4 million years ago:
Estimated dates of hominid communities established in southern and east Africa. These man-apes would have been no bigger than a ten-year-old child.
750 000 years ago:
Homo erectus hunts the savannahs of southern Africa.
50 000 years ago:
Homo sapiens takes the stage, ancestors of the San (Bushmen) and modern man.
8000 years ago:
Earliest known examples of San cave paintings although none survive today. Present day Zimbabwe has the most concentrated collection of rock art in the world.
Migration of Negro and Hamitic (Bantu) peoples south ahead of the spreading Sahara.
Arab traders arrive in East Africa. Gradually, they spread further south establishing a major trading post at Sofala on the Mozambique coast.
Earliest archaeological evidence of occupation at the site of Great Zimbabwe. The Gokomere people were spread throughout the Eastern Highlands, south into the Transvaal and as far as northeast Botswana.
Early Shona arrivals. The Karanga from the North install vassal states as they move south. Their impetus ceases south of the Limpopo where they subdue the local tribes and set up a relatively peaceful, monotheistic society which flourishes. The San are relegated to slave status.
The ruins of Great Zimbabwe, originally built as a shrine to the god Mwari, testify to a golden age of the Shona kingdom. Its rulers are god-kings with the absolute power of life and death.
A successful coup by Mwene Mutapa (Great Plunderer) ensures that his heirs inherit the title which is today remembered as Monomotapa. His son, Mutape, moves the capital to Fura Mountain near Mazowe. Trade with the Arabs in ivory, rhino horn and gold gives rise to an empire which controls the whole area from the Limpopo to the Zambezi.
Another coup, this time by Changa, a slave son of Mutape's who overthrows his legitimate successor with the help of Arab traders.
The son of the rightful heir regains control but the kingdom is split between the Mwene Mutapa at Fura and the Changamire at Zimbabwe.
Seventeen years after Vasco Da Gama successfully rounded the Cape of Good Hope and weighed anchor on the east African coast, Antonio Fernandez is the first European to document the lie of the land in the interior. He declares it fit for European habitation.