Great Zimbabwe National Monument

Photo © hilarywh

Travel Guide Africa Zimbabwe Great Zimbabwe National Monument

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Introduction

Great Zimbabwe is a ruined city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe and the town of Masvingo. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country's Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. The most widely-accepted modern archaeological theory is that the edifices were erected by the ancestral Shona. The stone city spans an area of 722 hectares which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Great Zimbabwe is believed to have served as a royal palace for the local monarch. As such, it would have been used as the seat of political power. Among the edifice's most prominent features were its walls, some of which were over five metres high. They were constructed without mortar (dry stone). Eventually, the city was abandoned and fell into ruin.

The earliest known written mention of the Great Zimbabwe ruins was in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, captain of the Portuguese garrison of Sofala, who recorded it as Symbaoe. The first confirmed visits by Europeans were in the late 19th century, with investigations of the site starting in 1871. Later, studies of the monument were controversial in the archaeological world, with political pressure being put upon archaeologists by the government of Rhodesia to deny its construction by native African people. Great Zimbabwe has since been adopted as a national monument by the Zimbabwean government, and the modern independent state was named for it. The word great distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, now known as "zimbabwes", spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld. There are 200 such sites in southern Africa, such as Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and Manyikeni in Mozambique, with monumental, mortarless walls; Great Zimbabwe is the largest of these.

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Opening Hours

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Cost

Entry to the ruins is USD15 for foreigners.

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Sights and Activities

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Getting There and Around

Great Zimbabwe is about 27km south east of Masvingo. You can get a combi from behind the TM supermarket in Masvingo, costing about USD1 and taking about 20 minutes (once it fills up). The combi drops you at a turnoff about 2km from the gate to the ruins, you then walk past a craft market and through the Great Zimbabwe Hotel to reach the ruins. You can also get a taxi from Masvingo, and the ruins are visited by many overland trucks and other organised tours.

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Eat/Drink

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Sleep

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This is version 1. Last edited at 9:30 on Apr 10, 17 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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