Guide to Zimbabwe Ruins | Archaeology | Zimbabwe

I .

. "to the
Guide to the
Compiled by Mr. Neville lones, O.B.E., F.R.A.I., Secretary of
"e Southern Rhodesia Monuments and Relics Commission and
-:;nner Keeper of Antiquities in the SOlfthern Rhodesia National
Museum, Btllawayo.
?nblished by the Department of Public Relations on behalf of the
:=mIssion for the Preservation of Natural and Historical Monuments
and Relics.
The following appeared in "Punch" on the 29th September,
1948, and is reproduced by permission of the Proprietors.
Great Zimbabwe
W HO were the blJilders of Great Zimbabwe?
No man knows . ..
Who wel'e those
That quarried, chiselled, hewed,
Laid stone on stone,
Till the high wall stood
And their task was done ?
Who and when
No man knows,
Only that many men
In a time long gone-
of years, thousands of years,
It IS all one-
Under the terrible, fierce
African sun)
Sweated and wrought in their day,
And went their way • ..
But to what end they fashioned
High wall, strong tower,
Altar and citadel,
By what urge impassioned,
Desire of gold or power,
No man can tell.
Who were the dwellers in Great Zimbabwe?
No man can say
What manner of folk were they,
Nor what dark dynasties
Of blood and fear
Held, as they should not cease,
Dominion here,
Before-how swiftly, how slowly
No man can say,
F .:mine, pestilence or the foe,
a man can know-
The doom swept them wholly
And forever away,
Leaving to time and decay
And the years' slow silt)
The gods to whom they prayed
And the strong places they had built
And everything tbey had made. , .
Empty as a bleached skull
Of the loud life,
The voices and the trafficking and the strife
That filled it full ' . , .
Empty and alone,
Empty of life, empty of memory, empty of alt-
Only the wild fig, self-sown,
Clings with knotted fingers to the wall,
And the bright lizards on the sun-baked stone
Flicker, gleam for a moment, flasb and are gone .
HE writer of this Guide book for the use of visitors to
Zimbabwe has endeavoured to set down in concise form
facts as are known about these remarkable ruins, but he
- studiously refrained from expressing any personal views in
. interpretation, holding that a controversial attitude is un-
ed for in a compilation of this nature. While no one would
:l2irn that the last word has been spoken on any of the problems
:=esented, the investigations so far undertaken have resulted in
_ emergence of two distinct categories of thought in regard
the date of the building and the nationality of the builders.
Against the theory of an ancient date-3,000 to 1,000
= c.-propounded by Bent, R. N. Hall and others, and founded
circumstantial rather than direct evidence, stand the conclu-
arrived at as the result of scientific investigation· carried
.:.z by qualified archaeologists, in particular by Professor D.
2.mdall-Maciver and Miss G. Caton-Thompson, both of whom
:osrulated a mediaeval date. The flames of controversy which
ere ignited when the ancient theory, in its various forms, was
called in question have by no means yet completely died
Such disputations can hardly concern the trisitor who, it is
is anxious at the time of his visit only to be informed
of such facts regarding the Ruins as are indisputable. If he is
sufficiently interested further to
The late Mr. R. N. Hall, pursue the subject and inform
first Curator of Zim- himself as to the various views
babwe, with the Soap-
stone 'Beam with Bird expressed, he will find in the study
which was discovered in
Phillips' Ruins. of the various books given in the
brief bibliography at the end of
the next section ample food for thought. In addition to the
books mentioned numerous papers both in relation to Zim-
babwe in particular and Rhodesian ruins in general, have
appeared, but as these are not easily accessible, they are not
In the drawing up of this guide book, the writer freely
acknowledges his debt to the late Mr. R. N. Hall, the compiler
ot the first guide book to Zimbabwe, for much of his factual in-
:ormation. So far as the fabric is concerned, he has checked
Hall's information by careful examination, and has had little
occasion to make any material alterations. He has also freely con-
sulted the standard text books and has made use of the observa-
tions of a number of other writers, particularly Messrs. F. P.
Mennell, J. F. Schofield and H. A. Wieschhoff, to all of whom
he desires to express his indebtedness.
To go over the Ruins, guide book in hand, will reveal to
the interested visitor much that would otherwise escape his
notice, and it is the writer's earnest hope that a desire to know
more may be stimulated. The ancient ruins of Southern Rho-
desia provide a cultural heritage of which the Colony has every
reason to be proud.
Every effort has been made to secure the best illustrations.
Except where otherwise acknowledged, all photographs have
been provided by the Public Relations Department. The
botanical notes at the end have been kindly supplied by Dr.
Wild, of the Department of Agriculture.
General Information
HE Curator' s Office is situated between the Elliptical Build-
ing and the Acropolis, and VISITORS ARE SPECIALLY
-rrORS' BOOK. The Curator is glad to give any infor-
-on or assistance to visitors who will be interested in inspect-
.: the small collection of objects from the Ruins which is;
in his office. Hitherto all objects found have been re-
ed to various museums, but it is hoped gradually to build
collection on the spot, and ultimately to house it in a
- ~ Ie museum. Copies of the mote important books written
Lhe Ruins are kept in the office where they may be consulted
Lhose sufficiently interested to want to, know' more of what
been done by way of investigation. As these books are now
- of print and of considerable value, their removal from the
-=-e is not permitted.
Two or three days spent at Zimbabwe afford an enjoyable
interesting holiday, but for those whose time is limited to
day only, it is possible to go all over the Ruins in that time,
gh somewhat hurriedly. To do this to the best advantage,
wrs are advised to VISIT THE ACROPOLIS IN THE
Accommodation for visitors is provided at the Zimbabwe
Hotel at the approach to the
Ruins, and at Sheppard's Hotel,
beyond the Ruins and to the east.
Full. informati'on can be obtained
- m the managers. It is advisable to book well in advance
: : ~ - i n g the tourist season.
For .the use of visitors wishing to stay ' in the Ruins, a
..::nber of comfortable rest-huts have been built. These may
rented at ' a charge 0f 5/ - per 'day or part of a day, inclusive
- iirewood and water. Two beds are provided in each hut, to-
gether with mosquito nets, table and chairs. Visitors are required
to bring their own bed linen. The huts are electrically lighted,
and open-air fire-places for cooking are provided.
For those wishing to camp a camping ground is
For the use of this a charge of 2/6 for a period not exceeding
three days is made. This includes firewood and water.
All fees are payable in advance to the Curator.
As there is no local store, visitors are advised· to bring their
own provisions.
In order to prevent disappointment, visitors wishing to
occupy rest huts are urged to make application well in advance
of the time of their intended visit. Address all communications
to the Curator, Private Bag 87, Fort Victoria.
A series of picture postcards of the Ruins has been pre-
pared from photographs taken by the Department of Public
Relations. These are on sale at the Curator's office at 2/6 for a
packet of six cards.
Close by the Curator's office is the original grave of the
Shangani Patrol, which, under the leadership of Major Alan
Wilson, was wiped out by the
Matabele on the banks of the The original grave at ZIm-
Shangani River during the Mata-
bele War of 1893. "There was the Shangani Patrol,
no survivor." Their remains were killed at the close of the
Matabele War Of 1893,
subsequently transferred to a after their remains had
been removed from the
grave on the summit of the site of the battle. This
World's View in the Matopos I
Hills in 1904, where they rest .July, 1903. Thefollowing
year the remains were re-
beneath a fine monument designed moved to the Matopos
and executed by Mr. John Tweed, an
the eminent sculptor. The photo-
graph reproducea was taken in 1903, prior to the removal
of the remairis.
Page Two.
Thou Shalt Not
.' .

Attention is drawn to the provisions of Government Notice
No. 16 of January 14, 1944, published in terms of the Monu-
ments and Relics Act (Chapter 64), setting out the by-laws made
by the Commission for the Preservation of Natural and Historical
Monuments and Relics which are enforced within the Zimbabwe
The curator appointed in terms of these by-laws shall have
power to carry out and enforce their provisions and may at any
t ime prohibit any person from-
(a) doing any act which is likely to spoil the beauty of the
scenery in the reserve or to cause inconvenience to the
(b) climbing or walking on any part of any ruins or monument
in the reserve. The erection of a notice board setting out
the terms of any such prohibition shall be deemed to be
sufficient notice to the public.
