|Fig.1: The Great Enclosure of the Great Zimbabwe is so
great that is doesn't even violate the Double Great Rule
that states two greats make a not-so-great!
The great story of Great Zimbabwe begins with the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in Northern South Africa (cause that's not confusing). What historians consider the first politically-structured civilization in the region thrived during the 9th-10th centuries. That is until it stopped raining, putting Mapungubwe's economy of agriculture and water slides into double jeopardy. So parts of the population traveled north to find better land on which to live, but unfortunately didn't make it so far as Europe (that would have made life much easier). Instead they settled (literally and figuratively) on a fertile plateau about two hundred miles away from Mapungubwe, which was good enough for cultivating small crops, raising cattle, and constructing those zimbabwes like they knew the land would one day be named after them. But at some point between the 11th and 13th centuries, they decided to "Go Big or Go Home" (Zimbabwe's national motto) and put most of their energy into the one zimbabwe to rule them all!
|Fig.2: That Great Enclosure was necessary to keep out the riffraff from the Valley.
|Fig.3: Yes, but does it use
thermodynamic pressure to
dunk its head into water?
Cause that would be cool!
...Until it didn't. Around 1450, the Great Zimbabwe seems to have been completely abandoned. Archaeologists have not pinpointed an exact reason why this occurred (maybe they should stop playing in the dirt so much and do something for once), but environmental collapse and a loss of resources account for the most popular theory (as popular as those things can be). Tradition states that the Kingdom of Mutapa to the north, which appears to have been established at the same time of Zimbabwe's decline, was founded by a Zimbabwean who really wanted some salt on his kielbasa and kept going until he found some. Mutapa would survive for another 300 years, while the Great Zimbabwe quickly turned into a Great Vacant Lot that every city has.
There it sat until the Europeans reared their pasty heads. The Portuguese caught wind of the place around the period of its abandonment by Arab traders in East Africa, who confessed it was a major source of their gold supply. Portugal thought about checking the place out, but that meant actually heading into the mosquito-invested heartland of Africa instead of hanging out on the nice sandy beaches like they normally did, so they quickly vetoed it in favor of working on that tan. It was finally rediscovered in the late 1800s by German explorers, attracting the attention of one Cecil Rhodes, a British business magnate and all-around lover of
|Fig.4: "Mesa do good stonework!"
Regardless of this sad instance of institutionalized racism and overall stupidness, the Great Zimbabwe remains as a testament to native African ingenuity, as well as the only reason for people to visit the country of Zimbabwe (except if you wanted to visit every country in the world in reverse-alphabetical order). While maybe not as visually impressive as the Great Pyramids or Great Walls or Great American Cookie Companies of the world, the attention to detail for each section of the complex is unparallelled for its time, and would have required much patience and engineering know-how. The Great Zimbabwe is entitled to basque in its fair share of greatness, even if the country named after it doesn't quite have as great of a reputation for its economy or reliable presidential elections. Gotta take all the great you can get when it comes to post-colonial Africa!