Zimbabwe stands as a beacon of archaeological wonder in Africa, capturing the imagination with its rich history. Despite controversies stemming from varying archaeological evidence, the site, located in the Fort Victoria area of southern Rhodesia, 27 kilometres southeast of modern Zimbabwe, spans 60 acres and is dominated by the imposing Acropolis.
The ruins boast a remarkable physical presence, with the Acropolis, a rocky hill featuring massive walling, standing as the focal point. To the south lies a valley with free-standing ruins, including the prominent Great Enclosure or Temple, forming two interconnected complexes with intertwined histories.
Discoveries in the Western Enclosure
Recent excavations in the western enclosure of the Acropolis have unveiled Zimbabwe’s stratigraphical secrets. Boulders and stone walls mark the summit, which contains deep deposits of occupation debris. The excavations have yielded pottery shards and samples for radiocarbon dating, shedding light on the site’s historical timeline.
Location and Significance
Situated at the head of the Mtelikwi valley, the ruins are strategically placed to capture winds and rain from the Indian Ocean. The December rains transform the surrounding vegetation into a lush haven for cattle grazing, accompanied by rain-making ceremonies.
The Enigmatic Temple
The temple, a circular enclosure with a 24-foot-high wall adorned with chevron designs, stands as a testament to advanced construction techniques. Importantly, it encapsulates earlier walls, a conical tower of mysterious purpose, and various artefacts, including imported Chinese goods, gold, and soapstone ornaments.
Archaeological research has woven a tale of discovery since the late 19th century. From Theodore Bent’s 1891 excavation to Dr. Gertrude Canton-Thompson’s work in 1929, evolving theories have refined our understanding of Zimbabwe’s origins. The consensus now points to African pottery craftsmanship dating from the 8th or 9th century A.D. to the 13th century.
Evidence of Occupation
The first settlers occupied the Acropolis hill, engaging in farming and metal work in the western enclosure. Evidence of domestic animals and agriculture suggests a settlement dating back approximately 2000 years.
Zimbabwe’s technological prowess is evident in the discoveries of ceremonial iron tools, copper ornaments, and intricate soapstone carvings. The site served as a hub for wood carving, reflecting its multifaceted role as a political, commercial, and religious centre.
Beyond its archaeological significance, Zimbabwe is a historical and cultural yardstick for south-central Africa. Its enduring legacy is a symbol of African achievement, making it a focal point of pride and patriotism.
Extract from the archives of the late Chief Akpallah Okenyodo’s research on history.