The area surrounding Johannesburg was originally occupied by San tribes. By the 13th century, groups of Bantu-speaking people began moving southwards from central Africa and moved in on the growing San population. By the 18th century, the broader area was densely settled by a lot of different Sotho-Tswana communities, which was one of the many branches of Bantu-speakers. The villages, towns, chiefdoms and kingdoms extended from what is now Botswana in the west, to present day Lesotho in the south, to the present day Pedi areas of the northern Transvaal.
The stone-walled ruins of Soto-Tswana towns and villages are located around various parts of the former Transvaal in which Johannesburg is located. The Sotho-Tswana farmed, raised cattle, sheep, and goats, and mined and smelted copper, iron and tin. As the early 1960s until he approached his retirement, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Revil Mason, researched and recorded many Late Iron Age archaeological sites around the Johannesburg area. As far back as the 12th century and the 18th century, a lot of these sites contained the destroyed remains of Sotho-Tswana mines and iron smelting furnaces. This suggested that the area was being used for its mineral wealth before the arrival of Europeans or the discovery of gold. The most notable site within Johannesburg is Melville Koopies, which contains an iron smelting furnace.
A number Sotho-Tswana towns and villages in the areas around Johannesburg were ruined. During the late 18th and early 19th century, the people of the Sotho-Tswana villages and towns were driven out during the Zululand mfecane and difaqane wars, which resulting in an offshoot of the Zulu Kingdom, the Ndebele. The Ndebele, which are referred to as the Matelbele by the Sotho Twsana people, set up their kingdom northwest of Johannesburg around the modern day area of Hartebeestpoort and Rustenburg. According to historians, the Johannesburg area was dominated by the Matebele.
The Dutch speaking Voortrekkers reached their destination in the early 19th century. Driving away the Matebele with the help of Soto-Tswana allies setting up settlements near Rustenburg and Pretoria in the early 1830s and demanding sovereignty over what would become Johannesburg as part of South Africa Republic, which was known informally as the Transvaal Republic. In the 1880s, gold was discovered, starting the gold rush. In Barberton, 400 km to the east of present day Johannesburg, is gold was initially discovered. It was soon discovered that Witwatersrand had richer gold reefs. In 1886, gold was gound in Langlaate, Johannesburg.
Pretoria, the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) capital, was located 55 km from the dusty settlement of Johannesburg. The area was named after two surveyors hired by the ZAR, Johannes Meyer and Johannes Rissik. It was much like any small mining settlement. As word got out, though, people came to the area from all other parts of the country, as well as from North America, the United Kingdom and Europe. In the late 19th century, mining towns like Johannesburg were rough and disorganized. It was populated by white miners from other areas. African tribesmen were hired to perform unskilled mine work. African women made beer and cooked for the migrant workers. There was a very large number of European prostitutes, gangsters, impoverished Afrkaners tradesmen, and Zulu "Amawasha," Zulu men, who happily did laundry work. When the value of the land increased, tensions developed between the Boer government in Pretoria and the British, causing the Jameson Raid. It ended in a complete failure at Doornkop in January of 1896. The Second Boer War, 1899-1902, saw that the British Forces under the command of Lord Roberts took over the city on May 30, 1900 after a series of wars to the south of Johannesburg.
Riots took place at the Gatsrand Pass, located near Zakarivya Park, on May 27. Located north of Vanwyksrust, or today's Nancefield, Eldorado Park and Naturena, the following day there was a mass infantry attack on what is now the Waterworks Ridge in Ohiawelo and Senaoane on May 29.
A dispute surrounds the origin of the name, as there was a large amount of people with the name "Johannes" who were involved in the early history of the city. The most important people attached to the office of the surveyor-general, Johannes Rissik, Christian Johannes Joubert, member of the Volksraad and the Republic's boss of mining. Paul Kruger, President of the South Africa Republic (ZAR). Rissik and Joubert were the representatives sent to England to come in to possession of mining rights for the area. There is a park with Jouberts name on it in the city. The post office and City Hall, which were historically important, but are now dilapidated, sunce burning out, are on the main street named after Rissik. There were 83,363 whites in 1904 with the population of 155,642.
Major construction developments were taking place in the 1930s, after South Africa went off the gold standard. Hillbrow was built as a high-rise in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In the 1950s and early 1960s the segregated government built the massive amount of suburban housing in the township that became known as Soweto, South Western Townships. New freeways helped massive suburban sprawl to the north of the city. In the late 1960s and 1970s the large structures, including the Carlton Centre and the Southern Life Centre, could be seen in the skyline of the central business district. The main area of the city fell apart in the 1980s and 1990s due to crime and when the city council decided to spend large amounts of money on suburban shopping malls, relocating office parks, and entertainment centers. There were three major things that opened up from 1973 to 1979, Sandton City, Rosebank Mall, and Eastgate.
During the riots of May 12, 2008 in the township of Alexandra, in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg, the local's brutally beat migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others. These riots sparked the unduly attacks of 2008.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup final was hosted by Soccer City, located in Johannesburg.