The indigenous people of the Canary Islands left an enduring mark on the archipelago, a presence that continues to linger today, centuries after their culture became absorbed by the Spanish settlers. Their whistled language still trills in the air above the ravines. Even the remains of their elite have endured the passage of time.
The Guanches used similar methods as the Egyptians did when preserving their high-ranking citizens. A class of “unclean” embalmers tended to the dead. They then buried the mummified individuals underground or within caves. Sadly, a large number of the indigenous mummies were lost to later grave robbers. But some specimens managed to survive the looting intact.
The Guanche Mummy of Madrid is one of the best preserved Guanche mummies. Its careful embalming kept its organs intact and even left the man with an impressive full head of hair.
The mummy was found in a ravine thought to be an internment cave on the Island of Tenerife. The man, who died during his early 30s, was mummified between the 11th and 13th centuries, before the Spanish came and settled the island.
However, the man’s remains were disturbed from their final resting spot. The mummy arrived in Madrid in the 18th century when it was gifted to King Charles III as a morbid curio. Even while within the city, the mummy has received little rest. For many years, it was shuffled between several museums before arriving at the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid, where it’s now on (hopefully permanent) display.
Know Before You Go
There's easy access by commuter train at the Recoletos station. To travel by tube via the Serrano station or by bus use lines 1, 9, 19, 51, or 74. All stop in front of the museum. Lines 5, 14, 27, 45, and 150 all stop at Recoletos Avenue. Lines 21 and 53 stop in Colón Square.