Pre-colonial history of Zimbabwe

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The pre-colonial history of Zimbabwe lasted until the British government granted colonial status to Southern Rhodesia in 1923.

Ancient civilization[edit]

The Great Zimbabwe national monument.

Archaeologists have found Stone-Age implements, Khoisan cave paintings, arrowheads, pottery and pebble tools in several areas of Zimbabwe, a suggestion of human habitation for thousands of years, and the ruins of stone buildings provide evidence of more recent civilization. The most impressive of these sites are the Great Zimbabwe ruins, after which the country is named, located near Masvingo. Evidence suggests that these stone structures were built between the 9th and 13th centuries AD by indigenous Africans who had established trading contacts with commercial centers on Africa's southeastern coast.

The Mapungubwe people, a Bantu-speaking group of migrants from present day South Africa, inhabited the Great Zimbabwe site from about AD 1000 - 1550, displacing earlier Khoisan people. From about 1100, the fortress took shape, reaching its peak by the fifteenth century. These were the ancestors of the Kalanga and Karanga people. The Royal Totem was Moyo. Today bearers of the Moyo Totem are found amongst The Kalanga people in Zimbabwe and Botswana as well as the Karanga people in the Masvingo area. According to Prof. Thomas Huffman (chairman of the wits school of Archeology, Geography and Environmental Studies) Kalanga was the language of the Mapungubwe Kingdom which predates the Great Zimbabwe kingdom. He further suggests that the Karanga dialect could have emerged from Kalanga as a result of influence from Zezuru. However other researchers insist that Kalanga is a derivative of Karanga. They believe that Kalanga must have emerged as a result of corruption of the Karanga dialect by invading Ndebele. The later seems less likely if one considers that Kalanga is spoken in areas where the invading Ndebele did not molest. Unadulterated Kalanga is still spoken in Shoshong Botswana were ruins similar to the Great Zimbabwe are found. It is interesting to note that other ruins similar to the Great Zimbabwe are found in Lusvingo, Khami, Dlodlo and other areas were Kalanga is still the language spoken by the communities there. The self designations Kalanga and Karanga are actually the same word pronounced differently because of the lexical shift of r to l characteristic of how the languages are related to each other.

Medieval civilizations[edit]

There have been many civilizations in Zimbabwe as is shown by the ancient stone structures at Khami, Great Zimbabwe and Dhlo-Dhlo. The first major civilization to become established was the Mwene Mutapa (or Monomotapas), who were said to have built Great Zimbabwe, in the ruins of which was found the soapstone bird that features on the Zimbabwean flag. By the mid-1440s, King Mutota's empire included almost all of the Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) plateau and extensive parts of what is now Mozambique. The wealth of this empire was based on small-scale industries, for example iron smelting, textiles, gold and copper, along with agriculture. The regular inhabitants of the empire's trading towns were the Swahili merchants with whom trade was conducted.

Later they formed the Rozwi Empire, which continued until the nineteenth century.

Ndebele invasion[edit]

Main article: Matabeleland
Matabeleland, 1887

The Matabele (Ndebele) people in the south arrived in 1834 -- Mzilikazi fleeing Shakalaka.

Administration by the British South Africa Company[edit]

References[edit]

See also[edit]