While you’re going to Mount Bermeja, located in the south of the town of Telde, you’ll find a complex of caves, probably the most emblematic of the island of Gran Canaria for its singularity and location. The words “Four Doors” in spanish are translated as “Cuatro Puertas” and it’s the same name for both the ravine (barranco C. P.) and the village (pueblo C. P.), besides the archeological place of course!
The name has a little trick if you don’t know the place, because the whole complex of caves count more than just the “most famous one”, and it also has a ceremonial place, many granaries, paths and alleys. It was dug in tuff with stones objects by the pre-hispanic population.
The main cave, called Four Doors, is on the northern side of the mountain Bermeja. Its doors were created by digging the tuff and they could have been closed (as the Canarian tradition, take a look here to Cenobio de Valeron!) with coverings, made of skins, leathers, wood or other materials. The space was enclosed on the outside and numerous arrangements were made to the tuff walls and the floors to give it a correct orientation to observe the summer solstice. Despite this, it’s not clear the use of the cave: because of its style and position most archaeologists believe that it may have been a sacred place, where the Canarian population was practicing worship and rituals, directly by the faycánes (like “majors”) and the harimaguadas (virgin priestesses under the authority of the faycánes).
The other caves consist, in the most of the cases, of a main central space with smaller rooms around; the main rooms may have been partitioned with lights made of animal skin or with stone alignments.
In the upper part of Mount Bermeja, on east direction, there’s another cave with a ritual space called almogarén. Here the ancients were practicing libations and offerings to the gods, like Alcorac the Sun. The milk (instead of blood or wine like in other cultures) was the principle substance used in these rituals; scientists and archeologists found also similar structures and uses in the area of Bentayga Rock.
The Paper Cave (Cueva de los Papeles) is placed in the south side of the mountain and it’s reached by a path cut in the tuff. You can get here also walking to east from the ritual place almogarén. Its floor is plan and circular, on the walls there are various engraved triangles, a sign associated with fertility. The theories about this cave suggest that it was probably used for these rituals.
The Pillars Cave (Cueva de los Pilares) is located in the same position, but the access is made through ramps, stairs and small tunnels. It’s considered the heart and main part of the ancient village of mount Bermeja. Its orientation to the south makes the winds in the area very strong, but also there’s a huge wide panorama that arrives until the coast.
The Pillars Cave may have been surrounded with a thick dry stone wall. There are depressions in the ground for cooking fires, cavities in the walls used as storage places, some seats and grooves for both window or door frames. The cave also included granaries and other recesses, the use of which is uncertain.
From the Cueva de los Pilares there’s a path going east direction that passes through a arch naturally made by rock, and by a narrow “chimney” towards the Audience Cave. This important one (Cueva de la Audiencia) has been used for various functions, like sleeping quarters, kitchens, silos, granary etc. It’s placed about 200 meters away from the Four Doors Cave, near a narrow “chimney”.
The Mills’ Quarry (Cantera de Molinos) is the last area of this place that we’ll look. These mills are made of stone, as the perfect Canarian tradition, and they were used every day to produce the main alimentation of the ancients: gofio.
Gofio is a roasted flour that was very important in the history of food of Canary Islands, because even nowadays is used regularly in the kitchen of all the seven islands (both salty and sweets plates, try it with bananas! → Recipe Gofio). The mills in the caves were made by two types of stone, tuff or vesicular basalt. Both provide a rough surface, ideal for abrasions and grinding. It’s interesting to know that the use of tuff rather than basalt, had a notable effect on the locals dentitions. Tuff is made by the consolidation of volcanic ashes. So, practically, the elements are not melted together, and this provoke the separation of a kind of sand during the use. As the Canarian used that mills and stones to produce food, it’s logical and clear how it changed their teeth along the centuries: tuff parts, more easily than basalt does, with its minute pieces of material ended up in the flour, and wore the teeth more than any other flour.
On Gran Canaria they were identified other six different production sites, a part of this one in Telde at Cuatro Puertas: in Agaete there are La Calera and El Risco; in Las Palmas there are Los Canarios and Montaña Quemada, both on the small island on the north of the city La Isleta, and also there’s La Cardonera; and last one in Santa Lucia de Tirajana at El Queso (direction of Aldea Blanca and Vecindario).
All of them were very important places for the population of the island, so today the Govern is trying to recover as more as possible from them, hoping in new informations about the pre-hispanic Canarian culture. In this particular occasion, the nature helped our thirst of knowledge: the south orientation of the caves has preserved it from humidity and from being colonized by lichens and other infesting plants, but still the natural erosion and the human activity of pastoralism and agriculture deteriorated it a lot. During the 1950s the archaeological space was used as cinematographic stage for the movie Tirma – The Island Princess, led by Marcello Mastroianni and Silvana Pampanini. For the filming of one of the scenes a large tuff maquette was realized of the Four Doors cave, generating great deteriorations to the original archaeological space.
Since 1972 the Four Doors Cave is listed in Spanish Heritage as a site of cultural interest in the category “Archaeological site” and it’s currently opened to the public as a Historical Path.
So how can you get there!?
You can arrive by Global Bus using line 35 or 36 (take a look at the map here) or follow these simple instructions below and click on the arrow menu on the left of the title on the map to discover all the routes to arrive there! Drive safely and enjoy the visit! 🙂
Last surprise! As the roads of Gran Canaria are changeable as the tropical climate… here’s a speed up of the road, for those who can’t resist to watch it before arriving! 😉