Corbelled Karoo

When the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, a laser-scanning project began to digitally preserve worldwide cultural heritage sites. It’s arrived at the corbelled houses of the Karoo

Words and Pictures: Steve Moseley

It was in the vast emptiness of Karoo scrublands on a sub-zero morning that I first met Bob and Herman. Standing motionless, they seemed unaffected by the icy wind, unlike the rest of us. I admired them from close up. They looked the same, wore matching colour combinations and had a similar mien but, to be honest, seemed somewhat lacking in personality.

Their only movement was a smooth turn of the head as they eyed the surroundings with a penetrating gaze. Neither said a word, but for a continuous hum emanating from somewhere inside them. They were, for all intents and purposes, identical twins. “We’ll just let them boot up and calibrate and we’re good to go,” said Carl Grossmann, chairman of the African Conservation Trust (ACT).

Bob and Herman are two high-tech laser scanners belonging to the University of Kwazulu-Natal, and named after two late professors of the institution. Carl and his team were using them to scan some of the unique beehive-shaped corbelled houses that only occur in remote locations around Loxton, Carnarvon, Williston and Fraserburg. Constructed entirely of flat stones, these buildings were the homes of farming pioneers who ventured into this treeless area during the 1800s.

The story continues in the January 2015 edition of Country Life. Below is a selection of the most impressive images Steve Moseley included in his tale.

The corbelled houses of the Karoo form an important part of the history of the region. This one at Lanklaasleegte outside Williston has wagons similar to those that would have transported pioneers to the area.
The corbelled houses at Stuurmansfontein in the Carnarvon district are well-preserved examples and show how, as the family grew, the home developed from a single dome to two domes and, later, had more modern additions as traditional building materials became available.
The interior of the corbelled house at Carnarvon Museum preserves some of the meagre belongings used by pioneers in their everyday life.
The interior of the corbelled house at Carnarvon Museum preserves some of the meagre belongings used by pioneers in their everyday life.
The corbelled houses of the Karoo form an important part of the history of the region. This one at Lanklaasleegte outside Williston has wagons similar to those that would have transported pioneers to the area.
The corbelled houses of the Karoo form an important part of the history of the region. This one at Lanklaasleegte outside Williston has wagons
similar to those that would have transported pioneers to the area.
One of the scanners doing its thing from what is known in the industry as a scan station. The scanner will be moved to at least ten scan stations inside and around the corbelled house to cover every millimetre of the building, so a comprehensive image can be produced.
One of the scanners doing its thing from what is known in the industry as a scan station. The scanner will be moved to at least ten scan stations inside and around the corbelled house to cover every millimetre of the building, so a comprehensive image can be produced.

 

 

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