Civilizations in Africa

The Mwenemutapa

   The Mwenemutapa or Zimbabweans were a Bantu-speaking people in south-eastern Africa. As with all the Bantu who migrated from central Africa to the south and to the east, the ancestors of the Mwenemutapa brought iron-smelting and agriculture with them to the region south of the Zambezi River. The region was dominated by the Swahili city-state of Sofala; Zimbabwe, however, was rich in gold. Because of the wealth of Zimbabwe and the importance of Sofala as a trading city, the Zimbabweans from 1000 AD onwards were exposed to Chinese, Persian, and Indian crafts and culture. The growing trade encouraged the Zimbabweans to centralize their government. Originally ruled by ruler-priests, the Mwenemutapa developed a military and economic kingship of astonishing power and efficiency.

   The first of these centralized states was Great Zimbabwe (zimbabwe means "stone enclosure") around 1300. Great Zimbabwe was a fortification surrounded by huge, elliptical stone walls made without any mortar. By 1500, Great Zimbabwe dominated the Zambezi Valley both militarily and commercially (the Mwenemutapa empire); because of this, the new ideas about divine kingship spread throughout the valley and changed the social structures of most of the Bantu people living there.

   Great Zimbabwe was so far inland that it never felt the political or cultural effects of Islam during its existence. It is perhaps one of the few African urban culture south of the Sahara to be a fully African civilization, built off of no cultural ideas imported from outside Africa.
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Civilizations in Africa

Egypt: A Learning Module

Kush

Axum

The Iron Age South of the Sahara

Ghana

The Islamic Invasions

The Almoravids

Mali

Songhay

The Hausa Kingdoms

Kanem-Bornu

The Forest Kingdoms

The Swahili Kingdoms

Great Zimbabwe / The Mwenemutapa Empire

Internet Resources on Africa

About "Civilizations in Africa"

Copyright NoticesMali

Songhay

The Hausa Kingdoms

Kanem-Bornu

The Forest Kingdoms

The Swahili Kingdoms

Great Zimbabwe / The Mwenemutapa Empire

Internet Resources on Africa

About "Civilizations in Africa"

































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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 11-15-96