The earliest stone structures at Great Zimbabwe date to c. 1000, and the main construction took place from the 13th century, possibly through resettlement of the founders of Mapungubwe to the south. The original settlers at the site belong to the Gokomere culture, a Shona people. By the 15th century, the city housed perhaps 20,000 people and was the largest stone structure in Africa south of the Sahara. There is evidence of a form of state religion, in which the native bateleur eagle was significant (soapstone statuary of the eagles were mounted on columns). The ruler, or mambo, held sway over local chiefs by virtue of his control over the cattle herd and of the trading economy. Arab ports were established at Sofala on the neighbouring coast and Mozambique Island by 923. The main value exports were gold, copper and ivory. Great Zimbabwe peaked under Nyatsimba Mutota (c. 1450), but he moved the capital to Khami, ultimately causing the kingdom’s division and decline.
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