Great Zimbabwe National Monument
Great zim.JPG
Nearest cityMasvingo
Coordinates20⁰16′08.84″S 30⁰55′42.70″E
Created11th Century
OpenAll Year Round: Monday to Sunday 6am to 6pm
StatusUNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site

Great Zimbabwe Ruins (Dzimba-dza-mabwe, Houses of Stone) is the second national monument in Zimbabwe. Great Zimbabwe Ruins are the main tourist attraction with its stone structures being the largest in sub-Saharan Africa (approximately 18 000 m³ of stonework). The country 's name Zimbabwe was derived from this monument, Dzimba -dza-mabwe, as well as the Zimbabwean Bird, was discovered at the monument too, soon after independence in 1980.

See National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.

The monument is located near Masvingo in Masvingo Province. Great Zimbabwe consists of three main groups of stone structures.

  • the Great Enclosure,
  • the Hill Complex,
  • the Valley complex.
Great Zimbabwe Map


There have many theories basing on the establishment and construction of Great Zimbabwe Building. The main theory being that the building was built by ancestral Shona tribe. Great Zimbabwe's construction reportedly started in the 11th century and continued to be expanded for 300 years. It is also believed that it was a centre of trade; objects found inside the ruins suggest that the city had trading links with China and the Arab world. The locals were also reported to have exported ivory and gold which was available.[1]

One of the theories mentioned is that a Portuguese by the name Vicente Pegado in 1531 wrote that

“Among the gold mines of the inland plains between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers there is a fortress built of stones of marvellous size, and there appears to be no mortar joining them…. This edifice is almost surrounded by hills, upon which are others resembling it in the fashioning of stone and the absence of mortar, and one of them is a tower more than 12 fathoms (22 metres) high. The natives of the country call these edifices Symbaoe, which according to their language signifies court.”

Another theory is that Adam Render, a hunter, trader and prospector, in 1867 was on a hunting expedition from his home in the Soutspanberg across the Limpopo River in South Africa and was the first European to see Great Zimbabwe. Render soon after deserted his wife and children in 1868 and moved north of the Limpopo and lived about 20 kilometres south-east of Great Zimbabwe with the daughter of a local chief. German explorer and geographer Karl Mauch heard rumours of Great Zimbabwe, came to the area and stayed with Render for nine months and together they visited the ruins. Mauch sent descriptions of the site to colleagues and German newspapers, which led many to think that he first discovered Great Zimbabwe. Karl Mauch began the speculation about a possible Biblical link with King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba to the monument. Mauch claimed a wooden lintel at the site must be Lebanese cedar, brought by Phoenicians and promoted the legend that Great Zimbabwe was built to replicate King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.

In another account, Theodore Bent, an English traveller and antiquarian who travelled widely in Arabia, Greece and Asia Minor, with his wife worked at Great Zimbabwe in 1891 with a surveyor R.M.W. Swan. He stated in the first edition of his book The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland (1892) that the ruins had been built by either the Phoenicians or the Arabs, as builders in ancient times. By the third edition of his book in 1902 he was more specific, saying the builders were "a Semitic race and of Arabian origin" of "strongly commercial" traders living within a client African city, but he did not link them positively with the Queen of Sheba.

However, in 1905 Archaeologist David Randall-Maclver in Medieval Rhodesia claimed the dwellings were “unquestionably African in every detail”. This was received with protest from those who believed otherwise. In 1929 Gertrude Caton-Thompson was invited “to undertake a further examination of the ruins at Zimbabwe or any monument or monuments of the same kind in Rhodesia to reveal the culture, nature of builders. Her excavation work found foreign imported South Indian and Malayan glass beads of the eighth and ninth centuries, which were found below the original floors. On the original floor level of the buildings were found Persian porcelain of the thirteenth century, Chinese porcelain of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and Arab glass, plain, enameled and engraved, of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Local African made items were found both below and above the original floors thus confirming Dr Randall-MacIver's argument that the stone buildings of Zimbabwe were the work of Africans.

In 1971 Roger Summers wrote Ancient Ruins and Vanished Civilizations of Southern Africa and in 1973 locally born archaeologist Peter Garlake published Great Zimbabwe. Both authors agreed that the builders of Great Zimbabwe were a pastoral people who probably came from Mapungubwe in the Limpopo River valley. Major Construction started around 1100 and continued until 1450 AD.

It was reported that at its peak, Great Zimbabwe housed more than ten thousand people who lived in mud and thatch huts. They raised cattle, mined for gold and copper, hunted elephants for ivory and traded with Swahili merchants on the East African coast, using the Save River route, as is evidenced by the artefacts of Asian and Arab origin that were discovered within the site.[2] Read More


Visitors Guide:Directions and Contact Details

From Masvingo take the A4 towards Beit Bridge. Directions are from the railway line, immediately before the Masvingo / Great Zimbabwe Publicity Association. 1.42 KM proceed directly over the road junction, 4.31 KM turn left at signpost for Great Zimbabwe, 27.30 KM turn right at National Monuments sign for Great Zimbabwe, 28.2 KM reach entrance.

  • When to visit: All year round Monday to Sunday 6 am to 6 pm.
  • Fee: An entrance fee is chargeable
  • Phone: 073 798 7661
  • Email:


  1. Great Zimbabwe: History and Discovery, GZ, Published, Retrieved: 10 April 2018
  2. Great Zimbabwe, Zimfield, Published: , Retrieved: 10 April 2018