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Origins of the Guanches

The Guanches were the ancient dwellers of the island of Tenerife, since way before the Spanish conquest. Due to the extension of the islands the other inhabitants of the Canary Islands are also named so.

The Guanches are described as tall men, with heights between 1m 75 cm. and 1m 82 cm., well developed, with huge, thick bones, which indicates that they were very strong, many of them had blue eyes and blond hair. The first descriptions of the ancient dwellers of Tenerife appear in the charts of Niccolosso da Recco (1341).

The name Guanche comes from a Spanish deformation of the language spoken on the island by the ancient people, which was an archaic phase of the modern day Berber. The island’s natives referred to themselves with the words “ Wa n Chinet” which meant “the man of Chinet “, Chinet being the name of the island in their tongue. Today that language is called Guanche and is also applied to the dwellers of the island of Tenerife.

The Guanches were of Berber origin and they arrived between the V century B.C. and the beginning of the Christian Era. Due to the fact that there are no archaeological findings of the existence of some kind of sea craft, nor any knowledge of navigational skills, it is supposed that they were brought in successive waves by Phoenician sailors with commercial aims and later abandoned on the island until the XV century.

Their origin seems to be from more than one Berber tribe, they brought with them their domestic animals such as goats, sheep, pigs and dogs, as well as wheat, peas and barley, each one adding to the group of dwellers that, with a common origin, gave way to different cultural layers.


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