Exploration and Great Zimbabwe
Some of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe as they appear today
In 1871, Mauch discovered the stone ruins now known as
Great Zimbabwe, five years after discovering the first gold mines in the
Transvaal. Mauch believed that the ruins were the remnants of the lost biblical city of
Ophir, described as the origin of the gold given by the
Queen of Sheba to
King Solomon. He did not believe that the structures could have been built by a previous local population similar to those which inhabited the area at the time of his excavation, and so pressed ahead with his research. Further research on the site (including one of the first
archaeological uses of aviation) illustrated that the structures did indeed have African origin.
Because of the
ethnocentrism popular in the 19th century, Mauch and his contemporaries have been intensely criticized for their assumptions about the site by modern archaeologists. The Great Zimbabwe site is now considered to have been built by ancestors of the
Shona people between the 11th and 15th centuries CE.
Mauch died as a result of a fall from the third floor window of a hotel where he was living. It is uncertain whether the death was accidental or self-inflicted.