Africa's Great Civilisations


Series 1 - Episode 1 Origins



Celebrated African-American literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr presents this wide-ranging, grand-scale six-part history of the African continent, originally shown by the American PBS network.

In this first episode, we start in the heart of Ethiopia, where the story of humanity began, while in Kenya we meet Mitochondrial Eve, from whom we all descend. And while we know that many African peoples migrated away from the continent to create other societies (heading into Alice Roberts territory), others stayed to form great civilisations in Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, culminating in the Queen of Meroë who stood up to the might of the Roman empire.

It’s a feast of splendours, and Gates is an eloquent guide.


Henry Louis Gates Jr travels the length and breadth of Africa to explore the continent's epic and revelatory history. The first episode examines the origins of human existence and the anthropological and scientific discoveries that point to Africa as the genetic home of all currently living humanity.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Henry Louis Gates Jr
Director Virginia Quinn
Director Mark Bates
Director Karen McGann
Writer Henry Louis Gates Jr