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Various armed factions began competing for influence in the power vacuum, particularly in the south.

During this period, due to the absence of a central government, Somalia was a "failed state", and residents returned to customary and religious law in most regions.

Adal's headquarters were again relocated the following century, this time southward to Harar.During the war, Imam Ahmad pioneered the use of cannons supplied by the Ottoman Empire, which he imported through Zeila and deployed against Abyssinian forces and their Portuguese allies led by Cristóvão da Gama.During the Ajuran Sultanate period, the sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, Hobyo and their respective ports flourished and had a lucrative foreign commerce, with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia, Persia, Egypt, Portugal, and as far away as China.According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations arrived in the region during the ensuing Neolithic period from the family's proposed urheimat ("original homeland") in the Nile Valley, Other cave paintings are found in the northern Dhambalin region, which feature one of the earliest known depictions of a hunter on horseback.The rock art is in the distinctive Ethiopian-Arabian style, dated to 1,000 to 3,000 BCE.

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