The site of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins is clearly distinguished from the other hundreds of such small ruins in southern Africa. Known as “Zimbabwes”, the site of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins is spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld. There are 200 such sites in southern Africa, such as Manyikeni in Mozambique and Bumbusi in Zimbabwe. All of them are enriched with tall monumental walls constructed without mortar. However, the Great Zimbabwe is the largest of these. It has since been recongnised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a modern independent state was named after it.
In fact, the modern-day African country of Zimbabwe was named after the largest collection of ruins located in the heart of southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. The Great Zimbabwe ruins are the oldest and the largest collection of ruins in Africa, evidencing the presence of an ancient culture of great wealth and great architectural skill. The ruins span about 1,800 acres and it is estimated that at its peak Great Zimbabwe had as many as 18,000 inhabitants
Great Zimbabwe, a ruined city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe, was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the Late Iron Age of the country. It is estimated that the construction of the monument started in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. The most impressive part of the edifice is its strong walls, some of which were over five metres high. The granite walls embellished with turrets, towers, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways – seem to signify that once it may have served as a royal palace for the local monarch. Atop granite outcropping, walls merge with enormous boulders to form the fortified Acropolis. In the valley below, lies the great interesting enclosure with almost a million granite blocks in its outer walls. Amazingly, they were constructed without mortar.
The majority of scholars believe that it was built by the members of the Gokomere culture, who were ancestors of the modern Shona in Zimbabwe. Others believe that the ancestors of the Lemba or Venda were behind the construction, or they cooperated with the Gokomere in the construction. The ruins are categorized into three distinct architectural groups. They are known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure. The Hill Complex is the oldest, and was occupied from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries. No one knows for sure why the site was eventually abandoned. However, scholars opined that the causes for the decline and the ultimate abandonment of the site may be due to a decline in trade, political instability, famine or water shortages caused by climatic change.