Wits archaeologists have found a 500-year old lost city in the South of Johannesburg by using specialised laser technology.


Archaeologists at Wits university have made a historic discovery by finding a long-lost city at the Suikerbosrand hills near Johannesburg. In an article shared on the Conversation, Professor Karim Sadr of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand discussed the process of finding the city.

He started off by stating that there are still many lost cities scattered around the world. They are found using laser technology. The laser lights helped find a lost Mayan city hidden by thick rainforests. The technology used to find the lost Mayan city was the very same used to find the lost city right here in Johannesburg.

It is currently estimated that the lost city was established during the 15th century and was used until about 200 years ago.  Archaeologists started excavating the site around 40 to 50 years ago but they didn’t know the extent of the settlement due to vegetation that had grown across the area.

“But LiDAR, which uses laser light, allowed my students and I to create images of the landscape and virtually strip away the vegetation. This permits unimpeded aerial views of the ancient buildings and monuments.” – Professor Karim Sadr

The city was given a generic scientific name, SKBR, for the duration of the project but Professor Sadr hopes that an adequate Tswana name will be given.

Many of these lost cities go missing from history as no written record exists of them and any oral history has died out over the decades.

“The evidence we gathered suggests that SKBR was certainly large enough to be called a city. The ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur was less than 2km in diameter while SKBR is nearly 10km long and about 2km wide.”

The ancient homesteads at Suikerbosrand are shown against an aerial photograph from 1961. The two rectangles show the footprint of the LiDAR imagery. Karim Sadr

Due to its size and cattle infrastructure, the team have guessed this area housed families of great wealth and social standing.

“It will take another decade or two of field work to fully understand the birth, development and ultimate demise of this African city. This will be done through additional coverage with LiDAR, intensive ground surveys as well as excavations in selected localities.”

Sources: The Conversation / BBC
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

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