TEDxEuston 2013 Speaker, 7th Dec – Sada Mire

Archaeologist,  Pioneer, African.

Come, listen and interact with Sada Mire at TEDxEuston 2013, 7th December, London.  Get Your Tickets Here
Connect with Sada Mire on twitter @SomaliHeritage

Dr. Sada Mire is a Somalian archaeologist who was brought up in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, born in 1977. She still vividly remembers the first bomb, which exploded as she was watering the flowers outside her family home. Within weeks when she was 14 years old, she was fleeing with her siblings and her mother on top of a relative’s lorry, dodging bandits who threatened to attack and rape refugees. Her mother had to sell jewellery along the way to buy food. They eventually sought asylum in Sweden.

Now 36 years old, Sada Mire is the only active archaeologist working in Somaliland where she became the Director of Antiquities in 2007.  She has been heavily involved with the horn of Africa as an archaeologist, making some notable discoveries.

Living in Sweden

Together with her twin she eventually made it to Sweden, where they joined an older sister and were granted asylum. When the two sisters arrived in the Scandinavian country, they encountered a completely different reality to the one they were used to before.

“I remember the first feeling was like a glass of milk in a fridge — sort of thinking why is it so cold? But I think we got used to it,”

“The fact that it was totally, completely different to what we had experienced was in a way healing itself, because now you had nothing to associate with what we had been through — you could sort of reinvent yourself in a new world,”

Mire studied at Lund University before receiving a Bachelors Degree at SOAS, University of London and a Masters and Ph.D. in archaeology at University College London

Sada Mire’s Work

She has conducted field research in Somaliland, U.K., Denmark, Kenya, and Egypt, and has worked for the United Nations Development Program. A TED-speaker,she has participated on the editorial boards, including African Archaeological Review

As she learned about her new home, she also became acutely aware of the lack of historical knowledge of Africa, before slavery and colonialism. Unearthing the history of her homeland became her key objective. She took up a fellowship under the department of art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.  She launched an ambitious programme of archeological explorations in 2007.

Mire, leading a team of 50 helpers, has discovered prehistoric rock art in Somaliland at almost 100 sites; at least 10 of these are likely to receive World Heritage status. She has recorded ancient rock art at 100 sites, medieval Islamic towns, and pre-Islamic Christian burial sites. More than 1,000 such sites, she estimates, are still out there waiting to be put on the archaeological map of Somaliland.

  • Cave paintings at Dhambalin are the only example of ancient images of sheep in the region
  • The discovery of standing stones at burial sites suggests that there have been many religions in the Horn of Africa – and that its people did not all come from Arabia
  • One Islamic ruin has yielded pottery from the Chinese Yuan dynasty, dating it back to the 13th Century – and suggesting that trade routes across the Indian Ocean developed much earlier than previously though

The Importance of National Heritage

Sada Mire regards national heritage as a human right, crucial to a nation’s sense of itself even during a time of conflict and famine.

“Finding an extraordinary archaeological site I had to think how is this going to help these people”

“Our culture is very oral, so people need to hear from somebody and they repeat it”

“When we find sites and I am able to tell local people about the importance of the site and the potential that can come from it – its significance for world heritage – it gives them dignity and pride,”

On Becoming an Archaeologist

“When I was a refugee, I studied Scandinavian archaeology because I wanted to understand my new surroundings. After learning about European culture, I became interested in my own past”

“I feel very committed, My hope for this is to be able to set up an institution which can help produce students — Somali archaeologists, Somali cultural heritage managers.”

The most Important Ancient Site in Somaliland

From an archaeological standpoint, I would pick Laas Geel, a well-
preserved 10,000-year-old cave art site that is one of the oldest in Africa. The images in the cave are mainly cows painted with big udders, apparently to symbolize fertility. The cows are shown being worshiped by human figures wearing painted hides, who are perhaps idols themselves”

On discovering the rock art of Dhambalin

“It was an incredible feeling just to stand in front of the paintings. Then I lay down to take photos and heard a snake breathing in my ear. My assistant told me he was thinking how he would cut off my arm, leg, or wherever to stop the poison if it attacked. I believe he would have done it. I didn’t tell my mother”

Dhambalin is a rock art site in the desert, about 
20 miles from the Red Sea, where there are 5,000-year-old paintings of animals in red, green, pink, white, brown, yellow, and black. It’s the only site in the region decorated with images of giraffes, sheep, along with antelope and ibex. Those animals haven’t lived there in many years, so the paintings reveal an environment that was once more hospitable than today’s desert. Men are depicted riding on the back of some of the animals, or with raised arms, as if worshiping the cattle.

She spends her time between digs, appearing on TV and in front of local communities to explain the value of the sites she is charting and has set up a non-governmental organization, Horn Heritage, to fund her work.


Come, listen and interact with Sada Mire at TEDxEuston 2013, 7th December, London.  Get Your Tickets Here

One thought on “TEDxEuston 2013 Speaker, 7th Dec – Sada Mire

  1. Pingback: TEDxEuston is 2 Weeks Away! | Tonianni

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