Excavations carried out over the last five years at the Cueva Pintada de Galdar in Gran Canaria have provided new details about what life was like in Galdar, the capital of Gran Canaria before the Spanish Invasion, and also reveal for the first time the relationship of these early settlers with the local sugar industry.
Archaeologists have collected in these five years 9651 pieces of all kinds of artefacts dated between the Ninth and Sixteenth Centuries. The stones of a supposed ruined house turned out to be a food store, and a cave chamber was found to be covered by the construction of a house in the Fifteenth Century with a wall of painted early symbols.
Artefacts include painted images of early symbols, female idols, shells of snails that were decorated with pre-Hispanic culture themes, Portuguese coins, buckles, nails, metal moulds to crystallise sugar, as well as a machete that is the first found in a Canarian aboriginal town.
These findings pose very interesting questions for researchers, such as, What was the relationship of Aboriginal society with the first beginnings of the sugar industry that the Spanish quickly developed into an economic engine for Gran Canaria?
Sugarcane was not present in the Canary Islands when the Spanish arrived, but it was a crop imported from Madeira by the Spanish. Sugar was described as ‘white gold’ and researchers are questioning why sugar crystallisation moulds and machetes were found in aboriginal homes. Did early settlers work on the Spanish sugarcane plantations and in the sugar mills? Did the aborigines also have small sugar productions?
The Cueva Pintada Museum at Galdar in the north of Gran Canaria is a fascinating visit, and it is possible to book for tours in different languages.
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