Cultural Amnesia?

From what archeology has been done we know that Somalia has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years and was the location of the domestication of the "Arabian" camel. It is also the location of the kingdom of Punt, the Macrobians, city states that traded with Europe, etc. And then its dark and empty. Somehow all knowledge of these civilisations disappeared from the consciousness of the nation. Most the cities became abandoned or replaced by new pastoralists. The rest of history from late antiquity onwards is well preserved in oral traditions and written down by foreigners. Yet somehow we have no written script during the middle ages even though we had several before.

It's mind-boggling how this reset could have happened. There's genetic evidence such as a bottle neck over 2000 years ago in the Y chromosome haplogroups. At least 10,000 years of existence as a separate ethnic group but all men descend from a handful around 1AD? Several written scripts found but no one remembers them?There's no fucking way a city written in the periplus of the erythraean sea such as bosaso is now fully occupied by people descended from 1 guy around a few centuries ago. Who don't even remember anything prior to their progenitor.
 
Somalis are a very oral people. They don’t usually write records or whatever. However, there is proof that they existed though.
 
It’s really strange I agree - why is there such a historical black hole? The little we know is scraped together from other people‘s historical footnotes.

I was musing over this while reading the Korean 3 kingdoms period on Wiki. The entry on our Somali history is brief and the further back in the timeline the more it reads like mythological fanfic (read: Herodotus).

It’s honestly disheartening.
 
Somalis are a very oral people. They don’t usually write records or whatever. However, there is proof that they existed though.
They have a yet to be fully translated native script that potentially outdated the presence of Ge'ez script in the Horn of Africa. Depending on the eventual dating and more studies on the subject, it might be the case that proto-Somali/Harlaw peoples may be the most likely candidate for pre-South Semetic Horner civilizations.
 
They have a yet to be fully translated native script that potentially outdated the presence of Ge'ez script in the Horn of Africa. Depending on the eventual dating and more studies on the subject, it might be the case that proto-Somali/Harlaw peoples may be the most likely candidate for pre-South Semetic Horner civilizations.
What’s this native script called?
 
From what archeology has been done we know that Somalia has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years and was the location of the domestication of the "Arabian" camel. It is also the location of the kingdom of Punt, the Macrobians, city states that traded with Europe, etc. And then its dark and empty. Somehow all knowledge of these civilisations disappeared from the consciousness of the nation. Most the cities became abandoned or replaced by new pastoralists. The rest of history from late antiquity onwards is well preserved in oral traditions and written down by foreigners. Yet somehow we have no written script during the middle ages even though we had several before.

It's mind-boggling how this reset could have happened. There's genetic evidence such as a bottle neck over 2000 years ago in the Y chromosome haplogroups. At least 10,000 years of existence as a separate ethnic group but all men descend from a handful around 1AD? Several written scripts found but no one remembers them?There's no fucking way a city written in the periplus of the erythraean sea such as bosaso is now fully occupied by people descended from 1 guy around a few centuries ago. Who don't even remember anything prior to their progenitor.
Small pockets of Somalia have been peopled since ancient times but most of Somaliweyn was empty and uninhabited until the ancestors of Somalis arrived. The location of Macrobians and Punt is unknown and still debated most likely it was not in Somalia. The Dromedary Camel was tamed in Asia and arrived in Africa via Sinai and Bab al Mandeb as a domestic animal. We never had an indigenous script, in fact, few people in history had Scripts and they copied it from each other.
 
Archaeology in Somalia is minuscule compared to even the rest of Africa let alone the world. Modern technology like laser scanning would reveal the true size of ancient sites, how old they are and how they connect to medieval and modern cities in terms of continuity. Chittick in the 1970s stopped at the 12th century for Mogadishu as a foundation date and did not go deeper despite there being layers below. Another major source for future information on the past would be to investigate more inland and more beyond the coastal cities and beaches, because the original ancient coastline from thousands of years ago is now under water, so if that was the staging point for trade and life, then you would have to go into the water to reveal the past, which is how they found ancient port cities in Greece and India.