No person shall
(a) carry, use or discharge any firearm within the reserve. (A
person entering the reserve in possession of any firearm
shall deposit such firearm with the curator until the termina-
tion of his visit.)
(b) pitch a camp on any part of the reserve except in a camping
ground expressly set aside for that purpose by the Com-
A fee of half-a-crown for a period not exceeding three
days shall be paid for the use of a camping ground.
A fee of five shillings per day or part of a day shall
be paid for the use of a rest hut.
All fees shall be paid to the curator and shall include
the provision of water and firewood.
(c) light any fire in the reserve except upon a camping ground.
(d) throw papers, tins or rubbish of any kind anywhere within
the reserve.
Page Four.
uproot any wild plants within the reserve without the per-
mission of the curator .
- excavate in any part of the reserve without
written permission of the Commission and subJect
to such conditions as the Commission may attach
to such permit.
_ r etain any article of historical value or
found by him within the Any such article
shall be handed over to the curator.
Any person contravening any of these by-laws or any con-
on attached to any permit issued under these by-laws, or
; ecting or refusing to obey any prohibition issued to. him by
curator, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be lIable
, iction to a penalty not exceeding twenty-five pounds, or. m
:l.ult of payment to imprisonment for a period not exceedmg
Page Five.
A Brief Historical Account
of Investigations
T 0 pre-pioneer, A.dam is due the credit of the
of the Zimbabwe Rums in 1868. They were
also vIsited by "Elephant" Phillips a year later, but the impor-
tance of the find. meant little to these early hunter-traders for,
e:,en had they to so, it was a matter of the greatest
to the rums as they were at that time filled
dense vegetatlOn. It was not until 1873 that the first eye-
witness account of was published. In that year, Dr. Karl
Mauch, a plOneer-explorer, a geologist by profession,
went to Zimbabwe. The sight with which he found himself
confronted must have been an impressive one.
be face to face with this monument of man's
enterpnse a?d mgenuity after long journeyings to and fro in
Central Afnc.a must have fSiven him a thrill which is given to
few to. Nor did he hesitate to attempt to probe its
my.stenes. With mattock and axe he hacked his way into the in-
tenor of Elliptical Building, and succeeded in reaching its
most conspIcuous feature- the Conical Tower. This, he not un-
naturally concluded, was a repository for hidden treasure and 'he
pro.ceeded t? into it by removing stones from its base,
to give him hiS due, he later replaced in rough and ready
fashlOn when he was satisfied that the tower contained nothing.
To I?ake assurance doubly sure, however, he ascended to
summtt where he removed some of the top courses destroy-
mg the " dentelle" pattern with which it is said to
been decorated. The prodigous task of battling
With the probably deterred him from committing
depredatlOns, but, upon the slender evidence of what he
had he not hesitate to put forward his theory of
the ongm of th: rums. He ascribed them to the Queen of
and m the wooden lintels that were then in their
ongu?al over the entrances, the cedars of Lebanon hewn
by. Kmg of Tyre, which Solomon also made use of in the
bmldmg of the Temple in Jerusalem.
. While it unf<;>rtu?ate that so bad a start should have been
given to the mveshgatlOn of the Zimbabwe Ruins, we have
Page Six.
, to be grateful to Mauch for having noted these baulks
:imber which have helped to dispel the theory to which they
gave rise.
trangely enough, Mauch does not appear to have worried
the Acropolis, which was visited in 1889 by Mr. Willie
Q t, who was hunting in the vicinity. He found there in a
kraal four soapstone birds standing on the walling together
- some other objects of the same material. Impressed by these
ects, he proceeded to saw off one of the birds from its
:::estal, and was immediately set upon by the local natives for
intrepedity. Later, however, he was able to trade some of
objects which he handed over to Mr. Cecil Rhodes. This
.- is now preserved in the National Museum, Bulawayo.
When Southern Rhodesia was taken over by the Chartered
pany it became possible, with less danger to life and limb,
713.y some attention to its places of interest, and in 1891 Mr.
Bent, at the invitation of the Company, visited Zim-
, e and made the first detailed investigation of the ruins,
he later described in his book, "The Ruined Cities of
:ishonaland. "
He collected everything he was able to find, but, apart
_ a little digging at the foundations of the Conical Tower
=to which he also penetrated), he did no excavation, content-
himself with what he was able to find on the surface. While
did not commit himself, he concluded that the ruins he
were originally built by a pre-historic race .. which
. ued in possession down to the earliest dawnings of history,
'ch provided gold for the merchants of Phoenicia and Arabia."
Dr. H. Schlichter, in 1899, computed the age of the ruins
be 1100 B.C. This he did by certain astronomical observa-
into which we need not here go into detail. He did,
ever, achieve one result for which we have reason to thank He drew attention to the activities of the " Ancient Ruins
'-Dmpany." Reference is made in the descriptive sectio'n of this
.5 • de to the havoc caused by treasure hunters who were respons-
Ie for spoiliation of so many ruins at a time when no legisla-
. n existed to curb them, and it will, it is thought, be of some
erest to the visitor if something is said about it.
At a time when considerable doubt was being cast upon the
rusy prognostications of the early prospectors who endeavoured
convince the public that they haa found a .. New Eldorado"
Southern Rhodesia, the discovery was made that the builders
Page Seven.
the Rhodesian ruins were workers in gold. It was therefore
:oncluded that this metal existed in greater abundance than has
- ce proved to be the case, but it nevertheless restored the confi.-
:.=nce of the public in the potential richness of the country.
As the result of this discovery quite a number of people
rted off deliberately to ransack the ancient ruins in the hope
acquiring great wealth with a minimum of effort. Some
.:.m1per was put upon their enthusiasm when the Hon. Maurice
-ifford and Mr. Jefferson Clark obtained a concession from the
artered Company over all the " ancient ruins" between the
..impopo and the Zambesi rivers. With the consent of Rhodes
d Jameson they farmed out this concession to a company with
capital of £25,000 under the directorship of Messrs. Neal,
hnson and Leach, and called the" Ancient Ruins Company."
This company was wound up in 1900 when attention had
n called to its depredations, but, during the five years of its
'stence, it had wrought irreparable havoc among the ruins.
lany of the smaller ones were completely gutted, and in many
ers every evidence that might have assisted in elucidating the
lems of their date and origin was effectively destroyed.
book, "The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia," by Messrs. Hall
Neal, was published in 1902 in order to inculcate the idea
the work of this company was a direct contribution to .
-:haeological knowledge. In this book Neal claimed to have
=xplored" 43 ruins personally and he deplores the action of
ers for doing just what he had himself done. It is stated with
e authority that the company paid no dividend, which is a
:;!tter of satisfaction, but nothing remains of the innumerable
jects of cultural and intrinsic value that were recovered.
The Ancient Monuments and Ancient Relics Protection
;dinance, which was promulgated in January, 1903, more or
less put an end to relic-hunting,
but it is well to mention here
large Conical Tower § th t th t 'll 1
:ch is a of the § a ere are s I many peop e
p1Ical of who do not appear to be aware
Zimbabwe Rums. h . . '11 1 . Th 0 d'
t at It IS 1 ega. e r mance
referred to was replaced in
-936 by the Monuments and Relics Act now in force. This
.=rovides heavy penalties for excavating m ruinS without the
ri tten permission of · the Commission.
Page. Nine •.
In order to implement the Ordinance of 1903, Mr. R. N.
Hall was appointed curator of Zimbabwe, and during his five
years of office, he made a detailed examination of the ruins and
wrote his book, "Great Zimbabwe." Herein he elaborated his
belief that the ruins went through many feriods of building and
adaptation extending over a period 0 3,000 years, and he
ascribed their erection to one of the civilised people of the Near
East, for whose presence he found sufficient justification in the
evidence afforded by the various relics he and others before him
had discovered in the ruins.
His work attracted the attention of archaeologists the world
over. So much so that, in 1905, at the instigation of the British
Association for the Advancement of Science, Professor D.
Randall-Maciver, an experienced field-achaeologist with an inti-
mate knowledge of the Near East (which Hall was not) was
sent out to investigate the Rhodesian ruins, and it is only natural
that he should have given most of his time to Zimbabwe.
His results were published in his " Mediaeval Rhodesia."
