National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day April 18 – Thor Heyerdahl

0 Comments 18 April 2012


We’re dealing with experimental archeology with today’s DPD.

In the 1940s Thor Heyerdahl sought to completely revolutionize mainstream archeology by proving that the Pacific had been settled by Polynesian navigators traveling from east to west, rather than the other way.

He fought for decades to make his point. But all the evidence – archaeological, cultural, linguistic, blood grouping and genetic – showed that the Pacific islanders had embarked on their long, gradual colonization of the Pacific from Asia. However, blood samples taken in 1971 and 2008 from Easter Islanders without any European or other external descent were analyzed in a 2011 study, which concluded that the evidence supported some aspects of Heyerdahl’s hypothesis.

In 1947 Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory by sailing from Peru to the Polynesian islands using only materials and tools that would have been available to people thousands of years ago. And he did it! He constructed a raft from balsa wood and other native materials and fashioned a raft that they called the Kon-tiki. He and his team traversed 4,000 miles. They baked in the sun, flinched from sharks, lived off algae strained through muslin and flying fish which accidently landed on the logs and knocked themselves unconscious. They wrung out their clothing to save the morning dew and spread tarpaulin to catch the rain showers.

Later in life he argued that Egyptians could have colonized the Americas but decided not to because after further exploration they found the Iroquois tribe “insufferably narcissistic and their taste for tea stinks too” so they decided to just hang close to the Nile.  He built a papyrus dhow with Nilotic rigging and sailed it from Egypt to the Americas just to prove it could be done.

Hey, I guess we’re all related if we go back far enough eh? I’m with you Thor.

Hump day = obits!

Thor Heyerdahl dies at 87

Tim Radford, science editor

The Guardian, Friday 19 April 2002 13.58 EDT

The Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who died last night at the age of 87, sailed into history in 1947 when he crossed the Pacific from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft.

He also sailed into an academic storm: he was trying to prove that the Pacific had been settled by Polynesian navigators travelling from east to west, rather than the other way. He set off on the Kon-Tiki expedition – the title of his book which sold 20 million copies in 67 languages – simply to prove that it could be done. Continue

- who has written 512 posts on The Shade.

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