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Posted on Saturday, April 19 - 2008

" www.bbc.co.uk The ruins at Great Zimbabwe are the most extensive in sub-Saharan Africa, and arguably the most emotive. The name 'Zimbabwe' probably comes from the Shona phrase Ziimba dza Mabwe1, meaning 'Houses of Stone'. 30km south-west of Masvingo2 in Zimbabwe3, the ruins sit on a 1..."

www.bbc.co.uk

The ruins at Great Zimbabwe are the most extensive in sub-Saharan Africa, and arguably the most emotive. The name 'Zimbabwe' probably comes from the Shona phrase Ziimba dza Mabwe1, meaning 'Houses of Stone'. 30km south-west of Masvingo2 in Zimbabwe3, the ruins sit on a 1000m plateau, at the base of some low granite hills on otherwise open plains, with few trees. For generations, these cyclopean stone walls were considered one of the great unsolved mysteries of the world; who could have built these ruins when no surrounding people was capable of more than mud huts? Why could such a people not have dominated the local Shona tribespeople and built more such cities? Where had their advanced civilisation gone by the time Europeans reached the area in the 1800s? Nowadays, we have satisfactory - and often surprisingly obvious - answers to all these questions, though there are mysteries yet on the plains.

The Ruins: There are three main sections, the Hill Complex (also known as the Acropolis or Hill Town), the Valley Ruins and the Walled Town (or Great Enclosure). The Valley Ruins are now almost invisible, as they are the remains of mud-brick (daga) buildings between the other two sections. A purpose-built version of a local village is thankfully well concealed from view at the rear, offering fortune-telling and tribal dancing during the high season. It does, however, give an impression of what the Valley ruins must once have looked like, with conical thatched roofs slope almost to the ground. The Hill Complex is largely built into the rocky hillside, with walls and floors carved into the rock in some places and built on top of it in others. Guides will enthusiastically point out to visitors areas where the acoustics would allow public speeches to be made, and caves that act as loudspeakers to allow voices to be projected over the surrounding countryside. However exciting these stories may be to tourists, it should be remembered that they owe more to the imaginations of the guides than to local tradition or archaeology...


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