In it he stated that he had investigated seven sites, and from not
one of them had any object been obtained by him or by others
which could be shown to be more ancient than the fourteenth or
fifteenth century A.D., and that there was no trace of Oriental
or European style in the architecture. He further affirmed that
the character of the buildings was unmistakably African as also
were the objects found in them with the exception of certain
imported articles known to be of mediaeval age.
The publication of this book raised a storm of controversy,
and Hall lost no time in publishing his" Prehistoric Rhodesia,"
in which he indignantly refuted MacIver's conclusions. The
romantic theories of earlier writers had laid too firm a hold on
the public imagination, and it was at once apparent that faith and
not fact in archaeological research was to be preferred.
In 1929 another scientific investigation of the ruins was
undertaken by Miss G. Caton-Thompson in connection with the
visit of the British Association in that year. Working with an
open mind and uninfluenced by Maciver's conclusions, she found
that the earliest buildings could not on any archaeological evidence
be regarded as earlier than the 10th century A.D. and maybe
later, and that the latest could not be placed as earlier than the
14th century and ma}1 be as late as the 16th.
Page Ten.
. While there are many people today who still believe that the
:!lIlS are remotely ancient, no serious student who knows the
ue of archaeological evidence disputes the conclusions of
e ~ o eminent archaeologists in the matter of the dating of
- e rums. No one, however, holds the view that every problem
_ :esented by them is satisfactorily disposed of.
Here, away in what was until recent years the unknown in-
m or of Africa, we are confronted with the evidences of a race of
- ople who, whether they were immigrants or indigenous natives,
;ve disappeared as a cultural unit. They have left for our in-
.ection hundreds of ruins, of which Zimbabwe is only one
:hough it is the noblest, which display great imagination and
mense energy, and have bequeathed to us no clue' as to who
ey were or whither they went.
_ . Whatever view the visitor may prefer to take, the Zimbabwe
~ s are not one whit the less remarkable and awe-inspiring
d no one who visits them can fail to be conscious of a desire
know more about them than perhaps we can ever know.
The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland," by Theodore Bent. Long-
mans, 1893,
The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia," by R. N. Hall and W. G.
Neal. Methuen, 1902.
Great Zimbabwe," by R. N. Hall. Methuen, 1905.
Mediaeval Rhodesia," by D. Randall-Maciver. Macmillan,
. Prehistoric Rhodesia," by R. N. Hall. Fisher Unwin, 1900.
. Zimbabwe Culture," by G. Caton-Thompson. Oxford Uni-
versity Press, 1931.
Page Eleven.
+- TQ elene-iver
Description of the Ruins
IMBABWE lies in rugged granite country 17 miles south-
east of Fort Victoria between the Lundi river and the more
open country of the Sabi Valley. It can be reached by rai l from
Bulawayo and Salisbury via Gwelo to Fort Victoria and by road
: rom Bulawayo via Gwelo or Shabani, and from Salisbury via
Enkeldoorn. Southern Rhodesia is rich in ancient buildings of
-;vhich Zimbabwe is pre-eminently the most important both on
count of its extent and the size and solidity of its buildings.
-tanding beneath the massive walls of the Elliptical Building the
>isitor must be impressed by its immensity, and one's immediate
:eaction is that the work of building them must have been costly
.n human life and energy.
The Ruins sort themselves into three categories. First there
- the Elliptical Building, also referred to as the Temple, which,
:: is not unreasonable to suppose, was the headquarters of the
:uler of the territory as well as the centre of a mysterious cult
which certain portions lend themselves. Immediately outside
:::ms lies the Valley of Ruins which suggests at once the dwelling
laces of the headmen and persons of tribal importance. Lastly,
:owering above all the rest, is the Acropolis, ascended only by
and well-fortified approaches, which provided the in-
.llbitants with a citadel to which they could repair at times of
It has been held that Zimbabwe was, at its heyday, a store-
ouse and distributing centre for gold and other objects of
:ommerce and had intimate relations with Sofala, the old Arab
::lOrt some 230 miles distant to the east. There can be no doubt
in mediaeval times if not earlier, an immense quantity of
?Old was mined in Southern Rhodesia and exported, evidence
:or which exists in the number of ancient gold-workings found
all the gold-bearing areas. Indeed, almost all the gold mines
-ow being worked are on the sites of these ancient workings.
Their date is not definitely ascertainable, but from the
of human remains found in one of them they may
date from 1000 A.D., and they may be earlier. As evidence
:or their fairly late date so far as Zimbabwe is concerned, it is
-gnificant that all the gold found there has been found near the
face and not at any great depths in the deposits. No ancient
Page Thirteen.
mine ~ a s been found anywhere near the ruins, and the
- rest mine is some twenty miles away. It seems,
ever, that gold was smelted there as crucibles used in the
~ e s s have come to light.
While no direct evidence exists that the gold exported from
...:nca in ancient times came from Southern Rhodesia, two
-...z::ah writers of the 10th century A.D. make statements of inter-
in this connection. EI Wardi writes : "Sofala adjoins the
~ r n borders of the Zindj . . . the most remarkable produce
: this country is its quantity of native gold . . . in spite of
"':ch the natives generally adorn their persons with ornaments
: brass." Masoudi speaks of Sofala as the place to which the
:..:::ilis of his time went to obtain gold and precious stones from
natives. In 1325, according to Batuta, a great quantity of
= d was still being exported, but the Portuguese, Alcacova,
:orms us that, in 1506, there was a falling off of this export.
The first questions that everyone asks are-Who built these
ive walls? When were they built? What has become of
original builders? No inscriptions have been found on any
. ding or object, and no burial ground, often of the greatest
~ e for dating purposes, is known. The interpretation of the
:::ns depends, therefore, on scientific investigation. While it is
that much of the ruin area has been rendered useless by
- excavations and clearances that have taken place since they
discovered, it is not impossible that future investigations
reveal information of a decisive character which will be
corned by everybody interested.
The word " Zimbabwe " tells us nothing. It is a compound
-. ·ve name which has been interpreted to mean" stone houses ."
- Portuguese records state that it means a .. Court, " and the
~ name was applied to the head-
::::e Western Entrance to quarters of native chiefs, wherever
-= Elliptical Building they happened to be. A well-
-.nth Zimbabwe Hm, on
:uch Is the Acropolis. in know authority, Mr. Charles
the background. Bullock, translates it .. Great
House - the Home of Chiefs
rove or dead)," and with that we must be content.
The particular Zimbabwe most frequently alluded to by
- e Portuguese writers of the Middle Ages can be approximately
.ocated. It was in the neighbourhood of Mount Darwin and
Page Fifteen.
dUn eas? reach of the Portuguese stockade-fort of Masapa on
Mazoe river 150 miles from Tete. A garrison was main-
ed at this .. Zimboae" (as the name was then written) in the
- rh century. By that time the Empire of Monomotapa, which
- uded the whole of the area known today as Mashonaland
was ruled over by a king known as Monomotapa, had prac-
.::.lly ceased to exist, having falk'1 under Portuguese domination.
-riter named Barros gives us a somewhat vague description
;:he .. City of Benanamatapa. " Writing in 1552, he states that
district called Toroa there were mines, .. and these mines
_ the most ancient in the country, and today are all in the
, in the midst of which there is a square fortress, of
- ncy within and without, built of stones of marvellous size,
there appears to be no mortar joining them. .. This edifice
ilinost surrounded by hills, upon which are others resembling
.n the fashioning of the stone and the absence of mortar, lind
of them is a tower more than 12 fathoms high" (about 60
_ -). Another writer, Goes, in 1566, wrote in more or less
·lar strain and mentioned .. other fortresses built in the same
er. There are probably comparatively few references to
Zimboae" after 1693, probably because the Barozwi under
gamira overran what is now Southern Rhodesia.
The above statement by Barros does not exactly fit Zim-
we but, of all the records we possess, it comes nearest to
mark. It must, however, be borne in mind that he did not
= Zimbabwe for himself but obtained his information from a
s eller named Vincente Pagado, who is stated to have visited
ruins" 170 miles walk from the coast." In all the ancient
- rds there is not one single witness who saw the Zimbabwe
- s for himself.
It is of interest to note that Fernandez, who travelled widely
what is today Southern Rhodesia, reporting about 1513, refers
to" Embire which is a fortress
- . of the of the king of Memomotapa
BUlldmg show- · . .
_ the North Entrance which he IS now making of
=-. ) and the North-West. "
Entrance (centre) . . stone wIthout the use of . cement.