Script displacement is also not a new phenomena unique to Somalia, the same happened with Sudan and the Meroitic Script or Greece and the Minoan Script. The Makurians and Alodians of Sudan adopted Greek and Coptic for their literature because of their new Christian faith, the Greeks adopted and eventually adapted the Phoenician Script into a new one after doing trade with the latter and lost the Minoan Script. In Somalia's case, the introduction of Islam and the shift to using the Arabic Script no doubt was the reason why older forms of writing like Sabaic and a undeciphered script went into discontinuation because that's exactly what happened across the Red Sea in Yemen too.

If in the case of Somalia, these scripts were only used for commercial transactions and religious activities, then their eventual death make sense because in the majority of the world the literate class throughout history was less than 5% (except Dynastic China and the later Islamic caliphates) and if that same class converted to a new religion with a very strong and established script and whose continues existence is fully powered by a forever relevant book like the Quran, the older scripts would eventually phase out and die.

There are very few examples where the switch to (or the presence of) a new dominant religion or empire was accompanied by the continues use of an older script, and this mainly happened in mountainous and isolated kingdoms like Armenia and Abyssinia or close-knit communities like the Jews. In the rest of the world, the presence of a new dominant religion or empire saw the end of older religions and scripts, which is what happened in Ancient Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Meso-America, etc which today outside of tourism have little to no connection with their modern descendants.

What is interesting about the Somalia example is that no ancient superpower ruled us with an iron fist, no ancient army subdued us and no ancient super religion was forced upon us despite having had contact with all of the major empires of the time and being in close proximity to influential ancient religions. This can only mean that at some point, not yet identified, one dominant Somali group with a new technological or moral high ground (usually religion) advantage displaced another previously dominant Somali group and eventually forced them to the peripheries of society to the point where their knowledge and expertise eventually died with them. This wouldn't be the first time that a major influential group or culture in the Horn went extinct, the Harla, the Maya and other groups are fine examples.

The death of the Roman Empire also had a profound effect on merchants in Somalia between the 5th and 8th centuries, during those 300 years there is a huge blind spot in terms of records and trade activities, and that again makes sense because merchants from Somalia made their profits from frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and the major empire that used to import those items in vast quantities was overrun by Germanic tribes, so that specific period of 300 years is most likely where the religious shift happened that affected the dynamics of Somali religious thinking, cultural traditions and what was considered from then on noble in terms of occupational jobs.

Also Greater Somalia even just two centuries ago had a population of only 1 to 2 million people, so if we go back 1300 years earlier, the population was probably around the 200 thousand people if not less, dispersed across a vast landmass but one that was well connected through trade and family ties, which is why in the span of a couple centuries a few dozen known Sheikhs proselytizing a new religion could result in 99% of the Somali people being Muslim today.

Reconstructing Somali History century by century could be easily achieved through a combination of disciplines, but unfortunately the lack of access for archaeologists, the lack of clan-neutral historians, the lack of initiatives to collect native manuscripts and the lack of funding for equipment, staff and projects over the last 50+ years has inhibited any progress on that front.

That's a major advantage other countries have on Somalia, their histories are slowly being illuminated, while ours remains in the dark.
 
Archaeology in Somalia is minuscule compared to even the rest of Africa let alone the world. Modern technology like laser scanning would reveal the true size of ancient sites, how old they are and how they connect to medieval and modern cities in terms of continuity. Chittick in the 1970s stopped at the 12th century for Mogadishu as a foundation date and did not go deeper despite there being layers below. Another major source for future information on the past would be to investigate more inland and more beyond the coastal cities and beaches, because the original ancient coastline from thousands of years ago is now under water, so if that was the staging point for trade and life, then you would have to go into the water to reveal the past, which is how they found ancient port cities in Greece and India.

Script displacement is also not a new phenomena unique to Somalia, the same happened with Sudan and the Meroitic Script or Greece and the Minoan Script. The Makurians and Alodians of Sudan adopted Greek and Coptic for their literature because of their new Christian faith, the Greeks adopted and eventually adapted the Phoenician Script into a new one after doing trade with the latter and lost the Minoan Script. In Somalia's case, the introduction of Islam and the shift to using the Arabic Script no doubt was the reason why older forms of writing like Sabaic and a undeciphered script went into discontinuation because that's exactly what happened across the Red Sea in Yemen too.

