A fascinating look into past kingdoms that you would hardly believe existed; a real visual treat.
Label: Acorn Media
Time: 217 Minutes on 2 Discs
Rated: Exempt from classification
Format: PAL; Aspect ratio 16:9; Region unstated.
Sometimes it seems that we have seen everything on screen that this planet has to offer, from Venezuelan waterfalls to Arctic wastes, which is one reason that this mini-series is such a welcome exploration and a joy to watch.
It takes us to parts of Africa that are hardly ever seen. The title encapsulates the project well: each of these episodes, which last almost an hour, delves into the history of an ancient African kingdom. Blowing away desert sands, they give hints of how green and fertile Africa once was, and how immensely rich some areas have been. Each has some dramatic landscapes. This series is full of surprises and Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford presents these discoveries – some from recent archaeology – with delight radiating from his face.
Nubia. The opening episode reveals a land that once not only rivaled, but conquered Egypt; a lush land with great wealth, and one whose pyramids, though smaller than Egypt’s, still stand. It seems to have been lost to climate change. This episode also gives insight into the Old Testament land of Cush.
Ethiopia. Casely-Hayford asks whether the emperors of Ethiopia really descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, on the way discovering remarkable architecture, including Lallibella’s huge church that – like a massive sculpture – was dug out of solid rock. On its spectacular table setting, Debra Doma’s monastery is one of the oldest permanently occupied Christian communities in the world.
Great Zimbabwe. Revealing a gold-rich African kingdom and a city whose huge and amazing precision-fit stone walls still puzzle us today, the episode traces a trading route back to the Eastern coast and an island that grew rich on the commerce.
Benin: Covering land that is now Nigeria and Mali, the final episode traces the art and metalworking of the Benin Bronzes – now in the British Museum – back through history, showing how the displaced people kept their identities through wood and metal images. Again, there are remains of breathtaking rock-built settlements.
It is may be a lucky thing for us that this cultural heritage has been neglected for so long, as it makes discovering these civilisations a particularly fresh experience on these wonderful discs. Here are ancient kingdoms that still offer up treasures to discover today.