African Archaeological Review

, Volume 24, Issue 3–4, pp 49–71 | Cite as

Preserving Knowledge, not Objects: A Somali Perspective for Heritage Management and Archaeological Research

  • Sada MireEmail author
Original Article


This article argues that the Somali people have a distinctive view on heritage and a different approach to its preservation relevant to their society. It suggests that a locally appropriate theoretical framework for heritage management and archaeological research can only be achieved if this local approach is taken into consideration and integrated into archaeological and heritage methodologies. The lack of qualified Somalis and indigenous perspectives in the archaeological research and heritage management policies characterizes Somali cultural heritage and archaeological research history. This research shows that previous approaches that have been pursued lacked dialogue and incorporation of local views of heritage practice. This lack of dialogue has been of paramount importance for the failure of the preservation of Somali cultural heritage, evident both in the previous neglect of its preservation and in the current looting and destruction of archaeological sites in Somaliland, Puntland and south-central Somalia. It is demonstrated how Somali indigenous perspectives are concurring and contributing to world heritage management and archaeological research methods. I suggest that any heritage work must integrate local approaches and trained local groups should lead archaeological research and heritage management in order to achieve sustainable development and self-representation.


Knowledge Somali Heritage Archaeology 


Cet article traite de l’opinion particulière du patrimoine et d’une approche différente de son maintien par rapport à leur société qu’ont les Somaliens. Il propose qu’une structure théorique locale appropriée pour la gestion du patrimoine et pour la recherche archéologique ne puisse être mise en place que si cette approche locale est prise en considération et intégrée dans les méthodologies archéologiques et patrimoniales. Le manque de Somaliens qualifiés et les points de vue indigènes dans la recherche archéologique et dans les politiques de gestion du patrimoine caractérise le patrimoine culturel Somalien et l’histoire de la recherche archéologique. Cette recherche montre que les approches précédentes qui ont été menées manquaient de dialogue et de prise en compte des points de vue locaux de la coutume du patrimoine. Ce manque de dialogue a été d’une importance primordiale dans l’échec de la préservation du patrimoine culturel Somalien, ceci est évident à la fois dans l’absence de préservation, dans le pillage actuel et dans la destruction des sites archéologiques de Somaliland, Puntland et de la Somalie centrale du sud. Il est démontré comment les points de vue indigènes concourent et contribuent aux méthodes de gestion du patrimoine mondial et à la recherche archéologique. Je suggère que chaque travail sur le patrimoine intègre des approches locales et que des groupes locaux formés pilotent la recherche archéologique et la gestion du patrimoine de manière à atteindre un développement durable et une représentation autonome.



I would like to thank people who have provided me with images and insightful comments in the process leading to this article: Ugaso Kahin Bulhan, Johan Franzén, Prof. Fekri A. Hassan, Natasha Kusemamuriwo, Sohur Mire, Mohamed A. Mohamed, Prof. Merrick Posnansky, Dr. Aloisia de Trafford and anonymous reviewers. I alone, needless to say, take full responsibility for all opinions expressed in this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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