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The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 10:30pm On Jul 24, 2012

Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city that was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. The monument first began to be constructed in the 11th century and continued to be built until the 14th century, spanning an area of 722 hectares (1,780 acres) which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. Great Zimbabwe acted as a royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch and would have been used as the seat of their political power. One of its most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high and which were constructed without mortar. Eventually the city was abandoned and fell into ruin.

The ruins were first encountered by Europeans in the late 19th century with investigation of the site starting in 1871.[1] The monument caused great controversy amongst the archaeological world, with political pressure being put upon archaeologists by the government of Rhodesia to deny its construction by black people. Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government, with the modern state being named after it. The word "Great" distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, known as Zimbabwes, spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld. There are 200 such sites in southern Africa, such as Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and Manyikeni in Mozambique, with monumental, mortarless walls; Great Zimbabwe is the largest Zimbabwe is the Shona name of the ruins, first recorded in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, Captain of the Portuguese Garrison of Sofala. Pegado noted that "The natives of the country call these edifices Symbaoe, which according to their language signifies 'court'".

The name clearly contains dzimba, the Shona term for "houses". Apart from this, there are two theories for the etymology of the name. The first proposes that the word is derived from Dzimba-dza-mabwe, translated from the Karanga dialect of Shona as "large houses of stone" (dzimba = plural of imba, "house"; mabwe = plural of bwe, "stone"wink.[4] A second suggests that Zimbabwe is a contracted form of dzimba-hwe which means "venerated houses" in the Zezuru dialect of Shona, as usually applied to the houses or graves of chiefs.

The Great Zimbabwe area was settled by the fourth century. Between the fourth and the seventh centuries, communities now identified as Gokomere or Ziwa culture farmed the valley, mined and worked iron, but built no stone structures. These are the earliest Iron Age settlements in the area identified from archaeological diggings.

Construction and growth
Construction of the stone buildings started in the 11th century and continuing for over 300 years. The ruins at Great Zimbabwe are some of the oldest and largest structures located in Southern Africa, and are the second oldest after nearby Mapungubwe in South Africa. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 36 feet (11 m) extending approximately 820 feet (250 m), making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. David Beach believes that the city and its state, the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, flourished from 1200 to 1500, although a somewhat earlier date for its demise is implied by a description transmitted in the early 1500s to João de Barros. Its growth has been linked to the decline of Mapungubwe from around 1300, due to climatic change or the greater availability of gold in the hinterland of Great Zimbabwe.[12] At its peak, estimates are that Great Zimbabwe had as many as 18,000 inhabitants.[13] The ruins that survive are built entirely of stone. The ruins span 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) and cover a radius of 100 to 200 miles (160 to 320 kilometres).

Features of the ruins
In 1531, Vicente Pegado, Captain of the Portuguese Garrison of Sofala, described Zimbabwe thus:
Among the gold mines of the inland plains between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers there is a fortress built of stones of marvelous size, and there appears to be no mortar joining them.... This edifice is almost surrounded by hills, upon which are others resembling it in the fashioning of stone and the absence of mortar, and one of them is a tower more than 12 fathoms [22 m] high. The natives of the country call these edifices Symbaoe, which according to their language signifies court.

The ruins form three distinct architectural groups. They are known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure. The Hill Complex is the oldest, and was occupied from the ninth to thirteenth centuries. The Great Enclosure was occupied from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries and the Valley Complex from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. Notable features of the Hill Complex include the Eastern Enclosure, in which it is thought the Zimbabwe Birds stood, a high balcony enclosure overlooking thae Eastern Enclosure, and a huge boulder in a shape similar to that of the Zimbabwe Bird. The Great Enclosure is composed of an inner wall, encircling a series of structures and a younger outer wall. The Conical Tower, 18 ft (5.5 m) in diameter and 30 ft (9.1 m) high, was constructed between the two walls. The Valley Complex is divided into the Upper and Lower Valley Ruins, with different periods of occupation. There are different archaeological interpretations of these groupings. It has been suggested that the complexes represent the work of successive kings: some of the new rulers founded a new residence. The focus of power moved from the Hill Complex in the twelfth century, to the Great Enclosure, the Upper Valley and finally the Lower Valley in the early sixteenth century. The alternative "structuralist" interpretation holds that the different complexes had different functions: the Hill Complex as a temple, the Valley complex was for the citizens, and the Great Enclosure was used by the king. Structures that were more elaborate were probably built for the kings, although it has been argued that the dating of finds in the complexes does not support this interpretation. Some researchers have presented an argument that the ruins may have housed an astronomy observatory, although the significance of the alignments upon which these claims are based is contested.

