Unveiling the Legacy of the Gaunche



Nestled in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 100 kilometers off the coast of North Africa, lie the enchanting Canary Islands.

These islands, renowned for their breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture, hold a rich history dating back millennia.

At the heart of this history lies the enigmatic gaunche, the indigenous people of these captivating lands.

Origins and Heritage

Believed to have arrived on the archipelago around 1,000 BC, the Gaunche were a hunter-gatherer society whose lifestyle mirrored that of Stone Age civilizations.

Their origins traced back to North Africa, as evidenced by the first genome-wide data from 2017, confirming their North African heritage.

It is suggested that they descended from the Berbers of North Africa, particularly Libya, contributing to their unique genetic makeup.

Life and Society

Our understanding of the Gaunche stems from the meticulous work of Spanish chroniclers and archaeological excavations.

These ancient inhabitants were resourceful, adapting to the volcanic terrain by dwelling in caves and huts.

Despite the scarcity of metal ores on the islands, they fashioned tools from stone and bone, showcasing their ingenuity in the face of adversity.

Basic farming techniques sustained their livelihood, supplemented by pottery-making skills reminiscent of ancient civilizations.

However, perhaps one of the most intriguing parallels drawn is between the Guanches and the ancient Egyptians in their practices of embalming and mummification.

Higher-status individuals were interred in caves, while others were laid to rest in the earth, echoing the stratified societal structure of ancient civilizations.

Architectural Marvels: The Güímar Pyramids

The Güímar Pyramids

Adding to the mystery are the intriguing pyramids scattered across Tenerife, attributed to the Guanches. These structures, reminiscent of those in ancient Egypt, hint at a sophisticated understanding of geometry and construction techniques.

The presence of ‘pintaderas,’ artistic seals made of pottery, suggests the Gaunche possessed knowledge of geometric shapes, further fueling speculation about their role in building these enigmatic edifices.

Governance and Legacy

The societal structure of the Guanches was organized into nine kingdoms, each ruled by a king known as a ‘mencey.’ This decentralized governance reflects a complex social hierarchy within their communities.

Despite their isolation, the Guanches were not entirely secluded, as evidenced by their interactions with neighboring civilizations, including the Romans and Balearic seafarers.

Following the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands in the 15th century, the fate of the Gaunche took a dramatic turn.

Many were assimilated into the settler population, while others faced tragic fates at the hands of Spanish conquerors.

Yet, fragments of their culture endure in Canarian customs and traditions, such as Silbo, the whistled language of La Gomera Island, serving as a poignant reminder of their enduring legacy.


The story of the Gaunche continues to captivate and intrigue, offering a glimpse into a bygone era of resilience, ingenuity, and cultural richness.

As we delve deeper into their history, we unravel the mysteries of a civilization that thrived against all odds, leaving an indelible mark on the tapestry of Canary Island heritage.


Who were the Gaunche?

The Gaunche were the indigenous inhabitants of the Canary Islands, living there long before the arrival of Europeans.

Where did the Gaunche come from?

The Gaunche originated from North Africa, with genetic evidence suggesting a connection to the Berbers, particularly from Libya.

When did the Gaunche arrive in the Canary Islands?

It is believed that the Gaunche migrated to the Canary Islands around 1,000 BC from North Africa.

What was the lifestyle of the Gaunches like?

The Gaunche lived as hunter-gatherer tribes, residing in caves and huts. They had basic farming knowledge, made pottery, and practiced embalming similar to ancient Egyptians.

Did the Gaunche build the pyramids in Tenerife?

While not definitively proven, it is believed that the Gaunche may have constructed the pyramids in Tenerife, showcasing their knowledge of geometric shapes.

How was Guanche society organized?

Guanche society was divided into nine kingdoms, each ruled by a king known as a ‘mencey.’

What happened to the Gaunches after the Spanish conquest?

Many Gaunches were assimilated into the Spanish settler population, while others faced tragic fates. However, elements of their culture survive in Canarian customs and traditions.

What is Silbo?

Silbo is the whistled language of La Gomera Island, which is believed to have originated from Guanche communication techniques.

What is known about Guanche artwork?

Guanche artwork includes ‘pintaderas,’ artistic seals made of pottery, showcasing their knowledge of geometric shapes and artistic expression.

Are there any surviving remnants of the Guanche language?

While the Guanche language went extinct in the 17th century, some expressions, vocabulary words, and proper names of ancient chieftains are still borne by certain families in the Canary Islands.

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