The mysterious Guanches were the “White Indians of Nivaria”

by BardofEly

The Guanches lived on the Canary Islands before the Spanish Conquest. They had white skins and blonde hair.

Who were the Guanches?
American author Gordon Kennedy has called the Guanches “The White Indians of Nivaria,” and used that description as the title of his book all about these fascinating people. “Nivaria” means snow-covered and refers to Tenerife’s Mt Teide that is often gleaming white in its upper reaches throughout the winter months. It is the highest mountain in all of Spain.

The Guanches were the people who lived on this island. There were other tribal people living on the other Canary Islands too and they are known as the “Canarios” from Gran Canaria, “Gomeros” from La Gomera, “Auaritas” or "Palmeros" from La Palma, “Bimbachos” from El Hierro, “Majos” from Lanzarote” and “Majoeros” from Fuerteventura. Collectively they have all been grouped together under the label of Guanches.

The White Indians of Nivaria book cover

Cover of book by Gordon Kennedy
White Indians of Nivaria cover
White Indians of Nivaria cover


Blonde-haired Guanches

What is very interesting about the Guanches is that first of all they were white-skinned with blonde or reddish hair and of Nordic appearance or had Mediterranean complexions and dark hair. Although they lived close to the coast of Africa these people were Caucasian.  Also all these people lived in Stone Age conditions, living in caves and using sharpened rock for cutting tools. They were invaded by the Spanish in the 15th century and finally defeated in 1496. Many of the Guanches were massacred in fierce battles that raged, others were sold into slavery and forced to convert to the Catholic religion of their conquerors.

White Indians of Nivaria; The Untold Story of the Last Stone-Age Indo-European Tribes


Ancestors of the Guanches

How did the Guanches get to the Canary Islands in the first place is a question that has been often asked. Today most academics have settled on believing that the Guanches were descended from Berbers who had been living in North Africa, Libya and Morocco.  These people have white skins, fair hair and blue eyes too. There are similarities between Berber culture and language too.  Obviously the original Guanches got to the islands by boat.

It has also been suggested that the Guanches were survivors of Atlantis or descended from Atlanteans but there is little in the way of evidence to support this fanciful notion.

Books on the Guanches on Amazon

Information about the Guanches
Canary Islands' Lost Ancestors (The Forgotten Civilisations of Africa)

The Guanches lived in the Canaries Islands way before the Spanish conquest of their archipelago in the 14th century.They were peaceful people that lived in harmony with nature a...

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The Guanches Of Tenerife: The Holy Image Of Our Lady Of Candelaria, And The Spanish Conquest And ...

This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were...

Nabu Press  / $27.75  $23.75

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Guanche pintadera

A ceramic seal or stamp?

Mencey statues in Candelaria

The nine ancient Kings of Tenerife
Nine Menceys on the Candelaria sea wall
Nine Menceys on the Candelaria sea wall

Guanche culture

More about the Guanches and their way of life

Most of what we know about the Guanches has been pieced together from the writings of the Spanish Chroniclers and from what archaeologists have been able to find.  The Guanches used to mummify their dead and many of the mummies were removed from the caves they had been laid to rest in. Some of these were bought long ago by collectors and many more are in museums today. There are probably further mummies that are still hidden away on the islands. They also practised the surgery known as trepanation in which a hole is drilled into the head of a living person. It is thought this was done to attempt to cure various ailments o9r possibly to release evil spirits.

Many examples of pottery and tools have survived too. It is known that they decorated their pots and made necklaces of shells and terra-cotta beads.  The Guanches created objects known as "pintaderas" which has geometric designs on them and are thought to have been seals or stamps. They made knives from obsidian rock and wooden combs. They fashioned clothing from goat-skins and also used palm leaves and fibres.

The Guanches amused themselves by dancing and singing and holding contests in which the men wrestled, lifted heavy rocks and took part in a form of fencing with large wooden sticks. They were known to hold an annual Harvest Festival celebration too known as the Benesmen.

The Guanches were skilled at pole vaulting across ravines on the steep mountainsides and were very strong and agile people.  In La Gomera they invented a means of communicating across vast distances by whistling, which is known as “Silbo” and is still practised by some people today.