If in the case of Somalia, these scripts were only used for commercial transactions and religious activities, then their eventual death make sense because in the majority of the world the literate class throughout history was less than 5% (except Dynastic China and the later Islamic caliphates) and if that same class converted to a new religion with a very strong and established script and whose continues existence is fully powered by a forever relevant book like the Quran, the older scripts would eventually phase out and die.

There are very few examples where the switch to (or the presence of) a new dominant religion or empire was accompanied by the continues use of an older script, and this mainly happened in mountainous and isolated kingdoms like Armenia and Abyssinia or close-knit communities like the Jews. In the rest of the world, the presence of a new dominant religion or empire saw the end of older religions and scripts, which is what happened in Ancient Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Meso-America, etc which today outside of tourism have little to no connection with their modern descendants.

What is interesting about the Somalia example is that no ancient superpower ruled us with an iron fist, no ancient army subdued us and no ancient super religion was forced upon us despite having had contact with all of the major empires of the time and being in close proximity to influential ancient religions. This can only mean that at some point, not yet identified, one dominant Somali group with a new technological or moral high ground (usually religion) advantage displaced another previously dominant Somali group and eventually forced them to the peripheries of society to the point where their knowledge and expertise eventually died with them. This wouldn't be the first time that a major influential group or culture in the Horn went extinct, the Harla, the Maya and other groups are fine examples.

The death of the Roman Empire also had a profound effect on merchants in Somalia between the 5th and 8th centuries, during those 300 years there is a huge blind spot in terms of records and trade activities, and that again makes sense because merchants from Somalia made their profits from frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and the major empire that used to import those items in vast quantities was overrun by Germanic tribes, so that specific period of 300 years is most likely where the religious shift happened that affected the dynamics of Somali religious thinking, cultural traditions and what was considered from then on noble in terms of occupational jobs.

Also Greater Somalia even just two centuries ago had a population of only 1 to 2 million people, so if we go back 1300 years earlier, the population was probably around the 200 thousand people if not less, dispersed across a vast landmass but one that was well connected through trade and family ties, which is why in the span of a couple centuries a few dozen known Sheikhs proselytizing a new religion could result in 99% of the Somali people being Muslim today.

Reconstructing Somali History century by century could be easily achieved through a combination of disciplines, but unfortunately the lack of access for archaeologists, the lack of clan-neutral historians, the lack of initiatives to collect native manuscripts and the lack of funding for equipment, staff and projects over the last 50+ years has inhibited any progress on that front.

That's a major advantage other countries have on Somalia, their histories are slowly being illuminated, while ours remains in the dark.
Very informative walaal. Are there any books that further detail Sabean influence among the Somali coast?
 
Archaeology in Somalia is minuscule compared to even the rest of Africa let alone the world. Modern technology like laser scanning would reveal the true size of ancient sites, how old they are and how they connect to medieval and modern cities in terms of continuity. Chittick in the 1970s stopped at the 12th century for Mogadishu as a foundation date and did not go deeper despite there being layers below. Another major source for future information on the past would be to investigate more inland and more beyond the coastal cities and beaches, because the original ancient coastline from thousands of years ago is now under water, so if that was the staging point for trade and life, then you would have to go into the water to reveal the past, which is how they found ancient port cities in Greece and India.

Script displacement is also not a new phenomena unique to Somalia, the same happened with Sudan and the Meroitic Script or Greece and the Minoan Script. The Makurians and Alodians of Sudan adopted Greek and Coptic for their literature because of their new Christian faith, the Greeks adopted and eventually adapted the Phoenician Script into a new one after doing trade with the latter and lost the Minoan Script. In Somalia's case, the introduction of Islam and the shift to using the Arabic Script no doubt was the reason why older forms of writing like Sabaic and a undeciphered script went into discontinuation because that's exactly what happened across the Red Sea in Yemen too.

