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Forum LockedMedievel Zimbabwe

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pytheas View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02-Jan-2005 at 12:55

The Great Zimbabwe is an example of classic medieval African archetecture and civilization.  Please read the below article (from campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/Africa/GreatZimbabwe.h tml)

I am interested in others' thoughts and information regarding this site and civilization.  Cheers!

Great Zimbabwe

500-1600 AD

Not much is known about the people and the culture of Great Zimbabwe. This is due to the fact that they had no written language and the oral traditions have not survived. What we do know is what they left behind in form of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. The Shona speaking people moved into the valley around 500 AD and began building major parts of the stone walls in the 1100s. Zimbabwe is the Shona word meaning house of rock.

The city of Great Zimbabwe is located in the present day country of Zimbabwe. Geographically it is located to the east of the Kalahari desert between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. The huge plains that surround the city can support agricultural and herding that the people of Great Zimbabwe needed to sustain themselves. It is interesting to note that although Great Zimbabwe is in the area of several rivers it is not actually on the shores of a river. The city appears to be in the middle of nowhere. It is believed, however, that the city was located on a gold-rich mine. Great Zimbabwe was used and built as a religious center and a place from which they worshipped Mwari, the creator of all life as well as the sustainer of all things.

The Elliptical building is the most impressive and extraordinary of the stone remains. The outer wall of the building is 32 feet high and up to 17 feet thick in parts. It stretches over 800 feet, forming a circumference with a maximum diameter of 293 feet. The inside of this building was probably reserved for the king or ruler for melting down gold in smelters. As well as being impressive for the fine granite walls, the city was very rich in gold. The people traded along the nearby Limpopo river. One of the most amazing aspects of this great civilization is that they had up to 20,000 people living around the elliptical building in mud huts. The huge stone buildings are built very straight and uniform and were very well planned in their construction. The stones in the major walls were perfectly fitted with each other and no mortar was used. The only openings in the wall were for the entrance and several drainage ditches. It is interesting to note the similarities of these walls to those of the castles built during Medieval Europe.

Great Zimbabwe is so well known because it is not known how it was constructed nor why the civilization declined around 1600. Much of this is due to the strange fact that the people of Great Zimbabwe left behind no record of a written language nor any oral traditions. The fact that the civilization disappeared as well as the impressive and mysterious walls make the Great Zimbabwe one of the truly lost civilizations of the world.

Sources

Nelson, Harold D. Zimbabwe, A Country Study. Washington DC: United States Government, 1983.

Bahr, Lauren S. Collier's Encyclopedia. Vol. 23, New York: P.F. Collier, INC, 1992: 774-775

Gazlake, Peter S. Great Zimbabwe. Great Britain: Hazell Watson and Viney LTD, Alesbury, 1973.

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pytheas View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jan-2005 at 12:58

More info for the hungry reader....

Great Zimbabwe

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

The Great Enlosure Hill Complex (top)

(Click on individual pictures to obtain larger images, which take longer to download.) Photographs George P. Landow. Scans by Giovana Roz, Brown University Visiting Scholar from the University of Turin. Images may be used without written permission for any educational purpose. Any commercial or other use requires prior written permission from George@Landow.com.

Introduction

This complex of ruins from which the modern nation of Zimbabwe took its name is one of the country's greatest historical and cultural attractions. As Paul Tingay's helpful guide explains, Great Zimbabwe, the largest ruins in Africa, covers almost 1,800 acres.

Sited on an open wooded plain surrounded by hills, the ruins comprise the vast Great Enclosure complex, and on a nearby kopje the Hill Complex, a veritable castle of interlocking walls and granite boulders, while all around in the valley lie a myriad other walls. The ruins feature an array of chevron, herringbone and many other intricate patterns in its walls, and the astonishing fact is that despite the dry-stone technique used in Great Zimbabwe's construction (no mortar binds the stone blocks), the complex has endured for seven centuries. [Zimbabwe, Globetrotters Travel Guide, London: New Holland Publishers, 1994, 97.]

The complex, which wealthy Shona-speaking cattlemen built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, may have housed as many as 40,000 people at its height.

Art, Archeology, and Politics

Since Europeans first encountered the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, it has been the focus of ideological concern and conflict. Unwilling to believe that sub-Saharan Africans could have built such a structure, adventurers and ideologues long claimed the ruins a mystery, theorizing that ancient Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans, or Hebrews created the structures. In fact, as Tingay points out, "since archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson's excava- tions in 1932, it has been widely known that Great Zimbabwe is truly of Africa and less than 1000 years old" (98). Nonetheless, the White Rhodesians, whose ideology proclaimed the land "empty" of people and culture before they arrived, "tried to rewrite history -- even asserting that an African genesis for Great Zimbabwe was tantamount to treason" (98). After the War of Liberation, the new nation, discarded the name of Cecil Rhodes and, looking to the past for nobler origins, chose the name Zimbabwe.

