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At Candelaria, Tenerife 2022 118.jpg
Regions with significant populations
Guanche language (historically)
Animism (Guanche mythology)
Related ethnic groups
Berbers, Canarian people

The Guanches were the indigenous inhabitants of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean some 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Africa. [1]


It is believed that they may have arrived on the archipelago some time in the first millennium BC. The Guanches were the only native people known to have lived in the Macaronesian archipelago region before the arrival of Europeans, as there is no evidence that the other Macaronesian archipelagos (the Cape Verde Islands, Madeira and the Azores) were inhabited. After the Spanish conquest of the Canaries starting in the early 1400s, many natives were wiped out by the Spanish settlers, [1] while others interbred with the settler population, [2] although elements of their culture survive within Canarian customs and traditions, such as Silbo (the whistled language of La Gomera Island).

In 2017, the first genome-wide data from the Guanches confirmed a North African origin and that they were genetically most similar to ancient North African Berber peoples of the nearby African mainland. [3]


The native term guanachinet literally translated means "person of Tenerife" (from Guan = person and Achinet = Tenerife). [1] It was modified, according to Juan Núñez de la Peña, by the Castilians into "Guanches". [4] Though etymologically being an ancient, Tenerife-specific, term, the word Guanche is now mostly used to refer to the pre-Hispanic Indigenous inhabitants of the entire archipelago. [5]

Historical background

Guanche rock carvings in La Palma La Palma-gravures.jpg
Guanche rock carvings in La Palma


Guanche pottery (Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre, Tenerife). Museodelanaturalezayelhombre02.jpg
Guanche pottery (Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre, Tenerife).

Genetic evidence shows that northern African peoples made a significant contribution to the aboriginal population of the Canaries following desertification of the Sahara at some point after 6000 BC. Linguistic evidence suggests ties between the Guanche language and the Berber languages of North Africa, particularly when comparing numeral systems. [6] [7] Research into the genetics of the Guanche population have led to the conclusion that they share an ancestry with Berber peoples. [8] [9]

The islands were visited by a number of peoples within recorded history. The Numidians, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians knew of the islands and made frequent visits, [10] including expeditions dispatched from Mogador by Juba. [11] The Romans occupied northern Africa and visited the Canaries between the 1st and 4th centuries AD, judging from Roman artifacts found on and near the island of Lanzarote. These show that Romans did trade with the Canaries, though there is no evidence of them ever settling there. [12] Archaeology of the Canaries seems to reflect diverse levels of technology, some differing from the Neolithic culture that was encountered at the time of conquest.

It is thought that the arrival of the aborigines to the archipelago led to the extinction of some big reptiles and insular mammals, for example Canariomys bravoi , the giant rat of Tenerife.

Roman author and military officer Pliny the Elder, drawing upon the accounts of Juba II, king of Mauretania, stated that a Mauretanian expedition to the islands around 50 BC found the ruins of great buildings, but otherwise no population to speak of. [13] If this account is accurate, it may suggest that the Guanches were not the only inhabitants, or the first ones; [1] or that the expedition simply did not explore the islands thoroughly.[ citation needed ] Tenerife, specifically the archaeological site of the Cave of the Guanches in Icod de los Vinos, has provided habitation dates dating back to the 6th century BC, according to analysis carried out on ceramics that were found inside the cave. [14]

Strictly speaking, the Guanches were the indigenous peoples of Tenerife. The population seems to have lived in relative isolation up to the time of the Castilian conquest, around the 14th century (though Genoese, Portuguese, and Castilians may have visited there from the second half of the 8th century onwards). The name came to be applied to the indigenous populations of all the seven Canary Islands, [1] those of Tenerife being the most important or powerful.

What remains of their language, Guanche – a few expressions, vocabulary words and the proper names of ancient chieftains still borne by certain families [1] – exhibits positive similarities with the Berber languages. [15] [6] The first reliable account of the Guanche language was provided by the Genoese explorer Nicoloso da Recco in 1341, with a translation of numbers used by the islanders.

