the fascinating Twitter thread that explains it

The mountain guide and environmental educator José C. Herrero (@Insurrecto76) has surprised his followers on Twitter this Tuesday with a magnificent thread about one of the most curious historical, cultural and ethnographic heritage of the Canary Islands: the pitch ovens. “If you have ever come across this type of hole in the ground while taking a route through the pine forests of Tenerife and you don’t know what they are, come on, I’m going to tell you,” his explanation began with mystery.

It should be noted that pitch is a kind of tar used, among other things, for waterproofing and caulking wooden boats (closing the joints of the wood of the ships so that water does not enter) thanks to its viscosity and chemical composition. Pitch can be obtained from coal tar, oil or, as is the case described by Herrero, of plant origin or biomass, thanks to the Canarian pine.

@Insurrecto76 shared in his thread that to obtain 15 kilos of pitch, at least 100 kilos of firewood were needed. “The crews built an oven on hills and in easily accessible areas surrounded by trees that were cut down until the area became a wasteland, which they abandoned to build another one with greater resources,” he concluded.

The one who is also a guide in the Teide National Park pointed out that “it is believed that the pitch industry began shortly after the conquest of Tenerife ended, in 1496, and continued its activity until the 17th century (1646)” . These ovens were made up of two cylindrical structures, located at different levels at a distance of about two meters and connected through a channel.

“Apart from their patrimonial value, they constitute an indicator of the location of the forest masses, transit routes or the direction of pitch production on the Island. The masters in charge of their exploitation were Portuguese. Some slaves worked: blacks, Moors and guanches,” he added.

The thread continues pointing out that a study from 2008 dates 94 kilns in Tenerife, “leaving many areas yet to be studied”. The region with the most kilns is Icoden-Daute (from San Juan de la Rambla, passing through Icod de los Vinos and up to Garachico), with 29 kilns, and the highest one has been discovered in the Isora-Santiago region and It is located at 2,128 meters above sea level.

“The pitch industry was an excellent economic opportunity for different regions and ports of the island, so this work was initially carried out by foreign hands. The Cabildo obtained benefits through the granting of rents and pitch licenses,” Herrero completed. .

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