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Canary Island´s Dwellers

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                                WRITTEN EXERCISE

      On the primitive dwellers and the period of the conquest.

1. When did the primitive dwellers arrive to the islands? 2. Where did they come from?

                The primitive dwellers who arrived to the Canary Islands were Berbers from North Africa. Nowadays our knowledge about them comes from archaeology, documents mainly written during the fifteenth and the sixteenth century, genetic studies and analysis of the linguistic remains. All these sources answer many questions about them, but we cannot speak categorically about the time of arrival of these first inhabitants. however, some dates have been established and they go from the first century to the fifth century BC.

3. What do you know about their language?

Due to the clash between a European culture of the Renaissance and an antique culture, the colonized people’s life and culture disappeared. One of these elements unfortunately lost was their language. A group of terms and places names are the only remnants: Tajinaste, tagasaste, balo, tabaiba, amagante, bejeque, baifo, perenquén, tamasma o tamaima, gánigo, Tacoronte, etc. It seems that the same original language was spoken in all the islands, although there was dialectical differences. This can be explained by the use of native interpreters in other islands different from their own, and the existence of the same place-name in two, three or four islands.

4. What do you know about their embalming rites?

Preservation of the bodies of the deads and burial rites were important practises for our primitive dwellers. The corpse was not buried and they deposited it in graves which were natural caves. They were placed on something that separated the corpse from the ground, such as stone slabs, planks or simple branches. Most of the bodies were found lying in an upright position.

        Guanches used to make offerings to the corpses as milk, bowls with a piece of meat, weapons, sticks or ornaments.

        Guanches also knew the practise of mummification, which is a cultural thread to connect the Canary Islands to Egyptians. With this method they avoided corruption of the body, It was reserved to those members of upper class. Before the dead body was taken to the grave, the corpse was subjected to a conservation process, which consisted of washing the corpse with salt and water and then exposing it to the sun.

5. How were they dressed?

        They were dressed with clothes made of skins, bones and tendons from goats and sheeps. Their clothes were quite simple, but not for the people from Gran Canaria, who also used crush rush for underwear.

The primitive woman sewed with needles made by bones. Espinoza wrote these interesting following lines about how they made their clothes:

         “... que no hay pellejero que tan bien adobe los cueros, ni que tan sutil costura haga, que casi no se divisa, y esto sin tener agujas ni leznas, sino con espinas de pescados o púas de palmas o de otros árboles.”

        The main piece of clothing was the tamarco. It was a cape made with goats skins. They did not remove the hair because they used with this in contact during winter, and in summer they turned it around.

        They also used clay and seashell for jewelry.

        6. What has been the traditional explanation given to the place-name Tenerife?

        The primitive dwellers from La Palma are the responsibles of the name Tenerife. They called Tener to snow and iffe means hill.

Edmund Scory gives the reason of the name Tenerife and Nivaria at the very beginning of his work:

“ Teneriffe is the pleasantest of the Canary Ilands. This Iland hath beene called Niuaria, by reason of the Snow which like a Collar enuironeth the necke of the Pike of Teyda. The name of Tenariffe was imposed by the inhabitants of the Palme Iland, for Tener in the Palmesian language signifies Snow, and Iffe an Hill.”

7. How long did the Canaries conquest last?

It was a discontinuous process which lasted almost a century. It started in 1402 and finished in 1496, when La Laguna and Santa Cruz are founded. It was divided into two periods. The first one lasted from 1402 to 1477, and was carried out by noblemen or outstanding individuals interested in the possession and benefits of the islands. The second period was from 1478 to 1496 and was carried out by the Spanish crown itself.

8. Who was Jean de Béthencourt?

        Jean de Béthencourt was the conqueror of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro along with Gadifer de la Salle during the lord’s conquest. Bethencourt paid vassalage to the king of Castille, and so he obtained rights of conquest, apart from financial support, supplies and soldiers, but he did not complete the conquest of the remaining islands. He left the Canaries in 1412, after naming his nephew Maciot de Bethencourt his successor.

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