5 Ancient African Empires Besides Egypt That Europeans and Arabs Tried to Claim as Their Own
The Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe (1220–1450)
The civilization of Great Zimbabwe was one of the most significant civilizations during the medieval period. Great Zimbabwe is extraordinary because of the magnificent scale of its structures. Its most striking edifice, referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 36 feet extending approximately 820 feet, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.
In the 1800s, European explorers, imperialists and colonizers were stunned by Great Zimbabwe’s grandeur and cunning workmanship, so they attributed the architecture to Portuguese travelers, Arabs, Chinese, Persians, or even biblical characters, such as King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, archaeological investigations conducted during the first decades of the 20th century have dismissed those attributions and confirmed both the antiquity of the site and its African origins. It was built by the ancestors of the indigenous Shona people in the 11th century, long before the first Europeans ever set foot in Zimbabwe.