Good morning, today we will cover the second episode of the Lost Kingdoms of Africa series. Today Gus Casely-Hayford explores the lost kingdom of Ethiopia. In 1974, the Ethiopian military rose against the king and deposed him. It brought to an end one of the world’s longest dynasties. The Ethiopians remember their empire proudly. King Menelik II fought back against any attempts to invade it and make it a colony. Gus wants to go back to ancient times to try to find the secrets of the Ethiopian empire. What will he find? What made the Ethiopians so independent?
Gus is carrying a translated copy of the book called The Glory of Kings. He wants to discover the ancient history that is behind that book. It is the most important text of Ethiopian history. This book was written in the 13th Century and made some claims about the Ethiopian Empire. The dynasty began in 950 BC and that the first emperor was the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This claim gave the kingdom legitimacy, but is there any truth to it.
Gus speaks with the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. For the kingdom, the church and state were tied together. His Holiness Abune Paulos talks about the history of the Ethiopian church. The Ethiopian kingdom is tied into the Judea-Christian tradition. The Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia from Jerusalem. Menelik I brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia. If this is true, it ties the Ethiopian kingdom to the Old Testament.
Gus explores this further to connect the Ethiopian building tradition to Solomon and Sheba. He wants to go back in time and he visits historical towns. He goes to Harar, which is a Muslim city. However, it confirms his suspicions about Ethiopian history. Trade plays a big part in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian highlands were always fertile and could provide what the people needed to live. The highlands were Ethiopian storehouses.
For 2000 years, Ethiopians traded incense and coffee. It is surprising for Gus to discover the large Muslim population in Ethiopia. They played a role in Ethiopian independence. He wonders how it was possible. In the 17th Century, there was an emperor who brokered a deal between Christians and Muslims. In this deal, they would be united against any foreign invaders. The Portuguese were on the lookout for Prestor John, a mythical Christian King. The Portuguese found a Christian King, however, they were not welcomed in Ethiopia, especially after they tried to convert the population to Catholicism. Muslims and Christians united to expel the Portuguese invaders.
Gus arrives in the old capital of Ethiopia. The city was called Gondar and it was where Emperor Fasilides ruled from. With his guide, Gus visits a castle. This castle was a sign that the Emperor wanted to defend his people from invaders and keep Ethiopia’s independence. Emperor Fasilides was a visionary man and had a great deal of power. He also was not afraid of reminding the people of his link to King Solomon. He stamped the Star of David through his castle. Gus is finding it challenging to separate fact from myth. He keeps exploring the castle to see if there is anything else that would tie the dynasty back to King Solomon.
He sketches the castle. Gus muses that Emperor Fasilides might have been influenced by the outsiders he hated. There were domes on the castle which would have been inspired by those Portuguese invaders. Gus continues his discovery into Ethiopia’s history and you should continue to watch this episode to find out more about Ethiopia.
This documentary is highly recommended for a history classroom, a classroom for African studies, and an independent study student. Gus reminds me of a curious schoolboy and he is truly excited about what he discovers.
Gus Casely-Hayford explores the Lost Kingdoms of Africa. His first lost kingdom is Nubia. The history of Africa was not written down all the time. However, the people of Africa preserved their culture through objects. Nubia was the traditional name of Northern Sudan. The civilization dominated the area in the Sahara. For the Egyptians, they were a source of slaves and treasures. For the Romans, the Nubians were barbarian people. The Nubians were ultimately defeated by their environment.
However, there is more to the Nubians that meet the eyes. They were conquerors in their own right. They built more pyramids than the Egyptians. The Nubians built spectacular monuments that could rival those around the world. It was a major civilization. Unfortunately, its history is well hidden. What made the Nubian Civilization tick? Why did they build spectacular monuments? Why did they fall?
Gus goes back in time to a place where people started planting crops. He flies over the Nile because without the Nile no civilization could survive. He then turns to the desert. The desert was a challenging environment for the people. Even today the desert poses unique challenges to those who live in it. The Nubians began here 7,000 years ago. Gus’ guide takes him to where the Nubian civilization began. They hit a rock that sounds like a bell. It was an instrument carved in 5000 BC. The sound was a result of the consistency of the rock and eventually, people wore it downplaying it. This rock was known as a rock gong and its sound could carry across the valley. Archeologists speculate that it was the way the Nubians communicated with each other.
Why did the Nubians pick the desert to build their civilization? Gus and his guide continue to press further on the site. An animal image was discovered carved into the rock. It was a recent discovery. Rock art was the oldest form of pictorial representation known. The discovery shocks Gus because of its location and that it was a cow.
His guide tells him that the desert was not always desert. The Sahara was green. The climate severely changed and caused the desert to form. Gus is surprised to hear that and thinks out loud about what the green could support. The land could support the people and support them well. He concludes that the picture was the proof of that. The Nubians would develop into a complex community on these green plains.
Gus then travels to Kerma, it was the capital of Nubia. Archeologists have discovered an impressive city in the most recent decades. The people who made the rock art were the ancestors of those who built Kerma. Here they built a giant building of mud brick. What was the meaning of this house? Was there a temple at the top of this structure? Kerma was a ritual city, a place where people would go to perform rituals. He visits a small museum and it contains Nubian pottery. The people were making pottery before they were planting crops and before the Egyptians. They were delicately made by hand and the technique that was used can still be found 4,000 years on.
To continue to learn more about the lost civilization of Nubia continue to watch this documentary. I would highly recommend this documentary to be shown in a middle school and high school history classroom.
Gus is an art historian who is throwing himself feet first into this exploration. At times, when he is traveling to these locations he sounds like a giddy boy. He is a fantastic narrator and I enjoy his enthusiasm for discovering new things. I would continue with this series and if he narrates anything else I would enjoy listening to him.
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