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In his new six-hour series, Africa's Great Civilizations, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels the length and breadth of Africa to chronicle the continent's history from a firmly African perspective. His journey takes him from the city of Great Zimbabwe, to the pyramids of Meroe, and the spectacular rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia. Click the points on the map to view content specific to that state or region

Devil's Peak

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Discover the mountainous landscape surrounding the port city of Cape Town.

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Afro Combs

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Did you know that afro combs were used in ancient African civilizations?

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Signal Hill

photo of Devil's Peak

Explore an integral part of Cape Town's mountain range.

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Iziko South African Museum

photo of Iziko South African Museum

The Iziko South African museum contains aspects of natural history and cultural artefacts.

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Gandhi Square

photo of Gandhi Square

Gandhi Square is named for the human rights leader who once resided in Johannesburg.

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Ironworking

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Did you know that the invention of ironworking has its roots in Africa?

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Stone Town Market (Darajani Market)

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Zanzibar's lively marketplace brings people together to shop and socialize.

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Nungwi Beach

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The Zanzibar Archipelago is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches.

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Malindi Mosque

photo of Malindi Mosque

One of Zanzibar's oldest mosques, located near the harbor.

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Forodhani Gardens

photo of Forodhani Gardens

Explore the gardens along the coast in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

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Koutoubia Mosque

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Part of Morocco's rich cultural history, this mosque is the oldest in Marrakesh.

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Berber Mountain villages

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Visit a traditional Berber Village in the Atlas Mountains.

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Bou Inania Madrasa

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Discover an elaborate and extravagant cultural landmark in Fez, Morocco.

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Lalibela

archaelogical remains

Explore 12 churches that were carved out of rock in the ancient Ethiopian highlands.

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Tuti Island

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One of Sudan's islands, situated at a merging point in the Nile river.

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City of Meroë

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. walking toward pyramid-like ruins

Explore the Great City of Meroë, third and last capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Kush.

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Meroë Pyramids

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Meroë is an ancient city, home to a collection of impressive ancient pyramids.

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Western Deffufa

photo of Western Deffufa

An ancient structure built with thick mud walls which helped provide a cooler temperature.

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Yeha Temple

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Learn more about one of Ethiopia's oldest landmarks.

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Fasil Ghebbi

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Explore the remains of a fortress-city within Gondar, Ethiopia.

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Kakum National Park

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Walk along the treetops of Ghana's tropical rainforest in this national park.

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Cape Coast Castle

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One of many "slave castles" along Ghana's Cape Coast, built by European traders.

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Door of No Return

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A memorial symbolizing of the departure of captive slaves leaving for the Western world.

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Blood River Battle

drawing of Blood River Battle

A harrowing battle between the Zulu Kingdom and Dutch settlers in the Cape Colony.

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City of Timbuktu

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The heart of ancient Timbuktu's intellectual life was its libraries.

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City of Ile Ife

gold mask

Explore ancient African civilizations and the origin story of Ile Ife.

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City of Marrakesh

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When it was founded in the year 1070, Marrakesh was a center of politics and law.

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Islandiwana Battle

painting of Islandiwana Battle

One of the most devastating defeats suffered by Britain at the hands of the Zulu Kingdom.

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The City of Great Zimbabwe

ancient circular stone wall

The Great Enclosure of Great Zimbabwe conveyed majesty, wealth, and architectural genius.

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Hell's Gate National Park

photo of canyon in Hell's Gate National Park

Walk among lions, leopards, and cheetahs in the beautiful landscape of Kenya's Rift Valley.

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The City of Gondar

stone castle

Travel to the ancient city of Gondar in Africa's Great Civilizations.

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The Swahili Coast

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For over 1,000 years, African merchants gathered on the Swahili coast, once known as Azania.

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The Country of Angola

white fortress on a cliff by the seaside

A quarter of all slaves who crossed the Atlantic started from what is today Angola.

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The City of M'banza-Kongo

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The Kingdom of Kongo was one of the largest and most powerful in the southern half Africa.

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The Kingdom of Dahomey

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Dahomey contained a vast complex of royal palaces and a unique canon of art.

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Source: Abu Shawka, via Wikimedia Commons

Devil's Peak

Devil's Peak is found within the scenic, mountainous backdrop of Cape Town, South Africa.

