PRE COLONIAL HISTORY

INFORMATION ABOUT GUANCHES AND PODOMORPHS

Fuerteventura, like the rest of the Canary Islands prior to their colonisation by the Europeans, was inhabited by primitive aboriginal people most likely descended from North African Berbers, which most islanders today refer to as "Guanches", although strictly speaking this refers to a specific tribe from Tenerife. The specific aboriginal inhabitants of Fuerteventura were called "majos" (which is where the name of the current people of Fuerteventura, "majoreros", comes from)

 

Fuerteventura was known as Erbania or Herbania (sources use one word or the other), possibly a reference to it’s abundant plant-life in ancient times (this may now be hard to believe taking into account its barren landscape), however it is more likely related to the Berber word "bani", meaning wall. A low wall used to span the narrowest width of the island over to the east coast where the modern settlement of La Pared ("The Wall" in Spanish) is located. This wall no longer exists, but what we know is that in the Middle Ages it split the island into two kingdoms: Maxorata in the north, which at the time of the Europeans arrival was ruled by the king or "guanarteme" Guise, and Jandía in the south, ruled by their king Ayose. 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, goat meat, milk and cheese, and "gofio", a finely ground toasted barley flour made from wheat, corn or other starchy plants like beans or fern roots. Gofio has been an important ingredient in Canarian cooking ever since, and in modern times Canarian emigrants have spread its use to many other Spanish-speaking countries like Cuba, Puerto Rico and Western Sahara.

The majos 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 highly spiritual people who were known to have had a polytheistic pagan religion and practiced a variety of interesting rituals and ceremonies. Engravings or "podomorphs" of religious symbols found on Mount Tindaya in La Oliva are proof of these ceremonies and indicate that this was one such sanctuary or ritual ground.

 
Guanche statues in Tenerife
Artist's impressions
Podomorphs - Mount Tindaya

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