At the brink of colonization: the centuries before and after the European conquest of the Canary Islands

Excavated in the 1980s, Cueva Pintada is an archaeological site in Gáldar (Gran Canaria), whose origins predate the Spanish conquest of the island and which was occupied intermittently until the 17th Century. Its housing structures record a long history of maintenance and recycling and the entire ruined village conceals a complex archaeological palimpsest. Nowadays, there is a museum and archaeological park at the site, protecting it and bringing it closer to the general public.

The archaeological village comprises more than 70 stone houses and artificial caves. One of the caves, “Cueva Pintada”, exhibits a polychrome painted wall featuring geometric patterns. Currently, different houses are undergoing systematic excavation and our geoarchaeological project at the site consists in carrying out microstratigraphic investigations at the excavated contexts to shed light on the activities performed in them, the construction techniques involved in the making of walls, floors and roofs and the village’s main occupation phases.   

Working inside a museum provides us comfort and time, and we carry out sampling for micromorphology, lipid biomarkers and phytoliths with as much detail as possible. We try to collect loose sediment samples for lipid biomarkers and phytolithi analysis adjacent to the micromorphology blocks and at <2 cm intervals and coinciding as much as possible with visible facies from the micromorphology blocks. We cannot carry out this delicate subsampling at the lab due to the loose, ashy nature of the sediment at this site. The goal is to obtain differentiated chemical data for each separate feature (floor deposit, wall plaster, trample overlying a floor…) that we can observe in the micromorphological thin sections to interpret them accurately. Such features are often less tan 1 mm thick!


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