Somalis and Civilization

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Somalis and Civilization

Postby 21CenturyAmir » Sun May 05, 2013 6:24 pm

3000-500 B.C
Why didn’t Somalia develop as an early center of civilization like the civilization along the Indus, Euphrates and the Nile valleys?

Northern Somalia’s geographic and climate were a major impediment. Somalia is the only semi-arid country in equatorial Africa because the mountains of Abyssinia act as a rain shadow, trapping moister in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Another reasons that Ethiopia has screwed us since time immemorial. Southern Somalia on the other hand is blessed with two rivers and has the type of topography that made agricultural and by extension civilization possible. Why did complex societies develop along the Nile, Sumer, the Indus and Yellow River, but not the Shabelle and Jubba. I know that South Somalia is probably affect by Tsetse fly and Malaria but southern India and Southeast Asia are effected by the similar condition yet they developed Agricultural, kingdoms and empires by 500 B.C but Somalia did not fallow the same trajectory.

500 B.C – 500 A.D

Northern Somalia was first region to interact with the outside world. 5 cities are mention in the Pericles of the Erythraean Sea: Avalites, Malao, Mundus, Mosyllum, and Opone. These Ports cities traded in spices, frankincense and slaves. We have no records from this time and what legacy they left is either buried or has long turn to dust, so we enter speculative history. What were these cities like were they locations where nomads come to trade in the rainy season were they towns or even walled city-states like in ancient Greece. More importantly what happen to them why did they decline: we know that around 200 A.D Rome reduced their import of Frankincense and societies from Oman to northern Arabia collapse because once you have one church by extension one God, you don’t need to burn as much incense. These ancient cities become deserted and completely forgotten but this process would repeat itself many times in Somali history.

500-1000 A.D
Nothing seems to be happening in Somalia, it could be seen as a dark age. Something must have happen: climate change, social collapse or invasions that irreversible ended one era and brought about the beginning of another.

1000-1500 A.D

The Islamic era the beginning of Somalia history as we know it. It led to a proliferation of cities: in northern Somalia there were Zeila, Harar, Abasa, Amoud Maduna. In southern Somalia there was Moqadhiso, Barawa, Merka, Gondershe,Nimmo. Many of these cities contain Citadels, mosques, aqueducts, lights houses and tombs. These trapping of civilization would have required a large agriculture base and some sort of social hierarchy but we will never know much because Somalis didn’t write their own history we wouldn’t have know about the details of conquest of Abyssinia without the information contain within the Futah Al-habasha. I would kill for a chronicle of the walashma dynasty or the Ajuuran but alas it wasn’t meant to be.


1500-1900 A.D

Time of upheaval, mass migration and social confusion, much of the accomplishment of the previous generation were destroyed. Cities were abandoned, aqueducts and lighthouse fell to disrepair and fields were allowed to fallow effectively everything was allowed to decline. If we look at one example Mogadishu, this city was once the jewel of Somalia but it dynasty was overthrown. The population of the city declined to 5 thousand from a historic high of 50 thousand and become divided into feuding factions: Shangani and Xamarweyn after suffering from plague and civil strife. It would remain in this deplorable state until the Omanis sold their holding in Somalia to the Italians who remade Mogadishu into the capital of Italian Somaliland.


The Technology of making Paper was transferred to the Muslim world at the battle of the Talas River. Chinese engineers brought the technology to the Abbasid court and from there it quickly spread to the rest of the Muslim world. Without this technology the golden age of Abbasid dynasty wouldn’t have occurred. There would have be no libraries, bookstores and most important no House of Wisdom. This technology however did not disseminate the same way in Somalia. In Somalia only wadaad were literate and they alone wrote in Arabic for religious purposes so today we have religious documents but no secular document about ruler and their government have survived. Also Ibn Khaldun says in his book Muqaddimah that civilizations in pre-modern time follow a cycle, a dynasty would emerge on the periphery and due to it stronger social cohesion subdue a decadent social order eg another dynasty. As time goes they become decadent and rote from within thus they are ripe for conquer by the next group and so the cycle repeat again and again. So why didn’t the Somalis fallow this trajectory. The Cissa, Gadabirsi and Garri Kombi didn’t build the abandon cities of northern Somalia I believe the Harla build them just like they build most of the countless abandon cities and palaces in the Harar plateau. Yet these clans inherited little from this advance civilization when Richard Burton was making his celebrated adventure to Harar the Somali Garri Kombo were just begin to settle down and become farmers almost 300 years after the fall of the Harla civilization. The same thing happened to the Hiraab and other migrating northern Somali when they inherited the Ajuuraan and Mogadishu dynasties’ lands. They didn’t assimilate and build on the civilization they inherited. They didn’t become more organized, sedentary or hierarchal instead they remain nomads. Why is it only in Somalia that we see civilizational collapse not once but twice?
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Re: Somalis and Civilization

