Thor Heyerdahl, Reviving The Solar Cult Of Ancient Mariners

Thor Heyerdahl, Reviving The Solar Cult Of Ancient Mariners


Thor Heyerdahl was a man who, despite the era in which he lived, was able to overcome the barriers of academic dogmatism in order to prove his theories. One of his most prolific phrases was: “ Borders? I've never seen them. But I've heard that they exist in the minds of some people! ” Through his expeditions and voyages in reconstructed reed and balsa wood vessels, he was able to replicate the voyages of ancient navigators of forgotten eras and rediscovered the charm of adventure and discovery all over the planet. His countless books, illustrated by powerful images, immortalized his work and his expeditions changed human history, demonstrating how ancient peoples had been able to cross the oceans since the very dawn of humanity.

Portrait of Thor Heyerdahl, in the 1980s. (Public Domain).

Portrait of Thor Heyerdahl, in the 1980s. ( Public Domain ).

Descended from a lineage of Viking mariners, Thor Heyerdahl’s blood pulsed him to discover distant lands and give a new voice to the ancient navigators who sailed around the globe, beyond every imaginable border. Guided by ancient technology, he did not use the sextants or modern radios, but relied rather on the currents and the stars. Curiously though, despite having sailed all the seas on the planet, he never learned to swim!

The Kon-Tiki raft in the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Kon-Tiki raft in the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway ( CC BY-SA 4.0)

Early Life

Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, Norway on October 6, 1914 and died in Colla Micheri, Italy on April 18, 2002. He was an anthropologist, an explorer, a documentary filmmaker, who won the Oscar in 1952 for the Kon-Tiki crossing, and he was obviously a prolific writer. He graduated at the University of Oslo in biology, with a postgraduation on Pacific Island anthropology. The founding thesis of all his studies questioned the contemporary theories on the diffusion of peoples by sea. His mother Alison, who was the head of the Larvik Museum Association, inspired her son with a great interest in animals and natural sciences and his father Thor, master brewer, hosted his son's first zoological museum in the old premises of the brewery. He married three times and had five children.

The Kon-Tiki in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway (Bahnfrend -/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Kon-Tiki in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway ( Bahnfrend -/CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Reed Rafts And Balsa Boats

Heyerdahl’s vessels – rafts and boats - were built according to precise specifications, drawing on the historical or protohistoric documentation of the ancients, and he was assisted by indigenous workers who guided him in the construction of these boats.


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ENRICO BACCARINI is a journalist, writer and editor. He has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and a Bachelor's degree in Asian Studies. He is Professor of Oriental Studies, at the Maitri University. He is the author of 17 books published in Italy UK, USA, Brazil, including India La Civilta' Perduta

Top Image: The Ra II in the Kon-Tiki Museum ( Ralf Roletschek  / Public Domain )


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