Great Zimbabwe

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Related to Great Zimbabwe: Queen of Sheba, Mapungubwe

Great Zimbabwe

(zĭmbäb`wā) [Bantu,=stone houses], ruined city, SE Zimbabwe, near Masvingo (formerly Fort Victoria). Its mortarless, curving granite walls and buildings were constructed in 11th–15th cent. by an African people or peoples, most likely the Shona. The city was an influential regional center with a population ranging from 10,000 to as much as 20,000, located on trade routes that reached to the Mozambique coast. The remaining ruins include the Hill Complex, the oldest portion, whose stone walls incorporate boulders; the Great Enclosure, the outer stone walls of which rise as much as 36 ft (11 m); and the Valley Complex, which is marked by the remains of mud-brick dwellings, the most recent of which date to the 19th cent. Mud-brick structural remains are also found in the Hill Complex and Great Enclosure. The granite walls were once richly decorated with stone carvings and gold and copper ornaments.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the site was first occupied by Iron Age peoples in the 3d cent. It was abandoned sometime thereafter until it was reoccupied in the late 9th cent. or early 10th cent. After Great Zimbabwe was discovered by European explorers c.1870 (there may have been Portuguese visitors as early as the 16th cent.), some Europeans asserted it was the biblical OphirOphir
, in the Bible. 1 Seaport or region from which the ships of Solomon brought fine gold in great quantity. Sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes, and peacocks were also part of the triennial cargo. The location of Ophir is unknown.
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, where King Solomon had his mines. Others assigned its construction to Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, Chinese, Persians, or other non-African peoples. From 1890 to 1900 some 100,000 gold mining claims—all barren—were staked out there, and the ruins were extensively plundered by Europeans in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


See G. Caton-Thompson, The Zimbabwe Culture (1970).

References in periodicals archive ?
Bosutswe, the abode of a large but invisible rain-snake, has extensive occupations contemporary with both Great Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe, as well as earlier strata extending to the eighth century (Denbow and Miller 2007).
Climate variability, southern Africa, Mapungubwe, Great Zimbabwe, difaqane/mfecane.
Dawson Munjeri who as director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe played a key role in the reunification of the stone bird of Great Zimbabwe wrote entertainingly: (27)
This ethnographic study sought to examine the contribution of CSR on the livelihoods of people domiciled in communities surrounding the Great Zimbabwe monuments.
The ruined cities, temples, and statues of many of history's great, vanished societies (Easter Island, Anasazi, the Lowland Maya, Angkor Wat, Great Zimbabwe, and many more) are the birthplaces of endless romantic mysteries, but they have something more valuable to offer: while these social collapses were due in part to the same types of environmental problems that beset us today, many societies facing similar problems do not collapse.
Africans built esthetically pleasing small homes, as well as massive stone fortresses like the Great Zimbabwe and the Egyptian pyramids.
We know about the pyramids but how many of us know about Great Zimbabwe, the huge stone structures that once housed thousands of people?
It's known that gold was used and worked at Mapungubwe and also at Thula Mela, in what is now Kruger National Park, but evidence of mining has only been found at the World Heritage Site of Great Zimbabwe itself.
During the colonial era, Europeans defended white-supremacist ideas by arguing -- wrongly -- that Africans could not have built advanced civilizations such as the massive citadel of stone houses called Great Zimbabwe.
Before colonisation the predominant nature of human settlements was entirely scattered and sparsely populated rural settlements with no cities and towns except the long disserted pre-colonial city states of Great Zimbabwe, Khami and Dhlodhlo to mention but only the largest.
00pm) Gus Casely-Hayford examines the history of Great Zimbabwe, a collection of ruined stone buildings scattered across the Zimbabwe highveld.