Lost Kingdoms of Africa

Home to nearly a billion people, Africa has an incredible diversity of communities and cultures, yet we know little of its past. But researchers and archaeologists are uncovering a range of histories as impressive and extraordinary as anywhere else in the world. Art historian Gus Casely-Hayford explores the pre-colonial history of some of the continent's most important kingdoms.

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  • Bunyoro and Buganda
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    April 2, 2012

    For centuries, the interior of East Africa was unknown to the outside world. That changed in the 1860s, thanks to a geographical puzzle that had obsessed Europeans for decades. Adventurers were desperate to claim the glory that went with the discovery of one particular place: the source of the River Nile.

  • The Kingdom of Asante
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    March 26, 2012

    Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford travels to Ghana in West Africa, where a powerful kingdom once dominated the region. The Kingdom of Asante was built on gold and slaves, which ensured its important place in an economy that linked three continents. Casely-Hayford reveals how this sophisticated kingdom emerged from the unlikely environment of dense tropical forest, and how it was held together by a shared sense of tradition and history - one deliberately moulded by the kingdom's rulers.

  • The Berber Kingdom
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    March 19, 2012

    It's easy to think of Islamic North Africa as Arab, rather than African. But the land that is now Morocco once lay at the centre of a vast African Kingdom that stretched from northern Spain to the heart of West Africa. It was created by African Berbers, and ruled for centuries by two dynasties that created tremendous wealth, commissioned fabulous architecture, and promoted sophisticated ideas. But art historian Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford reveals how the very forces that forged the kingdom ultimately helped to destroy its indigenous African identity.

  • The Zulu Kingdom
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    March 12, 2012

    Art historian Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford travels to South Africa to explore the history of one of Africa's most famous kingdoms. Visiting some of the most evocative sites in Zulu history, he examines the origins of the Zulu in the 17th century, their expansion under controversial military leader King Shaka, and their brutal encounters with the Boers and the British. He also searches for the secrets behind the Zulus' cultural power and legendary military strength - and why Zulu identity continues to endure.

  • Lost Kingdoms of Africa - West Africa
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    March 29, 2010

    When magnificent 16th-century bronze casts were discovered in Benin in 1897, many could not believe they had been made by Africans. It was thought West Africa lacked the technical development required to make them. Dr. Casely-Hayford travels to present-day Nigeria and Mali in search of the truth, exploring what the bronzes mean, how the technology to make them developed and what it reveals about the lost kingdoms of West Africa.

  • Great Zimbabwe
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    March 22, 2010

    In 1871, European explorers stumbled across an astonishing ruined city, deep in the African interior. Great Zimbabwe has been a source of fascination and controversy ever since, a symbol of African genius and a fascinating insight into the empires that once dominated southern Africa. Gus Casely-Hayford goes in search of the roots of this immense kingdom. He traces the trade in gold and precious goods that sustained it and uncovers the kingdoms that grew up around it.

  • Ethiopia
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    March 15, 2010

    When Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by the Ethiopian military in 1974, an ancient kingdom came to an end. According to tradition, the imperial dynasty stretched back virtually unbroken for 3,000 years, with its origins linked to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The legitimacy of Haile Selassie and the foundations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church rested on this claim, but was it true? Gus Casely-Hayford searches for the evidence and discovers why faith in the legend has lasted for centuries.

  • Lost Kingdoms of Africa - Nubia
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    March 8, 2010

    The Kushite Kingdoms (Nubia) (3000 BCE - 4th C CE) -Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford's quest will be to reveal what was happening upriver of the area that would become known as Ancient Egypt, on the border between an Arab culture and that of Black Africa. Travelling across some of the most hostile terrain on the planet, he will learn about the Kushite kingdoms on the Nile, and how these Nubian kings grew so powerful that they defeated and ruled Egypt for generations.