Great Zimbabwe had an ingenious drought survival system

(ORDO NEWS) — Great City (Great) Zimbabwe was the first major city in southern Africa, with a population of approximately 18,000 at its peak. However, no one really knows why it lies in ruins now.

The demise of a once prosperous medieval metropolis sometimes comes down to drought and a dry climate, but now archaeologists have found evidence of careful water conservation among the rubble.

A team of researchers from Denmark, South Africa, England and Zimbabwe claim that a series of large circular depressions known as “Dhacca” pits found around the city were not used to excavate clay, as experts once thought, but to collect water. It is reported by Science Alert.

For example, at the foot of several hillsides are numerous dakka pits located to collect rain and groundwater. Other pits surrounding the city cross streams.

By collecting rainwater and cordoning off some sections of a river or stream, the researchers argue that the people who once lived here could provide water for drinking and agriculture for most of the year, even during the dry season.

For example, many plant remains found near Dakas are known to grow near rivers or groundwater sources that contain high soil moisture.

A new look at the Dhaka Pits in Zimbabwe has been made possible by using aerial laser scanning to study key features of the site, even in densely vegetated areas.

The results of the study were then supplemented by ground studies and conversations with local communities, which should also save water in the dry region.

Researchers estimate that more than 18 million liters of water could have been stored in these pits around the city.

During the heyday of Great Zimbabwe, between the 11th and 15th centuries, the city was inhabited by the ruling elite, religious leaders, artisans and merchants, all sharing spring and rain water in an integrated and flexible system.

Experts say that during the rainy season, some areas of the city became wet and swampy. These places, apparently, were ideally suited for the extraction of clay for the construction of houses.

In drier times, some of these quarries seem to have turned into reservoirs to collect groundwater and runoff from the surrounding hills.

“This partly designed landscape required maintenance, albeit relatively passively organized, as runoff was allowed to wash into these pools,” the study authors write.

“Taken together, the new records show that the physical forms, ecological functions and cultural values ​​of water have been shaped and shaped by how communities have approached, managed and conserved water,” they add.

Today, very little is known about the history of Great Zimbabwe. It is still possible that the city collapsed due to climate change, even with such a coordinated water system.

During its existence, the world experienced a medieval climatic anomaly and a small ice age, which could put a growing city under great stress. But economic or political difficulties could also be the cause of his death.

Archaeologists need to do more research to say what happened to South Africa’s first city and its inhabitants.


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