The municipality of San Bartolomé de Tirajana treasures a rich heritage of the pre-Hispanic aboriginal culture of Gran Canaria, in more than 300 places of interest.
The remains of necropolises, towns and sanctuaries of a unique culture that developed on the island until the Castilian conquest at the end of the 15th century AD are preserved.
The exact dates and forms of the arrival of these first settlers on the island are not known, although through the dating of C14 they help to approximate the chronological framework of these first populations on a date close to the change of era.
Due to its cultural manifestations, anthropological features and language of Tamazigh origin, it is related to the Berber cultural sphere (Amazigh); but their culture developed autonomously, differentiating it from the other Canary Islands, although on a common substratum, for a period of almost fifteen centuries.
They progressively occupied all the existing ecological niches in the territory, from the coastal zone to the peaks, with a significant population density, at least in the time before the Castilian conquest, which led to the creation of large towns. Habitats made up of elaborate stone constructions, such as natural and artificial caves, with engraved and painted motifs, and complex buildings for common use.
Its economy was based on agriculture, mainly wheat and barley, as well as figs, lentils and possibly beans; this explains the large number of silos and granaries in the archaeological sites. Livestock, goats, sheep and pigs with fishing, shellfishing and vegetable harvesting completed their model of production and food diet.
Aboriginal society was unequal, with a dominant caste of nobles and a majority in almost menial conditions. Funerary practices with burials in collective caves, burials in burial mounds, graves and cists provide data on its cultural evolution and the progressive hierarchical social organization of the human group that used it.
Its magical and polytheistic religious world, highly complex, is reflected both in the numerous places of worship, with cave manifestations, engravings and paintings, as well as in the discovery of ceramic idols in different archaeological sites on the island. There is also memory of their parties and collective celebrations. Of special importance was its funerary world, with a large number of unique spaces, such as burial mounds, cists and caves with “mummies” treated and wrapped in skins and reeds. The latest archaeological investigations at the top of La Fortaleza (Santa Lucía de Tirajana), place Umiaya (Humiaga), one of the two great sacred places mentioned in the chronicles of the conquest where they invoked and sacrificed domestic animals in their ritual practices.
The Canarian culture had productive capacities adapted to the use of available material resources and the absence of metals. Its pottery production stands out, the only one in the Canary Islands with polychrome decoration and complex shapes. In addition to a varied manufacture of tools in wood and stone, they worked the skin and elaborated palm and reed fabrics.
This complex culture succumbed to Castilian colonisation at the end of the 15th century, with the imposition of the language, religion, and social and political organization. The original population was reduced by wars, diseases and deportations, the survivors mixing with the coloniser.
However, some of its features survive in the current Canarian culture with place names and proper names, crafts, festivals, livestock practices and gastronomy. The toponym Las Tirajanas designates a wide region in the upper and SE part of Gran Canaria, integrating the municipalities of San Bartolomé and Santa Lucía de Tirajana, characterized by a rugged territory, with large depressions and numerous archaeological sites. The place name is repeated in the Caldera de Tirajana, Barranco de Tirajana, Pinar de Tirajana, Vista de Tirajana or Presa de Tirajana.
The territory of San Bartolomé de Tirajana was the scene of outstanding events in that turbulent time. The local victory against the Norman invaders at the service of Castile, near the town of El Pajar, on the border with the municipality of Mogán, which at the beginning of the 15th century guaranteed the Canary Islands a few more years of independence. Pedro Hernández Cabrón, an admiral from Cadiz, was ambushed by Canarians in the Tirajana area in which twenty-six Castilians perished and more than a hundred were wounded, including the navigator himself who received a stone to the head. The last aboriginal resistance, led by the leader Bentejuí, took place in the Ansite fortress, probably located in the Amurga massif, on the northern edge of the municipality, in the year 1483.