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Risco Caído and Montañas Sagradas of Gran Canaria, UNESCO World Heritage

Risco Caído and Montañas Sagradas of Gran Canaria, UNESCO World Heritage

On the left bank of the lower course of “Barranco Hondo”, about 100 meters above the riverbed, is the ancient troglodyte settlement of Risco Caído, in an environment very rich in paleontological remains.

The settlement is made up of a total of 21 caves excavated in the volcanic tuff located at the top of a steep cliff that forms a ledge on the left bank of “Barranco Hondo”, between the Parral and Los Linderos ravines. Also known as “Risco Maldito”, this old town has been abandoned since the mid-20th century, one more example of the survival in recent times of lifestyles of pre-Hispanic heritage.

In the complex, the caves called C6 and C7 stand out for their astronomical, ceremonial and symbolic importance, located to the north of the town, probably the oldest, and which house what was one of the most important mountain sanctuaries of the ancient canarios. All the caves are endowed with a great profusion of pubic engravings, bowls and bas-reliefs.

Cave C6, known as the almogarén or sanctuary of Risco Caído, is an excavated enclosure with a circular floor plan and a paraboloid dome, very rare in this type of construction on the island.

In addition to its special architecture, the most significant thing is that this cave has an optical device or excavated light channel that projects the light of the sun or the full moon on one of the walls of the main chamber, where precisely the cave manifestations in the form of cups and pubic triangles and engravings in low relief. It is a unique manifestation that shows an unusual visual language for these cultures, a hierophany consisting of the dynamic projection of sunlight that penetrates through the opening, specifically designed for this purpose, creating a surprising sequence of images that are projected on part of the engravings. In such a way, a story is recreated with moving visual images that have been repeated since time immemorial, whose discourse would have symbolic and astronomical functionality. In fact, cave C6 constitutes an extremely complex and singular solstitial and equinoctial marker in its construction conception.

The mountainous center of Gran Canaria, extraordinary in its geomorphology and biogeography, is also extraordinary due to the fact that two radically different cultures have occupied it continuously for more than 1,500 years. A pre-Hispanic occupation by populations from the Amazihg (Berber) cultural orbit of North Africa who probably arrived in Gran Canaria around the turn of the era, was succeeded after the Castilian conquest of the island at the end of the 15th century by a European civilization in the dawn of the Modern Age.

Current Canarian society is heir to both.