Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the countrys Late Iron Age, construction on the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. The most widely-accepted modern archaeological theory is that the edifices were erected by the ancestral Shona, the stone city spans an area of 722 hectares which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Great Zimbabwe is believed to have served as a royal palace for the local monarch. As such, it would have used as the seat of political power. Among the edifices most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high, eventually, the city was abandoned and fell into ruin. The earliest known mention of the Great Zimbabwe ruins was in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, captain of the Portuguese garrison of Sofala. The first confirmed visits by Europeans were in the late 19th century, Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government, and the modern independent state was named for it. The word great distinguishes the site from the hundreds of small ruins, now known as zimbabwes. There are 200 such sites in southern Africa, such as Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and Manyikeni in Mozambique, with monumental, mortarless walls, 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, the name contains dzimba, the Shona term for houses. 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. A second suggests that Zimbabwe is a form of dzimba-hwe. The majority of scholars believe that it was built by members of the Gokomere culture, a few believe that the ancestors of the Lemba or Venda were responsible, or cooperated with the Gokomere in the construction. The Great Zimbabwe area was settled by the century of the common era. Between the fourth and the centuries, communities of the Gokomere or Ziwa cultures farmed the valley, and mined and worked iron. These are the earliest Iron Age settlements in the area identified from archaeological diggings, construction of the stone buildings started in the 11th century and continued 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
Great Zimbabwe: Tower in the Great Enclosure.
The conical tower inside the Great Enclosure at Great Zimbabwe
Overview of Great Zimbabwe. The large walled construction is the Great Enclosure. Some remains of the valley complex can be seen in front of it.
Aerial view of Great Enclosure and Valley Complex, looking west