ANTH 210 Lecture Notes - Lecture 22: Zambezi, Limpopo River, Great Zimbabwe
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Great Zimbabwe (1200 - 1500)
Now a UNESCO world heritage site in Southern Africa. It has been surrounded by controversy: believed
it was the lost city of the Queen of Sheba instead of an indigenous black society.
It may have been founded as early as AD 600, but reached its peak between AD 1200-1500 where it was
the political and ceremonial capital.
About 10,000 inhabitants, some speculate as high as 18,000.
"Zimbabwe" and the Shona
1. "House of Stone"
2. "Venerated houses"
3. The court, home or grave of a chief
It was a habitation site and a seat of power; a place of ancestors. Great Zimbabwe was one of many
major sites on the Zimbabwe plateau (1000m above sea level), but it was the largest and most
influential. Other known sites are Mapungubwe and K2.
Bordered by Zambezi River (north) and Limpopo River (south). The location of these polities close to the
Indian Ocean is important - trade networks.
Connah speculates that polities are recognized on the settlement patterns.
First European to visit Great Zimbabwe in 1871
Attributed the construction of the site's stone monuments to King Solomon and the Queen of
This area was incorporated into the British South Africa company in the 1890s under the lead of Cecil
Rhodes. He was a British born business man and politician. He held a mining company in the area. He
had an interest in the ruins and did fund some archaeological excavations at the site. He was the owner
of the soapstone bird statue (later adopted as emblem of Zimbabwe). This area became Southern
Rhodesia (named after Cecil) and in 1965, the conservative white minority government declared
independence from Britain.
Name change from Rhodesia to Republic of Zimbabwe, explicit connection to the site of Great
Zimbabwe. Incorporation of the soapstone bird statue into the flag.
***National Geographic documentary on Great Zimbabwe
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