It is known that Guanche women were held in very high regard and some were priestesses.  They had spiritual beliefs and thought that an evil spirit known as “Guayota” lived in Mt Teide.  As the mountain is a volcano this makes a lot of sense.

There was a hierarchy for the Guanche men with kings or “menceys”, each of whom had his own noblemen and advisors.  There were none menceys in Tenerife and nine “menceyatos” or kingdoms.

The Guanches kept dogs, pigs and goats and also farmed the land, as well as being hunter-gatherers. A basic food was “gofio” made from roasted and ground cerearl flour and this is still popular on the islands today. They also ate fish they caught in the sea, fruit they gathered, honey and many edible wild plants and herbs.

Mysterious pyramids

The Pyramids of Güímar and Tenerife

There are a number of mysterious pyramids on Tenerife that many people believe were made by the Guanches. Academics, however, claim that this is not the case and that the constructions are nothing more than agricultural terracing and “piles of stones.”

This is despite the fact that the pyramids have been constructed to have definite stepped sides and have been found to be aligned for solar cycles such as the Summer Solstice. Excavations carried out at the site revealed that the Guanches definitely used the area.

The pyramids are not piles of rocks at all and it is clear that whoever put them there went to a great deal of work doing so. The ones in Güímar are said to form a complex and looking at the constructions and how they are laid out this is easy to accept.

The most famous of these pyramids are housed in what is called the Ethnographic Park in the Tenerife town of Güímar.  The late Thor Heyerdahl got involved after seeing a news story and he said that he thought they were authentic stepped pyramids like he had seen elsewhere on his world travels.  His friend the shipping magnate Fred Olsen bought the land they were on and constructed the park that is there today.

Heyerdahl believed that there were people who crossed the oceans long before Columbus did. He proved this was possible when he crossed the ocean himself on his Kon-Tiki Raft and made history with his achievement.

There are other similar pyramids on the other side of the island in the Icod de los Vinos area and in Santa Bárbara. 

Author Gordon Kennedy is one of the people who is convinced that they were made by the Guanches.  It has also been suggested they were built by Freemasons in the 19th century.  The debate over this continues.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

A Tenerife pyramid

Stepped Pyramid or Pile of Stones?
Pyramid in Camino de la Suerte near Icod
Pyramid in Camino de la Suerte near Icod

Pyramids of Guimar

To help you find out more about Tenerife's pyramids
Pyramids of Guimar [ PYRAMIDS OF GUIMAR ] BY Miller, Frederic P ( Author ) Paperback on Jan-14-2011

Alphascript Publishing
Only $2363.81

View on Amazon

Canary Islands (Regional Travel Guide)

“Looming volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls, lava fields and trails of camels loping into the sunset… Those who love the Canary Islands know there is a captivating flip side to thos...

Lonely Planet
$19.99  $8.65

View on Amazon

Guimar pyramid

A "pile of stones" academics say
A pyramid of Guimar
A pyramid of Guimar
Updated: 04/08/2013, BardofEly
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


BardofEly on 02/06/2013

That sounds a wonderful idea so please keep me posted if you do intend coming back!

Tazmania on 02/06/2013

No worries pal! And many thanks to you. Maybe if I come back over this year I will message you in advance. It would be fun on my part to discuss these topics over a bottle of Malvasia and chupetas de Ron Canario in the shadow of an ancient pyramid! :) Its always good to meet people that give a damn. :)

BardofEly on 02/06/2013

I know where you mean now so thanks for explaining!

Tazmania on 02/05/2013

Hi Bardo, sorry for the late reply. No I mean the type of woodland/ forest found in Ramblas de Castro, near the coast in the north, and the mountain ridge on the side of the valley that over looks Icod de los Vinos. These tiny forests are comprised of Palm, Juniper, laurasilva and Dragon as most of the lowlands of Tenerife where once covered in these lush tropical forests all the way down to the coastline, (Ramblas de Castro is a good example). Better examples of what Tenerife lowlands used to look like exist on other islands (la gomera, la palma). The cloud forests on Tenerife once only represented a tiny fraction of the many types of forest once found on Tenerife, and hopefully to be found again with the help of the community, tourist awareness and reforestation projects.

