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Archaeologists Discover a Massive ‘Lost Metropolis’ in South Africa

Archaeologists from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa have been studying a site within the Suikerbosrand National Park ever since artifacts were discovered in the 1960s and ‘70s which suggest a lost human civilization once lived there. Thanks to developments in LiDAR technology which enables researchers to essentially ‘see’ underground, the archaeologists now say they’ve discovered the ruins of a sprawling metropolis lost to the ravages of time. What secrets might lie among this lost city?

Kweneng

Artist rendering of the long-lost Tswana city of Kweneng.

The ruins are believed to be evidence of Kweneng, a long-rumored city which was inhabited by no less than 10,000 members of Bantu-speaking tribes which migrated into the area around 900 AD. Little is known about the ancient history of these tribes, but the ruins of Kweneng may change that. Fern Imbali Sixwanha, a PhD candidate working at the site, says that the ruins of Kweneng could potentially rewrite the history of the region:

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 more 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.

The ruins span around 20 square kilometers or 8 square miles and appear to show that Kweneng was once a prosperous and bustling city. Researchers have found numerous pairs of parallel rock walls which they believe shows Kweneng boasted a sophisticated network of passageways, some designed specifically for moving cattle in and out of the city. In the center of the ruins is a large enclosure estimated to be 10,000 square meters (108,000 square feet), and its purpose currently remains unknown.

The Kweneng District today

The Kweneng District of Botswana today

With every discovery of a new lost city comes more and more evidence that there could be entire chapters of human history we’ve yet to uncover. Is the idea of an Atlantis or El Dorado so far fetched when we’re finding new lost cities all the time? Who knows what LiDAR will enable us to find?

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Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.
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