In 1845 the naturalists Sabin Berthelot and Philip Barker Webb donated to the City Council of La Orotava two pieces of wood found in the 19th century of great value: two añepas or aboriginal walking sticks belonging to the former sovereigns of the Menceyato de Taoro that have since been preserved in the Town Hall despite the attempts of some museums to have them transferred.
In the middle of that century, the two researchers were touring the islands, collecting specimens for their book The Natural History of the Canary Islands, a classic work in which they poured out all the knowledge that was known about the Archipelago at that time.
In this process, these “sons of romanticism”, as historian Zebenzui López defined them, “considered that the indigenous populations formed part of the natural population of the Canary Islands and therefore introduced some studies on the Guanches that inhabited the territory”.
On their journeys they located some pieces, including the two añepas, which were even transferred to Paris, until both understood the symbolic value they had in the area where they were found and decided to donate them to the La Orotava City Council where they have been guarded since so.
These two nature researchers gave the best gift to the Villa’s heritage, because the añepas form part of the most interesting archaeological objects and have a special value to the extent that they are made of a material, wood, that deteriorates with ease and yet has managed to be preserved.
That is why the Consistory, taking advantage of the commemoration of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, has decided to exhibit these pieces to the public in a specially equipped urn, and has organized a temporary exhibition called Las Añepas del Mencey de Taoro. The exhibition will be on the main staircase until June 30 and will bring local, island and Canarian history a little closer and raise awareness of the value of archaeological heritage as a primary mechanism for learning about the ancient cultures of the Archipelago.
Pieces that speak of the indigenous elites
“These pieces tell us a little more about the indigenous elites, about a not so distant past that has left such interesting samples as these añepas that are worked without metals, using fire and different stone tools, such as basalt and obsidian, and polished. with sand”, explained the historian during the presentation of the exhibition, in which he was accompanied by the mayor, Francisco Linares.
There were many attempts for the City Council to give these patrimonial treasures to the scientific cabinets of Santa Cruz for the creation of the first museums.
However, its managers throughout this time “always understood that out of respect for these naturalists they should remain in the Consistory and also because it was a symbolic sign of the centrality that the municipality of La Orotava had in the North of Tenerife”, López explained.
“Thanks to those efforts made by the people who led the City Council to this day, these extraordinary pieces can be visited for the care with which they were guarded for so long by the institution,” he said.
Donation letters, plenary minutes, permits requested to carry out different investigations and other information of interest that bring citizens closer to a “piece of exceptional history” and the best legacy for local heritage have also been preserved.