Incredible video brings long-lost medieval city in South African back to life

A lost city dating back to the 1400s hidden underneath the South African landscape has been brought back to life by experts. 

Researchers found ruins of the settlement known as Kweneng just south of Johannesburg.  

The Kweneng ruins are one of several large settlements occupied by Tswana-speakers that dotted the northern parts of South Africa for generations.

In the 1820s all these Tswana city states collapsed in what became known as the Difeqane civil wars.

After this time, the ruins were overgrown with vegetation until, in 2018, experts used laser technology to rediscover the lost Kweneng settlement.

A lost city dating back to the 1400s hidden underneath the South African landscape has been brought back to life by experts. Kweneng was abandoned at the end of the 19th century and fell into ruin while being overcome by vegetation

A lost city dating back to the 1400s hidden underneath the South African landscape has been brought back to life by experts. Kweneng was abandoned at the end of the 19th century and fell into ruin while being overcome by vegetation

A lost city dating back to the 1400s hidden underneath the South African landscape has been brought back to life by experts. Kweneng was abandoned at the end of the 19th century and fell into ruin while being overcome by vegetation

Detailed mapping was completed last year by a student 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 provided little detail. 

Researchers have now used LIDAR to further penetrate the ground and recreated the abandoned settlement. 

The LIDAR was started in 2014 and it was revealed in 2016 the site was bigger than previously thought and an organised settlement opposed to various individual homesteads. 

According to African News, Fern Imbali Sixwanha, a PhD candidate who is part of the team studying Kweneng, said: ‘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.’

Detailed mapping was completed last year by a student at the University of the Witwatersrand and an ex-student then turned them into a stunning 3D reconstruction

Detailed mapping was completed last year by a student at the University of the Witwatersrand and an ex-student then turned them into a stunning 3D reconstruction

Detailed mapping was completed last year by a student at the University of the Witwatersrand and 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 provided little detail

Work has been underway for decades to understand more about the settlement using aerial imagery but the thick foliage provided little detail

Work has been underway for decades to understand more about the settlement using aerial imagery but the thick foliage provided little detail

The LIDAR study started in 2014 and it was revealed in 2016 the site was bigger than previously thought and an organised settlement opposed to various individual homesteads

The LIDAR study started in 2014 and it was revealed in 2016 the site was bigger than previously thought and an organised settlement opposed to various individual homesteads

The LIDAR study started in 2014 and it was revealed in 2016 the site was bigger than previously thought and an organised settlement opposed to various individual homesteads

In the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists dug up ancient homesteads from Suikerbosrand near Johannesburg, but no one thought it was anything more than a smattering of villages. This once illustrious place was occupied by people who spoke Tswana language but collapsed in the early 19th century due to civil war

In the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists dug up ancient homesteads from Suikerbosrand near Johannesburg, but no one thought it was anything more than a smattering of villages. This once illustrious place was occupied by people who spoke Tswana language but collapsed in the early 19th century due to civil war

In the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists dug up ancient homesteads from Suikerbosrand near Johannesburg, but no one thought it was anything more than a smattering of villages. This once illustrious place was occupied by people who spoke Tswana language but collapsed in the early 19th century due to civil war

Researchers have now used LIDAR to further penetrate the ground and recreated the abandoned settlement

Researchers have now used LIDAR to further penetrate the ground and recreated the abandoned settlement

Researchers have now used LIDAR to further penetrate the ground and recreated the abandoned settlement

Researchers found ruins of the settlement known as Kweneng just south of Johannesburg

Researchers found ruins of the settlement known as Kweneng just south of Johannesburg

Researchers found ruins of the settlement known as Kweneng just south of Johannesburg

LIDAR is also used in autonomous cars as it can be adapted to provide real-time feedback on shape and how far away an object is. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists dug up ancient homesteads from Suikerbosrand near Johannesburg, but no one thought it was anything more than a smattering of villages.

This once illustrious place was occupied by people who spoke Tswana language but 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,.’

WHAT IS LIDAR TECHNOLOGY AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Lidar is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by shooting a laser at a target and analysing the light that is reflected back.

The technology was developed in the early 1960s and uses laser imaging with radar technology that can calculate distances.

It was first used in meteorology to measure clouds by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The term lidar is a portmanteau of ‘light and ‘radar.’

Lidar uses ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light to image objects and can be used with a wide range of targets, including non-metallic objects, rocks, rain, chemical compounds, aerosols, clouds and even single molecules.

A narrow laser beam can be used to map physical features with very high resolution. 

This new technique allowed researchers to map outlines of what they describe as dozens of newly discovered Maya cities hidden under thick jungle foliage centuries after they were abandoned by their original inhabitants.

Aircraft with a LiDAR scanner produced three-dimensional maps of the surface by using light in the form of pulsed laser linked to a GPS system. 

The technology helped researchers discover sites much faster than using traditional archaeological methods. 

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