The painted cave

The Painted Cave at Galdar

 

The most important archaeological site in Gran Canaria is the so-called Painted Cave. This is situated in Galdar, halfway along the north coast, 27 km west of Las Palmas easily accessible today along a spectacular motorway.

GC Galdar houses DSC05881Galdar is a fine old colonial town, with may fine houses, and we start with a photo of the square adjacent to the church and not far from the ‘Painted Cave’.

 

In 1862, a cave was discovered with geometric paintings on the rear wall. It was clearly a shrine of the people who inhabited the Canaries before the Spanish conquest.

The cave was visited periodically by visiting archaeologists, but it  was not until 1967 that it was opened to the public. However, the pollution of the visitors meant that the colours soon began to fade,  and in 1982 it was closed. An extensive programme of research and excavation  was undertaken, and it was soon discovered that the cave was surrounded by a very extensive settlement of the Guanches, the people who inhabited the Canaries before the Spanish conquest

A major excavation was undertaken, and a cover building was erected over the whole site,  and eventually in 2006, it was re-opened, and has since become one of the foremost  visitor attractions in the Canaries

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The excavated area, with the pathway for the visitors round the edges

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The houses were a mixture of round and square. The square ones are mostly later,  though even so they normally prefer to be built within a circular enclosure.

Note in the top left-hand corner, the entrance to the painted cave itself, now heavily fortified to prevent the visitors breath from polluting the painting.

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The houses were a mixture of round and square. The square ones are mostly later,  though even so they normally prefer to be built within a circular enclosure.

Note in the top left-hand corner, the entrance to the painted cave itself, now heavily fortified to prevent the visitors breath from polluting the painting.

GC painted cave opening DSC05844Many, however, were caves, hollowed out in the soft rock.

 

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Here is a row of houses mostly square within a circular enclosure. They ranged along what can be possibly called a street

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And here is the famous painting itself. Many people have tried to interpret it. At the centre there are 12 squares: could these possibly represent the months of the year? On either side are a group of four squares. What do they mean? And the zig zag frieze at the top?

This is the only house in the village to have such a painting and it is tempting to assume that this is a special house occupied by a shaman or magician

 

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In one corner of the visitor centre, several buildings have been reconstructed.

 

DSC05862The interior of one of the reconstructed houses with a raised platform to the left which formed a sleeping area.

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At the entrance to the display is a small Museum where some of the objects found in the excavations are displayed.

The pots are all hand made, but make a fine display.

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The prize exhibit is this a small dancing figure found in the course of the excavations

 

The Painted Cave Museum forms a fine memorial to the Guanche people who occupied the Canaries prior to the Spanish conquest.

It appears that the village was occupied from the 10th to the 15th centuries, though there are traces of an earlier hamlet dating to the sixth and seventh century, presumably a short-lived occupation of the island that is little known.

The story of the Spanish conquest is not a happy one. It appears that the Castilians were determined to make the Canaries part of their kingdom, and virtually wiped out the native population.

However, genetic studies suggest that the current population of the Canaries has genetic similarities with the modern Berber people in North Africa,  suggesting that the Guanches were originally a settlement of the Berbers and that there was considerable interbreeding with the invaders.

The extermination of the natives may not have been as extensive as the 20th century interpretations suggested.

 

Now on to Gran Canaria, to see something of the historic and the modern town.

 

 

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