Where monkeys meet. The hamlet of Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile

The site of Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile (literally, “the mountain where the monkeys meet”) is a small hamlet of around fifteen houses located 10 km to the east of the village of Boon and at about the same distance to the important settlement of Abasa. Unlike the latter, Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile had never been documented by foreign archaeologists, although the site was well known both to the officers of the Department of Archaeology from the Somaliland government and to the local community, who called it “Abasa number Two”. As it happens with many medieval sites in Somaliland, the site is located slightly backwards from a main wadi (the Abasa River), on the upper part of a small hill and it is delimited to the South by a small but deep wadis. Lands suitable for cultivation are found in the proximity, just one kilometer away.

Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile covers a small area of about 0.4 Ha located at the top of the hill and the immediate slopes. Most of the buildings are concentrated at the top and a few ones are scattered in the slopes. The structures are very similar to other medieval sites from the same region: rectangular buildings with internal partitions defining two or three rooms. Yet, the construction technique is much less elaborated, with medium sized stones of different shapes disposed irregularly.

Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile

The most relevant building is the mosque, located in the upper part of the hill, with a rectangular plan and dimensions of 7 by 9 m.

The mosque is part of a series of houses and walls delimiting an L-like street which so far is the only evidence of urban planning found in a medieval site anywhere in Somaliland.

Contemporary well dug in the fields in front of the site. ©Incipit Archaeological Project in Somaliland.

Archaeological materials were abundant throughout the site, but imports were extremely scarce: only a fragment of speckled glazed pottery was found during the survey, along with part of a steatite bangle and five cowries.

Why such a small site as Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile is interesting for the StateHorn project? First of all, although the site is not as impressive as large towns like Fardowsa o Abasa, it probably represents one of the most common types of settlement during the medieval and early modern periods in Somaliland. The material differences that can be established between Abasa and Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile (which are spatially very close), whilst undoubtedly corresponding to the same chronological period, can provide very useful information about hierarchization, territorial control and social inequalities, aspects poorly studied in the history of medieval Somaliland. Secondly, the small size allows us to plan an excavation that covers a significant part of the site, a possibility unthinkable in larger places such as Abasa.

The complete excavation will potentially help us understand much better the relationships between the domestic, public and religious spaces in this small hamlet. Thirdly, the study of Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile can provide crucial information about agriculture in medieval Somaliland. The site is placed very close to a former meander of the Abasa River that is now dry due to the change of course of the wadi, which retained excellent soils for crop agriculture and that was in all probability cultivated by the inhabitants of the medieval place. A series of soil, pollen and seed samples will be recovered from the area in order to gather information about the economic and environmental context of the region during that period. Finally, another task will be locating the cemetery, probably situated at the proximity of the village, which could not be found during the 2018 survey.

Photographs of Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile, showing the archaeological site, the nearby fields and some of the archaeological materials collected during the surveys. ©Incipit Archaeological Project in Somaliland.

Referencing this article

Torres, Jorge de (2020). ‘Where monkeys meet. The hamlet of Iskudarka Dayeergalka Kifiile’, StateHorn Project, 10 October. Available at: https://statehorn.com/portfolio/iskudarka/  (Accessed: DD/MM/YYYY).