According to European chroniclers, the Guanches did not possess a system of writing at the time of conquest; the writing system may have fallen into disuse or aspects of it were simply overlooked by the colonizers. Inscriptions, glyphs and rock paintings and carvings are quite abundant throughout the islands. Petroglyphs attributed to various Mediterranean civilizations have been found on some of the islands. In 1752, Domingo Vandewalle, a military governor of Las Palmas, [1] attempted to investigate them, and Aquilino Padron, a priest at Las Palmas, catalogued inscriptions at El Julan, La Candía and La Caleta on El Hierro. In 1878 Dr. René Verneau discovered rock carvings in the ravines of Las Balos that resemble Libyan [1] or Numidian writing dating from the time of Roman occupation or earlier. In other locations, Libyco-Berber script has been identified.

Pre-conquest exploration

Guanche kings of Tenerife surrendering to Alonso Fernandez de Lugo. AlonsoFernandezdeLugo3.JPG
Guanche kings of Tenerife surrendering to Alonso Fernández de Lugo.

The geographic accounts of Pliny the Elder and of Strabo mention the Fortunate Isles but do not report anything about their populations. An account of the Guanche population may have been made around AD 1150 by the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi in the Nuzhatul Mushtaq, a book he wrote for King Roger II of Sicily, in which al-Idrisi reports a journey in the Atlantic Ocean made by the Mugharrarin ("the adventurers"), a family of Andalusian seafarers from Lisbon. The only surviving version of this book, kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and first translated by Pierre Amédée Jaubert, reports that, after having reached an area of "sticky and stinking waters", the Mugharrarin moved back and first reached an uninhabited Island (Madeira or Hierro), where they found "a huge quantity of sheep, which its meat was bitter and inedible" and, then, "continued southward" and reached another island where they were soon surrounded by barks and brought to "a village whose inhabitants were often fair haired with long and flaxen hair and the women of a rare beauty". Among the villagers, one did speak Arabic and asked them where they came from. Then the king of the village ordered them to bring them back to the continent where they were surprised to be welcomed by Berbers. [16] Apart from the marvelous and fanciful content of this history, this account would suggest that Guanches had sporadic contacts with populations from the mainland. Al-Idrisi also described the Guanche men as tall and of a reddish-brown complexion. [17]

During the 14th century, the Guanches are presumed to have had other contacts with Balearic seafarers from Spain, suggested by the presence of Balearic artifacts found on several of the Canary Islands.[ citation needed ]

Castilian conquest

Alonso Fernandez de Lugo presenting the captured Guanche kings of Tenerife to Ferdinand and Isabella. AlonsoFernandezdeLugo2.JPG
Alonso Fernández de Lugo presenting the captured Guanche kings of Tenerife to Ferdinand and Isabella.

The Castilian conquest of the Canary Islands began in 1402, with the expedition of Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle to the island of Lanzarote. Gadifer invaded Lanzarote and Fuerteventura with ease since many of the aboriginals, faced with issues of starvation and poor agriculture, surrendered to Spanish rule.

The other five islands fought back. El Hierro and the Bimbache population were the next to fall, then La Gomera, Gran Canaria, La Palma and in 1496, Tenerife.

In the First Battle of Acentejo (31 May 1494), called La Matanza (the slaughter), Guanches ambushed the Castilians in a valley and killed many. Only one in five of the Castilians survived, including the leader of the expedition, Alonso Fernandez de Lugo.

Lugo later returned to the island with the alliance of the kings of the southern part of the island, and defeated the Guanches in the Battle of Aguere. The northern Menceyatos or provinces fell after the Second Battle of Acentejo with the defeat of the successor of Bencomo, Bentor, Mencey of Taoro—what is now the Orotava Valley—in 1496.


The native Guanche language is now only known through a few sentences and individual words, supplemented by several placenames. Many modern linguists propose that it belongs to the Berber branch of the Afroasiatic languages. [18] [19] [20]

However, while there are recognizable Berber words (particularly with regards to agriculture) within the Guanche language, no Berber grammatical inflections have been identified; there is a large stock of vocabulary that does not bear any resemblance to Berber whatsoever. [21]

System of beliefs

Religion and mythology

Guanche idol. Idolo guanche Museo Canario.jpg
Guanche idol.
Guatimac idol in the Archaeological Museum of Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife). El Guatimac.jpg
Guatimac idol in the Archaeological Museum of Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife).

