At the start of the 15th century, an expedition headed up by Normans Joan de Betancourt and Gadifer de la Salle led to the European conquest of the island of Fuerteventura. Until then, just 600 years ago, the island has been inhabited by the Mahos, the name given to the aborigines of the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, who have left numerous traces of their presence.
Even today, there is still much to learn about them, but thanks to the legacy they left behind at sites such as Tindaya Mountain, La Atalayita Village, Cueva del Llano in Villaverde, La Fortaleza, and La Pared, we are able to reconstruct the world of these primitive inhabitants, their culture, and their survival strategies in an arid and difficult land for over two thousand years.
Just twenty kilometers from Caleta de Fuste and a few meters from the Pozo Negro beach, you’ll find one of these archeological wonders: La Atalayita Village. To visit it is to get a privileged insight into the way of life of the island’s ancient inhabitants, an opportunity to get to know them a bit better and to understand the history of Fuerteventura.
There are different theories as to the exact origin of the Mahos, but it’s widely agreed that they came from North Africa.
Its economy was mainly based on goat farming, on the breeding of the Majorero goat, which has survived to the present day in the form of a unique species.
To a lesser extent, they cultivated cereals, fished, and harvested mollusks and wild fruits to keep up their supplies.
La Atalayita Village
In the municipality of Antigua, in the middle of the Malpaís Grande Protected Landscape, a protected natural environment of great beauty and value, is La Atalayita Village.
The Aborigines settled in this area due to the optimal conditions for grazing, because it was an area that was easy to defend against possible attacks and because of its proximity to the sea.
La Atalayita Village, which covered an immense area, offers an insight into the life of the ancient inhabitants of Fuerteventura: how they lived, how they organized themselves, how they related to each other and to the land itself.
After a brief period closed to the public, the museum space reopened its doors last year as an Interpretation and Investigation Centre with the aim of becoming Fuerteventura’s first Archaeological Park.
Alongside a main building that houses the Aboriginal Interpretation Centre, there are more than a hundred constructions of different types dotted across the site, which can be visited with an interactive guided tour.
The houses where the Mahos lived, known as “casas hondas”, were usually built of stone, without mortar. They were circular shape and built partly underground. These small and simple constructions, between 1.5 and 2 meters in diameter, provided good temperature and protection from the sun and the wind on the island. As the floor inside was lower than outside, ramps or small staircases were used to get in and out. This type of construction, which served as a house for the Mahos, is the most common type found in La Atalayita Village, but there are some others, such as the circular enclosures without roofs, which were used to keep livestock. In addition, there are a few somewhat more complex structures, groups of casas hondas that open onto a central space and combine enclosures of different heights and sizes.
The village is a great example of Maho organization and architectural style and is well worth a visit. But right across Fuerteventura there are many archeological sites, evidence of the island’s not-so-distant aboriginal past, of a magical culture which we invite you to discover.