• Wits researchers have used laser technology to recreate a very old city near Johannesburg. 
  • The city was first established in the 15th century. 
  • Until now, most of the ruins remained hidden under vegetation and the site could only be imagined via ground level and aerial photos.

Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) have used laser technology to recreate an ancient city near Johannesburg.

In an article published on The Conversation professor Karim Sadr, explained the technology - called LiDAR - is being used all over the world to find lost cities.

His team was able to able to “redraw” the remains of a southern African city that was occupied from the 15th century until about 200 years ago.

The ruins can be found along the lower western slopes of the Suikerbosrand hills, near the town of Heidelberg outside Johannesburg.

“They reveal several large settlements occupied by Tswana-speakers that dotted the northern parts of South Africa for generations before the first European travellers encountered them in the early years of the nineteenth century,” wrote Sadr.

LiDAR, was used to “redraw” the remains of the city, along the lower western slopes of the Suikerbosrand hills near Johannesburg. Karim Sadr/The Conversation

Until now, most of the ruins remained hidden under vegetation, and the site could only be imagined via ground level and aerial photos.

LiDAR, which uses laser light, can create images of the landscape and virtually strip away the vegetation. The city has been named SKBR for now and the researchers hope an appropriate Tswana name can eventually be adopted.

Sadr believes 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.

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