The African cultural heritage and
landscape database


The Zamani project captures the spatial domain of tangible heritage by accurately recording dimensions, shapes and positions of its physical manifestations in the form of monuments, architectural structures and rock shelters. The current focus of the project is on Africa, but sites in the Middle East and South-East Asia have also been documented by the group. Sites are seen in the context of their physical environment, and, wherever possible, the topography of landscapes surrounding the documented sites is mapped based on satellite images and aerial photography. The documentation project was initiated to increase international awareness of Africa’s heritage and to provide material for research and education while, at the same time, creating a permanent metrically accurate record of important sites for restoration and conservation purposes. Data generated by the project have been, and are currently , used for conservation interventions in a number of sites.

The CITY HALL in Cape Town (South Africa) in 3D.

The City Hall building in Cape Town (South Africa) was documented with over 1300 laser-scans. The animation of the 3D model of the City Hall in shows real life texture and true scale. The documentation period was 2017-2018.
Animation of the 3D model of the City Hall in Cape Town, South Africa

3D model of the Nelson Mandela statue

The life-size Nelson Mandela statue in front of the Cape Town City Hall was installed in 2018. The Zamani team documented it in 3D shortly after it was revealed. Very high detailed texture was applied to this 3D model of Madiba.

3D model of House 4 in Kua

House 4 in Kua, Juani Island, Tanzania, was documented in association with the WMF in 2018.

3D model of Mosque 2 and surrounds in Kua

Mosque 2 and surrounds at Kua, Juani Island, Tanzania. Surveyed and modeled in association with the WMF in 2018.

Documenting cultural heritage in BAGAN (Myanmar)

Have a look at the latest documentation of cultural heritage in Bagan (Myanmar). The animation of the 3D model of the Kubyauk-gyi Temple in Bagan shows real-life texture and true scale. The Zamani team has documented 11 Monuments in Bagan. The documentation period was 2017-2018.
Animation of the 3D model of Kubyauk-gyi Temple in Bagan, Myanmar


In conjunction with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database Project at Emory University, the Zamani Project has documented some of the Forts and Castles, which were associated in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.


The Zamani Project has documented Swahili sites along the East African Coast. The team has processed the data into a story map with each site's location and archaeological information.


The Zamani Project digitally captures spatial data of African heritage sites using laser scanning and GPS technology, photogrammetry, 3D modeling software, Geographic Information Systems and animation software. With these tools, the Zamani team produces 3D models, sections, plans, elevations, panoramas, panorama tours, animations, and interactive virtual worlds that accurately capture the dimensions and architectural intricacies of the site’s physical structures and surrounding topography.


The project is based on state-of-the art data acquisition and presentation technology which are used to generate Geographic Information Systems, 3D computer models and other spatial data. The data are captured during, often complex and difficult, field campaigns. The team has completed documentation work in Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Algeria, and South Africa as well as in Abu Dhabi, Jordan and Myanmar. Further documentation work is planned for other sites in Africa. The heritage collection is conceptualised as an integrated and interactive model, in which contextual data are closely linked to spatial data. It is the vision of the project that the Zamani Project is not only used as an information source to support education and research but that the spatial data of the sites form the basis for the acquisition of additional site information and contribute to site management. Many of our sites are inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


The Zamani Project was initiated in 2004 in the Geomatics Division of the University of Cape Town by Prof. Heinz Ruther, and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation from 2004 until 2012. The project is not-for-profit and the operating costs are presently funded through the independent “Zamani African Cultural Heritage Sites Trust", which was established by the Philanthropist and UCT Alumni Duncan Saville. Funds for field work on individual sites have to be found on an ad hoc basis. UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund, the Getty Conservation Institute, the German Archaeological Institute, the Gerda Henkel Foundation as well as individual researchers and academics have provided funds for a number of projects. Support is also provided by the instrument manufacturer Z+F (Zoller und Froehlich). Financial support for the Zamani Project is needed and any contribution towards the project is greatly appreciated. The Zamani group comprising of three Scientific Officers under the leadership of the Principal Investigator Heinz Ruther. Occasionally international interns join the team at the University of Cape Town. The spatial data acquired by the Zamani group available on request provided the use is for research and/or education or, on special permission, for restoration and conservation projects.


By creating metrically accurate digital representations of African historical sites, the Zamani Project seeks to provide data for research and education, for restoration and conservation and to increase awareness of tangible cultural heritage in Africa and internationally. Through the documentation of heritage sites the Zamani project aims to make a contribution to the fight against the damage and destruction of sites through war, political unrest, vandalism, art theft, climate change, sea level rising, natural disasters and natural deterioration.


The Zamani Project grew out of years of heritage documentation activities by UCT Emeritus Professor of Geomatics Heinz Rüther, who currently leads the Zamani Project as Principal Investigator. The team now operates out of the Division of Geomatics at UCT, consisting of four Scientific Officers, Ralph Schroeder, Stephen Wessels, Roshan Bhurtha and Bruce McDonald, and occasional interns. Collaborators and associated team members are Christoph Held and Prof. Werner Stempfhuber. Mr Held was one of the first Zamani team members and is now employed by Z+F as Applications Engineer. Prof Stempfhuber is a Professor at the Beuth University Berlin. Both Christoph Held and Prof. Werner Stempfhuber participate in field campaigns.

Principal Investigator,
Emeritus Professor of Geomatics at the
University of Cape Town
Chief Scientific Officer,
Surveyor, MSc
Chief Scientific Officer,
Electronic Engineer
Chief Scientific Officer,
Surveyor, MSc
Chief Scientific Officer,
Land Surveyor
Associated Zamani member; Application
Engineer at the Zoller + Frohlich laser
scanning company
Associated Zamani member; Professor
at the Beuth University Berlin