Afro Combs

Did you know that afro combs were used in ancient African civilizations? Burial pits in the Nile Valley have been the source of rare and unique artifacts, dating back more than 6,000 years.

Source: Hilton1949 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Signal Hill

Nestled in the mountain range above Cape Town, Signal Hill once served as a point to raise signal flags alerting ships to inclement weather and anchoring instructions.

Source: Roché Petersen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Iziko South African Museum

'Iziko' is an isiXhosa word meaning "hearth". Founded in 1825, the Iziko South African museum houses collections in zoology, paleontology, and archaeology. This collection ranges from fossils up to 700 million years old to insects that were caught in present day.

Source: Tamaryn-Shepherd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gandhi Square

Named after the Indian human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi Square is a bustling plaza located in the Central Business District of Johannesburg. It features a statue of Gandhi dressed in the robes of a legal attorney, paying tribute to his role as a lawyer during his time living in Johannesburg.

Ironworking

In the lush forests of modern-day Central African Republic, sometime between 1800 and 1500 BC, craftsmen are believed to have discovered iron. New evidence indicates that ironworking began in the heart of Africa.

Source: Anton Zelenov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stone Town Market (Darajani Market)

Located in Stone Town, the Darajani Market is one of Zanzibar's central markets. It serves as a venue for selling and trading goods and for locals to congregate and socialize.

Source: Moongateclimber, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nungwi Beach

The island of Zanzibar is located off the east coast of Africa, in Tanzania. It boasts some of Africa's most beautiful coral beaches. Previously a fishing village, Nungwi and its beach has developed into a tourist destination. It has been recognized as one of the world's best beaches

Source: Harvey Barrison, via Wikimedia Commons

Malindi Mosque

Also known as the Mnara Mosque, Malindi Mosque one of Stone Town, Zanzibar's oldest mosques, dating back to the 15th century. Built by Sunni Muslims, Malindi is known for its unique architectural features.

Source: Moongateclimber, via Wikimedia Commons

Forodhani Gardens

Forodhani gardens is a park located along the main seawalk of Stone Town, Zanzibar. In the evenings it transforms into a street market where locals and tourists alike can enjoy Swahili and Zanzibari cuisine.

Source: Daniel Csörföly, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque was completed in the late 12th century and is the largest mosque in Marrakesh. It is flanked by gardens and serves as a central Marrakesh landmark.

Source: David Dennis, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Berber Mountain Villages

The Berber mountain villages back up into Morocco's High Atlas Mountains. The villages are primarily inhabited by the indigenous Berber people, who fled there during the Arab Invasion of North Africa in the 7th century.

Source: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bou Inania Madrasa

The Madrasa Bou Inania is a madrasa, or Islamic college, located in Fez, Morocco. In this photo, it is seen in the distance through the Bab Bou Jeloud, a gate into the old medina of Fez. It is known for its beautiful tile work featuring Islamic geometric patterns. It is one of Fez's most important religious institutions and is one of few religious institutions that is accessible to the non-Islamic public.

Lalibela

Explore 12 churches that were carved out of rock in the ancient Ethiopian highlands. In the 11th century, a new dynasty revived the fortunes of Ethiopia's once great Christian kingdom to create one of the most spectacular of all religious sites in Africa, and in the World.

City of Meroë

In the middle of the fourth century, Axumite armies forged their way inland along the Nile Valley, invading new territories and heading for the Great City of Meroe, the third and last capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Kush.

Source: Petr Adam Dohnálek, CC-BY-SA-3.0 cz, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuti Island

Located where the Blue and White Niles merge in Khartoum, Tuti Island has served as Khartoum's main agricultural producer. In the past it was only accessible by river ferries, leaving it isolated - however, the recent construction of the Tuti bridge has provided even more accessibility between Tuti Island and the mainland.

Source: Fabrizio Demartis, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Meroë Pyramids

Meroë is an ancient city, situated on the east bank of the Nile River. It once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Kush - a major power ruled by Nubian kings. There are approximately 200 Meroë pyramids - more than in Egypt alone.

Source: Walter Callens, CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Western Deffufa

Deffufas are structures unique to Nubian architecture. They are mud brick temples that held ceremonies on the top and also acted as tomb structures. The Western Deffufa is one of three known existing deffufas, and is located in the ancient city of Kerma, Sudan.