Notable artifacts
The most important artifacts recovered from the Monument are the eight Zimbabwe Birds. These were carved from a micaceous schist (soapstone) on the tops of monoliths the height of a person. Slots in a platform in the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill Complex appear designed to hold the monoliths with the Zimbabwe birds, but as they were not found in situ it cannot be determined which monolith and bird were where. Other artifacts include soapstone figurines, pottery, iron gongs, elaborately worked ivory, iron and copper wire, iron hoes, bronze spearheads, copper ingots and crucibles and gold beads, bracelets, pendants and sheaths.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Great Zimbabwe became a centre for trading, with artifacts suggesting that the city formed part of a trade network linked to Kilwa and extending as far as China. This international trade was mainly in gold and ivory; some estimates indicate that more than 20 million ounces of gold were extracted from the ground. That international commerce was in addition to the local agricultural trade, in which cattle were especially important. The large cattle herd that supplied the city moved seasonally and was managed by the court. Chinese pottery shards, coins from Arabia, glass beads and other non-local items have been excavated at Zimbabwe. Despite these strong international trade links, there is no evidence to suggest exchange of architectural concepts between Great Zimbabwe and centres such as Kilwa.

Causes for the decline and ultimate abandonment of the site have been suggested as due to a decline in trade compared to sites further north, political instability and famine and water shortages induced by climatic change.[12][25] The Mutapa state arose in the fifteenth century from the northward expansion of the Great Zimbabwe tradition,[26] having been founded by Nyatsimba Mutota from Great Zimbabwe, after he was sent to find new sources of salt in the north. Great Zimbabwe also predates the Khami and Nyanga cultures.

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 10:36pm On Jul 24, 2012

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 10:48pm On Jul 24, 2012
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by SmoothCrim2015: 10:50pm On Jul 24, 2012
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:26pm On Jul 24, 2012

One of the soapstone birds.

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:31pm On Jul 24, 2012
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:35pm On Jul 24, 2012
The "Hill Complex" area of Great Zimbabwe:

View from the Hill Complex:

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:47pm On Jul 24, 2012

The five Basic Historical Questions (5 BHQs) are a fundamental set of questions that should be used to summarize and analyze a culture or civilization. The answers to these questions put the civilization in historical context and this gives our research structure and meaning.

1. Whe­n Did the Civilization Begin (Time Period)?

The civilization of Great Zimbabwe reached its zenith from 1100–1450 AD, although local Shona-speaking farmers had settled in present-day Zimbabwe nearly a thousand years earlier.

2. Where Was the Civilization Located?

The location of Great Zimbabwe is in south central Africa, in current-day Zimbabwe, between the Zambezi (north) and Limpopo (south) rivers. The Great Zimbabwe site is situated on a high plateau, mostly over 1000 m. (3,250 ft.)

3. Why is the Civilization Important?

The Great Zimbabwe civilization is important for several reasons:

-The Zimbabwe site, featuring the Great Enclosure wall, is one of the most astounding regions with monuments in Africa, second only to the Nile Valley pyramid region.

-The ancient plan of Great Zimbabwe is in two parts: the hill complex and the valley complexes. The hill complex is where the king kept many of his treasures. Although he lived in the Imba Huru (or Great Enclosure) in the valley, he spent considerable ritual time on the hill. Several important enclosures exist within the hill complex. The principles ones are the ritual enclosure, the smelting enclosure and the iron-keeping enclosure.

-The valley complexes are dominated by the Imba Huru. The height of the main wall of the Imba Huru is about 32 feet, it is 800 feet long, and utilizes an amazing 15,000 tons of granite blocks. The impressive blocks were constructed without mortar. The building of this complex took skill, determination and industry, and thus the Imba Huru demonstrates a high level of administrative and social achievement by bringing together stone masons and other workers on a grand scale.

-The extensive trading network made Great Zimbabwe one of the most significant trading regions during the Medieval period. The main trading items were gold, iron, copper, tin, cattle, and also cowrie shells. Imported items included glassware from Syria, a minted coin from Kilwa, Tanzania, and Persian & Chinese ceramics from the 13-14th centuries.

