Thor Heyerdahl, Kabylia, the guanches and the Aztecs

Thor Heyerdahl: Norway’s foremost contributor to anthropology frozen out by the Norwegian academic circle. In this upcoming reading, you’ll see why. Here I will present the book “Thor Heyerdahl: The adventure and life’s work”.

Perhaps, it would be wise of us to look at the history of those who were in America before us with a little more open-mind. White and bearded men actually sailed out into the Atlantic before the Europeans. They ventured all the way out into the same ocean current – the Canary Current – which flows straight into the Gulf of Mexico. The Guanches, who were the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, were fair-skinned, and the men had beards. The watercolors illustrating Torriani’s original manuscript from 1590 show a group of Guanches in which every man is as light in complexion as the lightest European, with blond hair and blond hair. It’s just like the white men with long yellow hair painted on the walls of the Mayan war temple in the Yucatan. The Guanches were not Europeans. They descended from the Berbers who had come by boat from Africa. The Berbers on the mainland were of mixed descent. Some of them were as dark as most other African tribes, while others were light as Europeans, with blond or reddish hair

Murals from a temple. Chitzen Itza, Yúcatán, with two peoples, light-skinned and dark-skinned, of whom the former are defeated and captured by the dark.

The Berbers were the first inhabitants along the entire coast of North Africa. After them came the first Phoenician colonies, then the Roman conquerors, and finally the Arab invasion* of all of North Africa. The remaining Berbers became preoccupied with the new population or fled to the Atlas Mountains. I had seen blonde Berbers individually in Morocco, even among fishermen paddling in reed boats outside the former Phoenician port of Lixus on the Atlantic coast.

Watercolor in Torriani’s original manuscript from 1590 with a group of Guanches, the indigenous people of Gran Canaria, who have strikingly blonde hair and beards.

But the first blonde Berber I became personal friends with was presented to me in Sweden. I did not believe that he was really a Berber more than the skeptics believed in the Aztec stories of white and bearded men. The eyes were light blue, the hair mustard yellow, and the skin lighter than in most Scandinavians. He showed me his business card: Abdel Kaher Benamara, PR Director of OPEC.

Abdel Kader Benamara was a thoroughbred Berber from the Atlas Mountains in Algeria.

He was a thoroughbred Berber and came from the Atlas Mountains of Algeria. If I still thought he was Swedish, I could meet his family and visit the Berber villages in the mountains he came from. I accepted the invitation, and a few weeks later we met at the airport in Algiers. My new Berber friend showed me around as we drove north and up into the majestic Atlas Mountains. There the Berber villages clung to themselves like little eagle nests on peaks and ledges in the mountains, as if they were stubbornly trying to defend their uniqueness against the increasing pressure from the Arab state. The dizzying and rugged mountain peaks were surrounded by green slopes and deep valleys below. We were in the land of the Kabyle Berbers. More and more red-haired and bright blonde people appeared everywhere – in Saknoun, Tigmounin, and Beni Yenni.

The few blonde Berbers I had seen in Morocco were embarrassed by their hair and tried to cover up when we wanted to photograph them. But here the Berbers were in the majority and allowed themselves to be proudly photographed. In their own language, they are called Imazighen, which means “nobles”.Together with Benamara and a team of photographers, we flew further into Algeria and landed 2,000 kilometers inside the Sahara at a small airport at the foot of the Tassili Mountains. We were constantly in an old Berber area, and a local Kabyle with a donkey caravan took us up a steep mountain ridge to the Tassili plateau. 2000 meters below us, we could see on all sides the Sahara sun-drenched desert. It disappeared on the horizon wherever we turned. The only drops of water here were in our packing bags. A drier place could hardly be found on the planet. And yet we had come here to photograph the world’s oldest known paintings of boats. Reed boats. We were led to the right places on the plateau by a beautiful young Berber woman with dark brown hair. Malika Hachid, who was the area’s leading archaeologist. We entered a maze of weathered rock formations. Narrow gorges with smooth polished walls towered over us, replaced by huge columnar and mushroom-shaped rock formations. It was as if giant hands had shaped these cliffs like nature’s own work of art. It was all like a fairytale landscape. It felt like strolling on a space platform of concrete, high above the lunar landscape of the deserts. That we looked for pictures of boats here, made it all seem even more unreal. But here they were. The smooth-polished rock walls were adorned with prehistoric paintings depicting humans and animals, both wild and domestic. Cattle, waterbucks, elephants, rhinos, giraffes and lions, even hippos and fish. The only possessions that these prehistoric artists had depicted outside of their animals were reed boats. Some of them had the shape of a sickle, like the pre-Pharaonic rock carvings in the river valleys of the Red Sea. Others were shaped like supporting teeth, similar to the boats that are still used on the lakes of Chad and Ethiopia.

