They were the native peoples of the Canary Islands before the French, Portuguese, and Spanish conquerors reached the Canaries a few generations prior to the discovery of America. They were related to the Berbers of the adjacent mainland, spoke a variant of the Berber language, and retained their Neolithic culture. The Canary archipelago is composed of seven islands, and it is only about 100 kilometers off the Moroccan Atlantic shore. Its latitude is tropical, and the climate is hot and relatively dry. Tenerife and Gran Canaria are the largest and highest islands and had the largest population densities before the coming of the Europeans.
   Their ancestors had come to the Canaries from the African mainland over a period of many centuries, starting no earlier than the second millennium B.C. and the last arriving no later than the first centuries A.D. The Guanches were seafaring people. As Europe began its march to world hegemony in the 15th century, an estimated 80,000 Guanches resisted the European initial sailing to the New World until the first quarter of the 16th century. By 1520, European military technology, combined with the devastating epidemics such as bubonic plague and pneumonia brought by the conquistadores and enslavement and deportation of natives, led to the extinction of the Guanches. Today, Guanche genes must survive among the inhabitants of the Canaries, the Iberian Peninsula, Africa, and the Americas.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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