Little is known of the religion of the Guanches. There was a general belief in a supreme being, called Achamán in Tenerife, Acoran in Gran Canaria, Eraoranhan in Hierro, and Abora in La Palma. The women of Hierro worshipped a goddess called Moneiba. According to tradition, the male and female gods lived in mountains, from which they descended to hear the prayers of the people. On other islands, the natives venerated the sun, moon, earth and stars. A belief in an evil spirit was general. The demon of Tenerife was called Guayota and lived at the peak of Teide volcano, which was the hell called Echeyde; [1] in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the minor demons took the form of wild black woolly dogs called Jucanchas [22] in the first and Tibicenas [23] in the latter, which lived in deep caves of the mountains, emerging at night to attack livestock and human beings.

In Tenerife, Magec (god of the Sun) and Chaxiraxi (the goddess mother) were also worshipped. In times of drought, the Guanches drove their flocks to consecrated grounds, where the lambs were separated from their mothers in the belief that their plaintive bleating would melt the heart of the Great Spirit. [1] During the religious feasts, hostilities were held in abeyance, from war to personal quarrels.

Idols have been found in the islands, including the Idol of Tara (Museo Canario, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) and the Guatimac (Museum Archaeological of Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife). But many more figures have been found in the rest of the archipelago.

Most researchers agree that the Guanches performed their worship in the open, under sacred trees such as pine or drago, or near sacred mountains such as Mount Teide, which was believed to be the abode of the devil Guayota. Mount Teide was sacred to the aboriginal Guanches and since 2007 is a World Heritage Site. But sometimes the Guanches also performed worship in caves, as in "Cave of Achbinico" in Tenerife. Until the 20th century, there were in the Canary Islands (especially in northern Tenerife) individuals called "Animeros". They were similar to healers and mystics with a syncretic beliefs combining elements of the Guanche religion and Christianity. As in other countries close to the islands (e.g. marabouts from the Maghreb), the Animeros were considered "persons blessed by God". [24]

Mount Teide on Tenerife. Teide Tenerife3.jpg
Mount Teide on Tenerife.
Principal gods of Tenerife
Achamán The supreme god of the Guanches on the island of Tenerife; he is the father god and creator.
Chaxiraxi The native Guanche goddess known as the Sun Mother.
Chijoraji A divine child, son of Chaxiraxi.
Magec The god of the Sun and the light, and also thought to be one of the principal divinities.
Achuguayo God of the moon. It was the duality of the god Magec (god of the sun).
Achuhucanac Rain god, identified with the supreme god (Achamán).
Guayota The principal malignant deity and Achamán's adversary.
Mythical beings
Maxios Benevolent minor gods or genies; domestic spirits and guardians of specific places.
Tibicenas Demons in the form of black dogs, these were children of Guayota, the malignant deity.

Aboriginal priests

The Guanches had priests or shamans who were connected with the gods and ordained hierarchically:

Religious authorityJurisdictionDefinition
Guadameñe or Guañameñe Tenerifespiritual advisers to the Menceyes (Aboriginal kings), who directed the worship.
Faykan or FaicánGran Canariaa spiritual and religious person in charge, who directed the worship.
Maguadas or ArimaguadasTenerife

Gran Canaria

women priestesses dedicated to worship. They took part in some rituals.
KankusTenerifethe priests responsible for the worship of the ancestor spirits and Maxios (minor gods or genies).



Beñesmen or Beñesmer was a festival of the agricultural calendar of the Guanches (the Guanche new year) to be held after the gathering of crops devoted to Chaxiraxi (on August 15). In this event the Guanches shared milk, gofio, sheep or goat meat. At the present time, this coincides with the pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Virgin of Candelaria (Patron of Canary Islands).

Among the cultural events are significant traces of aboriginal traditions at the holidays and in the current Romería Relief in Güímar (Tenerife) and the lowering of the Rama, in Agaete (Gran Canaria). [25]

Funerals and mummies

Mummy of San Andres, in the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (Tenerife, Canary Islands). Momia guanche museo santa cruz 27-07.JPG
Mummy of San Andrés, in the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (Tenerife, Canary Islands).

Mummification was not commonly practiced throughout the islands but was highly developed on Tenerife in particular. In Gran Canaria there is currently a debate on the true nature of the mummies of the ancient inhabitants of the island, as researchers point out that there was no real intention to mummify the deceased and that the good conservation of some of them is due rather to environmental factors. [26] In La Palma they were preserved by these environmental factors and in La Gomera, and El Hierro the existence of mummification is not verified. In Lanzarote and Fuerteventura this practice is ruled out.