Hill Complex

The Staircase Up Hill Complex (top)

Great Enclosure

The Wall Inside the Walls The Grainary

Left to right: The Wall with its zig-zag decoration; a view inside the enclosure; the Grainary.

Looking toward the Grainary External View of the Restored Entrance

Looking toward the grainary; an external view of the restored entrance.

Looking out through the Entrance Gate
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Cyrus Shahmiri View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cyrus Shahmiri Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jan-2005 at 14:35

I have heard there were some battles between the Persian empire of Shirazis and the empire of Great Zimbabwe or the Mwenemutapa empire for controlling over gold mines in Sofala, which is now part of Mozambique.


Husuni Kubwa, the largest stone construction known in those days in sub-Saharan Africa

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gubook Janggoon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jan-2005 at 15:38
When did the Persians get to Mozambique?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jan-2005 at 17:51
there is a lot of small groups of Persians and Arabs that setteld along the east African coastline.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cyrus Shahmiri Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jan-2005 at 11:58
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gubook Janggoon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Jan-2005 at 17:42
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

Not only the east African coastline:  http://www.allempires.com/forum/get_topic.asp?FID=17&TID =546&DIR=P



Wow I never knew that.  That's so cool!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2005 at 12:30

Very interesting Cyrus and Jalisco, thanks for the contributions!  I did know of the Zanzibar connections as Jalisco offers below from the other forum:

Zanzibar History

Zanzibar has lured traders, adventurers, plunderers and explorers to its shores for centuries...

The Assyrians, Sumerians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Indians, Chinese, Persians, Portuguese, Omani Arabs, Dutch and English have all been here at one time or another. Some, particularly the Shirazi Persians and Omani Arabs, stayed to settle and rule. With this influence, Zanzibar has become predominantly Islamic (97%) - the remaining 3% is made up of Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. The earliest visitors to Zanzibar were Arab traders who are said to have arrived in the 8th century. The earliest building that remains on Zanzibar is the mosque at Kizimkazi which dates from 1107, and is a present-day tourist attraction.

For centuries the Arabs sailed with the Monsoon winds from Oman to trade primarily in ivory, slaves and spices. The two main islands, Unguja (normally known as Zanzibar Island) and Pemba, provided an ideal base for the Omani Arabs, being relatively small, and therefore fairly easy to defend. From here it was possible for them to control 1,000 miles of the mainland coast from present day Mozambique to Somalia. Indeed, in 1832, Sultan Seyyid Said, of the Busaid Dynasty that had emerged in Oman, moved his Sultanate from Muscat, which was perhaps more difficult to protect, to Zanzibar where he and his descendants ruled for over 130 years. Most of the wealth lay in the hands of the Arab community, who were the main landowners, kept themselves to themselves, and generally did not intermarry with the Africans.

This was not true of the Shirazi Persians who came from the Middle East to settle on the East African coast. The story goes that in AD 975, Abi Ben Sultan Hasan of Shiraz in Persia (now Iran) had a terrible nightmare in which a rat devoured the foundations of his house. He took this as an omen that his community was to be devastated. Others in the Shiraz Court ridiculed the notion, but Sultan Hasan, his family and some followers obviously took it very seriously because they decided to migrate. They set out in seven dhows into the Indian Ocean but were caught in a huge storm and separated. Thus, landfalls were made at seven different places along the East African coast, one of which was Zanzibar, and settlements began.

Widespread intermarriage between Shirazis and Africans gave rise to a coastal community with distinctive features, and a language derived in part from Arabic, which became known as Swahili. The name Swahili comes from the Arab word sawahil which means 'coast'. The Zanzibar descendants of this group were not greatly involved in the lucrative slave, spice and ivory trades. Instead, they immersed themselves mainly in agriculture and fishing. Those Shirazis that did not intermarry retained their identity as a separate group.

Two smaller communities were also established. Indian traders arrived in connection with the spice and ivory trade, and quickly settled as shopkeepers, traders, skilled artisans, and professionals. The British became involved in missionary and trading activities in East Africa, and attempting to suppress the slave trade centred in Zanzibar.

......

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pytheas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2005 at 12:32
So does anyone know if the Great Zimbabwe was connected directly to the slave trade and if so the 1600's decline of the city could be as a result of the slave trade reorganizing in West Africa to meet European/American demand....?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tobodai Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2005 at 18:41
no, great Zimbabwe had ceased to be an organized or influential society by the time of the rise of the slave trade, it was already petering out from climate change on the plateau when the Portugese arrived.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2005 at 19:25
Plus i don't think changes in slave trade organisation would have much in the ways of a direct impact on Zimbabwe. I mean, it couldn't have been that dependant on the trade of gold to W. Africa, and W. Africa had plenty of Gold of its own (Gold coast anyone).
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