Archaeologists use laser technology to discover lost ancient city in South Africa

Archaeology Pixabay

There are many ancient cities, such as Machu Picchu, Caral, Calakmul, Göbekli Tepe, Harappa and Mahenjo-daro which were found by the researchers during excavation programs. Recently archaeologists from the University of Witwatersrand have unearthed another lost city in South Africa that is known as Kweneng by using laser technology.

This team of archaeologists have been studying the discovery site, located in the Suikerbosrand National Park, for decades. But, when they used the new laser technology, known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), which has become available in recent years, the researchers were able to study the remains in details from above and finally came to know that what they thought was only a scattering of ancient stone huts, actually turned out to be an ancient city of South Africa.

This technology allows the lasers to measure the distance to earth's surface and it is useful in those survey areas where the ground is quite thicker.

As reported by Africanews, 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 the pre-colonial history of Southern Africa has no written record, so now we starting to fill in the gaps using this LiDAR technology."

As per Professor Karim Sadr, who has been exploring the area for 30 years, said that since the vegetation was too thick, he recommended a LiDAR aerial survey to get a better inside view.

In addition, Prof Sadr, from the School of Geography, Archaeology, and Environmental Studies at the University of Witwatersrand "Scanning machine that sends out laser light and basically bombards the landscape, I mean billions and billions of pulses of laser lights something like four or five hundred per square meter, just all time coming out, and as soon as each pulse hits an object, any solid object, a bird or a leaf or a tree or the ground, it reflects straight back to the machine and then the machine can figure it out where that interception took place in three dimensions."

"So when the plane collects all of this data, masses of it, and it comes down to the ground, download the data, then they can project that data," he further added.

Recent studies also revealed that the ancient lost city, Kweneng had spanned about 20 square kilometres and was in its prime during 15th to 19th century. The researchers believe that this city was destroyed due to civil conflict.

After conducting further exploration by the new technology, LiDAR, allowed the researchers to create digital images of the 800 homesteads and other structures. The laser technology also estimated that this city once had a population of 10,000 Tswana-speaking people.

Witness Mudzamatira, one of the researchers said, "If you create a game and kids can play around with the context of knowing that is the heritage and having a sense of what has been there and the sort of the housing structure and architecture which was there."

"One of the most enlightening things is, as I've been able to understand what we were doing in our past you know, it gives us broader idea of the people of southern Africa who they were and the types of activities that they did because you can now rediscover that activity line and just general interaction within the society," Sixwanha added.

This article was first published on January 30, 2019
Related topics : Archaeology