Zimbabwe in the 1930’s

By | June 2, 2022

Since the 16th century, the Portuguese missionaries who penetrated the present territory of Southern Rhodesia noticed the presence in those places of great ruins that assumed the greatest importance in Zimbabwe, then the capital of the empire of the Monomotapa. With the decline of Portuguese rule in those regions the ruins of the city fell into oblivion and only towards the middle of the century. XIX they again attracted the attention of Europeans. Since then, the problem of the ruins of Zimbabwe has increasingly fascinated archaeologists and ethnographers of every country, but nevertheless a great uncertainty and very contradictory opinions remain regarding the peoples who erected those buildings.

According to topschoolsintheusa, they are made with dry stone walls composed of regular shaped granite blocks, a shape due in general not to the work of man, but to the particular way of flaking of the granite, of which there are large formations in the region. In many cases these are defensive constructions: location in high places and difficult to access, massive walls, presence of towers, etc. The buildings of Zimbabwe are devoid of any cover and reveal a rather primitive manufacturing technique; for example, the joining of two walls is never done with a notch that would give the building greater stability, but with the simple support of two flat surfaces next to each other. However, those ancient ruins are imposing for the development, sometimes of a few miles, that the walls take on; this suggests that Zimbabwe is the result of the work of real armies of workers who had to carry out their labor within a powerful social organization and perhaps under strict discipline. For example, the construction of the acropolis and the so-called elliptical temple required a considerable collective effort, having to transport tons of material from the plain below. The buildings of Zimbabwe are not very varied; they are walls or fences that were supposed to enclose huts. Curved structures are quite frequent: the well-known conical tower offers us a beautiful example of this structure. The ornaments are also very simple and are generally reduced to alternating strips of various colors obtained with elements of different rock, generally basalt and granite.

A frequent feature of the ancient ruins of Rhodesia is to have the ground between the walls, covered with a sort of concrete, formed by a mixture of granite dust and which forms the total or partial floor of those buildings. Below these concrete castings were found tombs and numerous objects including very abundant those of metal, especially gold.

Indeed, gold existed there in such abundance as to justify the establishment, in the nineteenth century, of a company to search for gold in the ruins, a company to which, unfortunately, the destruction of very important archaeological documents that could have shed light on the people who built the city. The construction of Zimbabwe therefore seems to coincide with a period of intense metalworking and, consequently, of active mining.

About the origin of this city and of the other ruins scattered between the Zambezi and the Limpopo which up to now count at more than 500, the most disparate theories have arisen, often in open contrast to each other. Someone has supposed that they are the work of non-African populations who came from the sea in very distant times: and the imagination has indulged, indicating them as of Arab, Egyptian, Indian origin. The importance of the buildings would show that the men who raised them were in possession of a superior civilization: even the interpretation, which is not too exact, of certain objects that came to light among the ruins, gave rise to the idea of ​​their origin. extra-African. The most reliable assumption up to now, however, is that the constructions of Zimbabwe are of a relatively recent era and that they represent the work of indigenous African peoples. The simplicity or rather the primitiveness of the building technique, the structure of the buildings and, in general, the type of archaeological materials found among the ruins, are very well suited to the mentality of the current peoples who populate the region. The skeletons found in the tombs within the ruins, and in others of the same kind placed in natural caves, refer to some human types, albeit different from each other, but always African. It is therefore to be assumed that Zimbabwe arose during the domination, in the place, of an African tribe that had reached a greater power than the others and was in possession.

Zimbabwe in the 1930's