Gran Canaria is the round island, the one with the ever warm climate. It is the island of contrasts and golden sandy beaches. The island with its doors open wide, with a melting pot of cultures where local traditions are kept alive. It is a corner of the South Atlantic where you can find everything you could ever want to relax, have fun and enjoy great holidays…
As with the rest of the Archipielago, it is of volcanic origin and is not without its mythical past; round in shape with a peninsula-like appendage sticking out at its northern tip. With a total surface area of 1560 sq kilometers, 43 percent of its territory is protected, while its nearly 60 kilometers of coastline are blessed with golden, sandy beaches. It has a cone-shaped mountain top at its highest point, namely el Pico del Pozo de las Nieves (1949 metros), which casts an eye over the Roque Nublo, a natural and emblematic monument for all Grancanarians, located right in the middle of the island, standing some 1813 metres above sea level.
The richest Aboriginal cultural and artistic collection in the whole archipielago is here in Gran Canaria. The most noteworthy of these are the settlements with rock paintings in caves such as the Painted Cave in Gáldar, an artificial cave dug out of the side of the volcano tuff rock and whose walls are decorated with friezes made up of geometric motifs, in square, triangular and circular shapes in red, ochre and white. These are similar to those regularly found in the island’s pottery and motifs displayed on their crafts. No less spectacular is the settlement that was discovered around the cave after more than twenty years of archaeological excavations. Visitors here can contemplate the remains of houses, the interiors of which are preserved with their contents that bear testament to the activities of the time.
Another group of sites tourists must not miss on their travels around Gran Canaria are the granaries of the pre-Hispanic settlers. Not all have faired the same over the years, with Risco Pintado (Temisas) being, along with the Alamo (Acusa Seca) or on the South side of the Roque Bentayga (Tejeda), the finest examples of these fortified deposits, as is the Coenobium of Valerón, located in the municipality of Santa María de Guía, in the North of the island. The latter is a spectacular hole, protected by a natural wide covering flap. Inside, the ancient Canarians dug out 300 chambers or “silos”, which served as grain deposits, along with living areas.
Following our route along the archaeological sites in the southeast of the island we come across a troglodytic site called Cuatro Puertas, some 300 meters above sea level. It is a settlement complex dug out of the tuff rock. Its actual function was far from clear, as it could have been the place of residence of a figure of certain nobility, or a place for common usage, perhaps either social or religious, but certainly not just an average house. Nearby, in addition to the cave, lies a curious “almogarén” (generally high up, comfortable and well conditioned, and a place for religious cult celebrations).
As we follow our aboriginal settlements routes we should not miss the Barranco de Guayadeque, a natural ravine landscape which had a large Aboriginal population in its day, judging by its settlement and caves remains, or the Fortaleza de Ansite, a fine example of a fortified village. Its eastern side presents a number of refurbished natural caves, and others carved out artificially into cave homes, funeral parlours, and “silo” grain stores. The layout is on different levels, joined up with each other by steps and paths, just like the original tunnel that crosses the rock and connects the village on both its sides. It might have been the last Aboriginal stronghold to resist the Castilian troops prior to their conquest.
The pre-Hispanic population of Gran Canaria settled mainly in large villages of semi-urban structure. Gáldar (the Painted Cave) Telde (Cuatro Puertas) or Arguineguín were the most densely populated. The caves were the most common form of housing, a tradition that lives on today in certain areas of the interior of the island, although important dwellings have been discovered dug into the ground itself, with a rounded exterior topped off with large dry-stone blocks and wooden roof.
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