I’ve posted this photo before, but then it was a very good day all those years ago in Africa. And it’s also good to remember days when I looked a lot younger. (Or maybe not).
As you can see, all was bathed in old-gold light at Great Zimbabwe. The air was dreamily soft – much like a September Indian Summer day in England when all is drowsing except for the buzzing of wasps and bees.
Surprisingly, we had the place to ourselves. There we were, utterly free to wander about, seeking out the spirits of this once thriving African city of cattle herders and gold traders.
I remember pressing my palms on the granite blocks of the Great Enclosure and feeling their warmth, and wondering, too, at the sheer height of the walls that had no mortar to hold them fast for 700 years. Just imagine the skills needed to build walls like this, and think, too, how the white elite that once ruled Southern Rhodesia attributed this astonishing structure to Phoenicians, Ancient Egyptians, the Queen of Sheba, in fact to pretty much anyone who was not a member of the local Shona people who did construct it.
It was at times like these that I discovered that archaeology was not the benign, gently antiquarian discipline that I had spent three years of my life studying. No indeed. In certain quarters archaeological ‘evidence’ can be grossly perverted to sell false credentials to justify the rule of unjust rulers. I find it both sad and shameful that amongst such self-appointed elites even old stones can become the object of racist bigotry.
But wait. Such thoughts are spoiling the day, and there is still so much to see. There are mysteries too. Why were these city walls raised up so high when there is no evidence that the entrance gateways were ever closed, or even defendable? What was the purpose of the extraordinary stone tower? Why was this place abandoned, left amid the granite hills as the people simply gathered their cattle and belongings and walked away?
For more of Great Zimbabwe’s history see my earlier post:
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell