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.
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.
Little is known of the religion of the Guanches.
Sergi, The Mediterranean Race (London, 1901); The Guanches of Tenerife.
d'Arbois de Jubainville, for example (Les Premiers habitants de l'Europe, Paris, 1877), maintained that besides possessing Spain, Gaul, Italy and the British Isles, " Iberian " peoples penetrated into the Balkan peninsula, and occupied a part of northern Africa, Corsica and Sardinia; and it is now generally accepted that a race with fairly uniform characteristics was at one time in possession of the south of France (or at least of Aquitania), the whole of Spain from the Pyrenees to the straits, the Canary Islands (the Guanches) a part of northern Africa and Corsica.
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.
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.
The aborigines of the Canary Islands, the Guanches, would seem almost certainly, from the remains of their language, to have been Berbers.
Strictly the Guanches were the primitive inhabitants of Teneriffe, where they seem to have preserved racial purity to the time of the Spanish conquest, but the name came to be applied to the indigenous populations of all the islands.
The Guanches, now extinct as a distinct people, appear, from the study of skulls and bones discovered, to have resembled the Cro-Magnon race of the Quaternary age, and no real doubt is now entertained that they were an offshoot of the great race of Berbers which from the dawn of history has occupied northern Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic. Pliny the Elder, deriving his knowledge from the accounts of Juba, king of Mauretania, states that when visited by the Carthaginians under Hanno the archipelago was found by them to be uninhabited, but that they saw ruins of great buildings.
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.
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.
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