If in the case of Somalia, these scripts were only used for commercial transactions and religious activities, then their eventual death make sense because in the majority of the world the literate class throughout history was less than 5% (except Dynastic China and the later Islamic caliphates) and if that same class converted to a new religion with a very strong and established script and whose continues existence is fully powered by a forever relevant book like the Quran, the older scripts would eventually phase out and die.

There are very few examples where the switch to (or the presence of) a new dominant religion or empire was accompanied by the continues use of an older script, and this mainly happened in mountainous and isolated kingdoms like Armenia and Abyssinia or close-knit communities like the Jews. In the rest of the world, the presence of a new dominant religion or empire saw the end of older religions and scripts, which is what happened in Ancient Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Meso-America, etc which today outside of tourism have little to no connection with their modern descendants.

What is interesting about the Somalia example is that no ancient superpower ruled us with an iron fist, no ancient army subdued us and no ancient super religion was forced upon us despite having had contact with all of the major empires of the time and being in close proximity to influential ancient religions. This can only mean that at some point, not yet identified, one dominant Somali group with a new technological or moral high ground (usually religion) advantage displaced another previously dominant Somali group and eventually forced them to the peripheries of society to the point where their knowledge and expertise eventually died with them. This wouldn't be the first time that a major influential group or culture in the Horn went extinct, the Harla, the Maya and other groups are fine examples.

The death of the Roman Empire also had a profound effect on merchants in Somalia between the 5th and 8th centuries, during those 300 years there is a huge blind spot in terms of records and trade activities, and that again makes sense because merchants from Somalia made their profits from frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and the major empire that used to import those items in vast quantities was overrun by Germanic tribes, so that specific period of 300 years is most likely where the religious shift happened that affected the dynamics of Somali religious thinking, cultural traditions and what was considered from then on noble in terms of occupational jobs.

Also Greater Somalia even just two centuries ago had a population of only 1 to 2 million people, so if we go back 1300 years earlier, the population was probably around the 200 thousand people if not less, dispersed across a vast landmass but one that was well connected through trade and family ties, which is why in the span of a couple centuries a few dozen known Sheikhs proselytizing a new religion could result in 99% of the Somali people being Muslim today.

Reconstructing Somali History century by century could be easily achieved through a combination of disciplines, but unfortunately the lack of access for archaeologists, the lack of clan-neutral historians, the lack of initiatives to collect native manuscripts and the lack of funding for equipment, staff and projects over the last 50+ years has inhibited any progress on that front.
I believe we can make progress. I know so many young 20 something graduate students of archeology, anthropology & history.
That's a major advantage other countries have on Somalia, their histories are slowly being illuminated, while ours remains in the dark.
 
Cultural amnesia usually occurs by natural disasters or conflicts that destroy historical documents and artifacts, such as wars, earthquakes, or fires.

Government policies or legislation that restrict access to cultural heritage or suppress certain cultural practices, such as censorship or cultural assimilation.

Economic or social changes that cause a shift in values and priorities, leading to a disregard for cultural traditions and a focus on the present and future.

A lack of education and awareness about cultural heritage, leading to a lack of interest in preserving and sharing cultural memory.

The influence of globalization and Westernization, which can lead to the adoption of foreign cultural practices and the marginalization of indigenous cultures.

In our case, I believe it to be a mixture between conflicts and economic shifts that leads people to disregard culture, and for good reason what good is culture when people are dying every day?
 
Archaeology in Somalia is minuscule compared to even the rest of Africa let alone the world. Modern technology like laser scanning would reveal the true size of ancient sites, how old they are and how they connect to medieval and modern cities in terms of continuity. Chittick in the 1970s stopped at the 12th century for Mogadishu as a foundation date and did not go deeper despite there being layers below. Another major source for future information on the past would be to investigate more inland and more beyond the coastal cities and beaches, because the original ancient coastline from thousands of years ago is now under water, so if that was the staging point for trade and life, then you would have to go into the water to reveal the past, which is how they found ancient port cities in Greece and India.
Traditions talks ab many innland areas of potential archeological value such as Ondulle, an Ajuraan fortress. Also colonial figuers also noted ruins in multiple innland areas (Baydhowa, Wombatti-Dafeed, Bendiger-Gedo, etc.)