This suggests that building in
e was actually being done at that time.
It is unfortunate that native tradition sheds no reliable light
the origin of the ruins. While some natives profess COffi-
Page. Seventeen.
plete ignorance, others regard them as part of their cultural
heritage. This is hardly surprising since native tradition is
notoriously unreliable after a lapse of about 200 years. After
this time it becomes confused with myth and legend.
It is thus again brought home to us that, in attempting to
unravel the story of our Rhodesian mins, we have to rely on
archaeological evidence, but we venture to hope that the
Portuguese records now being examined may furnish us with
information more definite than that which we at present possess.
The Ruins consist entirely of stone walls and there is no
evidence to show that any of them were ever roofed. They
appear, with few exceptions, to be either enclosures in which
huts of a temporary nature were built, or passages communicat-
ing with enclosed areas. The walling consists of granite blocks,
rectangular on their outer faces and laid on top of one another
in more or less regular courses, but with no consistent attempt
at bonding. It is commonly known that granite exfoliates
naturally, and slabs of rock of varying size and thickness may be
found on all granite kopjes.
These, however, are noticeably absent round Zimbabwe for
the reason that they have all been broken up to provide building
materia1. Every slab thus broken will have provided at least a
few blocks having one rectangular face and of uniform thickness.
These, with a very little adaptation, have been made use of, the
material being for infilling the walls, the largest of
WhICh are 15 feet WIde at the base. Care has been taken in
building slightly to decrease the thickness of the walls, course
by course, so as to ensure stability.
It will be noted that the waIling varies very greatly in
and workmanship, and it may generally be stated that,
whIle is. or less uniformly good, that
of . the mtenor IS dIstInctly Infenor and sometimes very bad.
ThiS does not! however, apply in every instance, and, though it
has been conjectured that the best is the earlier there is no
satisfactory evidence that such was the case. The generally,
but not always, have rounded ends.
The only other permanent building material made use of
has. been called granite cement. This is disintegrated granite
whICh, when wetted, and possibly mixed with ant-hill, sets hard.
Page Eighteen.
"- has been used for minor internal divisions; for floors, which
e sometimes given a foundation of flat granite slabs to
gthen them; for lining some of the walling; for the steps
- the entrances; and for hut platforms. Wood was frequently
..xd for door-posts and lintels, and many fragments have been
Monoliths, which are long single stones of local
- It or other rock, appear to have been used chiefly for orna-
tal purposes.
In order to preserve the fabric it has been found necessary
rry out a good deal of restoration work since the Ruins have
e:n made accessible to the public. This is indicated by small
- labels attached to those sections of the walling that have
most extensively restored. This work was done by the late
or of the ruins, Mr. St. C. A. Wallace, who served in that
:-' city for 37 years, retiring in 1948, under the superintendence
the Department of Public Works. It is the policy of the
uments and Relics Commission which now controls the
to rather than restore wherever possible, for which
the pubhc are urged to refrain from displacing any of the

The objects found at Zimbabwe have found various resting
-es. Had they been excavated under modern conditions there
..ictle doubt that the bulk of them would have been retained on
and it is hoped so to preserve anything that may be
d In the future. Mr. Theodore Bent merits a word of
e his public-spirited action in handing over his material,
:ncb mcluded the most spectacular items, to the South African
urn at Cape Town, then the only institution of its kind
South By action at least assured their preserva-
on the SOil of Afnca to whIch they belong. A collection
e by the British South Africa Company was divided between
museums at Bulawayo and Salisbury, where they may now be
a::o. At Bulawayo are a!so preserved the col1ections made by
MacIver and MISS Caton-Thompson, and the British
eum m a collection. An objects
w found III the rums are kept III the curator's office, where
'=rt may be seen on request.
The finds consist of imported articles and articles made The first consist of fragments of imported porcelain
- fi ng Ce!adon) which imported to Africa in quantities
MedIaeval times ; some PerSIan pottery; Arab glass; and quan-
Page Nineteen.
tities of glass beads. In the second category, the most important
are the various objects carved from the local soapstone. These
comist of pedestals surmounted by birds of vulturine appearance
(two of these are known and two others, said to have been found,
are lost); phallic objects, some in the form of stylised human
figures, of which some 200 are said to have been found; carved
cylinders decorated with knobs, thought by some to be female
emblems of fertility; platters of varying size, some of them
decorated, ribbed beakers, invariably broken on account of their
thinness; and a gold ingot-mould.
Gold objects include wire bangles; beads of various sizes
and patterns; foil, used for plating wooden objects; tacks for
attaching the foil; and chain. Iron is a metal that disintegrates
rapidly when buried, but a number of recognisable iron objects
very similar to those in use today among local natives have
been preserved. These include spear-heads, gongs, hoes, axes and
other objects. Copper beads and bangles have also been found .
The iron and copper objects were generally regarded by the
earlier investigators as of recent Kalanga workmanship, but there
is no proof that such was the case. Potsherds of three distinct
types have been collected.
It should be stated that no recognisable objects known to
be of ancient manufacture have so far come to light, nor any-
thing which could with certainty be referred to one of the
ancient civilisations.
It has been stated that more than 1,000 ounces of gold,
mostly in the form of ornaments, were recovered from the ruins,
only very little of which remains today. Most of it went into
the melting-pots of the relic-hunters .
Page Twenty • .
The Ell iptical Bu ild ing
or "Temple"
THE Elliptical Building, also known as the .. Temple,"
although there is no evidence to prove that it was used
exclusively for religious purposes, is the most imposing of the
ruins. Its great waIl which extends without a break from the
West to the North entrances, is from ten to sixteen feet thick
at base, narrowing to eight to nine feet at the summit. The
dressed rectangular blocks with which it is faced, average six
y twelve inches on the waIl-face. A double" Chevron" pat-
~ r n , the centre of which faces south-east, extends for some
. tance along the outside of the wall. Stone monoliths stand
the top. The northerly waIls are not so massive but are of
similar construction, and, so far as is known, are of the same
- teo It is probable that, since the outside waIling is here joined
the main wall, it was not considered necessary to make them
The interior of the building is occupied by a number of
_;eparate enclosures of varying construction in which huts were
~ probably erected. The entrances
~ ~ ~ ~ __ t..J.1 ~ ... _ E . n ~ 1 ~ ~ § are, for the most part, built
:=mlding at the Western ~ , h d' d d d'
Entrance. wIt ascen mg an escen mg
~ steps, and the different enclosures
:e at various levels, the highest being in the centre. Remnants
- the cement flooring, such as have survived, are apparent here
A feature of the outside waIl is the drain-holes which also
- nIl' elsewhere within the building, as weIl as on the Acro.l'olis.
-. Schofield is of opinion that, · as the drain-holes in the mner
ills are lower than those in the outer waIl, these latter must
of Jater date.
There are three entrances to the Elliptical Building-the
-orthern, which was possibly the main entrance, the North-
ern and the Western. That usually entered first by visitors
the Western entrance. This was restored in 1925 when the
Page TweJlty-Three.
opposing wall-ends were rounded off, but, in the light of
knowledge, it is probable that the wall was continuous and "IV.!..
broken by a door with wooden lintels. The ruined condition 0:
the walls, however, was that it was impossible definitely [-
determine this point. Just inside the entrance ' are two roundec
buttresses. These were probably erected to give stability to the
of the entrance. From this point a more or less COill-
plete vIew of the interior of the Elliptical Building is obtain-
able, and it will be noted that the Conical Tower is seen to
exceed in height the huge wall on the eastern side. All the
floots of enclosures Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6, seen from this entrancc-
were ?etween 1890 and 1904 by a succession of relic-
In tneir relentless quest for booty they destroyed
flooflng and platforms, steps, small walls and other str'uctures..
It will be noted that the walling in .the interior is by nc
means of equal quality throughout . .Some of it has been hastiI-
built and is of poor construction while other walling bearS
evidence of careful work. Earlier observers have deduced frorr:
this that different periods of building. are thus indicated, but this
view is held in some doubt today as it is considered quite prob-
able that the building of the fabric did not necessarily cover a
very prolonged period of time, as was previously held to have
been the case.
