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Hall, M. (1995). Great Zimbabwe and the Lost City. In Ucko, P. (ed) Theory in Archaeology. London, Routledge: 28-45
Sun City built the "Palace of the Lost City"
Modelled on a myth by California-based designer - city built by wondering North African tribe destroyed 3000 years ago by an earthquake. The "Lost City" built on the same spot
"It is simply a modern rendering of a European notion of Africa that can be traced back through many centuries of European fantasy" (28)
Myth has tripartite structure: early civilisation, destruction by a "dark force", rediscovery by "enlightened adventurers" (Europeans)
Powerful notion of Africa as the dark continent, as the "heart of darkness"
Archaeology has shown the antiquity of pastoralism and farming in southern Africa, yet has also become caught up in popular mythology in its paradigms.
1871 - Carl Mauch- Great Zimbabwe
"Mauch took up a posture that Hollywood was to adopt for its image of the archaeologist a hundred years later. Working alone, with sketch-book and revolver at the ready, he struggled 'through thick grass intertwined with leguminous creepers' while keeping 'well hidden from possible observers by the tall grass'." "
Mauch thought splinters from a cross beam were similar to the wood his pencil was made from and concluded both were cedar. As cedar wood is found in Lebanon, he concluded Great Zimbabwe was the home of the Queen of Sheba.
Mythology had effectively found a tangible place on the map.
Thomas Baines - 1873 - book "Map of the Gold Fields of South Eastern Africa" - GZ labelled as "the supposed realm of Queen of Sheba"
Henry Rider Haggard - 1885 - book "King Solomon's Mines" - Africa a sea of barbarism masking long lost civilisations
1890 - Cecil John Rhodes' British South Africa Company took over Zimbabwe (Mashonaland)
Rhodes brought many of Mauch's robbed artifacts
Rhodes, Royal Geographic Society, British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) sponsored first archy expedition - Theodore Bent.
Bent was an antiquarian
Bent's findings published in 1892 - "The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland"
Bent asserted need for scientific investigation. Dismissed "Queen of Sheba" idea. Proposed GZ built by Sabaean Arab troops mining gold. Conical Tower was, in Bent's view, a phallic symbol. GZ destroyed by a "dark force", the descendants of whom were the local population.
Rhodes established Rhodesia Ancient Ruins Ltd - GZ for commercial gain Richard Hall - journalist - 1902 book "The Ancient Ruins of Rhodesia" - three periods: Sabaean Period (2000-1100 BC), Phoenician Period (from start of Christian era), transitional & decadent periods.
The decadent period was when the descendants of the builders interbreed with the locals.
Hall became curator of GZ in 1902. Followed Bent's interpretations.
Reckless excavator, with "so much of the deposit on the Hill [having been] shoveled over the side of the precipice, for example, that there is very little left to excavate" (42).
Backlash to Bent in form of BAAS sponsoring a second expedition, led by David Randall-MacIver
Randall-MacIver former pupil of Flinders Petrie. Excavated 1905. Generally recognised as "the founder of modern fieldwork at the site" (35)
Went against the grain in arguing GZ part of Zimbabwe's local heritage and built by locals.
He was racist in that he downgraded the workmanship at GZ to fit his lower view of blacks by comparison with Europeans
BAAS third expedition - 1929 - Gertrude Caton-Thompson
Caton-Thompson classified the pottery via colour, texture and finish and claimed her observations to be free of bias. She concluded GZ was built by local Africans.
Still, Caton-Thompson's work was not free of racism: exotic (i.e. external) stimuli via East Africa trading ports with interior uncivilised; two periods, two peoples (Zimbabwe Period & Daga Period); architecture "the product of an infantile mind" (37); drawing parallels with the Zulu 19th century conquests; advocation of the GZ builder being an "autocratic master mind" (37).
Contrast between Caton-Thompson and Bent & Hall: little wealth, Bantu kraals evident.
