The Great Zimbabwe

Topics: Zimbabwe, 2nd millennium, Shona language Pages: 4 (1282 words) Published: November 16, 2011

When I decided to write this paper about the ruins of The Great Zimbabwe, I first chose it because I had never heard of it, and second, architecture interests me more than most other art history subjects. All I knew about Zimbabwe was that is was a country in Africa. That was it. I had no idea that the country had taken the name from these ruins and that this was arguably one of the most famous archaeological sites in Africa. So, needless to say, I had a lot of reading to do. I think the subject of how it was discovered and brought to the attention of the western world caught my attention first. The idea once thought by early Europeans that this huge stone city found in the heart of Africa couldn’t possibly be built by indigenous people was fascinating and that pride in one’s own race kept the truth from being discovered for decades. [pic]

The Great Zimbabwe was discovered by a German named Carl Mauch in 1871 who was actually looking for the fabled ruins of Ophir. (NDoro, 2005) Mauch got a hot tip from a German trader about some ruins he had seen that “would never had been built by blacks”. (Tyson, 2000) This attitude about the city and the people who lived around it would come to define the type of biased archeology that studied it for years to come. The popular view of the site was that white men or a “civilized culture” had somehow built the site around the 11th century. After decades of bad science and destruction of valuable artifacts, an Egyptologist named David Randall-MacIver (1905) discovered artifacts that belonged to the Shona people living in the area. (NDoro, 2005) His findings however were not very popular and took another 20 years for his ideas to be reiterated by two other archaeologists; J.F. Schofield (1926) and Gertrude Caton-Thompson (1929).(NDoro,2005) Even though the evidence was overwhelming, the Rhodesian government censored materials and books until the nation’s independence in 1980, when they changed their name to...

References: 1. Ndoro, W. (2005). Great Zimbabwe. Scientific American Special Edition, 15(1), 74.
2. Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.(October 2001) "Great Zimbabwe (11th–15th century)". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved Novermber 5th 2011 from
3. Tyson, P (2000) Mysteries of Great Zimbabwe. Nova. Retrieved Novermber 5th 2011 from
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