To reach No. 7 Enclosure it is necessary to pass through
Nos. 5 and 6. No. 7 Enclosure has a very substantial west wall
and two protected entrances which are grooved for posts. The
entrance passed over the foundations of the wall and the courses
of the walling were curved inwards in fan-shaped fashion to form
steps. In the south side can be seen an instance of the recon-
of a v:ell-built wall. The cement flooring, some of
whICh st1l1 remams, was evidently laid after this reconstruction
was This enclosure suffered severely at the hands
of reItc-hunters and much of the granite-cement floor was
destroyed It. is to have been used as a dump
the S?ll thrown out m adjacent excavations and many inter-
estmg objects were recovered there.
. Leaving No. 7 Enclosure by the east side and turning
duectly towards the left, No. 10 Enclosure is entered. This
occupies an' elevated position almost in the centre of the building.
Page 'Twenty"Four .. '
was discovered, in 1902, a number of carved soapstone
e!:IlS and a cake of gold. From this point a very good view
me Platform and the Conical Tower are obtained.
Extending between No. 10 Enclosure and the Platform is
hat is known as the Platform Area, which is an open space of
ughly 126 feet by 51 feet, on which no stone structure appears
J have been erected. It seems likely that this area was used to
:commodate the people attending state or religious ceremonies
illlce it is situated immediately in front of the Platform and the
r rucal Tower.
On the North side of the Platform Area is a small circular
-..:Lform of granite cement which was formerly ascended by
o steps. On its summit and round it were discovered a number
: bases of carved soapstone beams, which probably once
.:... =corated it, together with a large number of phallic objects and
:-.>ny gold objects. When first discovered the platform was
_[Hi ed under the soil in which a tree, thought to be at least 150
-;cars old, was growing.
On the exterior face of the north wall of this area is a
decoration of three parallel and horizontal rows of green chlorite
schist in graduated lengths, of which the longest is at the bottom.
There are seven shorter rows on the right of the entrance to the
Sacred Enclosure. This form of decoration is seldom found in
other Rhodesian ruins. This entrance, which was evidently of
considerable importance, opens into the Sacred Enclosure.
Of the Platform itself very little now remains, but there is
sufficient evidence to indicate that it once occupied a commanding
aspect in front of the Conical Tower. The only remaining
portion of it can be seen to the right of the entrance to the
Sacred Enclosure. Bent mentions a tall granite monolith which
once stood on the north side of the Platform, but this was
removed by relic hunters in 1892-94 to a neighbouring spring
to act as a dam for their gold washing operations.
Page Twenty-Five.
The Sacred Enclosure, within which stands the Conical
Towers, of which there are two, a large and a small, lies on the
south-east side of the Elliptical Building. In shape it is long
and narrow, the larger Conical Tower practically dividing the
area into two equal portions to the east and west. The enclosure
is 120 feet long and its width varies consi derably. It has four
entrances-on the south-east, west, north and east. Here was
discovered a soapstone cylinder decorated with rosettes which is
now in the South African Museum at Cape Town.
This enclosure is stated to have suffered more depredations
than any other part of the Elliptical Building, and the original
flooring and other internal structures were destroyed. The
entrance, it will be noted, has grooves on either side for door-
posts, which would have enabled it to be cut off from the rest
of the building.
The Large Conical Tower forms one of the chief archi-
tectural features of the Zimbabwe Ruins. It varies in height
from thirty-one feet on the south-east side to twenty-six feet on
the north-east. These measure-
ments were recorded from the
actual foundations which are only
just below the floor as seen
today. In 1891 the summit of
this tower was practically level
at its highest point. The base has
The Large Conical Tower
in r elation to the walling
of the Elliptical Building,
showing the stone forma-
tion on top of the wall.
A trick of shadow gives
the Tower the shape of
a flask.
a circumference of fifty-seven feet six inches.
The smaller tower stands at a distance of six feet from
the larger one. Its present height is about six feet six inches.
In 1891 it was considerably higher but was partially demolished
by a falling branch.
Both these towers have proved a source of much specula-
tion. The larger could hardly have been used as a watch-tower
since it would be almost impossible to climb it. Ear!1er investi-
gators believed both to be phalic emblems and they became
central to the theories of the Semitic origin of the rUIns. It is,
however, equally possible that they are emblems of chieftain-
Page Twenty-Six.
5aip. In 1928, Miss Caton-Thompson, with the consent of the
Government, decided to subject this tower to a practical test.
.=he drove a tunnel right through it from side to side, exposing
:ne underlying deposits down to bed-rock. She was thus able
:c dispel the possibility of the tower being the superstructure
:Ji a grave. She found that it rested on about six feet of natural
sandy deposit overlying the granite without any prepared founda-
::ion. Beneath the tower she found a hand-axe of the Early
-£one Age which proved that the gravel had been undisturbed
M ce Stone Age times. Above this, in the reddish hill-wash, she
-"Qund a few objects of Bantu workmanship and nothing more.
The stones removed were skilfully replaced. The scar left by
_lauch when he penetrated the tower in 1873 is still visible on
3:Je south side.
Leaving the Sacred Enclosure by its north-east entrance
ne passes two roughly-built buttresses, one on either hand, just
reaching the entrance. The Passage is approached by a
-ell-built entrance, and the upright grooves in the masonry on
::oither side once contained stone beams.
The Parallel Passage is 220 feet long and varies in width
;wm a shoulder's width at the eastern end to eight feet at the
orthern. The inner wall has been extensively repaired during
:ne period of occupation and is of greatly inferior quality. In
:902 two phalli were found under the cement flooring.
Though nothing is known for certain of the reason for the
_ui lding of the Parallel Passage, it is reasonable to suppose that

::De Parallel Passage of §
Elliptical Building. §
it ·· provided a means of secret
access to the Sacred Enclosure
from the North Entrance. It will
be noted ' that it has no com-
::':lUnication along its entire length with the interior of the
.)wlding, and it is quite possible that it was used by persons
:erforming sacred rites within the Sacred Enclosure. Support is
;i\'en to this by the number of phallic objects found in and
.l:'ound this area. Such objects may well have been votive offer-
..::tgs. The theory has been put forward that the religious
-bservances were probably connected with circumcision rites
....: are practised by certain Bantu tribes at the present day. It is
::ossible that they may have been connected with some sort of
:frtility cult, but in such matters we can only conjecture.
Page Twenty-Nine.
The floor of the Parallel Passage is considerably lower than
that of the rest of the Elliptical Building, and it should be noted
that the ornamentation outside the main wall is along that
portion that surrounds the Sacred Enclosure. The drain-holes in
both inner and outer walls are noteworthy.
This entrance, which is the most imposing of them all, is
four feet above ground level and is approached by a flight of
steps of skilful construction. These steps are formed by carry-
ing the courses of stone blocks across the opening, each course'
being curved inwards, one above and behind the other in semi-
circular fashion and regularly worked out. The steps and the
entrance passage were originally covered with granite cement.
Restoration work has been effectively carried out on the formerly
dilapidated ends of the walls on either side.
Three passages-the Parallel, the Inner Parallel, and the
South Passages-converge on the orth Entrance, while on its
exterior, the North-east Passage and the outer Parallel Passage
also converge on it. From this it has been inferred that the
North Entrance was of primary importance.
On reaching the North Entrance visitors will find it con-
venient to pass to the eastern exterior of the building to view
the "Chevron" pattern on the north-east wall. This pattern,
which is a very ancient form of ornament and is still in use
today among savage peoples, is found in other Rhodesian ruins.
It is worked out in granite blocks and appears in relief owing
to the interstices of the pattern being filled in with granite slabs
not brought flush to the wall-face. This mural decoration is
on the upper part of the exterior surface of the main wall
extends for 265 feet from the south-east to the east. ThIS
part of the wall directly receives the sun's rays at the summer
solstice, but there is nothing to indicate whether this was inten-
tional or not.
It is noteworthy that this pattern is laid throughout its
length on an exact level. Directly over it and along its length
only were set granite and slate monoliths, some of which are
still standing, and, it is said, tall and slender soapstone beams.
Page Thirty.
- 0 smaller conical towers, similar to those on the western
ill of the Acropolis, also used to stand there but these have
- . been destroyed.
The best view of the Chevron pattern is to be obtained from
thirty or forty yards to the east of the exterior of the centre
; the main east wall. From this position of vantage it is
ible to examine the fine proportions and curves, the correct
_ Ises and the equal distribution of the joints of the exterior
.ace of the wall.