Postby gurey25 » Sun May 05, 2013 7:09 pm

interesting thread..

3000BC to 500BC we have very little data, most of the country has not been explored .

500 bc to 500 AD yes definitely shifting trade patterns has a major effect, coastal towns will rise and fall due to the changes.
This was the period of the founding of all the major coastal towns from zeylac to barawe.
There are no inland agricultural and urban sites in somalia form that period.


1000-1500 A.D now this period is very interesting , did you choose these dates randomly or did you have an idea.
let me explain the period between 1000 AD and 1500 AD is where most of the climate change happened.

The medieval war period was good for europe it made growing crops easier , population boomed till it dropped in the 1350's.
In africa specially in the Sahel where somalia is , it caused an unstable climate from regular drought and floods every other year for hundred of years, making agriculture very difficult.
this was followed by the massive mega drought from 1400's onwards till the 1750's, this was the little ice age in europe, when europe froze, africa and the middle east was in drought.
The portuguse destruction of the indian ocean trade networks also doomed the Ajuraan, and all the other urban , agrucltural somali societies when accompanied by the drought.
The Somalis took to camel culture and abandoned agriculture and trade because of these reasons.

The area between jijiga and berbera is full of unexplored ancient ruins, only the the ruins in amoud have been analyzed by western archeologists and they estimate them to be from the 1300's and to be populated by around 50,000 people this is huge population, especially if we consider that harar had the same number of people 50,000 at the time of the futuxat al xabash.They found that this urban center in amoud , gabiley was in an agricultural region, they found grains( pearl millet, and Sourghum) and traces of coffee and beans.

there are dozens of other sites in northern somalia, who knows there could be even more in the south.

like you said somalis have abandoned "civilization" i.e urban living and agriculture more than once in the past,
in the case of the northern somalis in Somaliland agriculture started again in the 1870's more than 300 years after people abandoned it.

who knows maybe future discoveries will show us more.
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Re: Somalis and Civilization

Postby 21CenturyAmir » Sun May 05, 2013 8:41 pm

gurey25 wrote:interesting thread..

3000BC to 500BC we have very little data, most of the country has not been explored .

500 bc to 500 AD yes definitely shifting trade patterns has a major effect, coastal towns will rise and fall due to the changes.
This was the period of the founding of all the major coastal towns from zeylac to barawe.
There are no inland agricultural and urban sites in somalia form that period.


1000-1500 A.D now this period is very interesting , did you choose these dates randomly or did you have an idea.
let me explain the period between 1000 AD and 1500 AD is where most of the climate change happened.


500B.C-500A.D the city states of the erthyraeans Sea was a completely different civilization than the Islamic civilization that developed almost 1000 years later. Europeans see history linearly they like smooth transitions. I don't believe Somalis history can be categories in the manner Somalis don't know who inhabit the peninsula before they did. Our history only eludes to a people who habited the north before the Somalis did and that we are their heir but without record it not history it mythology.
gurey25 wrote:The medieval war period was good for europe it made growing crops easier , population boomed till it dropped in the 1350's.
In africa specially in the Sahel where somalia is , it caused an unstable climate from regular drought and floods every other year for hundred of years, making agriculture very difficult.
this was followed by the massive mega drought from 1400's onwards till the 1750's, this was the little ice age in europe, when europe froze, africa and the middle east was in drought.
The portuguse destruction of the indian ocean trade networks also doomed the Ajuraan, and all the other urban , agrucltural somali societies when accompanied by the drought.
The Somalis took to camel culture and abandoned agriculture and trade because of these reasons.


