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Notes on the Geography of Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe: Photo 5

world pictures Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe

We'll start up the mountain, here zoomed from the base. The record establishes no foreigner reaching Great Zimbabwe before Karl (or Carl) Mauch, a young German explorer in South Africa. It's 1871, and Mauch has been fired up by a missionary named Merensky, who has told Mauch that the Ophir of Solomon lies in Mashonaland. Mauch sets out to find it.

In 1871 he meets a trader, Adam Render, who tells him that, according to the natives, "white people had once lived in this country." The natives themselves tell Mauch, he writes, of "large ruins which could never had been built by blacks." Who told Render? Who planted this idea in the heads of the natives? Good questions, but no answers here at least. (Quoted in E.E. Burke, ed., The Journals of Carl Mauch, translated by F.O. Bernhard, 1969, pp. 136f.)

Here's part of the letter Mauch writes to August Petermann back in Germany on September 12, 1871. Mauch has just seen Great Zimbabwe for the first time but stays sober. "Zimbaoe, known from Portuguese writings, lies 11 English miles to the east of here and represents a mighty fortress, consisting of two parts of which one, on a hill of about 400 feet with very large boulders is separated by a narrow little valley from the second, which stands on a slight rise. Up till now it has not been possible for me to make a plan of both of them as the walls, in places still 30 feet high, are completely covered, and as dangerous nettles ill repay any attempt to creep through them. The walls are built, without any mortar, of hewn granite slabs more or less of the size of our bricks, and are, except at three points, very well preserved in a "Rondeau" on the plain of a diameter of about 150 yards. In the southern part of this there stands a tower built up to about 30 feet, at the base of a cylindrical, at the upper half of a conical shape, and in a wall in front of it there are some absolutely black stones which make me suspect that this is a burial site."

(See Burke, p. 266.)

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