Africa's Atlantic islands

Jun 2013
728
canada
I find it extremely difficult to believe that these islands were unknown to Africans and uninhabited before the Portuguese "found" them. I mean, there are archaeological remains of boats and canoes in Africa that are between 8-9000 years old, so these peoples were at the very least sailing along the coast and rivers. Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe being among the "undiscovered" islands.


Is it possible archaeologists will find evidence of pre-Portuguese settlement on the islands? There's research coming out now that says East Africans colonized Madagascar centuries before Indonesian/Borneo settlers ever reached it.


What do you guys think? It frankly sounds ridiculous to me. The Malians were a seafaring people with a thirst for exploration, if they allegedly sent expeditions to explore the new world, why wouldn't they come across these Atlantic islands first? Maybe use them as a transit stop or port? I usually take this "Africans were too primitive" or "Africans never really" stuff with a grain of salt, because as time passes and I learn more and more about pre-colonial Africa, I start to understand how advanced some of these peoples and empires really were.
 

bartieboy

Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
6,616
The Netherlands
I think the difficult water streams and winds off that part of the African coast didn´t work in their favor.
After all, that was the point where the Portuguese got stuck on for many years.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,140
Canary Islands-Spain
The fundamental problem involving sailing in Northwestern Atlantic Africa are sea currents and winds, togheter with the difficult terrain in Atlantic Sahara, which prevent resuplying. They were so difficult to sail, that non of ancient and medieval civilizations could stablish regular routes south of Mogador.

The exception was Canary Islands, were occasional arrives of Berbers, Carthaginians and Romans resulted in the colonization of the islands. However, they were forgotten after 4th century, and remained isolated for many centuries.

The Canary sea currents flows down the coast always, together with strong trade winds flowing all the year, specially in summer. There is no counter courrent, neither stational winds. So that the only direction to go is south, and then west. This prevented sailors to go far beyond, until the development of good ships allowed them to travel against the general wind.
Mali and other peoples in West Africa developed sailing capabilities, but they were mostly river and coastal ships, so that ocasional blue sea expeditions, like the Mali ones to cross the Atlantic, were rare, and gave no fruits at all. They were, however, good sailors, and used to fish and make transport through rivers and coast, so that by the age of the exploration European ships began to hire them to sail along African coasts.

Peoples farther from Niger delta area, around Congo, were not as good sailors as their West Africa cousins. This was caused, probably, first by the lack of fish in the hot waters around the Equator, second because complex civilizations with supra-regional needs and ambitions did not develop until 15th century.


On the contrary, the east coast of Africa was very easy to sail. There is a stational change of winds which allow returning voyages, and the Indian Ocean was the home of ancient and developed civilizations that traded extensively on the area, developing good knowledge of sailing. This include the Malayans.

The Austronesian peoples are not a good counter example, because they are among the mightiest sea faring peoples in history. In regard to them, the question is how could them develop so advance sailing traditions in comparation to the rest of people of the world.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,806
Cornwall
I read up on the conquest of Tenerife whilst visiting there in Spring. But material on Fernando de Lugo's campaign is very scarce - I wasn't able to find a current history book per se, but relied on the semi-novel semi-history:

EL REY DE TAORO:NOVELA HISTÓRICA DE LA CONQUISTA DE TENERIFE - EUGEN KUTHE, comprar el libro en tu librería online Casa del Libro

by the German Kuthe. It was written in the 30s I think and, though very well researched locally, contains some errors pointed out by the editors EG it talks of the Guanches hunting rabbits, when these arrived later. The order of a death or two was changed to fit romance too.

However it gives good basis and explains the war of conquest during which Lugo managed to lose about 2,400 modern troops and Guanche allies massacred in the ravine at Acetejo. Lugo escaped (1 of only about 300) and came back next year with a better plan.

It is fascinating that a stone-age army could defeat the Spanish force using javelins, rocks and the ravines of the land - I believe there was also heavy resistance on La Gomera or La Palma, cant remember which.

