Thor Heyerdahl

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Heyerdahl, Thor

(hā`ərdäl', hī`–), 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Heyerdahl, Thor


Born Oct. 6, 1914, in Larvik. Norwegian scholar, traveler, and writer.

Heyerdahl studied zoology and geography at the University of Oslo from 1933 to 1938. During World War II he took part in the Norwegian resistance movement. He has studied the diffusion of culture and the possibility of transoceanic migration of peoples between the Old and the New World.

In 1947, with five companions, Heyerdahl sailed the raft Kon-Tiki across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to the Tuamotu Archipelago to prove the possibility that Polynesia was settled by American Indians. In 1953 he discovered the remains of pre-Inca settlements in the Galápagos Islands. His archaeological research on Easter Island, Rapa, and the Marquesas in 1955 and 1956 determined that the islands were first settled in the fourth century A.D. In 1969 and 1970, Heyerdahl organized expeditions on the sailboats Ra and Ra II from the western coast of Morocco to America, and in 1977 and 1978, on the reed boat Tigris from Al Qurnah in Iraq to the estuary of the Indus to Djibouti. His popular books combine scholarly research with entertaining narration.


In Russian translation:
Vpoiskakh raia. Moscow, 1964.
Puteshestviena “Kon-Tiki.” Moscow, 1956.
Aku-Aku: Taina ostrova Paskhi. Moscow, 1959.
Ekspeditsiia “Kon-Tiki”—“Ra.” Moscow, 1972.
Prikliucheniia odnoi teorii. Leningrad, 1969.


Anokhin, G. I. “Tur Kheierdal.” In Skandinavskii sbornik, vol. 8. Tallinn, 1964.
Jacoli, A. Sen’or Kon-Tiki. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from Norwegian.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Norwegian historical drama "Kon-Tiki," recounting explorer Thor Heyerdal's epic crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a small raft, is the highlight of the festival's program, which will feature a total of 11 local and foreign films on the themes of sea, adventure, exploration and nature.
They built great pyramids near what is now the capital, Santa Cruz - excavated in the Seventies by explorer Thor Heyerdal. Leave your hilltop lookout at dusk and hightail it to the south coast for star-studded nights of singing, dancing and high-kicking at the popular Casino theatre.
Tenerife's restored Piramides de Guimar were unearthed by Thor Heyerdal, the man who crossed the Atlantic on a reed boat to prove the ancient Egyptians were as fond of global travel as we are.
Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdal published his own bestseller, Kon Tiki, the tale of his voyage to prove that Polynesians migrated from South America to the South Pacific.