The Guanches embalmed their dead; many mummies have been found in an extreme state of desiccation, each weighing not more than 3 kg (7 lb). Two almost inaccessible caves in a vertical rock by the shore 5 km (3 mi) from Santa Cruz on Tenerife are said still to contain remains. The process of embalming seems to have varied. In Tenerife and Gran Canaria, the corpse was simply wrapped up in goat and sheep skins, while in other islands a resinous substance was used to preserve the body, which was then placed in a cave difficult to access, or buried under a tumulus. [27] The work of embalming was reserved for a special class, with women tending to female corpses, and men for the male ones. Embalming seems not to have been universal, and bodies were often simply hidden in caves or buried. [1]

In the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre (Santa Cruz de Tenerife) mummies of original inhabitants of the Canary Islands are displayed.

In 1933, the largest Guanche necropolis of the Canary Islands was found, at Uchova in the municipality of San Miguel de Abona in the south of the island of Tenerife. This cemetery was almost completely looted; it is estimated to have contained between 60 and 74 mummies. [28]


Although little is known about this practice among them, it has been shown that they performed both animal sacrifices and human sacrifices. [29]

In Tenerife during the summer solstice, the Guanches were accustomed to kill livestock and throw them into a fire as an offering to the gods. [29] Bethencourt Alfonso has claimed that goat kids were tied by the legs, alive, to a stake so that they could be heard bleating by the gods. It is likely that animals were also sacrificed on the other islands. [29]

As for human sacrifices, in Tenerife it was the custom to throw the Punta de Rasca a living child at sunrise at the summer solstice. Sometimes these children came from all parts of the island, even from remote areas of Punta de Rasca. It follows that it was a common custom of the island. [29] On this island sacrificing other human victims associated with the death of the king, where adult men rushed to the sea are also known. Embalmers who produced the Guanche mummies also had a habit of throwing into the sea one year after the king's death. [29]

Bones of children mixed with lambs and kids were found in Gran Canaria, and in Tenerife amphorae have been found with remains of children inside. This suggests a different kind of ritual infanticide to those who were thrown overboard. [30]

Child sacrifice has been seen in other cultures, especially in the MediterraneanCarthage (now Tunisia), Ugarit in the current Syria, Cyprus and Crete. [30]

Political system

Tenerife prior to the Castilian invasion. Tenerife preconquista.png
Tenerife prior to the Castilian invasion.

The political and social institutions of the Guanches varied. In some islands like Gran Canaria, hereditary autocracy by matrilineality prevailed, [31] in others the government was elective. In Tenerife all the land belonged to the kings who leased it to their subjects. [1] In Gran Canaria, suicide was regarded as honourable, and whenever a new king was installed, one of his subjects willingly honoured the occasion by throwing himself over a precipice. [1] [32] In some islands, polyandry was practised; [1] in others they were monogamous. Insult of a woman by an armed man was allegedly a capital offense. [1] Anyone who had been accused of a crime, had to attend a public trial in Tagoror, a public court where those being prosecuted were sentenced after a trial.

A statue of the Guanche mencey Anaterve. Candelaria, Tenerife. At Candelaria, Tenerife 2022 124.jpg
A statue of the Guanche mencey Añaterve. Candelaria, Tenerife.

The island of Tenerife was divided into nine small kingdoms (menceyatos), each ruled by a king or Mencey. The Mencey was the ultimate ruler of the kingdom, and at times, meetings were held between the various kings. When the Castilians invaded the Canary Islands, the southern kingdoms joined the Castilian invaders on the promise of the richer lands of the north; the Castilians betrayed them after ultimately securing victory at the Battles of Aguere and Acentejo.

Kings (Menceys) of Tenerife

In Tenerife the grand Mencey Tinerfe and his father Sunta governed the unified island, which afterwards was divided into nine kingdoms by the children of Tinerfe.

Clothes and weapons

Guanches wore garments made from goat skins or woven from plant fibers called Tamarcos, which have been found in the tombs of Tenerife. They had a taste for ornaments and necklaces of wood, bone and shells, worked in different designs. Beads of baked earth, cylindrical and of all shapes, with smooth or polished surfaces, mostly colored black and red, were fairly common. Dr. René Verneau suggested that the objects the Castilians referred to as pintaderas, baked clay seal-shaped objects, were used as vessels for painting the body in various colours. They manufactured rough pottery, mostly without decorations, or ornamented by making fingernail indentations.

