Home » Travel » Country’s Proud Architectural Roots [opinion]

Zimbabwe is home to one of the most intriguing historical monuments in Africa — the Great Zimbabwe Ancient City, that has stood the test and taste of time.

So far so good! Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, the massive stone structures create a breathtaking view that leaves visitors wondering about historical events that transpired hundreds of years ago.

The name ‘Zimbabwe’ is a derivative from a Shona phrase ‘dzimba dzemabwe’ meaning ‘stone houses.’ In simple terms, Zimbabwe was named after this huge ancient structure. Today, the Government of Zimbabwe has been able to preserve in its natural state, the Ancient City of massive stone walls, built of stone without mortar, as they undulate across almost 1 800 acres. Bantu-speaking ancestors of the Shona tribe are credited with building the Great Zimbabwe.

It is fact not fiction that even if Rhodesian colonisers built the city of Victoria now Masvingo a spitting distance from the Ancient City as a way of countering traditional African governance, the Government of Zimbabwe, through National Museum and Monuments has maintained the monument as a critical national heritage. Without precision and professionalism, the monuments would really have become ruins in the truest sense of the word. So far so good!

Though not the first nor last of some 300 similar complexes located on the Zimbabwean plateau, Great Zimbabwe is set apart by the terrific scale of its structure. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 11 metres extending approximately 250 metres, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.

In the 1800s, European travellers and English colonisers, perplexed by the monument’s grandeur and its cunning workmanship, attributed its architecture to foreign powers.

It was also not surprising when sixteenth century Portuguese traders thought they had stumbled on the fabled capital of the Queen of Sheba when they saw Great Zimbabwe with later visitors easily surmising that the site’s impressive stone structures were the work of Egyptians, Phoenicians, or even Prester John, the legendary Christian king of lands beyond the Islamic realm.

Such theories held for nearly 400 years, until the excavations of British archaeologists David Randall-MacIver and Gertrude Caton-Thompson confirmed that the ruins were of African origin.

Great Zimbabwe’s most enduring and impressive remains are its stone walls.

These walls were constructed from granite blocks gathered from the exposed rock of the surrounding hills that naturally splits into even slabs and can be broken into portable sizes.GREAT ZIM

All of Great Zimbabwe’s walls were fitted without the use of mortar by laying stones one on top of the other, each layer slightly more recessed than the last to produce a stabilising inward slope. Early examples were coarsely fitted using rough blocks and incorporated features of the landscape such as boulders into the walls.

Over the years the technique was refined, and later walls were fitted together closely and evenly over long, serpentine courses to produce remarkably finished surfaces. The enormous walls are the best-preserved testaments of Great Zimbabwe’s past and the largest example of an architectural type seen in archaeological sites throughout the region. The function of these stone walls, however, has often been misinterpreted.

At first glance, these massive non-supportive walls appear purely defensive. But scholars doubt they ever served a martial purpose and have argued instead that cattle and people were valued above land, which was in any event too abundant to be hoarded. The walls are thought to have been a symbolic show of authority, designed to preserve the privacy of royal families and set them apart from and above commoners.

It is also important to note that the walls surrounded and later adjoined huts made of dagga (mud and thatch), linked with them to form a series of courtyards. Dagga was also used to form raised seats in particularly significant courtyards, and was painted to enrich its artistic effect.

Since Great Zimbabwe’s dagga elements have long since eroded, the remaining stone walls provide only partial evidence of the architecture’s original appearance.

In addition to architecture, Great Zimbabwe’s most famous works of art are the eight birds carved of soapstone that were found in its ruins.

The birds surmount columns more than a metre tall and are themselves on average 41 centimetres tall.

The sculptures combine both human and avian elements, substituting human features like lips for a beak and five-toed feet for claws.

Excavated at the turn of the century, it is known that six of the sculptures came from the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill complex, but unfortunately their precise arrangement can only be surmised.

Scholars have suggested that the birds served as emblems of royal authority, perhaps representing the ancestral lineage of Great Zimbabwe’s rulers. Although their precise significance is still unknown, these sculptures remain powerful symbols of rule in the modern era, adorning the flag of Zimbabwe as national emblems.

However, many of the structures are still standing today, and the site has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Great Zimbabwe gives visitors a glimpse into the landscape of past human civilisation, yet it remains a great enigma. So much is still unknown about the ancient city – how it came to be, why it was built, how it was used, and why it was abandoned. It is this mystery that still keeps people marvelling at the breath-taking monument that gave the country of Zimbabwe its name.

Today, the great Zimbabwe is one of the popular tourist attractions in country, with several tourism facilities built around it. — Zim-Travel.