Collecting oral stories and using them to help archeological work is crucial
What is interesting about the Somalia example is that no ancient superpower ruled us with an iron fist, no ancient army subdued us and no ancient super religion was forced upon us despite having had contact with all of the major empires of the time and being in close proximity to influential ancient religions. This can only mean that at some point, not yet identified, one dominant Somali group with a new technological or moral high ground (usually religion) advantage displaced another previously dominant Somali group and eventually forced them to the peripheries of society to the point where their knowledge and expertise eventually died with them. This wouldn't be the first time that a major influential group or culture in the Horn went extinct, the Harla, the Maya and other groups are fine examples.
There's traditions of Tiiri (giants) such as Reer Caad and Madanle ruling Somaliweyn until current Somalis displaced them. Today it's said u can see vestige of them in crains, deep wells, ruins etc. Interesting Madanle, the former rulers of the ancient south, are heavily associated with the Ajuraan, the rulers of Medieval South

This is propably based on the truth of population shift and making ancient people into giants is a common human phenomenon (such as Minoan being seen as giants by ancient greeks).

Btw, Harla is still alive, tho heavily reduced from their medieval strength, in their former homelands. Madanle too under the Eelaay clan and more
The death of the Roman Empire also had a profound effect on merchants in Somalia between the 5th and 8th centuries, during those 300 years there is a huge blind spot in terms of records and trade activities, and that again makes sense because merchants from Somalia made their profits from frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and the major empire that used to import those items in vast quantities was overrun by Germanic tribes, so that specific period of 300 years is most likely where the religious shift happened that affected the dynamics of Somali religious thinking, cultural traditions and what was considered from then on noble in terms of occupational jobs.

Also Greater Somalia even just two centuries ago had a population of only 1 to 2 million people, so if we go back 1300 years earlier, the population was probably around the 200 thousand people if not less, dispersed across a vast landmass but one that was well connected through trade and family ties, which is why in the span of a couple centuries a few dozen known Sheikhs proselytizing a new religion could result in 99% of the Somali people being Muslim today.

Reconstructing Somali History century by century could be easily achieved through a combination of disciplines, but unfortunately the lack of access for archaeologists, the lack of clan-neutral historians, the lack of initiatives to collect native manuscripts and the lack of funding for equipment, staff and projects over the last 50+ years has inhibited any progress on that front.
I would also add the poor collection of oral history. Idk of it's bc adopting old European prejudice of oral stories or something else, but collection of oral history has been shockingly bad. We don't even have oral traditions of Gareen in Shabelle when it coems to Ajuraan!!! And many regions, like Galmudug and Bakool are either non-existent, scarce or dependent on Colonial collection.
That's a major advantage other countries have on Somalia, their histories are slowly being illuminated, while ours remains in the dark.
There are some work done tho, like the french and spanish teams umcovering Awdal history and local historians like Said Shidad uncovering ancient cities. However, it's not neaely enough and more need to be done
 
Small pockets of Somalia have been peopled since ancient times but most of Somaliweyn was empty and uninhabited until the ancestors of Somalis arrived. The location of Macrobians and Punt is unknown and still debated most likely it was not in Somalia. The Dromedary Camel was tamed in Asia and arrived in Africa via Sinai and Bab al Mandeb as a domestic animal. We never had an indigenous script, in fact, few people in history had Scripts and they copied it from each other.
What ancestors are you referring to? There has been very little change in the genetic landscape of Somalia for the past several thousand years.
 
What ancestors are you referring to? There has been very little change in the genetic landscape of Somalia for the past several thousand years.
Who else but the Cushitic? They descended down the Nile River from the Kingdom of Kush from what I heard. And spread over the Horn of Africa
 
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Due to the instability and state collapse, and the negative reputation it caused, practically no archeologists and historians want to come to Somalia. There's so many historical sites, some I've even heard with writing scripts but unfortunately until the country gets stability and the government starts investing in historical research and compilation much of it will continue to be a mystery.

 

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