Roger Summers & Keith Robinson - stratigraphic and radiocarbon chronological work - 1958. Empirical work laying foundations for modern interpretations.
GZ consists of three sections: the hill ruins (Bent & Hall's "Acropolis") & open court to the south, Great Enclosure, surrounding town.
Hill ruins: lengthy stone walling over & between granite boulders forming enclosures which once had substantial archaeological deposits. Plastered & timber houses were once inside. The court is an open area.
Great Enclosure ("Temple" in earlier romances): Massive walling. Smaller enclosures inside. Architectural features such as the tower. Summers & Whitney have produced stratigraphic sequences and interpretations. Other stone enclosures too south of the court; GE is the largest.
Huffman hypotheses surrounding town housed as many as 30 000 people.
Peter Garlake (1973, 1982) & Thomas Huffman (1980s, 1990s).
Garlake & Huffman agree walls were for status purposes and "on the status of the town on the wider stage of southern Africa, although Garlake argues for a number of regional centres of importance along the edge of the Zimbabwe Plateau, while Huffman believes that the size of Great Zimbabwe, and in particular the size of its central court, indicates its unequivocal pre-eminence" (40).
Garlake: enclosures south of court belong to ruling class, with "Renders Ruin" and "Enclosure 12" being royal treasury. Eastern Enclosure on Hill had spiritual role with king living in Hill during early years; king moved into Great Enclosure later with Hill controlled by spirit mediums.
Huffman: enclosures south of court for royal wives. Western Enclosure on Hill for King; Eastern Enclosure, religious centre. Great Enclosure, initiation center for daughters of ruling lineages.
Both Garlake and Huffman utilise ethnographic record: Garlake, "relationship between rulers and spirit mediums" (40); Huffman, "Shona ethnography to understand the connections between heaven and earth and role of the first wife in guarding her husband's possessions, and to Venda ethnography in interpreting the Great Enclosure as an initiation school."
The difference in Huffman and Garlake's readings of the site, on the other hand, stem from the application of different strands of European social theory" (40-41).
Garlake, prosaic economic interpretation. Secluded king surrounded by royalty with spiritual domain separate - tension between secular and sacred. Commoners outside.
Huffman, structuralist interpretation utilising Kruper's "Bantu Cattle Pattern", from the 2nd millennium AD, with axis of gender. Male Hill, female valley, marked architectural features. Male monoliths, female groves.
Huffman's interpretation the most comprehensive to date.
Structuralism's major weakness is its inherent timeless and ahistorical nature which is difficult to overcome in studies employing this theoretical basis.
Wilbur Smith's popular novel Sunbird employed the myth of a "lost city", namely Opet, which was subsequently wiped out by invading Blacks. He drew direct parallels with minority white rule "threatened" by "black communists". The theme of barbarianism, enlightened whites, forgotten wealth, same.
"Sunbird and king Solomon's Mines have gained their success - measurable directly in sales reports and box office returns - not from the patronage of a gin-sodden colonial residue, living out the last days of white supremacy in a haze of nostalgia, but from North European and North Americans readers and audiences who would prefer to pay for an image of Africa as the time-honoured dark continent. Sun International's planners have realized this in their promotion of Bophuthatswana's Lost City, which is pitched explicitly for North European and North American tourists." (42-43)
A more recent work, claiming pretence to academic respectability but which is derided in reality, is Cyril Hromnick's 1981 book "Indo-Africa: towards a new understanding of the history of sub-Saharan Africa". It too portrays southern Africa as uncivilised and part of the "heart of darkness"; only, in the case, the darkness is relieved by Indians.
Ending sentences: "Any challenge to archaeology's collusion in racist interpretations (deliberate or inadvertent) of Africa's past must depend on continuing critical assessment. My point is not that European theory should be inadmissible in the archaeology of places such as Great Zimbabwe, but that those often-hidden assumptions and implications that may be imported with such theory should be carefully exposed for what they are." (43-44)
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