Regaining the interior of the Elliptical Building by the
- rth entrance, the visitor can enter the Inner Parallel Passage
'ch is 71 feet long and leads to the Platform Area. At the
ern end of this passage and to the north side is a large
nress which protrudes across the end of the for a
::..stance of about nine feet. There was formerly a flIght of
cps inside this buttress, traces of which can still be seen.
- ! to the right one enters No. 15 Enclosure, which is said
have been occupied by local natives within quite recent times.
The Central Area contains walling of very varying quality,
- rhe general lay-out has been largely destroyed by great
their spreading roots. Passing down the South Passage whICh
o feet long and turning half-way through an entrance to the
- • o. 1 Enclosure is entered. This lies at the north side of the
tical Building and is roughly circular with a diameter of
fifty-six feet. It is stilL nearly intact. The walls are sub-
- ' ally built and there are two entrances-one on the north
- - and the other on the east. A drain from No. 1 to No.3
sure will be noted.
Leaving No. 1 Enclosure by its north entrance and passing
me left through Enclosures Nos. 3 and 4, the West Passage
mtered. This is sixty-five feet long, its west side being of the
workmanship. The wall on its eastern side is poorly built.
- western wall is evidently a portion of a longer wall extended
curves at the end. Here stood two granite monoliths, one of
Page Thirty-One.
hich, though broken, it is hoped to repair and re-erect in its
riginal position. In 1902 this beam stood complete and was
eleven feet tall.
To the south-west of NO.1 Enclosure is the base of a small
.:one standing at the roots of a big fig tree.
The north-west entrance to the Elliptical Building is the
illlallest of them all, and it is thought that its purpose may
ve been to give access to a walled-in enclosure just outside
- e Elliptical Building. It is evidently of secondary importance
md some doubt has been expressed as to whether it was ever
-ll entrance at all. The walling at this point was never carried
- any height and it seems possible that it was left uncompleted.

_ e main wall of the
'ptical Building shaw-
l': the Chervan pattern.

Page Thirty- Three.
-The Ucrop-011s,-.;..·-

- The Acropolis
HILE the Elliptical Building and the Valley of Ruins may
rightly be regarded as the residential area, the Acropolis
on Zimbabwe Hill is the stronghold to which the inhabitants
of the settlement could repair as necessity arose. It towers above
the rest of the ruins and contains a network of structures to
which access could only be gained by difficult means.
Zimbabwe Hill, which is some 350 feet above the valley, is
capped by a jumble of great granite boulders exhibiting charac-
teristic weathering. Many examples of vertical jointing occur,
some of which have resulted in fissures sufficiently wide to
allow of their being used as passages. One of the two known
ancient approaches known as the South-east Ascent passes
through one of these fissures which is only shoulder-wide in
places. It is evident throughout that the builders made every
possible use of natural rock formations.
This ancient ascent starts in the flat valley at the foot of the
hill and is marked by a structure known as the Water-gate which
formed part of the Inner Defence Wall. Since it appears certain
~ ~ that the water supply for the
Zimbabwe Hill and the Acropolis was obtained at water
Acropolis, seen from the
Elliptical Building. holes in the valley, the depressions
~ of which can still be seen,
it is probable that this provided the reason for the formation of
the ascent at this point.
This ascent is in a ruinous condition and has been closed
to visitors.
For the convenience of visitors who would find the South-
eastern Ascent too arduous, a modern ascent has been prepared,
and seats have been placed at convenient intervals. Older people
are advised to use it though the ancient South-eastern Ascent
is of greater interest. This modern ascent is to the left of the
ancient one, and winds its way along the side of the hill until
it crosses the ancient North-west Ascent. It is best at this point
to leave the path which eventually leads to the summit of the
hill and turn to the right, thus reaching the entrance to the
Western Enclosure.
Page Thi rty-Five.
In order to climb Zimbabwe Hill the VIsItor first passes
dlrough the Outspan Ruin, which forms part of the Inner
Defence Wall. This wall, of which portions only remain, en-
the hill on its west, south and east slopes. This ruin is
dle most perfect section of the wall and was evidently an irnpor-
gateway. It is a complicated structure and possesses a num-
ber of rounded buttresses and small enclosures which could have
been used as sentry-boxes.
The Ancient South-eastern Ascent is more easily climbed
than descended, as it is very steep in places. It is 1,260 feet
long and follows a zig-zag course to the summit. The visitor
will need to pause occasionally for want of breath and will
thus have an opportunity of enjoying the wonderful views. Just
before entering the Cleft-rock Passage a magnificent view of the
great wall of the Elliptical Building is obtained. This passage
is about fifty feet long. The
The external entrance to cliff on the right-hand side rises to
t he Western Enclosure of
the Acropolis. a height of ninety feet and, on
the left, is fifty feet above the
lowe,: end of the passage. The fissue was in with small
steps formed for convenience of ascent. The original ones were
destroyed by relic-hunters between 1900 and 1904, but they have
been restored, thus enabling the ascent to be made with compara-
tive ease. Its width varies between one foot ten inches and two
feet six inches.
On emerging from the Cleft-rock Passage the south main
wall of the Western Enclosure, built on the brink of and flush
with the face of the cliff, towers above one. This wall is now
seventy feet long and rises to a height of thirty-one feet above
the cliff. Three drains pass through its base, which is fifteen
feet wide.
Passing along under this wall, the narrow entrance to the
Western Enclosure is reached. This doorway, which originally
had a wooden lintel, is now supported by stone beams and is
somewhat low and narrow.
Page Thirty-Seven.
Before this door is entered, the remains of numerous struc-
tures on the hill-slopes will be noted. Many of these are
passages running round the north-west and south slopes and
lead to enclosures where it had been possible to construct them.
Some of these enclosures are in fair preservation and have been
cleared to give some idea of what existed on the hillside. The
growth of vegetation and the damage done by time have made
it impossible to visualise the many defensive works, all of which
were evidently part of the general scheme of the Acropolis.
The Western Enclosure, also known as the Western Temple,
is bounded by a massive wall curving outwards towards the
west. The outer edge of the summit was originally decorated
with a row of small conical towers or cones (as they probably
were) and by tall monoliths standing more or less erect. Today
only a few monoliths and one original cone, recently repaired,
are left. Two of the cones have been reconstructed since they
were demolished about 1891. At this point it is well to state
that climbing on to this wall is forbidden, and this of course
applies to all other walls in the ruin area. No better view is
obtained by doing so, and damage is likely to be done to the
fabric which does not require human agency to hasten the
process of disintegration.
The curved wall of the Eastern Enclosure is 137 feet long
and 25 feet above the exterior ground level. Its width varies
between 19 and 22 feet, which is the maximum thickness in any
ancient walling in Southern Rhodesia. Part of this wall has
been restored.
Like the Elliptical Building in the valley, this Western
Enclosure has its parallel passage and platform. The passage
was seventy-one feet long. It might be noted in passing that the
name "Temple" was adopted for both these buildings on
~ ~ , q . ~ < c account of the phallic objects
Inside the main e'ntrance f stated to have been found in
to the Western Enclosure,
Acropolis. ~ them, which would seem to con-
~ , q . ~ ~ ~ nect them with some unknown
cult. It would, however, seem probable that, in both cases,
they were open spaces where tribal gatherings could be held,
with the chief or headman occupying and speaking from the
Page Thirty-Nine.
A prominent feature of the Western Enclosure is the great
quantity of red soil which has been carried up and accumulated
[here to a depth of many feet. This was partially removed in
1915, and in the course of so doing, the remains of many old
structures were uncovered. The sections of unexcavated material
show the debris of successive generations of huts to a depth of
ten feet. It is noteworthy that nothing of importance was dis-
covered except a few objects of typical native workmanship, all
of which were found below the floor on which previous
explorers had unearthed numerous gold ornaments, soapstone
birds and other relics for which they claimed the greatest
antiquity. This method of infilling whereby new floors are
formed for the erection of new structures is a common feature
in other ancient ruins.
