African Archaeological Review

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 139–161 | Cite as

The chronology of the Valley Enclosures: implications for the interpretation of Great Zimbabwe

  • D. P. Collett
  • A. E. Vines
  • E. G. Hughes


The recent structuralist model of the social organization of space at Great Zimbabwe, proposed by Huffman, is critically examined in the light of new chronological data. Architectural histories of the Western and Central Valley Enclosures (Posselt and Phillips Ruins respectively) are used to show the complex changes that occur through time in the social ‘meaning’ of spatial organization. It is argued that these changes are not adequately accounted for in Huffman's model. The Western Valley Enclosure, dated on the basis of a large piece of blue-on-white Chinese porcelain of the Honghzi period (Ming Dynasty, AD 1488–1505) recovered from a sealed context, was still occupied when most other areas of Great Zimbabwe were abandoned. Huffman's incorporation of these enclosures into a synchronic structuralist interpretation of the site is therefore probably invalid. These new data highlight the importance of chronological control in the development of structural and symbolic interpretations of Great Zimbabwe.


Social Organization Cultural Study Spatial Organization Dimension Sociale Large Piece 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Le modèle structuraliste de l'organisation sociale de l'espace à la Grande Zimbabwe proposé récemment par Huffman est examiné de façon critique, en fonction de données chronologiques récentes. Les histories architecturales des enclos des vallées Ouest et du Centre (Posselt et Phillips Ruins) sont utilisées afin de démontrer les changements complexes subit au cours du temps par la dimension sociale de l'organisation de l'espace. Les auteurs proposent que ces changements ne sont pas reflétés de manière convaincante par le modèle de Huffman. L'enclos de la vallée de l'Ouest est daté par la présence d'un fragment de porcelaine chinoise large, bleu sur blanc, appartenant à la période Houghzi (Dinastie de Ming 1488–1505 AD), trouvé dans un contexte scéllé; ceci prouve que le site était encore occupé alors que la plupart des autres quartiers de la Grande Zimbabwe étaient déjá abandonnés. L'incorporation par Huffman de ces enclos dans l'interprétation synchronique structuraliste du site n'est donc probablement pas correcte. Ces données nouvelles mettent en lumière l'importance du control chronologique pour le développement d'interpretations symboliques et structuralistes de la Grande Zimbabwe.


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Copyright information

© Cambridge University Press 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. P. Collett
  • A. E. Vines
  • E. G. Hughes

There are no affiliations available

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