1st Edition

Great Zimbabwe Reclaiming a ‘Confiscated’ Past

By Shadreck Chirikure Copyright 2021
    338 Pages 67 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    338 Pages 67 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Conditioned by local ways of knowing and doing, Great Zimbabwe develops a new interpretation of the famous World Heritage site of Great Zimbabwe.

    It combines archaeological knowledge, including recent material from the author’s excavations, with native concepts and philosophies. Working from a large data set has made it possible, for the first time, to develop an archaeology of Great Zimbabwe that is informed by finds and observations from the entire site and wider landscape. In so doing, the book strongly contributes towards decolonising African and world archaeology. Written in an accessible manner, the book is aimed at undergraduate students, graduate students, and practicing archaeologists both in Africa and across the globe.

    The book will also make contributions to the broader field such as African Studies, African History, and World Archaeology through its emphasis on developing synergies between local ways of knowing and the archaeology.

    Part I: Learning, relearning, and unlearning Great Zimbabwe

    1: Unveiling a ‘confiscated’ past

    2: Background to ‘Shona concepts’ and the Great Zimbabwe nyika (territory)

    3: Biography of Great Zimbabwe: late 18th to 21st centuries

    4: Chronology of Great Zimbabwe – relative, absolute, and integrated

    Part II: Objects, their context, and meaning

    5: Misha nedzimba: on households and homesteads

    6: Hari, or pottery

    7: Crafts, science, technology, and innovation

    8: Exotics: fame, prestige, and value

    Part III: Native cosmologies and ways of knowing

    9: Rise and decline: resilience of Great Zimbabwe

    10: Urbanism and statehood

    11: ‘Reclaimed’ Great Zimbabwe in a wider context: from Egyptian pyramids to decolonised global pasts


    Shadreck Chirikure is a Professor of Archaeology and Director of the Archaeological Materials Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town and British Academy Global Professor, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford.

    ‘Shadreck Chirikure deploys decolonial thought and indeed decolonial theory as he delves into indigenous African ideation to decolonize archaeology. What is delivered is a refreshing and indeed original re-reading of Great Zimbabwe and its location in world archaeology. This is indeed a timely and essential book coming out at a moment of insurgent and resurgent planetary decolonization.’

    Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Professor and Chair of Epistemologies of the Global South, University of Bayreuth, Germany

    'This book delivers a new perspective on Great Zimbabwe that will, one hopes, generate debates among African archaeologists and engage western archaeologists in reforming the practice, interpretation, and construction of archaeological narratives in Africa.'

    Ashton Sinamai, African Archaeological Review

    'This book is a valuable addition to studies of Zimbabwe’s archaeology and should be a recommended reading for university students across different disciplines. It has a comprehensive bibliography and comes with excellent illustrations and a detailed glossary of Shona concepts that are used in the book. The equally detailed index helps the reader to navigate the book with ease. I hope this book will stimulate more discussions of the archaeology and historical sites such as Great Zimbabwe; and I hope this contribution will help to restore their dignity as places which continue to carry deep meaning and significance for many beyond the boundaries of the national borders where they are located.'

    Alinah K. Segobye, Research Africa Reviews

    "Chirikure’s book is an excellent presentation of Great Zimbabwe and Shona ways-ofknowing. He provides a model to decolonize the understanding of the site using a Shonacentric perspective and terminology."

    Diane Lyons, Ethnoarchaeology