What Is Great Zimbabwe AP World History?

Great Zimbabwe is a fascinating piece of African history that has been the subject of much study and speculation over the years. This ancient city, located in what is now modern-day Zimbabwe, was once a thriving hub of trade and commerce in the region.

What is Great Zimbabwe?

Great Zimbabwe was founded by the Bantu-speaking Shona people sometime around the 11th century. The city grew over time to become an important center of trade and commerce in southern Africa, with a population estimated to have been between 10,000 and 20,000 people at its peak.

The Architecture of Great Zimbabwe

One of the most striking features of Great Zimbabwe is its impressive architecture. The city was built using a technique known as dry-stone masonry, which involves stacking stones on top of one another without any mortar to hold them together.

The buildings at Great Zimbabwe were constructed using this technique, with walls up to 36 feet high in some places. The most famous structure at Great Zimbabwe is the Great Enclosure, which measures roughly 820 feet in circumference and contains a number of smaller structures within its walls.

The Decline of Great Zimbabwe

The exact reasons for the decline of Great Zimbabwe are not entirely clear. Some historians speculate that environmental factors such as drought may have played a role, while others suggest that political instability or external factors such as invasion by neighboring tribes may have contributed to the city’s downfall.

Regardless of the cause, it is clear that by the 15th century, Great Zimbabwe had been largely abandoned by its inhabitants.


Despite its relative obscurity outside of Africa, Great Zimbabwe remains an important part of African history and culture. Its impressive architecture and status as an important trading hub are testaments to the ingenuity and resilience of the Shona people who built it. By studying sites like Great Zimbabwe, we can gain a greater understanding of the rich and complex history of the African continent.