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Available on DVD from PBS Distribution November 25th


Arlington, VA. – October XX, 2014 – PBS Distribution announced today it is releasing “RISE OF THE BLACK PHARAOHS” on DVD November 25. The Egypt of the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings was an empire of indomitable might. Then, around 800 BC, the impossible happened. Kush, a subject kingdom from the south, rose up and conquered Egypt, enthroned its own pharaohs and ruled for nearly 100 years. In “RISE OF THE BLACK PHARAOHS,” National Geographic explores the mysterious Black Pharaohs – the Nubian kings – whose reign has become legendary among Africans and written off as heresy by early archaeologists who refused to believe that dark-skinned Africans could have risen so high.


RISE OF THE BLACK PHARAOHS” will be available on DVD November 25, 2014. The run time of the documentary is approximately 60 minutes, and the DVD SRP is $24.99.


RISE OF THE BLACK PHARAOHS” features exciting new archaeological finds in Sudan that are revealing the truth about the great Kush dynasty. Archeologists Geoff Emberling and Tim Kendell are at the heart of the Kushite revival. Emberling, a National Geographic grantee, is digging his way into a royal pyramid/tomb at a site called El Kurru. He hopes to find the bones of a Kushite king and the treasure he took with him into the afterlife. Emberling is following in the footsteps of famous archeologist George Reisner, who excavated most of the other major Kushite sites, but could never get past his racial myopia and accept that these dark-skinned African people had built such an advanced and powerful society.


Not far from El Kurru, archaeologist Tim Kendell has his sights set on a loftier prize. At a mountain called Jebel Barkal, he believes he’s found the key to the rise of the Kush – the underpinning for their belief that they were the true heirs to the spiritual traditions of the great pharaohs like Ramses II and Thutmose III. Both the Egyptians and the Kushites believed Jebel Barkal was home to Amun – Egypt’s supreme god-of-gods. So when the Kushites rose up, they believed they were doing so to put Egypt back on the right religious path – chosen as the true leaders born in the shadow of Amun’s mountain. 


Shot in HD in Sudan and Egypt, “RISE OF THE BLACK PHARAOHS” uses drones to capture the archaeological sites from above and create important aerial perspective of the excavations. Professional climbers scale a dangerous, crumbling spire, searching for clues about the Kush empire, and agile, networked robots help the archaeologists explore parts of the tomb complex that are too dangerous to enter without scouting. Re-creations round out the film and bring the Kushite uprising to life.


RISE OF THE BLACK PHARAOHS” tells the forgotten story of unexpected conquest and buried history. “The story is a perfect example of history being written by the victors,” says executive producer Jared Lipworth. “Here was this great civilization that rose up alongside the Egyptians, conquered them for a time, and then was relegated to the shadows when the Egyptians recorded their history. George Reisner, the archaeologist who discovered most of the Kush treasures, made matters worse. He unveiled the Kushite civilization, but his narrow-minded view of race meant that despite all the evidence he uncovered, he could not fathom the idea that dark-skinned Africans had built this great society.”


“I think the golden age of Egyptology was taking place just when people’s understanding of the concept of race was at its probably lowest form,” said archaeologist Tim Kendall. “So the idea of a dark-skinned Nubian people taking over Egypt somehow went in the face of their closely held beliefs. Namely, that white European civilization was superior to anything else and that other races were inferior.”


Fortunately, today’s archaeologists are a more enlightened lot. They’re separating fiction from fact and at last giving the Kushites the exposure and respect they deserve as one of the great civilizations of the ancient world.



Producer/writer/director: James Barrat

Editor: Salvatore Vecchio

Directors of photography: Hossam Aboulmagd

Narrator: Kevin Collins

Executive producer: Jared Lipworth

Producer: National Geographic Studios


About National Geographic Studios

National Geographic Studios (NG Studios) is the production studio of the National Geographic Society. NG Studios is known around the world for its remarkable visuals and compelling stories. For 50 years, NG Studios has been producing groundbreaking documentary films, starting with the 1963 program Americans on Everest, which presented the first moving pictures from the summit of Everest to ever be broadcast on American network television. Since then, NG Studios has continued to push filmmaking technology to its limits, bringing great stories to television audiences worldwide. NG Studios is the winner of 146 Emmy Awards and nearly 1,000 other industry accolades, including recognition from the Peabody Awards, duPont-Columbia Awards and top honors from natural history film festivals around the world. Its programming appears on the National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD and on PBS stations in the United States, and internationally on National Geographic Channels International, Nat Geo WILD, and Mundo as well as on terrestrial and other cable and satellite broadcasters. Its latest hit is the Emmy-nominated Brain Games. One hundred percent of NG Studios’ profits support the mission of the National Geographic Society, one of the world’s largest scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. To date, National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects, and supports education programs promoting geography literacy.


About PBS Distribution

PBS Distribution is the leading media distributor for the public television community, both domestically and internationally, extending the reach of these programs beyond broadcast while generating revenue for the public television system and our production partners.


PBS Distribution offers a diverse range of programming to our customers, including Ken Burns’s films, documentaries from award-winning series such as NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE, and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, dramas from MASTERPIECE, as well as films from independent producers and popular children’s programming. As a multi-channel distributor, PBS Distribution pursues wholesale/retail sales, consumer and educational sales through PBS-branded catalogs and online shops, and international broadcast and video sales. PBS Distribution is also a leader in offering programming through digital platforms including internet and mobile devices.



Street Date: November 25, 2014

Genre: Documentary

Run Time: Approximately 60 Minutes

SRP: $24.99

Format: DVD