Researchers are in a race against time to preserve a forgotten history of SA. Almost 200 years ago, the wounds on the landscape were still fresh: often blackened husks of villages and homes were all that remained of the tribes and people who populated the Highveld. Civil war had been raging through the land that became SA. The mfecane — an Nguni word meaning "the scattering" which took place in the early 19th century — decimated the peoples of what is now Gauteng, mainly Tswana and Sotho speakers, forcing them to flee or die. The scars of this history and these societies remain on the face of modern SA in the ruins of their kraals and homesteads that still dot the countryside. Using satellite technologies, researchers are rebuilding our knowledge of the political, economic and social systems of the Sotho and Tswana ancestors who used to live in this part of Southern Africa. They are in a race against time, trying to preserve ruins before they are swallowed up by urban growth and the...

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