Kingdom of Zimbabwe
The Kingdom of Zimbabwe existed from 1220 until 1450 and is most remembered for Great Zimbabwe. Great Zimbabwe is the largest stone structure is southern Africa and it dates back before the colonial era. The region was settled in the 11th century but it was not until the 13th century that the kingdom was formally established. Records left by 16th century explorer Joao de Barros indicates that Great Zimbabwe was still inhabited at that time.
The Kingdom was known for building elaborate stone buildings and walls. Great Zimbabwe was made through a method of dry stonewalling which required a significant level of expertise. It was at Great Zimbabwe that the monarch of the Kingdom resided with 200 to 300 advisers and royals within the main city.
The city was the center of the society and as many as 20,000 people lived on the outside of the city, kept separate from the ruling class by large walls that still stand today. The Kingdom got its wealth from cattle, the staple food for the region. There was also a reliance on the gold trade because the city was built over a gold mine. There have also been some that claim the city was a religious center for the Shona people as a place to worship their main god, Mwari.
During the height of its power, there is evidence that the Kingdom was rich in gold and imported cloth, glass beads, and ceramics while the cattle and farming provided the basic needs of the people. Remains of Chinese pottery and stoneware, an Arabic coin, and a Persian bowl suggest that their trade extended into the East. Historians have debated what caused the decline of the Kingdom. Some believe it was due to changes in the environment that limited the usable land for cattle and that the gold trade declined. Others have suggested that their trade routes may have been disrupted by Portuguese merchants.