Paleogenomic evaluation of the impact of European colonialism on indigenous populations: the Canary Islands as an approximation (PALEUCOL)

At the time of European expansion into the Atlantic at the end of the Middle Ages, the Canary Islands were inhabited by aboriginal populations in different cultural stages who were not familiar with navigation. The Crown of Castile conquered the islands causing a high mortality of the local populations, which were also affected by diseases brought by the European conquerors. After the conquest, in addition to the European migratory flow, African slaves were brought to the islands to work in the sugar cane fields. This whole process of conquest and colonization could be considered a small-scale experiment of what would later happen on the American continent, resulting in a mestizo society, where very different cultural and biological elements come together in a relatively short period of time. The aim of this project is to apply ancient DNA techniques to the study of the demographic impact of European colonialism, using the Canarian population as a proxy.


From the colonization of the archipelago by Berber populations, around the change of era, to the consolidation of the mestizo society, at the end of the 18th century AD


Universidad de La Laguna

Web and social networks

Principal Investigator(s)

Dra. Rosa Fregel
Universidad de La Laguna


Islas Canarias



Previous publications by our research group have suggested that the aboriginal populations of different islands may have experienced different demographic processes. For that reason, the inclusion of ancient DNA data from the entire archipelago is of utmost importance to accurately characterize the indigenous population of the Canary Islands.

In the first work of the project, we obtained for the first time ancient DNA from aboriginal populations of the seven islands, recovering 48 ancient mitochondrial genomes from 25 different sites. Within this work, we discovered that the distribution of mitochondrial DNA lineages was different between the eastern and western islands, which supports archaeological and modern DNA evidence pointing to an aboriginal colonization of the archipelago in various migratory events.

We also observe differences in the contribution of the aboriginal lineages in modern populations, with a greater aboriginal survival on the island of La Gomera. However, excluding this one exception, the current island populations are homogeneous, which supports the theory of extensive human mobility after the European conquest.


Fundación Palarq Autor: Fundación Palarq
La Fundación Palarq es una entidad privada y sin ánimo de lucro que se crea con la finalidad de apoyar las Misiones en Arqueología y Paleontología Humana Españolas en el extranjero, excluyendo Europa, dentro de una perspectiva que abarca desde la etapa paleontológica a las épocas prehistóricas y las históricas en interés monumental