The StateHorn Project explores the archaeology of the Horn of Africa to understand the role that medieval states played in the history of the region and extract lessons for the present.

The Project “StateHorn: Pathways to Statehood: Authority, Legitimacy and Social Diversity in the Horn of Africa (11th-16th centuries)” aims to analyse the reasons for failure in the contemporary states in the Horn of Africa through the study of their historical dynamics during the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age.

This period of time under study –approximately from the 11th to the 16th centuries CE- witnessed the emergence and consolidation of a score of Muslim states which for 500 years were able to control large regions, provide stability and prosperity to their citizens and establish complex diplomatic and economical links with the Mediterranean, the Near East, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The former stability of these states contrasts with the challenges that face the states in the region today, with Somalia being the epitome of a failed state.

With the help of archaeological research, the StateHorn project will document the strategies that helped medieval states in the Horn of Africa survive and thrive and from this past experience it will draw lessons that can contribute towards a better management of the problems related to statehood in one of the world’s most convulsed regions. 

Left: Medieval religious settlement at Dameraqad. Right: Nomad cairn in central Somaliland. ©Incipit Archaeological Project in Somaliland.

Research case

The project has selected as a research case western Somaliland, a region which became de facto independent in 1991 and where the head of the StateHorn project has co-directed, with Dr. Alfredo González-Ruibal (Institute of Heritage Sciences-Spanish National Research Council), an archaeological mission since 2015.

Main mosque of Abasa, one of the sites that will be excavated during the project. ©Incipit Archaeological Project in Somaliland.

The StateHorn project is organised around five main points of research: landscape and territory, urbanism and settlements, material culture, trade, and oral and written sources.

The project combines a wide variety of methodologies and techniques including drone-based surveys, GIS, chemical analyses of pottery and glasses, faunal and archaeobotanic studies, compilations of oral and written texts and excavations in sites of different sizes and functions and geographical emplacements.


The StateHorn Project focuses primarily on the medieval states of the Horn of Africa. Yet, its goals extend beyond the study of a society long time gone. Indeed, the project aims to formulate questions and to propose alternative ways to understand the functioning of the states in Africa and in other places where states face problems of legitimacy and authority. In so doing, the project can contribute to elaborate new approaches that help in improving the lives of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and in other regions of the world.

Overview of the StateHorn Project including research threads, methodologies, archaeological sites and main research topics. Original design ©Juan Pablo venditti

Our team

Jorge de Torres

Jorge de Torres

Jorge de Torres studied at the Madrid University and wrote his PhD on the Iron Age in Central Spain, but in 2006 he started working in Ethiopia and since then he has specialized in the Medieval and Modern history of the Horn of Africa. In 2014 he became the co-director of the Spanish Archaeological Mission in Somaliland, the only archaeological project ongoing in that region, and in 2018 he was awarded with a Marie Curie International Fellowship at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit) – Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) to continue his work on the medieval landscapes of Somaliland.
In 2019, he was awarded with a ERC Starting Grant to launch StateHorn, a new project which will study the origins and development of medieval states in the Horn of Africa to understand the reasons of current state failure in this region. In addition to the Horn of Africa, he has participated in or co-directed in long term projects in Sudan, Morocco and Mozambique, and was part of the African Rock Art Image project at the British Museum, a project which catalogued and studied a collection of 24,000 images of African rock art throughout the continent.

Manuel Antonio Franco

Manuel Antonio Franco (“Muros”) studied History at the Santiago de Compostela University with a specialization at prehistory and a MA in programming and network administration. He is an archaeologist with more than 15 years of experience both as an independent archaeologist and within research projects, including international projects in Panama in Sudan. He is one of the most veteran members of the Incipit Archaeological Project in Somaliland, having participated in all the campaigns since 2015. Muros is an experienced topographer and also does all the photogrammetry and drone work of the project, and for years has provided maps,plans and 3D models for our research in Somaliland.
As the new senior technician of StateHorn, he will have many responsibilities supporting the different research areas of the project. In addition to participating in the fieldwork during the next years and preparing all the cartography for the project, he will develop a GIS which will be the base for our study of the territory of the medieval Somaliland.

