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Fuerteventura History - The Guanches

The Guanches
Fuerteventura History - The GuanchesFuerteventura History - The Guanches

Fuerteventura, like the rest of the Canary islands, was inhabited by a primitive pagan people prior to its invasion by Europeans, although what to call this ancient people still remains a contentious issue.

Most Canarians call their ancestors 'Guanches' although strictly speaking this refers to a specific tribe from Tenerife. 'Mahorero' is still used today to describe the people of Fuerteventura and comes from the ancient word 'mahos'meaning a type of goatskin shoe worn by the original inhabitants.

Analysis of prehistoric remains (pictured) seem to indicate that this people arrived from North Africa, and this is borne out by many linguistic similarities between pre-hispanic place names, words and the language of the Berbers in North Africa.

Fuerteventura was known as Herbania, possibly a reference to it’s abundant plant-life in ancient times (hard though it is to believe now looking at it’s barren thirsty landscape) but more likely from the Berber word 'bani' meaning wall. A low wall spanned the narrowest width of the island, from La Pared (which means wall in Spanish) over to the east coast, dividing it into two kingdoms.

The North, Maxorata was ruled by Guize and Jandia in the South, by Ayoze. Although ostensibly ruled by these two kings, they in turn took advice and guidance from a mother and daughter team of two priestesses, Tibiabin and Tamonante.

It is thought that it was a polygamous society, with each woman having on average three husbands.

Their people lived on fish and shellfish, goats’ meat, milk and cheese, and ‘gofio’ a finely ground toasted barley flour, all of which you will still find on the supermarket shelves today.

They lived in caves or semi-subterranean dwellings a few of which have been discovered and excavated, uncovering some examples of early tools and pottery. They were a spiritual people. The highest mountains provided the setting for pagan rituals and ceremonies. Engravings and religious symbols found on Mount Tindaya indicate this was one such sacred mountain.