a number of differences that may enable archaeologists to distinguish between amakhanda and other settlements. An ikhanda was organised into four structural sections, each of which was used for very specific purposes: the central enclosure; regimental housing; the great isigodlo; and the isigodlo. Amakhanda represent a fundamental change that had occurred among the northern Nguni, a change that ultimately resulted in the formation of the Zulu kingdom and the reshaping of the socio-political organisation of southern Africa.