From Diary of the Right Hon. Sir Mountstuart E. Grant Duff for March 13 1897: “The Breakfast Club met at Herschel’s, Acton, Lyall, Trevelyan, Courtney, Mackenzie Wallace and Frederick Leveson – Gower being present. Acton confirmed a story which I had heard, but not from himself, to the effect that Mr. Rhodes had asked him: ‘Why does not Mr. Theodore Bent say that the Zimbabwe ruins are Phoenician?’ Acton replied: ‘Because he is not quite sure that they are.’ ‘Ah!’ said the other, ‘that is not the way that Empires are founded.’” [Sir Mountstuart E. Grant Duff, ‘Notes from a Diary, 1896 to January 23, 1901’; vol. 1, p.185. London, John Murray, 1905]
Unmissable (if you can access it) – this 1958 episode of the BBC archaeology series ‘Buried Treasure’, in which Sir Mortimer Wheeler scrambles over the site of Great Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). The 1891 explorer of this still-astonishing monument, Theodore Bent, is unfairly (only for this blog, of course) dismissed in Wheeler’s exposé as a ‘gullible antiquary’: Bent was paid to give some sort of explanation, and he did. ‘No ancient site in the world’, mutters Wheeler lugubriously through his pipe, ‘unless maybe for the Pyramids and Stonehenge, is more clogged than Zimbabwe with sticky romance…’ Wheeler explores the awe-inspiring stone ruins in the controversial company of Roger Summers, then Chairman of the Southern Rhodesia Historical Monuments Commission. The title of the episode is unhelpful – King Solomon’s Mines – but the programme is a delight for the fabulous black and white filming, and the sight of Wheeler in shorts chasing hippopotami. For modern interpretations of the Great Zimbabwe site, you must, of course, look elsewhere.
(Mabel Bent’s Chronicle of the year spent in Southern Africa (1891) is available from Archaeopress, Oxford)