The Canary Islands are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and during the winter they account for around 30% of all foreign visitors to Spain, but two thousand years ago to be sent there may have been seen as a punishment similar to deportation to Australia from the UK in the nineteenth century.
Archaeologist José Juan Jiménez believes that the Romans used the islands as a deportation camp for rebellious members of North African tribes, and has outlined his theories in a book just published entitled “La tribu de los Canarii”
In the first century AD many African natives refused to accept Roman rule and waged war on Imperial forces from the mountains, and in order to quash the uprisings Emperor Claudius sent Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the general who defeated Boudica in England, to the Atlas mountains. When insurgents were located, Sr Jiménez reports, they were often deported as an exemplary punishment for the rest of the population, and in the Canaries there is archaeological evidence of Libyan and Berber influence among the early settlers. The Romans, on the other hand, build no amphitheatres, thermal baths or aqueducts, which suggests that they were posted there temporarily rather than living there permanently.
The name “Canaria”, Sr Jiménez believes, comes partly from the time of Juba II (king of Mauritania around the time of the birth of Christ) and partly from the tribe which gave the islands their first settlers. The first theory gives the name a Latin root derived from the “sea canines” (or monk seals) which abounded on the island of Gran Canaria in the first century BC, while the second places the origin of the name in Libya in reference to the tribe deported there in the following century.
In his book the archaeologist details aspects of the daily life of members of the Canarii tribe, their economy, their family life, settlements, social structure, marital customs and beliefs. Apparently their worship of the stars led them to build settlements in such a way that they were aligned with the sun and the moon to mark the seasons, and their knowledge and traditions were passed down through the generations in this way.
Today, the island is famous for a different type of sun worshipper, another chapter in the history giving theses islands their unique identity.
All Text and Images are Subject to Copyright