the Europeans experience a population boom because they acquired new technology like the iron plow and the waterwheel from the middle east. Without this technology northern Europe would have remain a cold forested wilderness. If only we had gained this technology perhaps we would have fair better in the middle ages.
Also there are other places in the Muslim world where the same phenomena occurred. among the Tuareg high in the Auir mountains in Mali and other in Niger and Algeria. Once the tauregs had extensive cultivated land and kingdoms but around the 14-16th century most of these settlement collapsed and the Tauregs become predominately nomadic.a triple trifecta of climate change, economic collapse and Oromo invasion caused somali civilizational collapse.
gurey25 wrote:The area between jijiga and berbera is full of unexplored ancient ruins, only the the ruins in amoud have been analyzed by western archeologists and they estimate them to be from the 1300's and to be populated by around 50,000 people this is huge population, especially if we consider that harar had the same number of people 50,000 at the time of the futuxat al xabash.They found that this urban center in amoud , gabiley was in an agricultural region, they found grains( pearl millet, and Sourghum) and traces of coffee and beans.

there are dozens of other sites in northern somalia, who knows there could be even more in the south.

like you said somalis have abandoned "civilization" i.e urban living and agriculture more than once in the past,
in the case of the northern somalis in Somaliland agriculture started again in the 1870's more than 300 years after people abandoned it.

who knows maybe future discoveries will show us more.


the area from Harare to Erigavo is I believe the more important historical.this region had extensive agriculture and it on a stretegic trade routes while southern Somalia relies heavy on trade. the largest aquaducts in Somalia is found in northern Somalia.for example, the aqueducts linking dubar in the highland to barbera on the coast. what more hargaysa was once under Oromo control as was much of the corridor between harar and hargaysa. Somalia started only reconquering them in the 18th century. Jigjig area rediscovered agriculture in the 19th century while gabilay and borama redeveloped agriculture after the British colonize the north. in south Somalia, agriculture decline so much and only took off when Somalia started importing 50 thousand Bantu. In the 19th century Somalia became the key breadbasket of southern Arabia, a textile industry had developed in xamar but the biggest export for the international market was ivory. this reconnected the coast with interior for the first in century.
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Re: Somalis and Civilization

Postby gurey25 » Sun May 05, 2013 8:57 pm

i dont think there where any oromo in the hargiesa area, the oromo attempted to expand south but where checked by the Ajuran, ( a theory on how the ajuran created a centralized state is that it was their role as imaam united different somali groups to resist oromo raids consolidating power and become the gareen dynasty).
They then had to wait for Adal and the Ethiopians to exhaust themselves so they could move north.

The oromos attempted another smaller scale expansion from harar towards jijiga in the late 1600's but where checked by the bartire.
The hargiesa area was ogaden when the isaaq arrived, and the Dir population moved south and west before the ogaden arrived there in the 1600's.


as for why somalis didnt develop a great civilization.. its mostly to do with climate.
The riverine regions are the best for this but are plagued by mosquitos, malaria means that populations remain small and there wont be enough for major irrigation works, meaning no large state structures, rain fed agriculture in the north was handicapped by climate change.

The period before 1000AD was perfect for northern agriculture, 1000 to 1400 unstable rapid changes from drought to heavy rains handicapped development and the
little ice age in europe lead to a drought in the sahel meaning you had to depend on massive irrigation works in wadis and oasis linking them with something like the perisan qanat system.
or move on to something simpler like camel herding, which does not require any state structures.
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Re: Somalis and Civilization

Postby 21CenturyAmir » Mon May 06, 2013 6:00 pm

gurey25 wrote:i dont think there where any oromo in the hargiesa area, the oromo attempted to expand south but where checked by the Ajuran, ( a theory on how the ajuran created a centralized state is that it was their role as imaam united different somali groups to resist oromo raids consolidating power and become the gareen dynasty).
They then had to wait for Adal and the Ethiopians to exhaust themselves so they could move north.

