Lost City in South Africa Discovered Hiding Beneath Thick Vegetation
Experts have brought back to life a forgotten city dating back to the 1400s buried underneath the South African landscape.
Just south of Johannesburg, researchers discovered the remains of the settlement known as Kweneng using Lidar, a combination of ‘light’ and ‘radar’ technologies.
The ruins of Kweneng are one of many large villages inhabited by Tswana-speakers that for centuries have dotted the northern parts of South Africa.
In the 1820s all these Tswana city states collapsed in what became known as the Difaqane civil wars.
After this time, the ruins were overgrown with vegetation until, in 2018, experts used laser technology to rediscover the lost Kweneng settlement.
Experts say that the evidence they gathered suggests that Kweneng was large enough to be called a city.
By comparison, the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur was less than 1.2 miles (2km) in diameter while Kweneng is nearly 6.2 miles (10km) long and about 1.2 miles (2km) wide.
They believe the city was made up of between 750 and 850 homesteads, with each housing an extended family with a male head of the household, along with one or more wives and their children.
While by today’s standards the settlement may seem fairly modest in size, researchers believe it may have been home to up to 10,000 residents at its peak.
Detailed mapping was completed last year by students at the University of the Witwatersrand. An ex-student then turned them into a stunning 3D reconstruction.
Work has been underway for decades to understand more about the settlement using aerial imagery, but the thick foliage obscured what little detail was visible from the ground and air.
Researchers have used Lidar to further penetrate the area and to recreate the abandoned settlement.
Lidar research was started in 2014. In 2016 it was revealed that the site was larger than previously thought and an organised settlement, as opposed to a collection of individual homesteads.
Lidar is also used in autonomous cars as it can provide real-time feedback on the shape of an object and how far away it is.
About the discovery, Fern Imbali Sixwanha, a PhD candidate who is part of the team studying Kweneng, told Africa News: ‘Lidar data is enabling us to do, actually to map and track what was happening in these towns, because there is no written record of them.
‘So we’re basically rediscovering and rediscovering the use, and what this means is filling a huge historical gap especially for Southern Africa, because you know pre-colonial history of Southern Africa has no written record, so now we starting to fill in the gaps using this Lidar technology.’
In the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists dug up ancient homesteads from Suikerbosrand near Johannesburg, but no one thought there was anything more than a smattering of villages.
This once illustrious area was occupied by people who spoke Tswana language, but their civilisation collapsed in the early 19th century due to civil war.
Karim Sadr, a professor at the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, told Fox News: ‘At the end of last year a fourth-year student completed a project on the detailed mapping of one of the stone-walled compounds and another ex-student has put together some interesting digital reconstruction of that compound.’