Zimbabwe (zĭmbäbˈwā) [key] [Bantu, = stone houses], ruined city, SE Zimbabwe, near Masvingo (formerly Fort Victoria). It was discovered by European explorers c.1870, and some believed it the biblical Ophir, where King Solomon had his mines. From 1890 to 1900 some 100,000 gold mining claims were staked out there, but all proved barren. Modern archaeological evidence has shown that Zimbabwe was first occupied by the earliest Iron Age people in the 3d cent. It was abandoned sometime thereafter until it was reoccupied in the late 9th cent. or early 10th cent. The remaining ruins include a massive wall, constructed in the 11th cent., a strong fortress, nearby dwellings, and an elliptically shaped enclosure, commonly called the Temple. The buildings were once richly decorated with stone carvings and gold and copper ornaments. Archaeologists believe that the city was constructed by a local African culture with little outside influence.
See G. Caton-Thompson, The Zimbabwe Culture (1970).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.