They find a pre-Hispanic funerary cave with 72 mummies in the Canary Islands

They find a pre-Hispanic funerary cave with 72 mummies in the Canary Islands

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Archaeologists who study what life was like for the aboriginal populations of the Canaries have just come across an opportunity like the one that has not been presented to them since the late 19th century: explore a large burial cave, with at least 72 individuals, which possibly no one has ever touched.

The only problem is that part of the visor of that cavity collapsed in the past and rain, sun, temperature changes and even birds have been slowly eroding what in his day there were 72 complete mummies, now reduced to a collection of disordered bones, but which retain invaluable information at risk of disappearing forever.

The cave is located in the southeast of Gran Canaria, in the Guayadeque ravine -one of the reference enclaves, for example, in the collections of the Canarian Museum- and, in fact, it appears in archaeological inventories since the eighties, but it had never been studied or explored, because it is located in an inaccessible place, at that can only be reached by climbing seven meters of wall.

If you are going to study now, it is because you are in a hurry to intervene in it, or the remains that it still treasures will disappear in a «inexorable»In a few years, the inspector of the Cabildo Heritage service and professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has recognized Javier Velasco.

And all this, thanks to citizen collaboration, to the responsible action of a group of archeology fans, called "The Legacy", who managed to photograph the cave from the air with a drone in June 2019 and made the facts known of the Cabildo, when observing the amount of bones that were inside and the degree of exposure to the elements that they were enduring.

Javier Velasco and Verónica Alberto, archaeologist from the company hired for this emergency intervention, Tibicena, have climbed to that site and agree in their description: it is, they say, a collective burial "fabulous, exceptional", such as those described in their books by the pioneers of this type of study, when at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries most of the pre-Hispanic burial sites were explored.

«It's been like a trip back in time«, Sums up Alberto. A double trip, to the time when there were still great pre-Hispanic burial caves to explore, and to the past to which those remains go back, dated, for now, between the 8th and 11th centuries AD.

Those two dates have been obtained by Carbon-14 of a bone and a remnant of mat used to shroud the corpses.

They are the only two remains that have been dated to date, so specialists do not rule out that the period of use of this cave as a cemetery was even longer, given the history of other funerary sites in the Guayadeque ravine.

The first exploration of the cave has provided very promising data, despite the deterioration of his remains.

The site belongs to the beginnings of the population of Gran Canaria (the oldest dates on the island date back to the 4th century) and men and women of all ages are buried there, with a very unusual presence of children in this type of enclaves.

In this collection of bones there are only a dozen newborns, which will serve to advance the study of childhood in the times of the ancient canaries. A matter of which little is known because, has detailed Verónica Alberto.

This archaeologist and her colleague Javier Velasco have also highlighted another striking detail: all the bodies received the same preparation to face the last trip, to which his relatives gave them wrapped in leather shrouds or vegetable mat.

That is, the Cabildo inspector emphasizes, nothing differentiates them from the pre-Hispanic Canarian mummies kept in museums. If today they are only scattered bones, he adds, it is only due to the action of natural elements that have prevented them from being preserved, but it seems to indicate that this funeral ritual was common for the entire population.

Likewise, It has drawn the attention of archaeologists that in a site that does not seem looted there are only bones and shrouds, since, at the moment, no personal or trousseau item has been found.

If this detail is confirmed when the intervention in the cave progresses, Alberto points out, it will be necessary to rethink some of the theories about the supposed offerings that accompanied the deceased in the funerary rituals of the ancient Canaries.

Now, the first urgent intervention will consist of save all the remains that are at risk of deterioration. Later, more Carbon 14 analysis will come to know your age; DNA, to know your genetic line; stable isotopes, to find out what their diet was; and even forensics, to unravel what they died of. Eph.

Via Cabildo of Gran Canaria.

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