Anthropologist / Explorer
Date Of Birth:
6 October 1914
Date Of Death:
18 April 2002
Place Of Birth:
Best Known As:
Leader of the Kon-Tiki and Ra Expeditions
In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl and five crew members sailed the Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft, from South America to Polynesia, to prove his theory that pre-Columbian intercultural global contact was possible. Heyerdahl thought modern day Peru was the launch point for sea craft going across the Pacific, and his work showed a food/vegetation connection between South America and Pacific islands, even if he did not find convincing evidence of seafarers. Since then, DNA research -- which initially seemed to negate Heyerdahl's hypothesis -- has shown a relationship between Europeans, South Americans and Polynesians that dates to before European sea voyages. During 1969-70 he sailed two papyrus rafts, Ra I and Ra II, across the Atlantic, to show that ancient Egyptians could have had contact with South America. Although his theories often earned him the scorn of academics, Heyerdahl had a profound influence on anthropology and archaeology.
The film of his Kon-Tiki expedition earned an Oscar in 1951 for Best Documentary Feature.
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