The Lost City of the Kalahari


For more than a century in western circles, rumours have abounded as to the existence of a massive city, covered by the sands of the Kalahari. The Kalahari has a total extent of about 850,000 square kilometres (350 000 square miles), most of it falling within Botswana. The word Kalahari is said to come from a local word meaning “dry, waterless place”, that is, a desert.

The rumours all started in the late 1800's from a man by the name of Gilarmi Farini, who visited the Kalahari in 1895 to lo
ok for diamonds. He set off in early February from Cape Town with his son Lulu and an entourage and returned six months later claiming to have found A Lost City of the Kalahari, one of many found in Bushman legends. The Bushman apparently claim that there are many cities in the Kalahari area that were never inhabited because of a terrible drought. The cities were in the process of being built when abandoned. 
Farini's son sketched and photographed the remains of the city, and Far
ini published a book, Through the Kalahari Desert, on his return to London. He also addressed the Royal Geographical Society and the Berlin Geographical Society.  He even staged a Lost City exhibition.
Farini described the city as one of colossal proportions made from massive stones stacked on top of each other. The city was laid out in an arc and resembled the Great Wall of China after an earthquake. Part of the city was exposed and part hidden under the sand. Digging away some of the sand exposed a pavement six metres wide with the longer stones laid at right angles to the
path. Intersecting the pavement at right angles was another pavement, making a type of cross.

There were no inscriptions or markings to be found anywhere, and Farini estimated the ruins to be thousands of years old. He was inspired to write a poem
about it.

A half-buried ruin—a huge wreck of stones 

On a lone and desolate spot;

A temple—or tomb for human bones 

Left by man to decay and rot.

Rude sculpted blocks from the red sand project, 

And shapeless uncouth stones appear, 

Some great man’s ashes designed to protect, 

Buried many a thousand year.

A relic, maybe, of a glorious past,

A city once grand and sublime, 

Destroyed by earthquake, defaced by the blast, 

Swept away by the hand of time.

He was definitely a better explorer than poet!

So does the Lost City really exist?

Good question.

A word about Farini at this point. He was an American whose real name was William Hunt, born in New York. He became famous for his tightrope walk across Niagara Falls.  He changed his name to Gilarmi A. Farini and was a performer at Coney Island under the name Farini the Great. He also put on shows in London, one of the most successful being African Pygmies, which included six live Bushman.  From them he learned of the Kalahari and also of the Bushman myth that told of great wealth of diamonds.

Since Farini, there have been about thirty expeditions to find the Lost City, but none have been successful. Of most interest is one mounted in 1964 by Prof. A. J. Clement, his 77 year-old father, a jour
nalist, and a photographer. At the town of Rietfontein they were shown an extremely unusual “rock formation” known as the Eggshell Hills.  “The unmistakable outline of a large, oval-shaped amphitheatre, perhaps a third of a mile in length, was the predominant feature. In numerous places there
was striking resemblance to a double wall built from large, glistening black rocks, and it was obvious that many of the individual boulders could easily be confused with square building blocks," Clement wrote later in his book The Kalahari and its lost city.
A geologist who saw photographs of the site suggested that the “ruins” were the product of the weathering of dolerite. Magma intrusions had forced their way in the form of sills along
the bedding planes of sediments (some 180-190 million years ago) forming the level planes or flat sheets of rock found at the site. As the magma cooled, it formed cracks and splits, making it seem as if the rock had been carefully cut and dressed, with pieces stacked up on top of each other.  
Clement concludes his book by saying, “Like all legends, that of the Lost City wil
l be a long time a-dying, and doubtless there will still be some who are disinclined to let the matter rest in spite of all the contrary evidence. And possibly this is just as well, for there is something rather sad about the destruction of a legend.”

Clearly Clement was convinced that Farini’s city was a natural formation and not a Lost City. 

As the writer of an UNMYST3 blog wrote: "However, the rocks are all neatly squa
red and the lines of “masonry” are parallel and at right angles. Some igneous formations such as basalt do indeed crystallize in regular patterns, but not like the dolerite rocks at Rietfontein. The final proof is Clement’s own photo of one of the massive blocks with a series of four parallel, horizontal grooves on it. Was it an ancient city? Was it natural? Was this what Farini had found? There seemed no clear answer to any of these questions."