Guanche weapons adapted to the insular environment (using wood, bone, obsidian and stone as primary materials), with later influences from medieval European weaponry. Basic armaments in several of the islands included javelins of 1 to 2 m in length (known as Banot on Tenerife); round, polished stones; spears; maces (common in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and known as Magado and Sunta, respectively); and shields (small in Tenerife and human-sized in Gran Canaria, where they were known as Tarja, made of Drago wood and painted with geometric shapes). After the arrival of the Europeans, Guanche nobility from Gran Canaria were known to wield large wooden swords (larger than the European two-handed type) called Magido, which were said to be very effective against both infantrymen and cavalry. Weaponry made of wood was hardened with fire. These armaments were commonly complemented with an obsidian knife known as Tabona.

Reconstruction of a Guanche settlement of Tenerife. Pueblo Chico Guanchen2.jpg
Reconstruction of a Guanche settlement of Tenerife.

Dwellings were situated in natural or artificial caves in the mountains. In areas where cave dwellings were not feasible, they built small round houses and, according to the Castilians, practiced crude fortification.

The Guanches on Tenerife. Pueblo Chico Guanchen1.JPG
The Guanches on Tenerife.
Presumed Guanche names of the Canary Islands
Tenerife Achinech
La GomeraGomera
La PalmaBenahoare
El HierroEseró
Gran CanariaTamaran


Painting of Guanche warriors of Grand Canaria by Leonardo Torriani, 1592. Waffen der Canarios Torriani 1590.jpg
Painting of Guanche warriors of Grand Canaria by Leonardo Torriani, 1592.

Maca-Meyer et al. 2003 extracted 71 samples of mtDNA from Guanches buried at numerous Canary Islands c. 1000 AD. The examined Guanches were found to have closest genetic affinities to modern Moroccan Berbers, Canary Islanders and Spaniards. They carried a significantly high amount of the maternal haplogroup U6b1. U6b1 is found at very low frequencies in North Africa today, and it was suggested that later developments have significantly altered the Berber gene pool. The authors of the study suggested that the Guanches were descended from migrants from mainland North Africa related to the Berbers, and that the Guanches contributed c. 42%–73% to the maternal gene pool of modern Canary Islanders. [33]

Fregel et al. 2009a extracted 30 samples of Y-DNA from Guanches of the Canary Islands. These belonged to the paternal haplogroups E1a*, (3.33%), E1b1b1a* (23.33%), E1b1b1b* (26.67%), I* (6.67%), J1* (16.67%), K*, P* (3.33%), and R1b1b2 (10.00%). E1a*, E1b1b1a* and E1b1b1b* are common lineages among Berbers, and their high frequency among the Guanches were considered evidence that they were migrants from North Africa. R1b1b2 and I* are very common in lineages in Europe, and their moderate frequency among the examined Guanche males was suggested to have been a result of prehistoric gene flow from Europe into the region across the Mediterranean. It was found that Guanche males contributed less to the gene pool of modern Canary Islanders than Guanche females. Haplogroups typical among the Guanche has been found at high frequencies in Latin America, suggesting that descendants of the Guanche played an active role in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. [34]

Painting of Guanches of Grand Canaria by Leonardo Torriani, 1592. Canarios Torriani 1590.jpg
Painting of Guanches of Grand Canaria by Leonardo Torriani, 1592.

Fregel et al. 2009b extracted the mtDNA of 30 Guanches from La Palma, (Benahoaritas). 93% of their mtDNA haplogroups were found to be of West Eurasian origin, while 7% were of sub-Saharan African origin. About 15% of their West Eurasian maternal lineages are specific to Europe and the Near East rather than North Africa, suggesting that the Benahoaritas traced partial descent from either of these regions. The examined Benahoaritas were found to have high frequencies of the maternal haplogroups U6b1 and H1-16260. U6b1 has not been found in North Africa, while H1-16260 is "extremely rare". The results suggested that the North African population from whom the Benahoaritas and other Guanches descended have been largely replaced by subsequent migrations. [35]

Painting of Gomeros of La Gomera by Leonardo Torriani, 1592. Gomeros.jpg
Painting of Gomeros of La Gomera by Leonardo Torriani, 1592.

