Great Zimbabwe Ruins

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: Great Zimbabwe state (Kingdom): The structure of Great Zimbabwe

  • The structure is found in south-east Zimbabwe near Masvingo
  • The Shona name for the ruins is Dzimbabwe (variations of the name include Dzimbahwe, Zimboa/Symbaoe[Portuguese sources])
  • The names means ‘houses of stone’ or ‘house of stone’
  • It was the capital of the Late Iron Age kingdom known as Great Zimbabwe
  • Archaeological evidence and written Portuguese evidence says the structure was built by the Shona people
  • Some archaeologists have disputed this but they are now in the minority due to overwhelming
  • It is the largest of several stone structures found around Zimbabwe
  • The adjective Great is meant to distinguish the ancient capital from the other smaller ruins
  • It could have been home to about 18 000 people
  • It was built using carved and shaped stones
  • It was built without mortar using granite rocks that abound in the area
  • It consisted of a ten metre high Enclosure and the Conical Tower
  • These stone walls were built without mortar using granite rocks
  • The walls were constructed from around the 11th and 17th centuries
  • The ruins form three distinct groups:
  • The oldest Hill Complex
  • The Great Enclosure and the
  • Valley Complex
  • The Great Enclosure is made up of an inner wall, encircling a series of structures and a younger outer wall
  • The Conical Tower which is about five and a half meters in diameter and 9 meters tall is found between the two walls
  • One theory is that the Valley complex was for citizens
  • The Great Enclosure was for the king and his royal family
  • The Hill Complex was a temple/for religious ceremonies
  • Several soapstone carvings of the so-called Zimbabwe bird were unearthed/discovered on and around the site
  • Experts think these were made to honour the rulers who were of the Hungwe totem
  • Hungwe is the Shona name for the Bateleur Eagle
  • Egyptian artifacts were also discovered suggesting a trade link between the Kingdom and outsiders

To access more topics go to the History Notes page.

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