The extensive views obtainable from the view-points in
this area are noteworthy. To the south is the Elliptical Building
and the Valley of Ruins, Bentberg Hill, Schlichter Gorge (two
mi les distant) leading to the Mowishawasha valley where there
is a sea of rugged kopjes; and the Lumbo rocks (three miles
away), which are one of the landmarks of the district and rise
like huge columns against the sky-line. To the south-west are
Providential Pass (three miles distant), through which the Pioneer
Column advanced to Fort Victoria in 1890; the Rivouri Range
(nine miles away) and the Zimbabwe Hotel and the curator's
house. To the west are Rusibanga Kopje (barely half a mile
distant), the Cotopaxi and Victoria
The Platform in the Hills (twelve miles), Makuma
Western Enclosure. Acro-
polis. Kopje (half a mile), and Niande
Kopje (eight miles), which is
the highest point of the Rivouri Hills. To the north-east can
be glimpsed the Outer Defence Wall at the foot of Zimbabwe
H.il1, and the Moshagashi Valley, which is from six to eight miles
Wide. To the north can be seen the Besa Mountains extending
from north-north-west to north-north-east. To the east is the
Beroma Range, two to five miles long and running north and
south; the Sueba (Black) Kopje at its northern extremity, and
the Marsgi (Bald-headed) Kopje at its southern end, these two
hills being known as " Sheba's Breasts "; the Chenga
RUinS (two miles), and the Valley of Ruins immediately at the
base of the hill.
Page F orty-One.
The Platform is reached by a covered passage ten feet long.
Hs roof and the supporting wall over it are strengthened by
large stone lintels. This passage leads up winding stairs which
open out on to the Platform, from which a remarkable view
can be obtained. The Platform is twenty-seven feet above the
level of the filled-in floor of the enclosure. A monolith eight
feet high once stood in the surrounding masonry, but this is no
longer there, The Platform and its approach is rapidly deteriorat-
ing and needs constant repair. If visiwrs find it closed they
are asked to refrain from going on to it.
On going through the covered passage, the Easr Passage is
entered, on the left-hand side of which is a big vertical fissure
known as the Buttress Passage. It has been arri1iciallf ~ ed in
on an incline to make possible the ascent to a higher end
It is protected by several buttresses placed alternately on either
side, the pl1tpose of which was probably protective.
On the right-hand side of the East Passage are Enclosures
" A " and .. B " which are separated from each other by the
South Passage. South Enclosure" C" is immediately in from of
the East Passage but on a higher
A general view of the level. This enclosure y i e 1 d e d
wall of the Western 1 fi d f f
Enclosure, Acropolis. the argest n s 0 portions 0
~ soapstone bowls discovered at
Zimbabwe. To reach the buildings further eastwards one crosses
South Enclosure .. B " and passes over the dilapidated wall at
the east end and over stone debris into the Recess Enclosure.
The south-east wall of the Recess Enclosure has on its
inner face a row of five vertical recesses built into it. It is
probable that these once contained wooden beams for supporting
a roof. This enclosure is today in practically the same condition
as when first found, and has suffered less from vandalism and
other causes than most other parts of the Acropolis. otice
should be taken of the construction of the opposite wall wlllch
Page Forty-Three.
is twenty-two feet high. This is composed of two separate walls,
across both of which the wall is carried in two bold curves. The
straight joints of the two walls illustrate a frequent feature of
Zimbabwe walling-that the builders did not know how to
interlock their stones when joining two wall faces. In this
instance the walls are not bonded but one is merely built up
against the other, thus leaving a crevice from top to bottom.
The Recess Enclosure gives access to the Pattern Passage
which is fifty-one feet long and runs east and west along the
exterior of the south wall of the Eastern Enclosure. The side
walls are some eight feet above the passage where it begins to
slope backwards, and seventeen feet at its eastern end. Reascend-
ing Pattern Passage, and on the left side after passing Recess
Enclosure, is an interesting feature. This is a short flight of
blind steps which lead nowhere and appears purposeless. The
course of the stone blocks is curved inwards in semicircular
form, each course being laid behind and above each lower course
in step formation. This might have been useful in defence but
could have served no other purpose.
The steps in the Passage at this point are not ancient.
They were laid down in 1903 by Mr. R. N. Hall to enable
visitors to climb over the entrance into' the Eastern Enclosure.
Originally the entrance was on a level with the bottom of these
steps, but the slipping forward of the upper half of a large
boulder blocked up the entrance completely.
The Eastern Enclosure, also called the Eastern Temple, is
the most interesting enclosure in the Acropolis. From its general
arrangement it seems admirably suited for the purpose of a
council chamber. It is erected upon a ledge of the cliff and is
bounded on the north and west sides by still higher cliffs which
rise perpendicularly from its floor to some fifty or sixty feet
above it. A curved wall runs
't Th' 11 § On the Acropolis, show-
rou.n 1. s oj:'en IS wa, J ing the Recess Enclosure
whIch IS nInety-eIght feet long and the walling around
. . the East ern Temple.
and twenty-five feet.hIgh at ItS
highest exterior point, carries on its inner face a banquette wall
which suggests a platform for official use. Facing this and a
little way from it the ground rises and the whole effect is thar
of an amphitheatre for the use of spectators. The exterior face
of the wall is strengthened at one point by a large buttress, and,
Page Forty-Four.
at its east end, it is decorated by two rows of .. Dentelle "
pattern close to the top. It is stated that a number of soapstone
beams carved with geometric patterns formerly stood on its
When, in 1902, Mr. R. N. Hall cleared away the debris
from the interior of the enclosure, which had previously been
used as a cattle kraal by the local natives up to 1895, it was
found that four floors, one behind the other and supported by
low walling, had been formed in amphitheatre style. The exca-
vation of one of these floors by Mr. Theodore Bent in 1891
yielded numerous phallic objects, and a number were recovered
later by Mr. Hall together with some sections of carved soap-
stone beams. In this enclosure were also found five soapstone
beams surmounted by birds, and a portion of a sixth. These
now repose in the South African Museum at Cape Town. Three
of these beams stood in their original positions in 1890, and
faced east.
The north entrance to the Eastern Enclosure is a natural
one and was once protected by rounded buttresses. This is a
narrow and deep rock-passage under an overhanging rock.
The east entrance leads down into the Gold Furnace Enclosure
but the steps down into it have now disappeared.
Though not visible, mention must here be made of the
Sunken Passage which traverses the floor of the Eastern Enclosure
from the north-east to the for some twenty-three
feet. It is about six feet wide and has walls on either side.
It was originally covered with stone beams which collapsed into
it. The impression one forms is that it was an underground
means of communication with the Gold Furnace Enclosure so
as to avoid going through the Eastern Enclosure.
Leaving the Eastern Enclosure by the natural archway at
the higher western corner, one arrives on the Balcony Enclosure.
This is really a suspended boulder and on it still stand the
remains of a parapet wall. The Platform is thirty-nine feet
long and twelve feet wide and overlooks the Eastern Enclosure,
to which it might have served as a sort of public gallery. From
it an extensive view to the south-east, looking towards the
Schlichter Gorge and the Mowishawasha Valley, is obtained.
Page Forty-Six.
Returning to the Eastern Enclosure and passing through the
east entrance, one descends to the Gold Furnace Enclosure the
floor of which is some twelve feet lower than that of the
Enclosure. Messrs. Bent and Hall both record that the, dis-
covered traces o! gold-smelting operations having been c3.r:ried
o.n here, and eVidence of iron-smelting, probably within fee -
times, ca? be seen today. Passing through the east emrarr-e
and well. to the right, it is possible to reach a cave whi
con tams a quantity of loose stones . This may possibly
been used as a storehouse for raw material. '
Returning to the Gold Furnace Enclosure and crossing the
floor of the Eastern Enclosure, the visitor is advised to re .
the end of the Pattern Passage and then turn directly
t?e nght up the Central Passage. This forms direct commuruca-
be.tween the western and eastern extremities of the Acropolis.
It .IS, m a sense, a western .of the Pattern Passage.
ClIffj and boul.ders form the mam portIOn of its sides and i[ is
sOI?e seventy-sIx feet long. There is a sharp rise of six feet
gomg westwards. This leads directly to the Cleft-rock Enclosure.
. The Cleft-rock Enclosure is almost entirely surrounded by
big boulders. The poorly-built divisional walls are said to be
of .construction, and the local Kalanga people claim
that thel.r .Makomo, erected them and lived within them.
C?ne of Its pnnClpal features is the angular entrance on the west
Side of the enclosure. which gives ingress to the Platform
Enclosure and to the North-west Ascent.