Source: Jialiang Gao, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Yeha Temple

The Great Yeha Temple dates to the 8th century BC - close to 3,000 years old - and is believed to be the oldest standing structure in Ethiopia.

Source: Bernard Gagnon, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fasil Ghebbi

Gondar has been nicknamed the "Camelot of Africa" due to its hosting the remnants of several ancient royal castles. One structure, Fasilides' Castle, was built in the 17th century under the Ethiopian Emperor Fasilides.

Source: Chiappinik, CC BY 2.5 it, via Wikimedia Commons

Kakum National Park

Located in central Ghana, Kakum National park covers approximately 145 square miles of tropical rainforest. It is home to many endangered species, including the African elephant. It has unique canopy walkways, such as the one pictured,which gives visitors a unique vantage point of the beautiful landscape.

Source: sixthofdecember, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cape Coast Castle

Ghana was once known as the Gold Coast of West Africa - its large quantities of gold dust attracted European nations to take advantage of trade opportunities. At this time, slaves were a valuable commodity and the Cape Coast Castle was able to accommodate up to a thousand slaves in its underground dungeons.

Source: David Stanley, CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Door of No Return

The Door of No Return is a memorial arch acknowledging the dark history of Benin and the Atlantic slave trade. It is believed that slaves boarded ships to the New World on this very beach. The carvings on the top of the memorial depict chained slaves walking towards a ship.

Blood River Battle

The Battle of Blood River was fought on December 16, 1838 between "Voortrekkers" (pioneers) and an estimated 15,000-20,000 Zulu attackers on the bank of the Ncome River, in current day Kwazulu-Natal. The Voortrekkers had the advantage of gunpowder and only 3 were wounded, whereas the Zulu suffered over 3,000 casualties. It is said that the Ncome River ran red with the blood of the slain - hence, "Blood River."

Source: Charles Edwin Fripp, via Wikimedia Commons

Islandiwana Battle

The Battle of Isandlwana was the first major encounter between the British Empire and Zulu Kingdom in the Anglo-Zulu war on January 22, 1879. Despite the British Army's advantage of modern weaponry, the Zulu warriors outnumbered the British and were victorious in this battle.

City of Timbuktu

The heart of Timbuktu's intellectual life was its libraries. Between the 14th and the 17th centuries, they acquired hundreds of thousands of books, mostly written by African authors working in the city.

City of Ile Ife

The origin story of Ile Ife lies at the heart of the Yoruba culture. After death, the Onis were worshipped as Gods, and the artworks called Ife Heads were likely used as icons of power.

City of Marrakesh

When it was founded in the year 1070, Marrakesh was a center of politics and law, but it soon began to attract merchants and craftsmen from the surrounding regions.

Source: Heyandrewhyde, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hell's Gate National Park

Hell's Gate National Park is a part of Kenya's Great Rift Valley. It is noted for its abundance of wildlife, including lions, leopards, and zebras. In addition it boasts beautiful scenery including cliffs, gorges, and two extinct volcanoes.

The City of Great Zimbabwe

The Great Enclosure of Great Zimbabwe is the largest pre-colonial structure in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a statement of majesty, power, wealth, and architectural genius.

The City of Gondar

Prior to the establishment of Gondar, the capitals of Ethiopia moved seasonally, whereas in Gondar, settlements remained in the same place for hundreds of years, into the 18th century. Given this stability in terms of place, the empire's power was consolidated.

The Swahili Coast

For over a thousand years, African merchants gathered on the Swahili coast, once known as Azania, to exchange their wares with other merchants from Europe, from Persia, Arabia, even as far east as China.

The Country of Angola

A quarter of all slaves who crossed the Atlantic Ocean started their journey from what is today the country of Angola. In the 18th Century the transatlantic slave trade reached fever pitch.Just over 50% of all transactions occurred over the course of this century alone. On average, an enormous 65,000 Africans a year were being exported from these shores, reaching a peak of 108,000 in 1791.

The City of M'banza-Kongo

The Kingdom of Kongo was one of the largest and most powerful in the southern half Africa. At the heart of the capital in M'banza-Kongo stand the ruins of a building constructed in the middle of the 16th century. It's one of the most important architectural remains in the history of Sub-Saharan African Christianity.

The Kingdom of Dahomey

Dahomey contained a vast complex of royal palaces. The kingdom also had a unique and distinctive canon of art and architecture.