Kweneng, a city just 50km south of Johannesburg where thousands of people lived between the 16th century and the early 1800s, shows how technology can shine a light on the past, and what it has revealed has made me wonder about the present. At a recent lecture at the Origins Centre, Karim Sadr, a professor of geography, archaeology and environmental studies at Wits University, explained how the extent of Kweneng emerged through the use initially of Google Earth satellite images and then laser technology, known as light detection and ranging (LiDAR), fitted to a plane that flew over the 10km-long and 2km-wide site. Although work had been done on the site from the 1960s, and information on ancient stone walls had been in print since the 1830s, the dots had not been connected until Sadr's team took a closer look. Sadr says Google satellite imagery "showed an unusual density of sites" on the western foothills, so LiDAR coverage was obtained. It showed there were twice as many ruins than...

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