Great Zimbabwe

The Great Zimbabwe was one of the largest cities in Africa. Zimbabwe was part of a trade network that reached across the Indian Ocean, and exported ivory and gold that they manufactured locally. Their control of the area’s gold and copper trade helped them to maintain power. The Great Zimbabwe had fertile soil in their land of the hills, they worshiped the god Mwari, and were skilled in the art of carving which could be seen throughout the city.


The geography of Great Zimbabwe was manageable, but the people had to improvise to make their kingdom great.  It is located in the southern part of Africa, in the hills. The soil was relatively fertile, so they had enough crops to feed everyone.  Since the soil was only somewhat fertile, they raised cattle to help provide food and jobs for the people who tended to them.  To keep the cattle in one place, they built large walls to contain them. The reasons of Zimbabwe’s decline are not known, but we do know that Great Zimbabwe was affected by environmental reasons like droughts for a long period of time.

This shows how large the walls and the hills surrounding Great Zimbabwe were.

Religious Views

Like many other African civilizations, Great Zimbabwe worshipped a god who brought fertile rain and other good fortune, Mwari. Since the soil was not as fertile as some of the other African civilizations, the people of Great Zimbabwe had to rely on rain to give it the extra boost it needed. They were a wealthy city who depended more on trade and animals than farming to get the food and resources they needed. It seems as though they are not as heavily religious because their most accomplished architecture is a wall and they do not have a large temple, but some sources say that the entire kingdom was a religious complex towards 1200 C.E..


Great Zimbabwe's greatest form of art was carving.  They carved eight birds out of soapstone and placed them about their land.  Though it is unknown exactly what they used to carve the stone, it had to be a very sharp material.  The exact measurements and precise cuts of the stone shows that the people of Great Zimbabwe were very advanced, and they had a lot of time on their hands.  The birds were about 16 inches tall, and were on top of columns that are over a yard tall.  Since the only information people have on these soapstone birds is from what archaeologists found in the remains, the exact location and meaning of the birds is still unknown.  The birds featured human-like lips and feet which convinced people that they were made to represent and honor the ancestors of their rulers.

This shows a soapstone bird on its column.


Some skeptics believe that the ruins were not actually made by the people of Great Zimbabwe, though there is no archeological evidence. These skeptics are the people of present day Great Zimbabwe. Their reasoning for their doubt was that they could not believe that the ancestors of people they knew were capable of such intricate buildings.  Instead, they believed that the ruins were the works of an alien race from long before they settled. This caused great controversy, because without the ruins, Ancient Great Zimbabwe was not actually as great as everyone thought it was.

This picture shows great detail in the walls. No mortar was used.

Works Cited

"Great Zimbabwe Ruins." Great Zimbabwe. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.

"Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History." Great Zimbabwe (11th–15th Century). N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.