Most of what we know about the Guanches has been pieced together from the writings of the Spanish Chroniclers and from what archaeologists have been able to find. The Guanches used to mummify their dead and many of the mummies were removed from the caves they had been laid to rest in. Some of these were bought long ago by collectors and many more are in museums today. There are probably further mummies that are still hidden away on the islands. They also practised the surgery known as trepanation in which a hole is drilled into the head of a living person. It is thought this was done to attempt to cure various ailments o9r possibly to release evil spirits.
Many examples of pottery and tools have survived too. It is known that they decorated their pots and made necklaces of shells and terra-cotta beads. The Guanches created objects known as "pintaderas" which has geometric designs on them and are thought to have been seals or stamps. They made knives from obsidian rock and wooden combs. They fashioned clothing from goat-skins and also used palm leaves and fibres.
The Guanches amused themselves by dancing and singing and holding contests in which the men wrestled, lifted heavy rocks and took part in a form of fencing with large wooden sticks. They were known to hold an annual Harvest Festival celebration too known as the Benesmen.
The Guanches were skilled at pole vaulting across ravines on the steep mountainsides and were very strong and agile people. In La Gomera they invented a means of communicating across vast distances by whistling, which is known as “Silbo” and is still practised by some people today.
It is known that Guanche women were held in very high regard and some were priestesses. They had spiritual beliefs and thought that an evil spirit known as “Guayota” lived in Mt Teide. As the mountain is a volcano this makes a lot of sense.
There was a hierarchy for the Guanche men with kings or “menceys”, each of whom had his own noblemen and advisors. There were none menceys in Tenerife and nine “menceyatos” or kingdoms.
The Guanches kept dogs, pigs and goats and also farmed the land, as well as being hunter-gatherers. A basic food was “gofio” made from roasted and ground cerearl flour and this is still popular on the islands today. They also ate fish they caught in the sea, fruit they gathered, honey and many edible wild plants and herbs.