Seven pyramids have been identified on the African island of Mauritius. Remarkably, in construction, they are identical to the ones found on the island of Tenerife, an island on the opposite side of the continent. It underlines the likelihood that one civilisation sailed to various islands off the coast of Africa and constructed these structures.

Mauritius pyramid 1
© Stéphane Mussard
The island of Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands and is in the Indian Ocean, about 900 kilometres (560 miles) east of Madagascar. The island is 61 km long and 47 km wide, and sits just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. In origin, it is a volcanic island. The historical record shows that the island was known to Arab and Austronesian sailors as early as the 10th century; Portuguese sailors first visited in 1507. Mauritius was first plotted on a map in 1502, made by the Italian Alberto Cantino. The Arabs called the island Dina Harobi, while the planisphere identifies all three Mascarene islands (Reunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues) and calls them Dina Margabin, Dina Harobi and Dina Morare.

It is suspected that prior to the Arabs, Mauritius was known to certain people living on the African shores, as well as the famous Sea Peoples, a confederacy of seafaring raiders, which included the proto-Phoenicians. The Greek account of Periplus [The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea] relates the story of Hanno (Hannan), the Carthaginian navigator, who lived in the 5th century BC, and who traversed the Straits of Gibraltar at the command of ships that would explore the African coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Herodotus describes a Phoenician expedition leaving the Red Sea and traversing the "sea of the south", and, following the orders of the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II (610-595 BC), entered back into the Mediterranean Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar, which means they circumnavigated Africa.

Mauritius pyramid 2
© Stéphane Mussard
The seven small pyramids that have been identified are located on the south side of the island, in a plain known as Whillem, between the Indian Ocean and Creole Mountain and Lion Mountain, at 20°26'.8.15"S and 57° 39'2.60"E. Their foundation is rectangular and in height, they do not exceed twelve metres; they have between 6 and 11 terraces. In appearance, they are similar to the pyramids located on another volcanic island off the - western - coast of Africa, Tenerife; similar structures also exist on the Mediterranean island of Sicily, which is also volcanic in origin.

There are many parallels between the pyramids of Mauritius and Tenerife. On both island, the pyramids are part of a complex: a series of pyramids grouped together in one location. On both islands, the pyramids are made from lava stone and the construction does not use any mortar or other connecting agent. Some of the structures on Mauritius have been partially dismantled, with the stones remployed nearby. In one coating of basalt rollers, there can be found limestone blocks underneath, no doubt of coral origin.

The Tenerife pyramids equally do not surpass 12 metres in height, and detailed photographs of the terracing makes it clear that one cannot distinguish whether one is observing a pyramid on Tenerife or Mauritius. In the case of "Mauritius Pyramid 1", access to the upper platform is via a central staircase. This has been restored in a whiter stone, and is therefore more visible. Not all pyramids have such an access - again on par with their Tenerife cousins. It suggests that there is a commonality between the two islands that is beyond the coincidental.

Some of the Mauritius pyramids, with their platforms, could have been used for astronomical observations. This too would be on par with Tenerife, specifically at the Guimar complex. If this correlation were to apply to the Mauritius pyramids, these pyramids should be aligned to solar phenomena, and specifically the terraces associated with the pyramids should be aligned to the two solstices. Initial calculations suggest that this is indeed the case, though on-site verification needs to occur. Specifically Mauritius Pyramid 2 is likely to be aligned to the summer solstice (which in the Southern hemisphere occurs on December 21) and one should be able to observe a double sunset. The first sunset would occur behind the Creole Mountain, the second behind the neighbouring Lion Mountain. A double sunset behind a mountainous horizon is also a phenomenon observed at the Guimar complex in Tenerife.

Locally, as Stéphane Mussard experienced, the people claim these pyramids are merely stone piles, thrown together in efforts to clear the fields for growing sugar cane. Even the dismissals are therefore shared with those of Tenerife, where other complexes on the island (e.g. Icod de los Vinos) are equally labelled by locals as the result of farmers clearing their fields from unwanted stones. If this were true, the question is why some of the pyramids on Mauritius still have official panels, dating from the first half of the 20th century, which identifies the site as a protected site of historic interest? Remarkably, however, since, the site has lost its protected status, no doubt the consequence of a change in government (Mauritius was under British rule until 1968). It is clear that those dismissing these pyramids as "piles of stones" are afraid to see their agricultural lands repossessed, or having to conform to certain regulations that come with protected archaeological sites. It is nevertheless clear that with proper help, the government should be able to highlight the economic benefits of tourism to the local economy, which will hopefully result in scientific research carried out on the site.

The man responsible for the identification and promotion of the Guimar complex was Thor Heyerdahl, a pioneering sailor of Norwegian origin, who argued that our distant ancestors were able to navigate the oceans and organised various expeditions to prove his point. Heyerdahl found a pyramid in the Maldives, on Gan. This pyramid was aligned to the sun and measures 8.5 metres in height. It was baptised "Hawittas". Heyerdahl argued that the Maldives were located on an Eastern maritime trading route that was used by various ancient civilisations, coming from the Middle East.

The ancient Egyptians used the Phoenician fleet to carry out expeditions, and it is known that the Phoenicians constructed astronomical temples that were perfectly aligned to the cardinal points and solar phenomena. With the discovery of identical pyramid complexes on Tenerife, Sicily and now Mauritius, it is clear that these are remnants of a seafaring culture, which has left traces on islands on various sides of the African continent.

Antoine Gigal is a French writer and researcher, and the Egyptian correspondent for the French L'Egypte magazine.

Gigal's early years were spent in Africa and South America, where her father worked as journalist and diplomat. This has taken her all over the world exploring diverse cultures and civilizations. She studied at Sorbonne Paris III University and the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), where she graduated in Chinese and Japanese languages and civilizations.

Speaking Arabic, Spanish, Italian and French, for the last 20 years, she has lived mainly in Egypt, and calls Paris her second home. Gigal lectures extensively on Egypt and leads several study tours of Egypt every year. Gigal has travelled to even the most remote archaeological areas and is able to gain access to monuments not open to general public. With the eye of an astute detective, Gigal has made a name for herself in France as someone who is able to bring new and first-hand information about the mysteries of ancient Egypt. As such, she is co-founder of Giza For Humanity.

Her website can be found here.