Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Canary Islands

Canary Islands, or Canaries, a group of islands in the Atlantic, are situated about 60 miles from the N.W. coast of Africa, between lat. 27° 40' and 29° 25' N.. and longitude 13° 25' and 18° 16'W. They number thirteen in all, seven of which are of considerable size, the remainder being mere islets, and cover a total area of nearly 3,000 square miles. The chief are Lanzarote, Fuerteventura. Gran Canaria. Teneriffe, Gomera, Palma, and Ferro or Hierro. They are all volcanic, rugged, and mountainous, the highest peak being Teneriffe, 12,182 ft. The climate is very fine and the soil fertile, circumstances that earned them the ancient name of Fortunatae Insula - "Fortunate Islands." Among their products are the sugar-cane, bananas, dates, and on the more elevated tracts the ordinary grain crops of agriculture. Among the exports are cochineal, wine, and raw silk. The capital is Santa Cruz. From about the end of the 15th century these islands have belonged to Spain, who conquered and extirpated the Guanches. the original inhabitants. When first discovered, the Canary Islands were found to be inhabited by the so-called Guanches, an indigenous people, who are now known to have been a branch of the Berber race, but who had been so long isolated in the Archipelago that they had lost all memory of their Hamitic ancestry. From remote times a tribe of Canarii, the Kamnurieh of Arab writers, occupied the opposite mainland, and from them the name passed to the island of Gran Canaria, and thence to the whole group and its inhabitants. These appear to have been a numerous and warlike people, who offered a stout resistance to the Spaniards, but were nearly exterminated in the war of conquest, which lasted ten years, from 1485 to 1495. They are spoken of as a people of fair type, with long, light hair falling down to the waist, of average height, very frank, truthful, and intelligent. They possessed a considerable degree of social culture, as shown by their solid stone houses, well timbered and plastered, their carefully cultivated orchards, kitchen gardens and corn fields, their curious stone sculptures of men and animals, and the universal custom of embalming the dead by the Egyptian process, and depositing them in vast crypts or underground cemeteries. Over 1,000 such mummies were found in a single cave in Teneriffe. A few of these aborigines are supposed still to survive amongst the rural populations of some of the upland valleys. From a comparative study of the little that remains of their language, their nearest kindred on the mainland appear to be the Shluhs (Berbers) of the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Nevertheless, the researches of Dr. Verneau in 1877 seem to show that there were several distinct groups, such as those of Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, and of Hierro, both of whom possessed a knowledge of letters, besides the less civilised natives of Teneriffe and Gomera, the Vincheni, or true Guanchos. (See Don J. J. da Costa de Macedo, "Ethnographical Remarks" in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1841, pp. 171-183, and Dr. Verneau, "De la Pluralite" des races anciennes de l'archipel canarien" in Bulletin de la Societe d'Anthropologie, 1878-1879.)