Great Zimbabwe is a medieval city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country's Late Iron Age. Construction began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. At its peak, it could have housed up to 18,000 people. Eventually, the city was abandoned and fell into ruin.
The city is famous for stone walls, constructed without mortar (dry stone). The "Great Enclosure" has walls as high as 11 meters and extending approximately 250 meters. There is also a 9 meters high "Conical Tower". This is the largest ancient structure in Sub-Saharan Africa. Who built it is a politically sensitive issue.
A 2012 article stated that "Almost universally accepted amongst contemporary scholars is the opinion that the ancient ruins known as Great Zimbabwe, in what was formerly Rhodesia (radiocarbon dated to around 1300 AD), must have been created by the ancestors of the Shona, who today inhabit northern and eastern Zimbabwe. However, this theory was challenged in the 1950s and 1960s by several scholars, including Robert Gayre, the founder of The Mankind Quarterly, who argued that there was no sound evidence that the Shona had ever built with stone. Instead, his suggestion was that this massive finely cut stone structure, and certain lesser stone ruins in the area, were probably constructed by the ancestors of the present day Lemba, a people who are at least partly descended from Semitic trader-adventurers who had travelled down the east coast of Africa in search of gold and other potential exports. The Lemba, Gayre maintained, are distinguished from the Shona by certain physical and cultural qualities that suggested genetic and cultural admixture with Semites. It is argued that modern genetic testing offers a measure of support for this thesis."
- A Possible Semitic Origin for Ancient Zimbabwe http://www.mankindquarterly.org/archive/issue/52-3/4