The great stone houses of Zimbabwe were built between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. These stone buildings were named dzimbabwe in the local Shona language. The people of Zimbabwe later named their country after these stone buildings to honor their ancient cultural heritage. The stone houses of Zimbabwe are recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History during 1250 AD.
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The Shona people of ancient Zimbabwe lived between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. Their ancestors hunted and gathered food wherever they could find them. They found that they lived on a good and fertile land later on, so they started to farm it. To make a living, they also raised cattle, made ceramics, and worked on iron. The Shona people also discovered that their land had an abundance of gold. So they started to mine and trade it with neighboring peoples.
They also became merchants and traded textiles from India for gold, ivory, and other products from south-east Africa. The kingdom became prosperous because of the trade. Around 1250, the people started to use their wealth to build stone houses. They laid out the foundations of the city of Great Zimbabwe around 1270 and expanded it around 1300 to include larger stone buildings.
The Great Zimbabwe Kings became the most powerful men in the region for the next 150 years. The city became so big in the years that followed that it covered an area of as much as 1,730 acres and as much as 20,000 people lived inside at its peak. The great city was divided into the three sites: the Great Enclosure, the Hill Ruins, and the Valley Ruins.
The Shona people lived in the Hill Ruins starting in the eleventh century and into the fifteenth century. They built a large structure which can only be reached via a narrow passage and enclosed it with rough stone blocks on top of a granite hill. It served as the house of the Great Zimbabwe kings and their families. A part of it served as a center where religious ceremonies were held.
The Great Enclosure was built south of the Great Zimbabwe hills and it was a massive round enclosure made of granite blocks. It contained some daga huts (walls made of granitic sand and clay), a public area, and a high conical tower. The Valley Ruins came much later in the nineteenth century. It included structures made of bricks or stones stacked and locked together to form a wall.
The Great Zimbabwe was abandoned in 1450, possibly because of food shortages caused by overpopulation and deforestation. The gold trade also shifted to other regions which greatly affected the kingdom’s economy and politics. The northern and western kingdoms rose after the Great Zimbabwe’s decline. They completely overshadowed the once great city in the years that followed.
Picture By © Hans Hillewaert / , CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Cremin, Aedeen. The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Richmond Hill, Ont.: Firefly Books, 2012.
“Great Zimbabwe National Monument.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Accessed November 22, 2016. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/364.
Oliver, Roland, ed. The Cambridge History of Africa C. 1050-c. 1600. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
Roberts, J. M., and Odd Arne Westad. The History of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
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