Thor Heyerdahl

Heyerdahl, Thor (hāˈərdälˌ, hĪˈ–) [key], 1914–2002, Norwegian explorer and anthropologist, b. Larvik. He carried out research in the Marquesas Islands in 1937–38 and studied the indigenous peoples of British Columbia in 1939–40. To support his thesis that the first settlers of Polynesia were of South American origin, in 1947 he and five companions made the crossing from Peru to the Tuamotu Archipelago on a primitive log raft. This voyage is described in the international best seller Kon Tiki (tr. 1950). In 1970, Heyerdahl sailed, in a papyrus boat, from Morocco to Barbados, in an attempt to prove that ancient Mediterranean civilizations could have sailed in reed boats to America. This adventure is described in The Ra Expeditions (tr. 1971). In 1977, he sailed from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, following a route he believed was once used by the Sumerians; this trip is detailed in The Tigris Expedition (1979). Heyerdahl was an exponent of the diffusionist school of cultural anthropology, now largely discounted, and today most academics regard his theories as speculative and unproven. His other writings include American Indians in the Pacific (1952), Aku-Aku (tr. 1958), Sea Routes to Polynesia (1968), and Easter Island: The Mystery Solved (1989).

See biography by A. Jacoby (1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on Thor Heyerdahl from Fact Monster:

  • Thor Heyerdahl - Biography of Thor Heyerdahl, Leader of the Kon-Tiki and Ra Expeditions
  • This Day in History: April 28 - April 28 1788 Maryland became the 7th state in the United States. 1789 Fletcher Christian led the ...
  • This Day in History: August 7 - August 7 1789 Congress established the U.S. War Department. 1947 The wooden raft Kon-Tiki, which ...
  • Easter Island - Easter Island Easter Island, Span. Isla de Pascua, Polynesian Rapa Nui, remote island (1992 pop. ...
  • Oslo - Oslo Oslo , city (1995 pop. 482,555), capital of Norway, of Akershus co., and of Oslo co. (175 sq ...

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Anthropology: Biographies