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Tara of Gran Canaria by Sarah Corbett

Tara, fertility goddess of Gran Canaria was discovered in a cave in Telde on the Eastern coast of the island.

The terracotta clay statue is 27 cm tall and is a representation of a woman sitting in a cross legged position. The idol has been carefully burnished and has remains of paint on the surface. The form has similarities to early fertility goddess representations from other cultures in its triangular form. The face of the goddess is created by way of small careful incisions, and she also bears the broad hips often understood to represent fertility.

Tara was left in the cave by the Guanche people, who were the indigeonous inhabitants of the Canary Islands. The town of Telde was one of the two main Guanche settlements on the Island which was then called Tamaran.

The Guanche people were closely related to the Amazigh  people of the North African mainland. Stones with writing closely related to to early Libyan Tifanagh writing exist in the Canary Islands, and the genetics of the people correspond to those of North Africa too.  Other indicators of a connection are a matriarchal society and fertility goddess worship. It is believed that the earliest Guanche people arrived on the islands before 1000BC. The Castilian Conquest of the Canary Islands In 1402 led to the absorption of Guanche peoples into the arriving Spanish population via marriage. Guanche garments were made from goat skin and woven plant fibres worn along with necklaces of wood, bone, shell and beads of baked earth. Baked clay seals called Pintaderas with patterned designs which were used for body painting have been discovered.

The Guanche people lived in caves, and also used caves as places of worship and for  resting places for their deceased. Mummification was prevalent.  In the North of Gran Canaria at Galdar, a sacred Guanche site, discovered in 1862, has painted decoration to the walls of a cave. Pottery, tools, bodies of the deceased and furnishings which were hewn from the volcanic rock were discovered within the cave. Many of the paintings were triangular forms which are associated with female fertility.

It is possible to visit the painted cave, and the Tara idol is displayed in the Canadian Museum in Las Palmas.