Pereira et al. 2010 studies the origins of the maternal haplogroup U6, which is characteristic of Guanches. It was suggested that the U6 had been brought to North Africa by Cro-Magnon-like humans from the Near East during the Upper Paleolithic, who were probably responsible for the formation of the Iberomaurusian culture. [36] It was also suggested that the maternal haplogroup H1, also frequent among Guanches, had been brought to North Africa during the Holocene by migrants from Iberia, who may have participated in the formation of the Capsian culture. [36] In a further study, Secher et al. 2014 suggested that U6 had been brought to the Levant from Central Europe in the Upper Paleolithic by people of the Aurignacian culture, forming the Levantine Aurignacian (c. 33000 BC), whose descendants had then further spread U6 as part of a remigration into Africa. U6b1a was suggested to have been brought to the Canary Islands during the initial wave of settlement by Guanches, while U6c1 was suggested to have been brought in a second wave. [37]

Painting of Bimbache of El Hierro by Leonardo Torriani, 1592. Bimbaches.jpg
Painting of Bimbache of El Hierro by Leonardo Torriani, 1592.

Fregel et al. 2015 examined the mtDNA of Guanches of La Gomera (Gomeros). 65% of the examined Gomero swere found to be carriers of the maternal haplogroup U6b1a. The Gomero appeared to be descended from the earliest wave of settlers to the Canary Islands. The maternal haplogroups T2c1 and U6c1 may have been introduced in a second wave of colonization affecting the other islands. It was noted that 44% of modern La Gomerans carry U6b1a. It was determined that La Gomerans have the highest amount of Guanche ancestry among modern Canary Islanders. [38]

Ordóñez et al. 2017 examined the remains of a large number of Guanches of El Hierro (Bimbache) buried at Punta Azul, El Hierro c. 1015–1200 AD. The 16 samples of Y-DNA extracted belonged to the paternal haplogroups E1a (1 sample), E1b1b1a1 (7 samples) and R1b1a2 (7 samples). [39] All the extracted samples of mtDNA belonged to the maternal haplogroup H1-1626. The Bimbache were identified as descendants of the first wave of Guanche settlers on the Canary Islands, as they lacked the paternal and maternal lineages identified with the hypothetical second wave. [40]

Rodríguez-Varela et al. 2017 examined the atDNA of 11 Guanches buried at Grand Canaria and Tenerife. The 3 samples of Y-DNA extracted all belonged to the paternal haplogroup E1b1b1b1a1 (E-M183), while the 11 samples of mtDNA extracted belonged to the maternal haplogroups H1cf, H2a, L3b1a (3 samples), T2c12, U6b1a (3 samples), J1c3 and U6b. [41] It was determined that the examined Guanches were genetically similar between the 7th and 11th centuries AD, and that they displayed closest genetic affinity to modern North Africans. The evidence supported the notion that the Guanches were descended from a Berber-like population who had migrated from mainland North Africa. Among modern populations, Guanches were also found to be genetically similar to modern Sardinians. Some models found the Guanche to be more closely related to modern Sardinians than modern North Africans. They were determined to be carriers of Early European Farmer (EEF) ancestry, which probably spread into North Africa from Iberia during the Neolithic, or perhaps also later. [42] One Guanche was also found to have ancestry related to European hunter-gathers, providing further evidence of prehistoric gene flow from Europe. It was estimated that modern Canary Islanders derive 16%–31% of their atDNA from the Guanches. [43]

Fregel et al. 2018 examined remains at the Late Neolithic site of Kelif el Boroud, Morocco (c. 3780–3650 BC). The Kelif el Boroud people were modeled as being equally descended from people buried at the Neolithic sites of Ifri N'Ammar, Morocco (c. 5325–4786 BC) and the Cave of El Toro, Spain (5280–4750 BC). The Kelif el Boroud were thus determined to have carried 50% EEF ancestry, which may have spread with the Cardial Ware culture from Iberia to North Africa during the Neolithic. After the Kelif el Boroud people, additional European ancestry may have been brought to the region from Iberia by people of the Bell Beaker culture. Guanches were found to the genetically very similar to the Kelif el Boroud people. [44]

