Journal of Islamic Archaeology, Vol 6, No 1 (2019)

The Mosques of Harar: An Archaeological and Historical Study

Timothy Insoll, Ahmed Zekaria
Issued Date: 18 Sep 2019


The mosques of Harar have been the focus of some architectural and historical study but not archaeological investigation. This was redressed through excavation of six mosques in the city, the results of which are presented. These were identified from existing historical research as significant in the Islamization of Harar. Consensus on either the date or processes of Islamization does not exist. The partial history of the mosques investigated—Aw Abdal, Aw Abadir, Aw Meshad, Din Agobera, Fehkredin, Jami—is based on only a few sources. The results of the excavations provide insights into the Islamization of Harar and supplement the limited historical sources. The six radiocarbon dates obtained indicate a varied mosque chronology spanning the late 15th and early 20th centuries AD. Evidence indicative of the use of mosques for educational purposes, local practices such as animal sacrifice and child burial near the mihrab, and for extensive mosque rebuilding, alteration and remodelling was found. Comparable mosques in Djibouti, Somaliland, and elsewhere in Ethiopia are considered. It is concluded that all the Harari mosques investigated post-date the late 15th century and that the city also dates from this era and was linked with the establishment of Harar as the capital of Adal. Prior to this the Hararis, likely in the form of the legendary Harla, were elsewhere, possibly at Harlaa and other sites in the eastern Harar Plateau and Chercher Mountains.

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DOI: 10.1558/jia.39522


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