A research team led by archaeologist Nuria Álvarez and speleologist Eduardo Díaz have found eight caves with very difficult access with Guanche remains in Tenerife. They are found in such remote places in the municipalities of La Laguna, El Rosario and Los Realejos that the team has had to climb to locate them. Most of these cavities, found in the high mountains, were used by the first settlers of the Island to leave the remains of the deceased.
The findings have been made thanks to an archaeological survey project in the so-called hanging caves of La Palma and Tenerife, under the coordination of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage of the Canary Islands Government. It is a pioneering project in the Canary Islands that aims to find, study and inventory those caves that preserve relatively intact and unplundered archaeological elements from the aboriginal era. In fact, with this project, which began in 2017 on La Palma, the first cave paintings on the Isla Bonita were located, specifically in Cueva Tiznada, in El Paso.
The good results of the archaeological investigations in La Palma led the group to delve into prospecting in Tenerife. In addition, just like on the island of Palma, in Tenerife there are a large number of cavities in remote places that are difficult to access, which have been saved from plundering. The appearance of these types of sites in a good state of conservation is key to improving knowledge about the first populations of the Islands. It facilitates the interpretation of the ways of life of the ancient Canarians with scientific rigor, as explained by the archaeologist Nuria Álvarez. “It will be very important to better understand how the members of these populations lived and died,” she added.
With the development of surface prospecting, new lines of research in Canarian archeology related to patterns of occupation, the use of the caves and the accesses used by the pre-Hispanic population to reach these cavities, located in ravines, cliffs or cliffs. Nona Perera, general director of Cultural Heritage, explains that “the study of hanging caves has been extended to Tenerife to have comparative elements”, but also with the aim of “obtaining the full compendium and potential of Canarian archeology in this area to be able to plan correction, danger and erosion measures more optimally, depending on the cavity».
The works in Tenerife are in “a preliminary phase”, clarifies Nuria Álvarez, “but when we have prospected a significant number of caves we will be able to see that similarity or not in the cavities of the different islands”. The caves that have been entered so far have mainly a funerary use, but in the next campaigns it is expected to visit new municipalities that can house other types of sites. In the first place, a list of the main cavities susceptible to being studied was made through both written and oral references, since ethnohistoric sources determine that the Guanches used the caves for habitation and funerary purposes.
However, from an archaeological point of view, little is known about the uses of difficult-to-access caves located in ravines, on cliff walls or on crags, although there are previous works that specify the complexity of entering certain deposits due to their location and orography. However, on the recommendation of different institutions in Tenerife, those areas or cavities that they considered their priority research for different reasons were chosen. At the request of the City Council of La Laguna, surveys were carried out in the surroundings of El Becerril with the intention of finding the famous necropolis excavated by Luis Diego Cuscoy. In this regard, the multidisciplinary team located five burial cavities in this environment that will be studied in depth soon. This first phase has concluded with “very positive” results, according to the director of Heritage, because most of the cavities visited were “in perfect condition and presented archaeological remains on the surface.” In this sense, the results obtained in Tenerife “demonstrate the importance of this type of project to have a global vision of the use of hanging cavities by the aboriginal population of the Canary Islands”.