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Identity of the ancient Canarian aboriginals

Origin of the ancient Canarians

Friar Alonso de Espinosa writes in his work at the end of the 16th century a folklore from the Guanches, the inhabitants from Achineche (Tenerife):


Los naturales Guanches viejos dizẽ que tienẽ noticia de inmemorable tiẽpo, que vinieron a eſta Isla ſeſenta perſonas, mas no ſaben de donde, y ſe juntaron y hizieron ſu habitacion junto a Icode que es vn lugar deſta Isla, y el lugar de ſu morada llamauan en ſu lengua. Alzanxiquian abcanahac xerax, que quiere dezir, Lugar del ayuntamiento del hijo del grande Translation: The aged Guanches say they possess tidings from time immemorial, that sixty people came to this island, yet they do not know whence, and they gathered and settled near Icod, which is a place on this island, and in their tongue they named their abode Alzanxiquian abcanahac xerac, which means: 'Place of the assembly of the son of the great one' — Friar Alonso de Espinosa - 1594



Despite popularly being called Guanches, this gentilic only refers to the ancient inhabitants of Tenerife. A plethora of theories have been created about the provenance of the people that inhabited the Canarian archipelago in the past, but all evidence suggests the ancient Canarians to be of Berber origin. According to Fregel's studies in 2009, the presence of E-M81 lineages, as well as other relatively abundant markers (E-M78 and the M267-J subgroup) native to North Africa found in the indigenous Canarian population, strongly suggests that North Africa is the most likely origin of the ancestors of the ancient Canarians. Their writing system was Libyco-Berber, a script shared with Berbers in North Africa. Their austere cone-bottom pottery, stone tools, stone mills and wooden weaponry bear a striking similarity with the contemporary continental Berbers.


Roman author and military officer Pliny the Elder, drawing upon the accounts of Juba II, the king of Mauretania, mentions a Mauretanian expedition around 50 BC that discovered ruins of structures on the islands. However, no population was found during this expedition. This account raises questions about the existence of other inhabitants on the islands prior to the Canarian Berbers, or whether the expedition may have failed to thoroughly explore the islands.


alteram insulam Iunoniam appellari; in ea aediculam esse tantum lapide exstructam. Translation: The other island was called Junonia, in it a small temple is built only of stone. — Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book 6, paragraph 37 - ca. 77 CE


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