Andreu Martínez

Andreu Martínez d’Alòs-Moner studied Social Anthropology at the University of Barcelona and pursued postgraduate studies in African Anthropology at the University of Rovira I Virgili and the EHESS in Paris. He completed his PhD on the Jesuit Mission in Ethiopia in the early modern times at the European University Institute in Florence. He has published extensively on the history of Catholic missions during the European expansion, the history of the Horn of Africa during the modern period and the expansion of European powers during colonial times in the Horn and the Red Sea areas. Based in one of the leading centres dedicated to the research on the Horn of Africa, the Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies in Hamburg University, he was member of the scientific staff of the Encyclopaedia Aethiopica project from the beginning until its completion in 2014. From 2014 to 2018 he worked as Associate Professor at the Department of History and Heritage Management of the University of Gondar, Ethiopia. In northern Ethiopia he has collaborated for several years with the Complutense University of Madrid in several archaeological and heritage-related projects and has led two projects on Ethio-iberian heritage in the Tana Lake region funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation (AECID).

In StateHorn, Andreu will use his knowledge of the history of the Horn of Africa to support the archaeological research, providing complementary perspectives on the data collected through excavations and surveys. In addition to studying medieval and modern texts about the region, he will analyze the vast literature and cartography produced in the 19th and 20th by travellers, explorers and colonial agents and thus help reconstructing the social, economic and cultural dynamics that were at work in the region prior to the arrival of the colonial powers. His work will be specially valuable in shedding light onto such areas of research as the toponymy of the region, the oral traditions and genealogies.

Fátima Rodríguez

Fátima Rodríguez-Porto studied Humanities and Documentation at the University of A Coruña. In the 2020-2021 academic year, she completed the interuniversity master's degree in Archeology and Ancient Sciences at the University of Santiago de Compostela. Her master's thesis consists in a study of the current state of the common graves of the Franco regime in Galicia.
She has participated in archaeological excavations of different chronologies ranging from Prehistory and the Middle Ages, to different exhumation campaigns related to the mass graves of the Spanish Civil War.
Currently, she has joined the StateHorn project to work as a documentary technician for the different databases of the project. Her work consists in the compilation of bibliographical references and archaeological data, for their introduction in different databases and inventories, generating the largest source of information on these African countries during medieval times.


Ahmed Dualeh Jama

Dr. Ahmed Dualeh Jama was the first Somali to get a doctorate in Archaeology in 1991, when he finished his PhD at the University of Uppsala, and he has worked with all the international teams that conducted research in Somalia before the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, including figures such as Neville Chittick, Steven Brandt, Paul Sinclair or Margherita Mussi. He has been a member of the Department of Archaeology and senior advisor of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism for several years, and since 2017, he has been actively collaborating with the Incipit Archaeological Project providing assessment and facilitating the excavation permits, and he has participated in our the fieldwork campaigns throughout Somaliland.
Dr. Dualeh plays an invaluable work in our relationships with local authorities and communities, explaining our work and easing the development of the excavations and surveys. He is also a very active defender of Somalilands’s heritage, working very closely with the Somali Association of Archaeology and the National Museum of Somaliland. He will collaborate with the StateHorn project as our liaison with the Somaliland authorities and institutions, and as a senior advisor for the archaeological research.
María Masaguer

María Masaguer

María Masaguer studied History, Conservation-restoration of cultural heritage, a MA on new methodologies for the management of cultural heritage and a MA on Innovation, facilitation and learning. Her professional career started in México, where she takes part on several archeological projects in Yucatán peninsula combining her work as a conservator-restorer with the design and execution of community development projects. She also worked at university as a professor carrying out a project-oriented pedagogical proposal. For this reason, she starts to be interested in anthropological research and collaborative knowledge methodologies. Back in Spain she creates and coordinates an urban planning office focused on participatory design. At this stage, he has learned to execute participatory processes but she has also been specializing in the design of communication and transfer materials. This is why part of her activity is also to give advice to research groups in knowdlege transfer processes. Since 2015, she has been collaborating with different Incipit projects as research technician specialize in collaborative methodologies for heritage conservation and management. In Statehorn project we will take advantage of her polyvalent profile, she would collaborate with us as an adviser on heritage conservation, communication and research results transfer.

