The Puzzling Pyramids of Guimar. Tenerife

Pyramids of GuimarThe Pyramids of Guimar have an intriguing ring to it as the name of a location. They sound mysterious and well worth investigating, as indeed they are, and I just had to find out more. The Chacona Pyramids, as they are also called, are situated in Guimar in Tenerife, and have been at the centre of a debate concerning their authenticity, with some academics and authorities claiming they are fake and others saying they are real.

Guimar looks out over the sea and has the magnificent backdrop of the mountains behind it. It is a perfect setting for the pyramids and whatever the reality of their origins and truth is you can’t help but admire the scenery.

I found out about them from a friend who had asked me if I had seen them on a previous visit to the island. I told her that I had not but from her description I knew that I wanted to, and so I started on a quest to find out more. What were pyramids doing on this Spanish island?

The 6 stepped-pyramids came to the attention of the media when a local newspaper ran a story about how they had been discovered, and, whilst many people scoffed and claimed they were nothing more than piles of stones and terraces used by local farmers for agricultural purposes, world famous explorer, Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, thought differently.

Heyerdahl claimed that as soon as he saw pictures of the site he recognised the sort of pyramid construction he had already witnessed firsthand on his voyages around the world, and in particular with reference to the building principles of those in Tucume, Peru and others in Mexico.

Dr. Heyerdahl enlisted the support of Fred Olsen and in 1992 they set up FERCO (Foundation for Research and Exploration of Cultural Origins), a private foundation to further his theories and vision regarding the role of archaeology in showing the spread of civilisation and culture by people of the past. He believed that culture was spread from one country to another in ancient times by seafaring peoples, who constructed reed-boats like the famous Kon-tiki, in which Heyerdahl had completed an ocean voyage. Dr.Heyerdahl believed there was contact between the Old World and the New before Columbus and that history and academia got it wrong.

The inhabitants of the Canary Islands before the invasion and conquest by the Spanish, were known as the Guanches, and these people pose another mystery, because although they lived not far from the coast of Africa, they were a blond-haired and blue-eyed race.

Many ideas were put forward as to their origins, including Viking, Roman, Greek and Phoenician descent. It is now believed that the Guanche were related to the Berbers from Libya, who have similar characteristics, but some people feel that they were the descendants of the inhabitants of the legendary lost continent of Atlantis. Professor Arysio Nunes dos Santos, who has researched Atlantis for over 20 years and has a website all about his discoveries, has traced in great detail an astonishing similarity between the Guanche language and that of the Dravidians from India – see link appended below for further info.

According to Mrs M. Grieve in her A Modern Herbal, the Guanche practised mummification of their dead and used the resin of the dragon tree (Dracaena draco) in this process. It is of interest and significance to note that these strange trees grow wild in Indonesia as well as the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and Madeira. Did the ancient sea-farers transport this tree around the world as well?

In the Guanche use of resins to mummify the dead we have another similarity in their culture to other pyramid builders like the Egyptians, for example. Here we see another illustration of possible spread of knowledge and cultural traditions in the ancient world, an ancient world that lives on today in many ways and yet remains hidden in others!

Wherever the Guanche and their culture were from originally, their language survives in many words in usage in modern Spanish and their genes live on in people living today in the Canaries. Even the word guagua, the commonly used term for a bus, is a Guanche word I am told, although I am not sure of how it has come to mean a modern vehicle!

It is believed that the Guanche built the pyramids of Guimar and used them for celebrations and rituals, and Galindo (1632) said that the first inhabitants used the place for ceremonies, dance, songs and competitions.

Heyerdahl and his team point out that many of the lava rocks used in the construction of the pyramids have flat sides and show evidence of having been shaped and trimmed, unlike the rough boulders of the surrounding area. Also that the flat gravel covered platform at the top of each pyramid is clearly built for ceremonial purposes and/or sun worship.

The pyramids of Guimar are perfectly aligned according to the position of the sun at summer solstice just like so many ancient monuments including Stonehenge in Britain. Stone stairways lead upwards to the top of each pyramid and would bring a person into a position so that they faced the rising sun.

Archaeologists from the University of La Laguna were contracted to carry out an excavation of one of the pyramid platforms and according to FERCO literature, their findings confirmed that the platform had been built from gravel earth and blocks, as Heyerdahl had stated, and could have been used for ceremonial purposes.

Some people were still not convinced and they suggested that the edifices were built by early Christian conquistadors as a time-measuring device for the Catholic festivities of St. John. Why Christians and Catholics would seek to emulate buildings made by what they regarded as heathen races is beyond me. In Central America the conquistadors did what they could to destroy the culture they found there, condemning it as the works of the Devil.

As was the case in Central America and elsewhere, the conquering Spaniards attempted to convert the conquered people to Christianity and today there is a curious mixture of religious ideas and symbolism present on Tenerife. This can be seen in roadside shrines to the Madonna as well as in the festivals held there.

Concepcion cites Father Espinosa with regard to the situation and it’s a familiar story:

The war that the Spaniards made…on the natives of these islands…was unjust, unreasonable…because these people neither owned Christian lands, nor passed over their limits and boundaries to invade or disturb others. So to say that they brought them the Gospel should have been by means of preaching…and not with the drum and banner.

In writing and researching this essay I have tried searching for some statements by those who claim the pyramids are fake or recent constructions, but curiously there seems to be a severe shortage of such material available online. In the interests of presenting a balanced report if anyone knows the sources of any evidence showing that the Guanche didn’t make the pyramids or about who did, then please get in touch. But let us get back to what I did find:

Today in Guimar there is a visitor centre, ‘ethnographic park’ and museum built around the pyramids and for an enjoyable day out I can heartily recommend the place. You can watch a film show all about Heyerdahl’s discoveries and ideas with segments narrated by him, you can enjoy a guided tour of the art and photographic exhibitions, you can have a meal and a drink in the café, or you can spend hours, like I did, wandering around the park and looking at the pyramids themselves.