Fregel et al. 2019 examined the mtDNA of 48 Guanches buried on all the islands of the Canaries. They were found to be carrying maternal lineages characteristic of both North Africa, Europe and the Near East, with Eurasian lineages centered around the Mediterranean being the most common. It was suggested that some of these Eurasian haplogroups had arrived in the region through Chalcolithic and Bronze Age migrations from Europe. Genetic diversity was found to be the highest at Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and La Palma, while Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and particularly La Gomera and El Hierro had low diversity. Significant genetic differences were detected between Guanches of western and eastern islands, which supported the notion that Guanches were descended from two distinct migration waves. It was considered significant that 40% of all examined Guanches so far belonged to the maternal haplogroup H. [45]

Mitochondrial DNA

Regarding mitochondrial DNA, the maternal lineages are characterized by the prevalence of North-African lineages, followed by Europeans and finally in an small percentage by Sub-Saharans. According to different studies the percentages are the following.

Canary Islands [46] 57%43%0
Canary Islands [47] 50'2%43'2%6'6%
Gran Canaria [48] 55%45%0

Autosomal DNA

Another recent study that took as reference to 400 adult men and women of all the islands, except La Graciosa, that intended to know the relationship of Canarian genetic diversity with the more prevalent complex diseases in the archipelago, detected that Canarian DNA shows distinctive genetics, result from different variables as the geographical isolation of the islands, the adaptation to environment of its inhabitants and the historical mixture of Pre-Hispanic population of the archipelago ( coming from the North of Africa), with European and Sub-Saharan individuals. Specifically, estimated that the Canarian population, at an autosomal level, is 75% European, 22% North-African and 3% Sub-Saharan. [49]

Here below is included the average per island of North-African and Sub-Saharan respectively. [50]

Gran Canaria0.1550.2000.2640.0050.0320.082
La Gomera0.1600.2210.2890.0130.0480.092
La Palma0.1700.2000.2450.0000.0130.032
El Hierro0.1920.2460.2990.0050.0200.032

Source: Genomic Ancestry Proportions (from ADMIXTURE, K-4) in Canary Islanders (Guillen-Guio et al. 2018)

Archeological sites

The main and most significant archaeological sites on each island are: [51]


Zanata Stone. Museodelanaturalezayelhombre06.jpg
Zanata Stone.

Many of the islands' museums possess collections of archaeological material and human remains from the prehistory and history of the archipelago of the Canaries. Some of the most important are:

New religious movement

In 2001, the Church of the Guanche People (Iglesia del Pueblo Guanche), a Neopagan movement with several hundred followers, was founded in San Cristóbal de La Laguna (Tenerife). [52] [53]


See also

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La Gomera One of Spains Canary Islands

La Gomera is one of Spain's Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. With an area of 370.03 km2 (142.87 sq mi), it is the third smallest of the eight main islands of this archipelago. It belongs to the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. La Gomera is the third least populous of the eight main Canary Islands with 22,426 inhabitants. Its capital is San Sebastián de La Gomera, where the cabildo insular is located.

Guanche is an extinct language that was spoken by the Guanches of the Canary Islands until the 16th or 17th century. It died out after the conquest of the Canary Islands as the Guanche ethnic group was assimilated into the dominant Spanish culture. The Guanche language is known today through sentences and individual words that were recorded by early geographers, as well as through several place-names and some Guanche words that were retained in the Canary Islanders' Spanish.

First Battle of Acentejo

The First Battle of Acentejo took place on the island of Tenerife between the Guanches and an alliance of Spaniards, other Europeans, and associated natives, on 31 May 1494, during the Spanish conquest of this island. It resulted in a victory for the Guanches of Tenerife.

Candelaria, Tenerife Municipality in Canary Islands, Spain

Candelaria, also Villa Mariana de Candelaria, is a municipality and city in the eastern part of the island of Tenerife in the Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, Spain. The city is located on the coast, 17 km southwest of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The population is 25,140 (2010), and the area is 49.18 km².

Canary Islands in pre-colonial times History prior to Spanish colonization in the fifteenth century

The Canary Islands have been known since antiquity. Until the Spanish colonization between 1402 and 1496, the Canaries were populated by an indigenous population, whose origin is still the subject of discussion among historians and linguists.

Canary Islanders, or Canarians, are a Romance people and ethnic group. They reside on the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain near the coast of northwest Africa, and descend from a mixture of Spanish settlers and aboriginal Guanche peoples. Genetics shows modern Canarian people to be a mixture of mostly European, with significant North African, and minor Sub-Saharan African. The distinctive variety of the Spanish language spoken in the region is known as habla canaria or the (dialecto) canario. The Canarians, and their descendants, played a major role during the conquest, colonization, and eventual independence movements of various countries in Latin America. Their ethnic and cultural presence is most palpable in the countries of Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the United States territory of Puerto Rico.

