Great Zimbabwe is a complex of ruins built by Shona-speakers between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It was once the centre of a vast empire known as the Munhumutapa Empire.
The largest ruins in sub-saharan Africa, it covers almost 1,800 acres. There are three distinct architectural groupings known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex, and the Great Enclosure all built with dry-stone technique using no mortar holding the stones together. Despite this, the buildings have survived for seven centuries.
Colonizing European powers refused believe that Black Africans were capable of engineering on this scale, leading to theories about ancient Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans, the lost tribe of Israel, and even that the structures were built by the Queen of Sheba. Other theories as to their origin abounded among white settlers and academics, with one element in common: they could not have been built by black people; they must have some Mediterranean or Biblical connection. However archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thompson's excavations in 1932 showed conclusively that these ruins are of an indigenous Bantu people. In the post-colonial period the soverign nation looked to pre colonial roots, choosing the name of this monument: 'Zimbabwe.'
The Great Zimbabwe has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.