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Gran Canaria Revealed

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Cueva Pintada (Painted Caves)

The small town of Gáldar is found to the north of Gran Canaria, and at the time of the Spanish conquest of the island in 1478, it was the centre of the rulers of the Guanche people, who were the original inhabitants of the island. It was here in a small cave that the Guanche people had painted geometric paintings, but the Spanish built a new city and the original settlement of the Guanche people disappeared, and the painted cave or cueva pintada was lost.

It was around 400 years later in 1873 that a local man discovered the cave by climbing through a narrow gap and first saw these paintings. Over time, many others came to investigate this discovery, and eventually Guanche pottery, tools and mummified bodies were found. However, it was about 100 years later that the public could gain regular access to the Cueva Pintada, but this contributed to the deterioration of the paintings from humidity and sunlight. Therefore, the island government closed public access to the caves in 1982.

It was only in recent years that the Cueva Pintada has been reopened with a modern visitor centre that provides information about the life of the Guanche people, as well as giving access to the excavation site of this early human settlement and to visit the painted cave. The Guanche people lived in cave houses, as well as using them as ceremonial places, and used stone age tools to cut and shape the cave rooms from the soft volcanic tufa. Also, they built walls from tufa or basalt without using mortar, and they carved the soft rock to form seats and beds.

Visitors are given tours of the Cueva Pintada in different languages, and you need to book in advance by phone or online, or wait for the next tour for your language. The whole site is now covered to protect the excavations and to control the humidity and light.