Malika said that the oldest of these stone paintings were dated to approx. year 7000 BC. It depicted “negroid people” in procession or in a ceremonial dance. It was no wonder that these dream-like surroundings had made science fiction writers imagine prehistoric astronauts landing in the desert and climbing and on the plateau to portray themselves before moving on. But the reed boats and animal drawings were made in a period that lasted until 5000-4000 years before Christ when “white people” arrived with cattle. It was probably during this period that the Berber cattle drivers came to the area.

Around the year 3000 BC, the climate changed dramatically. The former forests that had been so full of life disappeared, and the lakes dried up. The landscape was transformed into the Sahara desert. Apparently a relief with very special motif dates from this period. It shows cattle bending their heads as if the animals were trying to drink from a previous water hole in the sand between the cliffs. A cow was made with its muzzle down in the half-dried hole and with a large tear running from the eye. A better and more poignant monument to the devastating climate change of 3000 BC could hardly have been made. I watched my fair-haired African friend bend down to watch the reproduction of the crying cow. In him, I imagined the desperate ancient Berber who took the time to leave this message before joining the massive emigration of the reed boat people. They drifted away from the dwindling African lakes and rivers where they had previously hunted for hippos; away from the suffocating dunes of the Sahara. Black and white North Africans must have fled together, looking for new homes somewhere; some on foot, others with their boats down the receding rivers to the narrow stripes of green land on the coast. It is easy to imagine that the floating Berbers, black and white, had entered the Canary stream and had landed in the Canary Islands.

With North African Berbers at sea in the very current that flows like a huge river to the Gulf of Mexico, the bearded men of the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca traditions have a legitimate place in Native American stories about the Atlantic – more as facts than as fairy tales. The Berbers were neither Europeans nor of European origin. Nor were they the only non-European people with beards and fair hair. Many believe that the seafaring Phoenicians were blonde: Old Etruscan tomb paintings show many people with blond and reddish hair, and the Etruscans came to Italy from an unidentified port in the Middle East before Roman history began. Frescoes from ancient Egypt show the boat builders making reed boats.

People with fair skin and red hair work side by side with others with darker skin and black hair. How can we expect to identify the white, bearded Atlantic sailors from the texts and illustrations of the Aztecs and Mayans before we have the answer to the unknown origins of the Etruscans, Berbers, Phoenicians, seafarers, the Guanches of the Canary Islands, and all the other peoples who sailed on and around the Mediterranean in antiquity, not to mention the Reidan people and other early traders on the other side of Africa? We will not get answers to the questions about the lost history of these pre-European seafarers until we know why the climate in North Africa and the Middle East changed so drastically about three thousand years before Christ, and why so many civilizations around the Atlantic and Indian Oceans got a fresh start or set year zero at the same time. It is time to realize that we know very little about humanity’s past and nothing about its future. Only our astonishing ignorance makes us feel like authorities. “

pp. 310:
The Tassili paintings must have been made when the Sahara was once a fertile pasture. But as the climate changed, and the desert eventually engulfed the green pastures, the great exodus came from the area. As a symbol that everything dried out, perhaps the prehistoric artist made the relief of a cow crying over its dried out water hole.


*Arab invasions have never been proven. No period source mentions invasions from the east


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