GUANCHES, GUANCHIS or Guanchos (native Guanchinet; Guan = person, Chinet = Teneriffe, - " ` man of Teneriffe," corrupted, according to Nunez de la Pena, by Spaniards into Guanchos), the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands.
This would suggest that the Guanches were not the first inhabitants, and from the absence of any trace of Mahommedanism among the peoples found in the archipelago by the Spaniards it would seem that this extreme westerly migration of Berbers took place between the time of which Pliny wrote and the conquest of northern Africa by the Arabs.
Many of the Guanches fell in resisting the Spaniards, many were sold as slaves, and many conformed to the Roman Catholic faith and married Spaniards.
No inscriptions have been found in these two islands, and therefore it would seem that the true Guanches did not know how to write.
The political and social institutions of the Guanches varied.
Almost all the Guanches used to wear garments of goat-skins, and others of vegetable fibres, which have been found in the tombs of Grand Canary.
The Guanches' weapons were those of the ancient races of south Europe.
The Guanches embalmed their dead; many mummies have been found in an extreme state of desiccation, each weighing not more than 6 or 7 lb.
In times of drought the Guanches drove their flocks to consecrated grounds, where the lambs were separated from their mothers in the belief that their plaintive bleatings would melt the heart of the Great Spirit.
Sergi, The Mediterranean Race (London, 1901); The Guanches of Tenerife.
Among the Guanches of the Canary Islands, however, the Egyptian methods of emptying the body and padding he skin were closely paralleled.
The Guanches, who occupied the Canaries at the time of the Spanish invasion, no longer exist as a separate race, for the majority were exterminated, and the remainder intermarried with their conquerors.
The aborigines of the Canary Islands, the Guanches, would seem almost certainly, from the remains of their language, to have been Berbers.
Two or possibly more Spanish expeditions followed, and a monastic mission was established, but at the close of the 14th century the Guanches remained unconquered and unconverted.
Jean de Bethencourt, who died in 1422, bequeathed the islands to his brother Reynaud; Guzman sold them to another Spaniard named Paraza, who was forced to re-sell to Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile in 1476; and Prince Henry twice endeavoured to enforce his own claims. Meanwhile the Guanches remained unconquered throughout the greater part of the archipelago.