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THE HISTORY OF PRE-ISLAMIC SOMALIA

Exploring the ancient legacy of ancient Somalia and understanding the pre-Islamic influence of the religion of Waaq in the horn of Africa.



STONE-AGE SOMALIA


A team of archeologists led by Richard Leaky in 1967 first discovered ancient modern human fossils consisting of two skulls and one partial skeleton in the Omo Basin in Ethiopia, which was estimated to date back to approximately 130,000 years ago.


However, another team of scientists from the Australian National University revisited the site in 2005 and came across additional fragments of the fossilized skull that matched those of the original skulls. The new findings were dated as approximately 195,000 years old, using modern radiocarbon dating, making them the oldest modern human remains so far discovered. These human remains were deposited in Addis Ababa Museum as witness that the Horn of African region is the cradle of mankind.


Furthermore, in the northeastern Horn of Africa, now a Somali inhabited territory, the oldest indication of Stone Age human habitation was evidenced with the discovery of “Acheulean stone blades and flint tools discovered in the vicinity of Hargeisa and in the caves along the Golis escarpment", dating back to roughly 12,000-40,000 years.



Heyward Seton-Karr (1859–1938) a game hunter and adventurer affiliated with the British Royal Geographical Society discovered stone hand axes at Jalelo on the slopes of a hill between the port of Berbera and Hargeisa in 1896, which dates back to 40,000 years. The Somali prehistoric hand axes have since been exhibited in public museums such as the British and the Australian Museums.


Yet still, more evidence of prehistoric human habitation of the Somali territory was discovered at Laas Geel complex, located about 50 km north of Hargeisa. The Lass Geel cave paintings depict images of cows, local inhabitants dressed in what appear to be ceremonial robes, and a few dogs in what also appear to be ceremonial robes. The humans have their hands in the air in what is considered a worshiping posture. The cave walls are also covered in old hieroglyphic scripture.


Somalis have known of the existence of the caves for centuries and have regarded them as historical sites, hence, the Somali name for the caves. Yet, the Western world only found out about these sites in 2003 when a French team of archaeologists was searching the caves in the area.Paintings at Laas Geel demonstrate early pastoral livestock herding in the Horn of Africa. In particular, the camel is believed to have been domesticated in the Horn of Africa between the third and second millennium BC, and from there spread to Egypt and North Africa.



THE RELIGION OF EBBE WAAQ


Prior to the advent of Islam in Somalia, its indigenous population are believed to have adhered to a complex polytheistic belief system comprised of various deities who were all governed by a single all-powerful figure called Eebe and invariably also referred to as Waaq, from where their ancient religion draws its name, Eebe Waaq.


Their ordinary religious temples and places of worship were known as Xeero however for more ceremonial events, the ancient Somalis would attend the Taalo where important rituals were conducted under the guidance of a priest, known as Wadaad.

With the scarce historical documentation still extant and available to researchers in this field, we can outline a basic overview of the ancient spiritual hierarchy upheld and venerated by the ancient people of Somalia. The religion of Eebe Waaq is said to have been comprised of the following key figures.



Above all deities and entities in the religion of Eebe Waaq was the mighty Waaq who presided over the affairs of humanity, it was he that the ancient people of Somalia venerated above all others, they attributed to him the creation of mankind for the sole purpose of praising and venerating him. According to classic Somali legends, he lived in the heavens and whenever the nomads successfully prayed for rain it was known as Barwaaqo – which researchers have loosely translated as ‘God's rain’. The identity of this Somali deity is also believed to have been synonymous to that of the ancient Cushitic Sky God.


Besides Waaq himself, the ancient people of Somalia also venerated the Ayaanle who were believed to have been good spirits who acted as mediators between god and human beings. The Ayaanle were also held as auspicious mediators and conveyors of blessings. In biblical terms they could be comparable to Angels sent to guard over humanity.


Also somewhat comparable to the angel of death was Huur, he was believed to have been the messenger of destruction and was commonly depicted in the form of a large bird. Some historians have drawn comparisons to the ancient Egyptian deity Horus – whose name bears a very similar resemblance to that of Huur.


Finally, the ancient religion of Eebe incorporated the concept of divine retribution, justice and punishment for the evils committed by mankind. The conveyor of such retribution and punishment was known as Nidar, also referred to as the righter of wrong. Nidar was ultimately venerated as the protector and champion of the oppressed.

Although Eebe waaq was one of the prominent religions practiced in ancient Somalia, later on there emerged evidence of monotheistic religions having been practiced in the region, prior to the arrival and spread of Islam. For example, members of the Yibr clan are known to claim direct ancestry from the Hebrews who had migrated out of Egypt during the Exodus and were subsequently scattered throughout the Middle East and in parts of Africa including Ethiopia, Eretria and Somalia.


Recent historical studies partially support this claim as some of the earlier settlers living along Somalia’s Southern coastal cities such as Mogadishu, Bosassu, Bormama and Burco may have indeed practiced early forms of Judaism, as was the case in neighbouring Ethiopia and in Yemen as well as in certain regions of mainland Arabia, long before the advent of Islam.


 

SOURCES


· The history of the Somali peninsula: from ancient times to the medieval Islamic period, Abdurahman M.Abdullahi (Baadiyow) https://www.academia.edu/30695544/the_history_of_the_somali_peninsula_from_ancient_times_to_the_medieval_islamic_period


· Religion in Somalia Before Islam, By Katharine Viola, September 29, 2017 https://classroom.synonym.com/religion-in-somalia-before-islam-12087877.html


· StateUniversity.com: Somalia-History and Background https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1376/Somalia-HISTORY-BACKGROUND.html


· Countries and their Cultures: Somalia https://www.everyculture.com/Sa-Th/Somalia.html

Somalia Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, February 2017 https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199846733/obo-9780199846733-0060.xml

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