Archaeological evidence indicates that the site was first occupied by Iron Age peoples in the 3d cent. It was abandoned sometime thereafter until it was reoccupied in the late 9th cent. or early 10th cent. After Great Zimbabwe was discovered by European explorers c.1870 (there may have been Portuguese visitors as early as the 16th cent.), some Europeans asserted it was the biblical Ophir, where King Solomon had his mines. Others assigned its construction to Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, Chinese, Persians, or other non-African peoples. From 1890 to 1900 some 100,000 gold mining claims—all barren—were staked out there, and the ruins were extensively plundered by Europeans in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
See G. Caton-Thompson, The Zimbabwe Culture (1970).
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