Pre-colonial era (1000–1887)
Proto-Shona speaking societies first emerged in the middle Limpopo valley in the 9th century before moving on to the Zimbabwean highlands. The Zimbabwean plateau eventually became the center of subsequent Shona states, beginning in ca. the 10th century. Around the early 10th century, trade developed with Arab merchants on the Indian Ocean coast, helping to develop the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in the 11th century. This was the precursor to the more impressive Shona civilisations that would dominate the region during the 13th to 15th centuries, evidenced by ruins at Great Zimbabwe, near Masvingo, and other smaller sites. The main archaeological site is a unique dry stone architecture.
The Kingdom of Mapungubwe was the first in a series of sophisticated trade states developed in Zimbabwe by the time of the first European explorers from Portugal. They traded in gold, ivory and copper for cloth and glass.
From about 1300 until 1600, Mapungubwe was eclipsed by the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. This Shona state further refined and expanded upon Mapungubwe's stone architecture, which survives to this day at the ruins of the kingdom's capital of Great Zimbabwe. From c. 1450–1760, Zimbabwe gave way to the Kingdom of Mutapa. This Shona state ruled much of the area that is known as Zimbabwe today, and parts of central Mozambique. It is known by many names including the Mutapa Empire, also known as Mwene Mutapa or Monomotapa as well as "Munhumutapa," and was renowned for its stategic trade routes with the Arabs and Portugal. Eventually, however, the Portuguese sought to monopolise this influence and began a series of wars which left the empire in near collapse in the early 17th century.
As a direct response to increased European presence in the interior, a new Shona state emerged, known as the Rozwi Empire. Relying on centuries of military, political and religious development, the Rozvi (which means