The lost 15th-century city in South Africa that was found near Johannesburg in 2018

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson January 24, 2019

The lost city of Kweneng was rediscovered in October 2018, 50 kilometres away from South Africa’s largest urban city, Johannesburg, which is also one of the world’s largest urban areas.

Prior to its discovery, the history of South Africa indicated that despite the existence of indigenous people who occupied several settlements and flourishing kingdoms, the area which is now Johannesburg was uninhabited until the 19th century after the discovery of gold in the area in and the establishment of the city by European traders in 1886.

The lost 15th-century city in South Africa that was found near Johannesburg in 2018
A laser image of Kweneng overlaid on a map of the area.
Photo: University of Witwatersrand

According to the BBC, the lost city of Kweneng was rediscovered through laser technology by an Archeology professor and his students in March 2018 to prove the existence of indigenous settlements before the proposed facts about westerners developing the urban city and areas close to it. The discovery of this city questions th general history of life not existing in Johannesburg and its suroounings until Western settlement.

According to several readings, the city of Kweneng existed some 500 years ago and established in the 15th century existing between 1400 AD to about 1818 AD when it collapsed. The city was largely inhabited by the Tswana ethnic group, a Bantu speaking group found in South Africa and parts of Botswana. The city is said to have been home to more than 10,000 people.

Ruled under a monarchical system, the Tswana people developed their city through their rich agriculture and trading in gold and iron that they got from the nearby area of what is now Johannesburg. By the early 1800s, some traders from Kweneng had extended their homes into Johannesburg to have more dominace over trade.

Kweneng is identified as a city due to its strategic building styles and the existence of three separated neighbourhoods and two large stone walled enclosures that were for cattle. It also hosted several separated households as against the usual compound households that existed, a huge meeting place and a thriving market for their successful trading.

The lost 15th-century city in South Africa that was found near Johannesburg in 2018
Tswala Boys 

According to an article on Guardian, Professor Karim Sadr explained that the city was very urban because: “There were four or five levels of local government, probably with regiments organised by age that could be called up for civic work or war. They buried their important dead under the walls of the central cattle enclosures but there was a very strong egalitarian tradition and the king went out of his way to not stand out.”

The Tswana people traded with other thriving kingdoms in Southern Africa and extended their trade in iron in West Africa, Central Africa ,Asia and the Middle East.

As research is still ongoing, no exact date has been given to when the city finally collapsed however, the city began to see its last days in the early 1800s when the Westerners had fully established themselves in Africa.

Trading for the Tswana people began to collapse as barriers were placed between Western, Central and Southern Africa making it difficult for traders to commute as easily as they used to. In addition, the British began to claim ownership of several lands in Southern Africa driving away several indigenous people into the inner and less fertile lands and destroying several kingdoms.

The lost 15th-century city in South Africa that was found near Johannesburg in 2018
Lost city of Kweneng

The involvement of the British in local affairs also created great tension between the people birthing disputes and wars. According to research, it is believed that the city was finally destroyed by a deliberate fire and was abandoned by residents who escaped into the inner lands of South Africa.

The discovery of this lost city authenticates the several oral stories that have existed in oral history around it and the claim by the indigenous people for the lands that were taken away from them.

Before its discovery, the only other place with the same name is the district of Kweneng in Botswana largely inhabited by the Bakwana people who form part of the Tswana tribe.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: January 25, 2019


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