Great Zimbabwe, with extensive stone ruins, is an African Iron Age city. You will find it South East of Zimbabwe 30 km from Masvingo. Making it the biggest stone ruins in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.It is believed that the Iron Age city was populated but 20 000 Shona people. The economy of the Iron city was based on cattle, crops, and trade of gold on the coast of the Indian Ocean.
The iron city is believed to have been a thriving empire between the 1100’ and the 1500’. And the country of Zimbabwe was named after the Shona word for stone house.
The iron city is divided into 3 major areas, the Hill Complex, the Great Enclosure, and the Valley Ruins. The first two areas are mortar less stone construction. But these ruins show us that the people of this age already knew how to build structures with stone.
Unfortunately, Great Zimbabwe became distorted largely in the 1500’ due to the migration of the Shona people and due to the Portuguese settlers.
When the ruins were discovered in the 1900’ archaeological believed it to be the legendary city of Ophir, the site of King Solomon’s mines. Because of its stonework and further evidence of an advanced culture.
In 1905 the English archaeologist David Randall-MacIver concluded that the ruins were medieval and of exclusively African origin; his findings were confirmed by the English archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson in 1929.
In the late 19th century numerous soapstone figurines in the form of a bird were found in the ruins; this Zimbabwe Bird later became a national symbol, incorporated into the Zimbabwe flag, and shown in other places of high honour.
Great Zimbabwe became a national monument and was designated a World Heritage site in 1986
Some interesting facts about the ruins are that the wealth of Zimbabwe started here with cattle farming and the gold trade. One theory is that the rulers of Great Zimbabwe did not have direct control over the gold mines, but rather managed the trade in it, buying up huge quantities in exchange for cattle.
The Ruins are a definite must on your bucket list, it is haunting yet enlightening to know that even before modern-day technology man was able to foster such ingenious ideas and carry them out!