Kingdom of the Canary Islands

The Kingdom of the Canary Islands was a vassal state of the Crown of Castile located in North Africa, lasting from 1404 to 1448.

Maghrebis or Maghrebians is a modern Arabic term meaning "Westerners", mainly referring to the western part of the Arab world. They are the inhabitants of the Maghreb region, the westernmost part of North Africa. Maghrebis were known in medieval times as Roman Africans or Moors. The term Moor is derived from Mauri, the Roman name for the Berbers of Mauretania, land of the Moors, the Roman name for the western part of the Maghreb. The Maghrebis are mainly of Arab and Berber origins, the rest are Arab-Berbers and Arabized Berbers. The Berbers are native to the region and synonymous with the term in older and historiographical literature.

Haplogroup H is a human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup. The clade is believed to have originated in Southwest Asia, near present day Syria, around 20,000 to 25,000 years ago. Mitochondrial haplogroup H is today predominantly found in Europe, and is believed to have evolved before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). It first expanded in the northern Near East and Southern Caucasus soon, and later migrations from Iberia suggest that the clade reached Europe before the Last Glacial Maximum. The haplogroup has also spread to parts of Africa, Siberia and inner Asia. Today, around 40% of all maternal lineages in Europe belong to haplogroup H.

Haplogroup E-M132, formerly known as E-M33 (E1a), is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. Along with E-P177, it is one of the two main branches of the older E-P147 paternal clade. E-M132 is divided into two primary sub-branches, E-M44 and E-Z958, with many descendant subclades.

Guanche mummies Desiccated corpses of the indigenous people of Tenerife

Guanche mummies are the intentionally desiccated remains of members of the indigenous Berber Guanche people of the Tenerife. The Guanche mummies were made during the eras prior to Spanish settlement of the area in the 15th century. The methods of embalming are similar to those that were used by the Ancient Egyptians, though fewer mummies remain from the Guanche due to looting and desecration.

Conquest of the Canary Islands Place

The conquest of the Canary Islands by the Crown of Castille took place between 1402 and 1496. It can be divided into two periods: the Conquista señorial, carried out by Castilian nobility in exchange for a covenant of allegiance to the crown, and the Conquista realenga, carried out by the Spanish crown itself, during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.

<i>Gallotia goliath</i> Extinct species of lizard

Gallotia goliath is an extinct giant lizard species from the island of Tenerife of the Canary Islands, Spain. This reptile lived before the arrival of humans and is believed to have grown to at least 0.9 metres (3.0 ft) long. It was described by the German herpetologist Robert Mertens. Fossils of this lizard have been found in volcanic caves, where they often appear with those of other animals, like the Tenerife giant rat.

Menceyato of Tegueste

Tegueste was one of nine Guanche menceyatos, which ruled Tenerife on the Canary Islands before the Castilian conquest.


Bimbache or Bimbape is the name given to the inhabitants of El Hierro, who inhabited the island before the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands that took place between 1402 and 1496. The Bimbache are one of several peoples native to the Canaries, with a genetic and cultural link to the Berber people of North Africa. The Bimbache people shared a common link with other aboriginal peoples of the Canary Islands.

Ifri n'Amr Ou Moussa is an archaeological site discovered in 2005, located in the rural commune of Aït Siberne, Khémisset Province, in Western Morocco. This site has revealed burials associated with both Moroccan Early Neolithic and Bell Beaker culture.

Kehf el Baroud, sometimes mistakenly spelled Kelif el Boroud, is an archaeological site in Morocco. It is located to the south of Rabat, near Dar es Soltan.

Antón Guanche was a Guanche aborigine of the island of Tenerife protagonist of the events around the presence among the Guanches of the Christian image of the Virgin of Candelaria before the European conquest of the island.

Roque Bentayga

Roque Bentayga is a rock formation on the island of Gran Canaria. It is located within the volcanic caldera of Tejeda, in the municipality of the same name, in the heart of the island. Roque Bentayga is considered an archaeological monument because it contains an "almogarén".


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Bibliography and further reading