-Great Zimbabwe was an important commercial and political center. In addition to being in the heart of an extensive commercial and trading network, the site was the center of a powerful political kingdom, which was under a central ruler for about 350 years (1100–1450 AD). The site is estimated to have contained perhaps 18,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities of its day. The conclusion is inescapable that Great Zimbabwe had a condensed population sufficient for it to be considered a town, or even a city. However, many Western writers have attempted to reduce the significance of Great Zimbabwe by several methods: by estimating low population numbers (e.g. only 5,000 instead of 18,000 inhabitants); calling the dwellings “huts” instead of homes; calling the areas “villages” instead of towns or cities; and identifying the rulers as “chiefs’ instead of kings. These writers are well aware that smallness means less significance.

4. How Did the Civilization Begin?

The Great Zimbabwe site was settled around 350 AD by Shona-speaking farmers, who migrated into this elevated plateau region to avoid the tsetse flies, which can kill both people and cattle by causing “sleeping sickness.” The disease trypanosomiasis, or more commonly sleeping sickness, is transmitted by the various species of tsetse flies, which transmit the disease through their saliva. The Great Zimbabwe site was a safe haven high enough to avoid the flies, and this allowed the Shona-speaking migrants to farm and raise their cattle. Eventually, developments led to the formation of the Great Zimbabwe state at the end of the 11th century. Two general theories (technological innovations and intensified trading activities) have been advanced to explain the rise of the Zimbabwe state.

5. How Did the Civilization Decline?

Great Zimbabwe declined and was abandoned around 1450 AD for unknown reasons. The migrants left Zimbabwe and founded the northern kingdom of Monomotapa and other successor states. There has been much speculation about Zimbabwe’s decline as theories of its fall have ranged from over-farming, the population depleting the land resources, a drastic weather change, and a decline in the important gold trade. Further research will have to provide more information on this question.

Much of the wealth which remained at Great Zimbabwe was removed through the centuries by European explorers, treasure hunters, souvenir seekers, and plunderers such as Richard Hall. The site is but a shell of what it once was, as the artifacts were vandalized by these European groups and destroyed or hauled away by them and eventually sent to various museums throughout Europe, America, and South Africa. Today, there are about 20,000 tourists who visit the site each year and they continue to cause additional damage to the ruins, as these tourists climb the walls for thrills and to find souvenirs.

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:51pm On Jul 24, 2012

(For some perspective)

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:54pm On Jul 24, 2012
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:56pm On Jul 24, 2012
"Great Enclosure" entrance (one of them)

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 11:58pm On Jul 24, 2012
A passage in the great enclosure (might be the same as the one above)

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 12:04am On Jul 25, 2012
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by PhysicsQED(m): 12:05am On Jul 25, 2012
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 12:27am On Jul 25, 2012
Interesting posts, PhysicQED.. smiley
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 2:35pm On Jul 25, 2012
Let's breathe life back to this thread..
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Zairois: 8:33pm On Jul 26, 2012
I love seing things like this in black africa just makes me smile with my heart.
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by igbo2011(m): 8:37pm On Jul 26, 2012
Monomotopia!!! Thanks for the great posts shymmexx. Can you do some on Mali, Benin and Dogon? I loved your songhai onea. This needs to be taught in schools around the world especially in Africa. There needs to be more afrocentric schools.
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 10:20pm On Jul 28, 2012
igbo2011: Monomotopia!!! Thanks for the great posts shymmexx. Can you do some on Mali, Benin and Dogon? I loved your songhai onea. This needs to be taught in schools around the world especially in Africa. There needs to be more afrocentric schools.

Thanks, brother..

There are different threads about Benin and Dogon, but I'll create one for Mali.
Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 5:14pm On Nov 24, 2013
PhysicsQED: The "Hill Complex" area of Great Zimbabwe:

View from the Hill Complex:

Re: The Great Zimbabwe by Nobody: 11:49am On Nov 25, 2013
Nice pics of Great Zimbabwe. Unbeknownst to many, these stone ruins are found throughout the entire south west African region, with Great Zimbabwe being the one that seems to have withstood the weather best. There was clearly a massive network of wealthy, advanced cities in that region in the distant past.

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