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Known as “Hesperides” by the ancient Greeks the entire Canary Island archipelago contains relics and cave paintings dating back to prehistoric man. The original Berber aboriginal inhabitants of all the islands called “Guanches” are believed to have arrived in Lanzarote around 1000BC from North Africa.
Isolated from the rest of the world the islands were rediscovered in 1312 by Genoese navigator, Lancelotto Malocello from whom Lanzarote got its modern day name.
At the time of the European explorer's arrival, King Zonzamas ruled the island from his palace located on a plateau near what is now the town of San Bartolome.
Besides calling Lanzarote’s early inhabitants “Guanch”, the name also is used to reference their language which has all but disappeared except for a few place names and tools.
It is possible however that the whistling language that is known as “Silbo” found in the smallest of the Canary Islands, La Gomera could have been used by the early Cro-Magnon tribes that settled all the Canary Islands.
Despite still living as though in the Stone-Age when the first Europeans arrived, the explorers were impressed by the sophisticated tribal social structure that was ruled over by a chieftain who sought advice from a council of elders.
The native people of Lanzarote were also advanced enough to be able to make pottery and wore clothes made from animal skins and plaited rushes. The Europeans also found in rock carvings that we now know to be Libyco-Berber script dating back to the time of the Roman Empire, which suggests that the Guanches were not the first civilisation to settle in the Canaries.
What still remains...
What remains today of Zonzamas’s legacy are five underground level stone constructions suggesting that part of the dwelling was purposely built below the surface to help provide shelter from the nearly constant winds.
During archaeological digs, evidence of other civilisations was also found with the bottom layer showing signs of pre-historic man, while other levels date to more modern times with Andalusian ceramics and iron nails being uncovered.
Being the most important archaeological site on Lanzarote you will be surprised to find that the entire area has been left to the wild and while there was an attempt to build a museum on the site back in the late 90’s all that remains today is concrete debris and a blueprint of what could have been a very popular tourist attraction.
Getting to Llano de Zonzamas
The best way to get to Llano de Zonzamas is to head towards the house of Canarian artist, architect and environmentalist César Manrique. The house is now home to the César Manrique Foundation, a non-profit private institution that was formed in 1992 to carry on César Manrique’s legacy for generations to come. The house today houses an impressive collection of modern art which includes works by Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and Jesús Soto.
To reach Llano de Zonzamas from the César Manrique Foundation turn left at the main roundabout and head in the direction of Teguise. When you come to the next roundabout you need to double back the way you just came and take the first right turn onto Calle Augustin de la Hoz. Follow the road until it becomes a dirt track and the ruins will be on your left.