Periodical reference to the ‘Mysterious Ruined Cities of Somaliland’, citing them as an ‘unsolved riddle of Africa’, have appeared in books and articles from time to time. The majority of these ruined towns lie in the west of British Somaliland, within the present administrative district of Borama, or across the frontier in the adjacent areas of Ethiopia, roughly half way between the ancient port of Zeila and the walled town of Harar. The Somalis of today can throw no light on their history.
A series of investigations were carried out by Captain R. H. R. Taylor and myself during the week-ends available in 1934. The sites of ten ruined towns were already more or less vaguely known, while eleven new sites, off the beaten track and overgrown with bush, in both Ethiopia and British Somaliland, were one by one traced and visited as leave permitted. Circumstances did not permit of excavation beyond the clearing out of two houses and the sinking of a trial trench across a refuse heap, but notes were made and a careful record kept of all surface finds. The representative collection of relics brought home and presented to the Department of Ethnology of the British Museum amounted to several thousand items, mostly fragmentary. The numerous types of objects were classified and made it possible to assign the period of occupation of the towns to the 15th and 16th centuries.