Zimbabwe is home to one of the most intriguing historical monuments in Africa — the Great Zimbabwe Ancient City, that has stood the test and taste of time.

So far so good! Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, the massive stone structures create a breathtaking view that leaves visitors wondering about historical events that transpired hundreds of years ago.

The name ‘Zimbabwe’ is a derivative from a Shona phrase ‘dzimba dzemabwe’ meaning ‘stone houses.’ In simple terms, Zimbabwe was named after this huge ancient structure. Today, the Government of Zimbabwe has been able to preserve in its natural state, the Ancient City of massive stone walls, built of stone without mortar, as they undulate across almost 1 800 acres. Bantu-speaking ancestors of the Shona tribe are credited with building the Great Zimbabwe.

It is fact not fiction that even if Rhodesian colonisers built the city of Victoria now Masvingo a spitting distance from the Ancient City as a way of countering traditional African governance, the Government of Zimbabwe, through National Museum and Monuments has maintained the monument as a critical national heritage. Without precision and professionalism, the monuments would really have become ruins in the truest sense of the word. So far so good!

Though not the first nor last of some 300 similar complexes located on the Zimbabwean plateau, Great Zimbabwe is set apart by the terrific scale of its structure. Its most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 11 metres extending approximately 250 metres, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.

In the 1800s, European travellers and English colonisers, perplexed by the monument’s grandeur and its cunning workmanship, attributed its architecture to foreign powers.

It was also not surprising when sixteenth century Portuguese traders thought they had stumbled on the fabled capital of the Queen of Sheba when they saw Great Zimbabwe with later visitors easily surmising that the site’s impressive stone structures were the work of Egyptians, Phoenicians, or even Prester John, the legendary Christian king of lands beyond the Islamic realm.

Such theories held for nearly 400 years, until the excavations of British archaeologists David Randall-MacIver and Gertrude Caton-Thompson confirmed that the ruins were of African origin.

Great Zimbabwe’s most enduring and impressive remains are its stone walls.

These walls were constructed from granite blocks gathered from the exposed rock of the surrounding hills that naturally splits into even slabs and can be broken into portable sizes.GREAT ZIM

All of Great Zimbabwe’s walls were fitted without the use of mortar by laying stones one on top of the other, each layer slightly more recessed than the last to produce a stabilising inward slope. Early examples were coarsely fitted using rough blocks and incorporated features of the landscape such as boulders into the walls.

Over the years the technique was refined, and later walls were fitted together closely and evenly over long, serpentine courses to produce remarkably finished surfaces. The enormous walls are the best-preserved testaments of Great Zimbabwe’s past and the largest example of an architectural type seen in archaeological sites throughout the region. The function of these stone walls, however, has often been misinterpreted.

At first glance, these massive non-supportive walls appear purely defensive. But scholars doubt they ever served a martial purpose and have argued instead that cattle and people were valued above land, which was in any event too abundant to be hoarded. The walls are thought to have been a symbolic show of authority, designed to preserve the privacy of royal families and set them apart from and above commoners.

It is also important to note that the walls surrounded and later adjoined huts made of dagga (mud and thatch), linked with them to form a series of courtyards. Dagga was also used to form raised seats in particularly significant courtyards, and was painted to enrich its artistic effect.

Since Great Zimbabwe’s dagga elements have long since eroded, the remaining stone walls provide only partial evidence of the architecture’s original appearance.

In addition to architecture, Great Zimbabwe’s most famous works of art are the eight birds carved of soapstone that were found in its ruins.

The birds surmount columns more than a metre tall and are themselves on average 41 centimetres tall.

The sculptures combine both human and avian elements, substituting human features like lips for a beak and five-toed feet for claws.

Excavated at the turn of the century, it is known that six of the sculptures came from the Eastern Enclosure of the Hill complex, but unfortunately their precise arrangement can only be surmised.

Scholars have suggested that the birds served as emblems of royal authority, perhaps representing the ancestral lineage of Great Zimbabwe’s rulers. Although their precise significance is still unknown, these sculptures remain powerful symbols of rule in the modern era, adorning the flag of Zimbabwe as national emblems.

However, many of the structures are still standing today, and the site has been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Great Zimbabwe gives visitors a glimpse into the landscape of past human civilisation, yet it remains a great enigma. So much is still unknown about the ancient city – how it came to be, why it was built, how it was used, and why it was abandoned. It is this mystery that still keeps people marvelling at the breath-taking monument that gave the country of Zimbabwe its name.

Today, the great Zimbabwe is one of the popular tourist attractions in country, with several tourism facilities built around it.

Zim-Travel.

Source : The Herald

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