The oromos attempted another smaller scale expansion from harar towards jijiga in the late 1600's but where checked by the bartire.
The hargiesa area was ogaden when the isaaq arrived, and the Dir population moved south and west before the ogaden arrived there in the 1600's.


as for why somalis didnt develop a great civilization.. its mostly to do with climate.
The riverine regions are the best for this but are plagued by mosquitos, malaria means that populations remain small and there wont be enough for major irrigation works, meaning no large state structures, rain fed agriculture in the north was handicapped by climate change.

The period before 1000AD was perfect for northern agriculture, 1000 to 1400 unstable rapid changes from drought to heavy rains handicapped development and the
little ice age in europe lead to a drought in the sahel meaning you had to depend on massive irrigation works in wadis and oasis linking them with something like the perisan qanat system.
or move on to something simpler like camel herding, which does not require any state structures.


interesting both the Ishaq and the oromo claim that there was an oromo presence in northern somalia. Oromo claim that Jigjiga and Borama were both oromo lands but it is not easy to separate fact for mythology in the horn of Africa.

as to development of agriculture, it was just malaria since south india and South asian have the same tropical condition. i believe it has to do with the fact that somalis didn't have a draft animal like the water buffole which made rice patty the most important agricultural crop before the introduction of plantains and corn from the new world.

So far we have considered only climate change has a factor in civilization collapse, there are other facts for instance i recently found that along east africa the Bari coast of somalia is 40x more likely to be struck by Tsunamis that say southern somalia or even Kenya. also we have barely considered what effects infective disease like plagues have on a society. we have an example from our own history, a rinderpest outbreak killed all the cattle of the oromo and when famine had taken it toil somalis conquered the lands between the Tana, Jubba and Dawa river valleys.

The climate factor however has the most drastic effect on somalia history because we have seen it before. The Ghana empire, The Tuareg kingdoms, the Nabateans in northern Arabia, Hadhramaut, Dhofar and the Beja kingdoms of Sudan and Eritrea. it is important to know climate history especially in a fragile place like somalia where desertification has run rampant, we are entering a volatile climate stage in the planet history understand how our ancestries dealt with climate change might help to deal with today climate troubles.

Guray here are two article i think you will find interesting.

Kingdoms of the Sands: how sahara slaving trading people made the desert bloom. its talking about the Garamates of ancient Fezzan whose civilization flourished in the Sahara of Libya for 600 years and the ecological disaster that finally starved their kingdom to extinction.
http://archive.archaeology.org/0403/abs ... sands.html

Galla Myth of Somali history: Origin and impact.
it talks of the misrepresentation of somalis history by Europeans who build a theory that somalis evicted oromo out of somalia. divorcing somalis from their lands and make us invader rather than the indigenous people. interesting it introduces two people the Tiirii and the Madalle who are seen as ancestors of the somali people.
http://www.wardheernews.com/Articles_20 ... y_said.pdf
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Re: Somalis and Civilization

Postby gurey25 » Mon May 06, 2013 6:55 pm

your link

http://www.wardheernews.com/Articles_20 ... y_said.pdf
confirms what i said, that there were no oromo in the north of somalia, unless you consider Akisho and gurgura and their dir cousins to be oromo.
The location of the oromo homeland is well known and is no mystery, and their expansion in the mid 1500's is also well documented.
Their previous expansion south and assimilation of the gabra and jiddi by jiddi i assume they mean the current clan within the digil/mirifle confederation and garre.
The garre are somali and they claim to have escaped a 100 year enslavement by the oromo, this is why their language is similiar to borona.

draft animals and rice is not the issue because rice is not native to the region,
the people in east africa till the introduction of corn by the europeans from america cultivated millets.
Pearl millet, Finger Millet and Sorghum all over the region as far south as tanzania and in the ethiopian highlands and both the riverine regions in somalia and the north.
Teff,Wheat( ancient varieties such as emmer from the fertile cresent), barley and Teff where grown in Ethiopia, you had bannanas and ensete in the region too very early)
rice doesnt come into the picture although it could have done well in the riverine regions.

Its more likely that unstable climatic conditions where the cause of no large civilization forming in the region.
unless maybe you could consider the shungwayo bantu civiliation in the Jubba valley.
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