Did The Lost City Of The Kalahari Actually Exist?

The Kalahari Desert in the middle of southern Africa is mostly devoid of water and reaches temperatures of 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, according to Britannica. What civilization exists there is limited by water availability and largely scattered, occupied mostly by Bantu speakers in small villages or San people who traditionally existed as hunter-gatherers. But despite conditions that make the development of a city unlikely, in 1885, the eccentric Canadian explorer William Leonard Hunt — writing under the name Guillermo Farini, or "The Great Farini" — claimed to find evidence of a great lost kingdom in the heart of the desert (via Mental Floss).

Explorers — including Elon Musk's grandparents, who made several expeditions to the area (via CNBC) — have since attempted to locate this great city, to no real avail. Some experts believe that the "ruins" that Farini saw were actually rock formations; others think he made up the entire tale.

The expedition of The Great Farini

In "Through the Kalahari Desert," Guillermo Farini's book about his travels through Kalahari with a "gun, camera, and note-book," he describes the lost city in a poem reminiscent of Percy Bysshe Shelley: "A relic, may be, 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 describes ruins near a mountain, with "a long line of stone that looked like the Chinese Wall after an earthquake, and which, on examination, proved to be the ruins of quite an extensive structure." Farini finds this structure runs nearly a mile long, and it doesn't appear to be of natural origin — in his account, he sees cement between the rocks. When his team digs sand out from the base of the wall, they find what looks like a small plaza with a Maltese cross in the middle. However, his team didn't find any inscriptions or hieroglyphics that could identify the culture of the city.

Subsequent explanations

Guillermo Farini's scant description of this "great city" covers just a few pages, but it has fascinated adventurers and archeologists ever since. At least 30 exploratory expeditions have been made to locate the city since Farini's discovery, but no one has located ruins exactly like he described, according to Scientific Mystery.

However, in the 1960s, a scientist named A.J. Clement attempted to recreate Farini's travels and found what he believed to be a likely candidate for Farini's "lost city." His paper tracing the journey, published in the May 1965 edition of the South African Journal of Science, concludes that the "line of stone" Farini saw was an unusual rock formation near the town of Rietfontein in northern South Africa, near the border of Namibia. This formation had stones "encrusted with a mortar-like substance," consistent with Farini's claims of cement. But in fact, the structure was likely a natural formation from a weathering event 180 to 190 million years ago, Clement concluded.