BardofEly on 11/14/2012

Thanks for your detailed feedback, Tazmania! I live near to Icod where the Drago MIlenario is and there is an almost as large tree up the hill that has its trunk hollowed out and supported a beehive though they seem to have died now. There are more than two cloud forest/laurisilna forests here though tragically some of them got burned badly in forest fires in August.

Tazmania on 11/13/2012

One of my favourite things about the Guanches was the historical account of the mega Draco Tree that was visited by an explorer in the late 1700'ish (me think), He dated the Draco tree to be well over 6,000 years old and that it had grown to magnificent heights, unfortunately it collapsed due to a huge tropical storm. Historical records say that the Guanches worshipped this particular specimen of Draco tree and that the Guanches hollowed out the trunk of the tree into a sanctuary (possibly for religious reasons). one of the best surviving examples that remain today are found in the north of Tenerife. These surviving specimens where said to be used by local kings and nobles to hold parliament and court. These Guanche administrative proceedings where said to take place underneath the huge dome like canopy of these Draco trees. (I'm presuming that this is related to a common belief amongst many ancient cultures that adores the tree as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge).

Tazmania on 11/13/2012

Another thing that's worthy of note with regards to the Guanches, Spanish history dictates that the Guanches were "savages that lived in caves" and that they had "no knowledge of sea travel". Well again you can find Spanish propaganda at play, since there are independent historical accounts from explorers that visited and stayed with the Guanches on different islands years before first arrivals of the conquest. These historical accounts record observations of Guanches building small boats with sails for fishing, inter island connection and to steal cattle from neighbouring kingdoms and islands. And with regards to living in caves which I don't deny some populations of Guanches did live and/or store food in troglodyte cave homes. But many Guanches also lived in villages/towns built with stone, small round houses/ huts with palm roofs and decoratively stained walls. The Spanish forces at the time also mention that they practised what the Spanish call "rudimentary fortification" of their settlements. Although in real terms who knows what the Guanche world truly looked like? Since pre 1500's Tenerife used to have subtropical rainforest that reached to the very coast line, currently on Tenerife, only two examples of these ancient prehistoric rainforests survive today. :(

Tazmania on 11/13/2012

Its great so many people are taking an interest in Canarian/ pre Colombian history. It's important to note that it has been confirmed that up to 70-80% of the gene pool in present day native Canarians is still Guanche. These genetic findings where published by the University of La Laguna, S.Cruz de Tenerife. With regards to the pyramids, many are authentic, for example Guimar was a well known Guanche stronghold aswell as Icod de Los Vinos in the north. The problem with Canarian history is that its shrouded incorrect information and is shining example of well and brutally applied colonialism. No doubt most of Latin Americas archaeological artefacts would be in a similar state to he Canarians had they stayed a part of the Spanish empire, since destruction of the native culture is one of the primary goals of colonialism, not to mention that most of the Canarian pyramids on Tenerife sit on valuable urban development land. Canary Islands has a long separatist history, coupled with revolutionary flare ups every other decade since first colonised, right up to the 1970's. The Guanche heritage has long played the mascot for most revolutionary groups in the Canaries, thus Spain has worked very hard to eradicate all interaction and knowledge of the Guanche culture to present day Canarians, which is never completely possible. Perhaps the Spanish feel we deserve it, Canarians gave them the hardest time of all, we gave them the Vietnam of the 1400's, except the Spanish won ofc.

BardofEly on 10/26/2012

Ken Fisher the former president of the English Library here and myself are working on a project now to get to the bottom of this, literally in many ways. Gordon Kennedy is sending me some more copies of his book over too. There are photos I took in it. I am going in a book by Filip Coppens that is being published too. He came over here a couple of years back and wrote about the pyramids then:

JoHarrington on 10/26/2012

Nice one! I'd not heard of these people until I read this (excepting your comment elsewhere). I love the notion of that whistling.

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