From several points of on the Acropolis, the Outer
Defence Wall be enclosmg the ruins on their western
northern Sides. ThiS :vhich is 680 yards long, starts
a lIttle to the west of the ELlIptical Building and then, with a
bold sweep, crosses the valley on the east side of Zimbabwe Hill
up to the Hill on its north face. The wall is ver
and mostly overgrown with trees and other veg:
Page Forty·Seven.
The Valley of Ruins
ETWEEN the Elliptical Building and the Acropolis is the
Valley of Ruins. Here is an intricate pattern of ruins which
may represent the habitations of headmen and people of tribal
importance. They could hardly have accommodated all the in-
habitants of Zimbabwe, and these probably lived in pole anL.
dagga huts on the adjacent land. Some of the walls are mas i'l'e
and well-built while others are of poor construction. Those of
major importance bear the names of those connected with the
discovery of Zimbabwe.
These were named after the first discoverer of Zimbabwe..
Adam Renders, and cover an area of about 300 by 200 fee-.
They contained eight separate enclosures, and are approached b:-
a passage about thirty-six feet long which leads in a north-easz
direction from the North Entrance of the Elliptical Buildin .
These ruins ate badly preserved except for a portion of we
passage way.
These were named after the Posselt brothers who plou
up the land immediately to the north-east of the Ellipciu:.
Building in 1888-1889. They adjoin Renders Ruins on the north-
east side and cover an area of 200 by 7S feet. They once coo-
tained a small conical tower, rhe
The only genuine mono- foundations of which are still
litn still standing in its . 'bI A I h f d '
original position. in Phil- VISI e. arge ut oun atlOo
lips Ruins. (Photo by § will be noted. Some of the
G. H. Addecott & Co. , § b
Ltd., Bulawayo.) § walling is massive, ut its quality
varies considerably. There are two
reconstructed walls, the joints between them and the original
walls being clearly seen. A small piece of dagga walling is of
These were named after George Phillips, an elephant
hunter who visited Renders at Zimbabwe in 1868. They lie
to the east of Posselt Ruins with which they are connected. This
is a most interesting ruin and is generally well-preserved. It
once possessed a conical tower and has a fine curved wall which
was once decorated with carved soapstone monoliths. The
Page Forty-Nine.
north entrance is intricate and worth examination. In 1903 a
soapstone monolith surmounted by a bird and having a croco-
dile on its edge was discoveted by Mr. Hall close to the conical
tower. This monolith can now be seen in the National Museum,
Bulawayo, and it is interesting to note that it provided the design
of the crest of the Rhodesian coat-of-arms, as well as that on
the reverse of the Rhodesian shilling. On the east side of the
wall stands a monolith eight feet high, and it is the only one
known still to be standing in its original position . It marked one
of the entrances. Several hut foundations are visible.
These lie at a distance of sixty yards to the east of Phillips
Ruins. They consist of a well-built north wall and two platforms
which are approached by large steps. Each is supported by a
wall with a well-rounded end. There was an entrance with a
vestibule on the north side. These ruins have become important
as the scene of Miss Caton-Thompson's excavations in 1929,
and a full account of them is given in her book, "Zimbabwe
The East Ruins are twenty yards to the' south of the Mtilikwe
wagon road at about 550 yards from the Shangani Patrol Grave.
They are ideally situated for defensive purposes and the walls
are massive and generally of good construction.
These are on rising ground on the edge of the ravine at
the east ef!d of the Valley of Ruins and occupy a strategic
position. The walls are wide and massive. There is an entrance
on the north-west side.
These were named after Dr. Karl Mauch, the German
geologist who visited Zimbabwe in 1871. They are situated some
150 yards north-east of the end of the" Chevron" pattern wall
of the Elliptical Building, and are approached by a path leading
east from the North Entrance. Their distinctive features are
high walls, a parallel passage on the north-east side 99 feet
long, and a large semicircular buttress. There was a flight of
Page F ifty .
steps between narrow walls which descended for a distance of
rwenty-nine feet into Renders Ruins which are on the north side
at a much lower level.
These ruins, which lie about sixty yards to the north-west
from the North-west Entrance to the Elliptical Building, appear
to have been of some importance though they are generally 0-
inferior construction. The massive main wall was originally 1 -
feet long and had banquette walls inside the entrance on ei
side. The design is irregular and, though the walling is pI
stones of all shapes and sizes have been made use of.
ruin was gutted by relic-hunters between 1892 and 1894.
The Ridge Ruins, though originally well-constructed,
greatly deteriorated. They are situated on an elevated ri
granite. just behind the Shangani Patrol Grave from v.-
they are eastly approached.
The Zimbabwe valley abounds in ruins of all rype5
probably of very varying age. The neighbouring hills as
as the district for many miles round are dotted with 0
tures. It is evident that the area once carried a grear
The Vegetation of the
Ruins Area
T HE vegetation around the ruins is very luxuriant fo:...-0is
. part of the country. This is because Zimbabwe is higher than
me surrounding country and so has a higher rainfall and frequent
mists. In prehistoric times it probably had an even wetter climate
and this is indicated by the fact that there are species hereabouts
which show distinct affinities with Rhodesia's Eastern Districts
Forests and are probably relics of an earlier forest flora. There
is for instance a giant Senicio on the Acropolis and a few speci-
mens of Albizzia gmnmifera by the local streams. This latter is
a fine tree which is a dominant species of our Eastern Districts
Forests and is known there as Munjerenje.
In spring (July to September) the Kaffir Boom (Erythrina
abyssinica) provides a blaze of brilliant scarlet before its leaves
come out, and some of the finest of these are to be seen just
below the outer wall of the Western Enclosure. Near the
office are some fine examples of Rhodesia's tallest Aloe
(Aloe excelsa), and scattered among the granite rocks, wherever
it can obtain a foothold, is the low-growing Aloe (Aloe
Chabaudii). It produces beautiful red-flowered spikes in May.
Another very colourful species is Dombeya t"Osea, a small bush
usually found in the shade of tall trees, which has clusters of
Jarge pink flowers very reminiscent of the English Dog-rose.
The huge trees growing in the Elliptical Building cannot
fail to impress anyone who sees them. The fine trees with a
straight dark bole are Mimusops zeyheri which has fruits the size
and consistency of an olive, and these are edible. There is also
a native fig (Ficus capensis), the Kaffir Boom (Erythrina abyss-
:lIica) and a Cabbage Tree (Cttssonia sp.). The Mimusops and
the Fig are almost certainly several hundred years old. Outside
one of the entrances is another fine tree, Trema guineensis, which
Page Fifty-Two.
is related to the European Elm, the wood of which
used by natives to make charcoal for gunpowder.
little vegetation is to be found on the walls themselves,
but there is one little epiphytic fern to be found there called
Polyp odium polypodiodes. It is a very attractive little plant-
Among the tumbled stones is also a pretty litHe Nemesia named
after these ruins (Nemesia zimbabwensis).
If one climbs the Acropolis there is a most interesting little
Mesembryanthemum (Delosperma 17lahoni) to be seen. It is
Rhodesia's only member of this group and is known in Rhodesia
from the Matopo Hills and Zimbabwe only. Another striking
plant found in profusion on the Acropolis is the Zimbabwe
Creeper (Podranes brycei). It is a near relative of the Jacaranda
and has large showy pink flowers .
Page Fifty-Three ..
Morgenster Mission
VISITORS to Zimbabwe who have sufficient time are strongly
recommended to visi t Morgenster Mission, four miles distant.
This Mission, which is carried on under the auspices of the
Dutch Reformed Church, was founded by the Rev. A. A. louw
in 1891, the year after the Pioneer Column entered Mashonaland.
Since the day of its beginning it has grown into a large and
thriving institution with manifold activities.
The educational work includes a Training School, a Central
Primary School, a Practising School and a Village Home Craft
School. Over 400 African students are accommodated. There
is, in addition, a well-equipped hospital and a printing press
which issues a small bi-monthly paper and provides educational
books for mission use. Morgenster is the head station of an
extensive mission district comprising eight mission stations
manned by 77 Europeans assisted by over 1,000 Native evan-
gelists and teachers.
The Jubilee of the Mission, which took place in 1941, IS
commemorated by an inscription placed on an imposing natural
granite monolith known as " Finger Rock. " This is situated on
the left-hand side of the road about 200 yards north of the
The Finger Rock on
Morgenster Mission. near
the Zimbabwe Ruins.
Page l<'i ft y-Five.

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