Raquel Sánchez

Raquel Sanchez Martin studied Sociology, Political Sciences and a Master's degree in Public Services and Social Policy at the University of Salamanca. She worked for over three years in Dublin (Ireland). There she had two different positions funded by European programmes in third sector organizations. Then she worked as an administrator for a company centred on public procurement, and as an admin and communications assistant for another organization focused on Latin American issues.
Back in Spain she worked as a technician at the Institute of Heritage Science (Spanish National Research Council) for two years. She carried out diverse tasks for Incipit projects such as data collection, processing and analyses; collaboration on the organisation of a congress; administration support; support for some publications, congress attendance and presentations etc. She was also the Incipit community manager, In Statehorn project she will provide day-to-day admin and planning support to the project management.

Alfredo González

Alfredo González Ruibal is a staff scientist at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Spanish National Research Council) and the director of the Spanish Archaeological Project in Somaliland. He is one of the world leading researchers in studies of the contemporary past, and has done fieldwork in the Horn of Africa since 2001. His research interests include topics such as war, colonialism, dictatorship, capitalism and the material strategies deployed by communities who still resist modernity, globalization and the state.In 2014, Alfredo launched the Spanish Archaeological Project in Somaliland to study the participation of the Horn of Africa in Indian Ocean trade networks, and the role of indigenous communities in those networks. During these six years, the project has grown and evolved to deal with different chronologies, topics and realities, and currently is focussed on the study of trade in the Antiquity.
As the director of the Spanish Archaeological Project in Somaliland, Alfredo will continue to provide all his expertise and knowledge to StateHorn, and his presence will ensure the best coordination between both projects and archaeological teams.
Pastor Fábrega

Pastor Fábrega

Pastor Fábrega is a doctor in Archaeology and a specialized technician in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing technologies at the Institute of Heritage Sciences (Spanish National Research Council). He has developed a long research career (including stays at Oxford and Seville) focussed on the use of digital technologies to understand themes related to space and territory. His main research thread consists on the use of non-invasive methodologies to analyse archaeological heritage, from geographical and landscape perspectives. In the last decade, he has worked in several countries of South America, including Chile (since 2010), Argentina (since 2017) and Uruguay (since 2018).
In StateHorn, Pastor will provide an invaluable support and assessment as a GIS and Remote Sensing specialist in several of the research areas of the project, including the acquisition of satellite images and aerial photographs, the development and use of the StateHorn GIS database and the improvement of our analysis of images recorded through the use of Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV’s).

Carolina Cornax Gómez

Carolina Cornax Gómez studied a double degree of History and Political Sciences and Public Administration in Madrid. Her Degree dissertations were about the 70s’ violent drift of the student political movements and organizations of the 60s and the role that female members had in the ETA armed band. In 2019 she moved to Santiago de Compostela to start the Archaeology and Antiquity Sciences Master at the University of Santiago de Compostela. Thanks to the realization of her final master essay she started to work with Jorge de Torres, the director of the Statehorn Project. She did that final master essay about the astronomical influences on the construction of the nomadic funeral monuments of Somalia. On june 2021, she received a predoctoral grant of GAIN and Xunta de Galicia, thanks to which she has recently been incorporated to the team of Statehorn Project, in which she will develop her PhD about the islamisation process of the Horn f Africa.
In addition to her recent incorporation to the Incipit-CSIC group, she has publishied some articles about historical and political issues and she has participated in excavation campaigns in the archaeological sites of Armea, Valencia do Sil or El Castro de El Castillán. I

Referencing this page

Torres, Jorge de (2020). ‘About the project’, StateHorn Project, 10 October. Available at: (Accessed: DD/MM/YYYY).