Visitors often forget that there is much more to the island of Gran Canaria than sunshine and beautiful beaches.
Brits, Germans and Scandinavians flock to the Canary Islands in search of the sunshine and warmth that they have been missing during the winter months in their home countries.
Desperate to squeeze in as many sunshine hours that they can, many tourists shy away from looking at the islands’ ancient past, visiting traditional Canarian villages, exploring the mountain areas and learning more about the islands’ ancient past.
The same too can be said of many of us who live on the islands. It is often only when visitors arrive that we are reminded that our islands contain many treasures to explore, and forces us away from our daily routines.
One such island treasure is the Painted Cave of Galdar (La Cueva Pintada de Galdar), which can be found to the North of Gran Canaria. Galdar was the centre of the rulers of the Guanches, the original inhabitants of Gran Canaria, before the Spanish conquest of the island. In a small cave in the town, the Guanches painted intricate geometric paintings that depicted much of the routine and rituals of their daily lives.
In island aboriginal culture, painting the walls of caves was common practice and this is one of the best-preserved examples of rock art that can be seen anywhere. Following the Spanish conquest in 1478, the Spanish invaders built a new city and the original Guanche settlement disappeared and the painted cave was lost.
In 1873, a local man clambered through a narrow gap in the rocks and discovered the cave and the paintings. Word quickly got around and soon many people were visiting the cave where mummified bodies, Guanche pottery and tools were also found.
The cave was finally opened to the public about one hundred years later, but this led to an increase in sunlight and humidity, which caused the paintings to deteriorate. In 1982 the island government closed all public access to the caves until a way to preserve this valuable heritage could be found.
Many years later, the Ceuva Pintada was once again opened to the public, together with a modern visitor centre that provides helpful background information about the life of the Guanches. Visitors are now able to explore this fascinating Canarian aboriginal village, which is an amazing testimony to an ancient and ancestral civilisation.
The Guanches lived in cave houses, and used Stone Age tools to cut and shape the rooms from the soft volcanic rock. They built walls from basalt without the use of mortar, and carved beds and seats from the soft rock. This early human settlement has now been professionally excavated and the entire site is covered to protect the excavations, as well as controlling light and humidity that can cause so much damage.
Visitors can visit the Cueva Pintada, which is recognised as one of the most important archaeological sites in the Canary Islands, and tours are given in several languages. So, if you plan to visit the island, and get tired of the sun and lazing by the pool, just head off to Galdar and invest in a trip through the past. You won’t regret it.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Expat Voice’ (ISBN: 9780992767174). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle.
iPhone/iPad and Android Apps: ExpatInfo, CanaryIsle and CanaryGay now available.
© Barrie Mahoney
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/47072/
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