I raised a thread in April saying it was strange none of the Empires of North Africa had incorporated the Canary Islands - it's almost as if they were left out from consciousness.

By huge coincidence, the casa we had rented was about 400 meters from the gorge of the massacre - the present-day town being called La Matanza de Acentejo. A little chapel dating originally from 1501 dedicated to the fallen is close by.
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,140
Canary Islands-Spain
The civilization of ancient Canarian peoples is quite fascinating, as well as the process of conquest. I say peoples, in plural, because due to their lack of navigation practice each island developed their own culture, steaming from a common original base, apparently. The exception would be Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, where northern inhabitants of Fuerteventura and all of the people of Lanzarote seem to be the same. In the southern extreme of Fuerteventura, in the Peninsula of Jandia, another different group lived.

Tenerife was the last one to be conquered. There is much especulation about the number of inhabitants, but probably they were no more than 10-15 thousand. Some later chronicles claim unbelieveble high numbers of Guanches involved in battle, in the order of 6,000 or 10,000. In my opinion they were never more than 2,000 to 3,000. Technology of Guanche people from Tenerife, as well as that of Gran Canaria, the two islands were resistance was much fierce, was certainlly neolithic, but inhabitants could take advantage of their terrain knowledge, and surprisingly their wood and stone weapons were very effective.

I would like to provide you with the best works dealing with the conquest of Tenerife, but they are in Spanish. Instead, you can adquire the main written chronicle to know the Guanche people and their conquest, in English:

[ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guanches-Tenerife-Candelaria-conquest-settlement/dp/0217893392/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1386849622&sr=8-3&keywords=conquest+of+tenerife"]The Guanches of Tenerife; the holy image of Our Lady of Candelaria, and the Spanish conquest and settlement: Amazon.co.uk: Alonso de Espinosa: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/418rod-wLlL.@@AMEPARAM@@418rod-wLlL[/ame]


It is an original source, so it is plagued with innacuracies, and lacks important recent discoveries in archeology and archives. However, it is still the main source of knowledge for the Guanches.

In order to know the rest of the islands, as well as other dettails of Tenerife, I recommend the late 16th century work of Abreu Galindo, who is specially useful in regard to Gran Canaria

[ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Discovery-Conquest-Islands-Classic/dp/B008UIZJXC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386850274&sr=8-2&keywords=abreu+galindo"]The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands Classic Reprint: Amazon.co.uk: Abreu De Galindo: Books@@AMEPARAM@@http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TNTZJNr%2BL.@@AMEPARAM@@51TNTZJNr%2BL[/ame]

Consider the same problems of using so old chronicles.
 
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johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,806
Cornwall
Thanks Frank. I read and speak fluent Spanish - that is where I get all my stuff from, I dont think I've read an English book in 5 or 6 years! I find that the vast majority of material on Spanish history just hasn't been translated into English and there is some good stuff out there.

When searching this subject in Spring I couldn't find a good source at Casadellibro but then it isn't the easiest site to search.

Which do you recommend as the best works on Tenerife?
 

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,140
Canary Islands-Spain
I always recommend first original sources since they are the base above the rest of works rely on. So Espinosa's book I posted before is a must.

In regard to the conquest, modern historiography is lacking in general works, not so in partial works. The most famous, though a bit outdated, work is that of Rume de Armas, that you can see in this PDF (you can download it)

La conquista de Tenerife : 1494-1496 :: Memoria Digital de Canarias - Textos

It is a hard and arid book, there is no concessions to casual readers there. There is a recent, reburfished publication, but I don't know how to get it since I'm now working out of my islands.


From the archeological and cultural point of view, the classical work of Diego Cuscoy (director of the Archeological Museum of Tenerife) is a must

Los guanches : vida y cultura del primitivo habitante de Tenerife :: Memoria Digital de Canarias - Textos