Zimbabwe was named after the Great Zimbabwe, a ruined antique city previously known as Dzimbabwe – a shona word which means “big houses of stone,” was originally erected as the capital city of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, by the ancestors of present day Shona people. It also served as a royal palace for the Mutapa monarch during the country’s late Iron Age.
Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, the city was home to the Gokomere cattle-herding people and is an important monument in Zimbabwean national identity and heritage.
The site is now recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is proof that Zimbabwe has a culture of great wealth and architectural prowess. The ruins’ enormous sculpted walls of the Great Enclosure combined with its soaring stone tower and sophisticated chevron patterns on the walls embellished with turrets, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways are believed to be an art of exceptional engineering skills.
The phenomenal ruins’ which were described by archaeologist Peter Garlake as “an architecture that is unparalleled elsewhere in Africa or beyond,” have got the most outstanding features such as the high granite walls, some of which were over five metres high and constructed without mortar.
The 6 metre-thick walls of the Great Enclosure’s passageways are built in the cumulative style of construction – as earlier, more crude building methods had been employed.
The Zimbabwe Bird
The Zimbabwe Bird, a sculpture of the African fish eagle, is one of the important historical artefacts in Zimbabwe. The stone-carved bird is the national emblem of the country which appears on the national flag and on the coat of arms of Zimbabwe.
Eight of these artefacts that were skillfully carved from soapstone about 16 inches tall. They were recovered from the ruins and it’s believed that the slots in a platform in the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill Complex were originally designed to hold the monoliths with the Zimbabwe birds.
- The ruins at Great Zimbabwe were described, by Europeans, as a perplexing ‘mystery’ and an ancient ‘riddle,’They refused to believe that such a complex site was built by Africans who they considered to be lower people and attributed the site’s construction to foreign sources.
- It was the centre of the Kingdom of Mutapa.
- The Great Zimbabwe ruins sit on an area of 1780 acres which is exactly 722 hectares.
- It is believed that a maximum of 20,000 people lived inside its walls.