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Department of Archaeology


This project is documenting the knowledge, skills, and practices of traditional dry-stone masonry at Great Zimbabwe, southern Zimbabwe. Once the capital of an Iron Age empire, Great Zimbabwe is an ancient settlement complex with dry-stone structures covering over 720 hectares. Around it, local communities live and maintain ancestral connections to the site. The most outstanding material remains are stone structures, built without use of mortar or any binding material. This makes Great Zimbabwe a unique expression of a built tradition in Africa and a challenging heritage to manage and conserve. Traditional stonemasonry practiced by local communities is invaluable for conserving Great Zimbabwe and similar sites elsewhere in southern Africa. Today, only very few traditional stonemasons are skilled in restoring/repairing ancient structures. This knowledge and these practices have never been recorded in detail.

Engaging Great Zimbabwe’s traditional masons, we are combining archival research, participatory observations and focus group discussions to produce a repository resource for study, conservation, transfer and dissemination of traditional stonemasonry knowledge and practices.

This two-year project (2021–2022) is led by (PI) Elton M. Sagiya (Curator of Archaeology, National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe) and funded by the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (EMKP).

For general enquires, contact Federica Sulas.

Team Members

Project Lead:

Munyaradzi Elton Sagiya

Project Members:

Innocent Pikirayi

Federica Sulas

Henry Mugabe - Stonemason, Morgenster Central Primary School, Great Zimbabwe



Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (EMKP)

Project Tags

Environment, Landscapes and Settlement
Periods of interest: 
Iron Age
Geographical areas: 
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Material Culture
Heritage Management
Environmental Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, and Landscape studies
Cultural Heritage
Heritage Studies
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