Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

Brief overview of Hawiyya clan settlement pattern

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Between 1300-1600

A notion provided by oral tradition about the circumstances in which the Ajuraan state emerged concerns the role of the pastoral Hawiyya clans. Both the origin story and the scattered references to the components of the Ajuraan confederacy suggest that Hawiyya clans formed the core of the polity. External evidence indicates that the present pattern of Hawiyya settlement along both sides of the middle Shabeelle River took shape between 1300 and 1600. Apart from Hawiyya clan traditions, which provide us with a rough chronology of particular clan movements, we find corroboration in Arabic accounts from the coast, which document the spread of Hawiyya trading settlements along the Indian Ocean littoral, and also in Muqdisho town chronicles, which record the intrusion of Hawiyya pastoralists in town life from the mid-fifteenth century.

Hawiyya pastoral migrations involved the occupation of strategic well sites and trading centers as well as extensive grazing areas on both sides of the Shabeelle River. The process of occupation was almost certainly carried out by successive, small-scale advances of herding units and lineage segments over a period of several generations but the end result was the establishment of Hawiyya territorial dominance over a large region. Their control of key pastoral resources provided the economic foundations for an extensive pastoral polity. Indeed, the places identified in tradition as centers of Ajuraan power are without exception sites of important clusters of wells; and most of the ruins attributed to the Ajuraan era lie near well complexes which were central nodes in the annual grazing cycles of the region’s nomads. The inference is that the Ajuraan ruled as a pastoral aristocracy, with the control of wells being the source and symbol of their power.

These roughly contemporaneous Hawiyya pastoral movements can be seen as contributing to the consolidation of a regional polity that fits well with what we know of the Ajuraan from traditions. While the traditions can do no more than indicate the general circumstances in which Ajuraan power was exercised, they do help us weight the external evidence from the period. By juxtaposing oral sources with other fragmentary evidence, it has been possible to suggest a historical explanation for the appearance of the Ajuraan “state” around 1500.


The Shaping of Somali society


Written by abshir100

July 6, 2009 at 10:50 am

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