Subject Listing - History
Advisor: Dr. Thomas Maroukis
Thursday, Oral Session 3, Presentation 4, New Hall 012
VISIONS IN A CRACKED MIRROR: THE EARLY HISTORIOGRAPHY OF GREAT ZIMBABWE
The historical and archaeological writing about the ruins of Great Zimbabwe has been the source of controversy since the site was first examined in 1872. The ruins have been attributed to King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Ancient Sabeans, Phoenician traders, lost Roman legions, and the Shona speaking peoples of modern Zimbabwe. This paper focuses on the earliest European records of the site and the reasons for the interpretations contained therein. The research materials are both primary and secondary sources. They include the journals of Carl Mauch, the first European to document an examination of the site, as well as the conclusions drawn by recent scholars. The thesis rejects racism as the foundation of the erroneous interpretation of the existence and condition of the site. Instead, the paper presents the argument that a lack of knowledge and technique caused the early writers to rely on cultural myths and biases that were inapplicable. This misinterpretation was neither a religious nor an ethnically-specific fault, nor was it a malicious attempt to either justify colonization or disguise the cultural attainments of Africans, though it was used by later parties to such effects. The discounted early historiography of Great Zimbabwe may be incorrect, but it presents a valuable lesson for modern historians and others who study and practice interpretive disciplines, especially in the humanities.
Advisor: Dr. Thomas Maroukis, Professor and Chair, Department of History, Capital University, Columbus, OH