Statehorn: Pathways to Statehood. Authority, Legitimacy and Social Diversity in the Horn of Africa (11th-16th centuries)
Statehorn is an European Research Project that aims to analyze the reasons for failure in the contemporary states in the Horn of Africa through the archaeological study of their historical dynamics during the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age.
Find out more about the medieval Horn of Africa
Between the 13th and the 16th centuries, the Horn of Africa went through a series of major transformations which made of this zone one of the most dynamic regions in the continent.
The places we work in
The project has selected as a case study western Somaliland, a region with a high density of medieval sites of different types which was part of several important states during the medieval period. The Statehorn team will conduct archaeological excavations in five of them.
For hundreds of years, traders from Asia, Arabia and the Middle East sailed to the site of Siyaara, where they met caravans and nomads during a seasonal costal fair. The thousands of imported artefacts scattered in the beach of Siyaara are an open book where the history of the trade in Somaliland can be read.
Strategically situated at the end of a mountain pass, the town of Fardowsa was a key resupplying point for caravans that crossed the Horn of Africa. The archaeological excavations have unravelled large houses surrounded by fences and a rich material culture which shows contacts with Asia, Arabia and the Middle East.
The only caravan station of Middle East design discovered so far in Sub-saharan Africa, Qalcadda lies close to the escarpment where the caravans coming from the coast could rest after the journey through the coastal desert of Somaliland. Protected by a fort, Qalcadda was probably a state initiative to protect the trade routes that were fundamental for their survival.
The town of Abasa was the first medieval town in Somaliland to be described by a European, when Richard Burton crossed the region in 1854. It was named Darbiya Kola at that time. The name doesn’t exist anymore, but the impressive ruins of the city remain, and mosques, strongholds and houses await to be studied and show their history.
Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile
A small hamlet of about 15 houses located on the top of a hill, Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile is one of the smallest medieval settlements known in Somaliland. That makes the site especially interesting to understand the lifestyle of the population of the region during the Middle Ages, far from the main trade and political centres of the Horn of Africa.