GREAT ZIMBABWE MONUMENT
Great Zimbabwe Monument
The Great Zimbabwe Monument was previously known as the Zimbabwe Ruins. It dates from the Late Iron Age and is the remains of the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. This Kingdom, existing from 1100 to 1450 AD, followed the Gokomere and Ziwa cultures of 400 to 700 AD and formed part of a trade network extending as far as China. Great Zimbabwe has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 and is located 30 km from Masvingo.
The construction of Great Zimbabwe Monument stretched over a period of 400 years. The thick walls, some as high as 5 meters, are built from stone – stacked in such a way that no mortar or cement was used during the process. This ancient city comprises an area of 722 hectares and scientists estimate that it was home to almost 18 000 people.
There are two schools of thought regarding the meaning and origin of the word Zimbabwe. One theory is that the word stems from “Dzimba-dza-mabwe”, which means “large houses of stone” in the Karanga dialect of the Shona people. The Karanga-speakers were among the first to settle in this area. The other possible origin of the word is “Dzimba-hwe”, which means “venerated houses” in the Zezuru dialect of the Shona people. This term referred to the dwellings or graves of chiefs.
This site is not the only place where similar constructions are found. There are 200 smaller “Zimbabwes” in the southern African region, for example Bumbusi (in Zimbabwe) and Manekweni (in Mozambique). The Great Zimbabwe monument are by far the best known archaeological site in Southern Africa and for many years the Zimbabwe Ruins are a must see attraction in the region.
Great Zimbabwe is divided into three groups: the Hill Complex (the oldest part of the Great Zimbabwe and where the man-high Zimbabwe Birds carved from soapstone stood), the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure (comprising an inner and outer wall, with the 5 m-high Conical Tower built between the two walls). Archaeologists think that the three groups of structures point to the work of successive kings.
Archaeologists are not sure about why the city at Great Zimbabwe was ultimately abandoned. Possible reasons include the establishment of other more favourable trade sites, as well as water shortages and famine caused by climate change and over population.
Lake Mutirikwi (previously known as the Kyle Dam) is the third largest man-made lake in Zimbabwe and is in the close vicinity of the Great Zimbabwe Monument. Built at the confluence of the Mshagashe and Mutirikwi Rivers, the dam wall rises an impressive 63 m from the floor of a gorge. The game park at Lake Mutirikwi houses leopard, white rhino, hippo, jackal, antelope as well as some of the largest lizards in the world.
The Lodge at the Ancient City is located within viewing distance of the Great Zimbabwe monument. This establishment has gone to great trouble to capture the atmosphere of the Heritage Site, particularly as far as its architecture is concerned and offers value-for-money accommodation with a unique touch. The Great Zimbabwe Hotel is situated only 800 m from the Great Zimbabwe World Heritage Site, and is a bigger and more luxurious establishment offering more facilities. Norma Jeane’s Lakeview Resort (formerly known as Inn on Great Zimbabwe) offers home from home comfort and hospitality. Apart from full board, there is also fully-equipped self-catering ( self contained ) accommodation, budget accommodation with braai facilities, as well as camping sites at Norma Jean’s Lakeview Resort.