The ancient history of Africa, the original location of human civilization, has been preserved through remnants of ruins, statues, and artifacts. In 1871, the ruins of the Great Zimbabwe stone city were discovered by a German geologist. Although it was first assumed that the structures were too complex to be built by African civilizations, the myth has been discredited. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe remain a controversial topic of study amongst scholars and archeologists. However, it fascinates many since the city represents the peak of prosperity and genius of Southern African Empires in their prime, offering historians invaluable evidence about the culture and civilization development of the region.
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Great Zimbabwe was a city and kingdom that was considered the Eldorado of Africa. It formed and developed around the trade in various goods, particularly gold. Despite being 1500km inland and away from major ancient civilization trade routes, there is evidence to suggest that the Eastern coast of Africa attracted merchants from all over the world. The discovery of the Rhapta is proof that an ancient kingdom existed in the area, serving as the focal point of trade and metropolis of culture. As traders interacted and bartered in this region, culture, ideas, and goods were exchanged. The primary item of business that supported the local economy was gold, of which Africa had large deposits. Meanwhile, languages such as Swahili (meaning “coast”) were blended with a mix of Arabic, Indian, and Portuguese. The location holds ruins and artifacts, such as pieces of pottery dating back more than 2000 years which show the presence of ancient civilization in the region.
Furthermore, the documentary explored the island Kliwa Kisiwani, located off the coast of East Africa. It served as a stop on the trading route. Vital goods for the regional economy, such as ivory, shells, and gold, were exchanged for manufactured items such as weaponry and clothing. However, gold remained central to the economy. Things such as staffs, dishes, and decorations made of gold have been found in tombs of ancient rulers. Gold was a display of utmost wealth and power for local leaders.
Since Great Zimbabwe was located farther inland, it was necessary to transfer the goods and gold to and from the city. Manyikeni was one of these locations, halfway between the Swahili coast and Great Zimbabwe. The name is translated as “a place of giving” and became a crossing point for traders coming to and from the beach. Evidence of existing gold artifacts, structures, traditions, and even plant life can be found in Zimbabwe. It was thought that grass was carried by traders to feed cattle due to the lack of vegetation in the desert regions. The host of the show visits the Mapungubwe museum to identify various artifacts associated with the ancient kingdom. There was even a string of beads that is thought to be a millennia-old game played by the Mapungubwe tribe. It is critical to consider that the civilization developed not only economically and politically but also socially. The local tribes had numerous very colorful traditions that are thought to be passed down from the Great Zimbabwe kingdom.
Overall, the documentary was informative and exciting. The host showed dedication in exploring the history of the ancient kingdom. Furthermore, a number of expert sources were used. For example, interviews were held with professors of history and archeology from local universities to decipher the archaeological evidence and its meaning within the context of the Great Zimbabwe civilization. The documentary sought to emphasize the rich culture and impact that this ancient kingdom had on the development of African society (Hall, 2010).
Hall, I. (Director). (2010). Lost Kingdoms of Africa – Great Zimbabwe [Video file].