16th Aug 2023 @ 9:14 am

A new study shows that the original settlement of the Canary Islands by human beings was a more complicated process, and that there was little to no contact between the natives of various islands.

A group of academics from Canarian universities have published a paper in the open-access magazine Nature Communications, which describes how analysis of DNA samples from 40 individual samples on all seven islands indicates that the Canaries were first settled by North African peoples between the 2nd and 4th century AD, and the population remained isolated until the arrival of explorers in the 14th century.

The findings indicate that the settlement of the Canaries was undertaken in stages, by different peoples.  The DNA samples from the  eastern Canaries (Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria) have genetic elements in common with prehistoric European peoples that may have migrated to North Africa, while the western islands have more in common with prehistoric African populations.

This had already been suspected due to the presence of ancient inscriptions on the eastern islands and the presence of imported fig trees on Gran Canaria.

Lower genetic diversity was noted on the smaller islands of Lanzarote, La Gomera, El Hierro and Fuerteventura. The authors of the study suggest this was due to their smaller populations, the lack of resources on these islands and an absence of migration or contact between the islands.

The full paper can be accessed here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-40198-w

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