For most of us, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, conjures up a dead-end zone of package-holiday hell. A place where thick-necked pale-skinned beer-swillers are carted in like cattle, to fry their sweaty, hungover bodies in the African sunshine.
This is just part of the picture – the horrors of Tenerife are confined to one dreadful stretch of the south coast. The Canarians aren’t crazy – they ship the undiscerning visitors off to the most barren, desolate part of the island.
The rest of Tenerife is stunningly beautiful – from the cactus deserts of the lowlands, to the alpine forests on the way up to the Martian Plateau that sits below the volcano of El Teide.
On the east coast, not far from the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is the small, and otherwise innocuous town of Güímar, which is home to the Pirámides de Güímar – a stunning collection of small pyramids, contained in a small park.
The six step pyramids of Güímar are still something of a mystery – they were originally suspected to have been constructed by farmers who stacked the chunks of rock while clearing land. This was, apparently, common practice on the islands. On the other hand, there used to be nine pyramids at Güímar – the others have vanished, possibly used as building materials.
In 1991, the Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (of Kon-Tiki fame) discovered that the ‘heaps of rock’ were something more – they were in fact bona fide pyramids, with similarities to those build by the Mayans and Aztecs in Mexico.
Heyerdahl also ascertained that the rocks had not come from the surrounding fields – the rocks are actually lava, from the lava fields of El Teide. He also found an astronomical orientation – on the summer solstice, a double sunset can be seen from the platform of the biggest pyramid at Güímar. The sun sinks behind a mountain peak, moves behind it, then appears again before setting behind the next mountain – two settings for the price of one.
In addition, of all the existing pyramids of stairs on their western side, leading towards the rising sun on the winter solstice. Heyerdahl never did find out how old the pyramids were – or who built them. Some Guanches, the first known inhabitants of the Canary Islands, who were still in the Stone Age when explorers arrives during the middle ages, lived in a cave under the pyramids – which is not necessarily proof of anything.
Heyerdahl did propose that the Canaries were part of an ancient shipping lane between the Mediterranean (Egypt?) and the Americas, long before Christopher Columbus, Leifr Eiríksson, or St. Brendan ever set sail.
Back in 1970, Heyerdahl had sailed from Morocco to Barbados, in the Caribbean in a boat named the Ra II, made from papyrus, in order to show that it was possible that the ancient Egyptians had maintained a connection with Central and South America.
Heyerdahl, who died in 2002, is very much a presence at Güímar – the museum is unafraid of advancing many of his theories, so that one walks away feeling a little persuaded, if not convinced that Güímar was a stopover point on an ancient Atlantic shipping route. It’s an accepted fact in Güímar – but not Heyerdahl was not without his detractors.
For me, the evidence is in the pyramids themselves – as I walked around the hot April sun, watching the lizards dart across the rocks, I couldn’t help seeing these ziggurats as rough prototypes or distant relations of the American pyramids. But who knows? Here on blather.net, we are forever asking questions – but we never lust after the answers.
Because the demand for answers alone can never fully satisfy. The facts about the Pirámides de Güímar will present themselves when they are good and ready.
I’ll leave you with this quote, and some photographs…
There never was an explanation which didn’t itself need to be explained – Charles Fort
Official website: Pirámides de Güímar »
Wikipedia: Pyramids of Güímar »
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View the full set of the Pyramids of Guimar photos on davewalshphoto.com