When British explorers at the end of the 19th century first made their way across the vast deserts of what is today Somaliland, they were surprised to find a landscape strewn with numerous and puzzling stone tumuli, graveyards, and crumbling towns. The largest of these, long known to locals but first explored by A.T. Curle while surveying the countryside in 1935, was called Amud. There, just outside the modern town of Borama, Curle found hundreds of stone houses, mosques, and courtyards, full of glass and Chinese porcelain dating back nearly 500 years. Even older trinkets have been found along the coast dating back at least 2000 years to the time of the Berberi traders mentioned by Greek and Egyptian merchants—some believe the Berberi traders were active even in the times of Pharaonic Egypt.
Somaliland is a country rich with the mostly-undocumented history of wealthy, productive civilizations. Over the last thousand years, the country has played host to the Muslim sultanates of Ifat and Adal, Bantu hunters, and nomadic waves of Somalis and Oromo, each leaving their successive traces on the land. But the de facto independent state’s archaeological heritage has been left almost entirely unstudied, unmapped, and unpreserved.