Thor Heyerdahl

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Thor Heyerdahl
Thor Heyerdahl in Kiel

Thor Heyerdahl (born October 6, 1914 in Larvik , Norway , † April 18, 2002 in Colla Micheri , Andora , Italy ) was a Norwegian explorer , archaeologist , anthropologist , ethnologist and environmental activist . He is regarded as the scientist who established experimental archeology and made it known to a wide public, as well as one of the most famous exponents of modern diffusionism .


“The philosophical answer was: Man cannot return to the state of nature, nor can he continue his course safely without planning the course of civilization.
The scientific answer was: Wind and ocean currents are the key to the mystery of all life in the Polynesian Islands. "

- Heyerdahl : on the result of his experiment "Fatu Hiva"

Thor Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, where his father from Christiania (now Oslo) ran a brewery. As the only descendant of elderly parents, he grew up very sheltered and pampered, but also had great freedom: For Thor's collection of small animals, beetles, insects and bird eggs, the father provided a renovated room on the brewery premises, which the boy proudly called the "Zoological Museum" called. As a child, he was afraid of water after nearly drowning twice. Even as a teenager he refused to learn to swim until he fell into a raging river in Tahiti in 1937 and had to fight for his life.

In contrast to his schoolmates, he was not interested in sports, with the exception of running and climbing, but liked to be out and about in the nearby mountains with a tent and sleeping bag. Ola Bjørneby, an adult loner who lived in a sheepfold on the abandoned Hynna Alm in Åstadal and knew how to be content with furniture made of tree stumps, stones and fir branches, gave the boy a taste for a life under the most primitive conditions. Already at this time there was a serious desire to spend some time in an area that was as untouched by civilization as possible.

In 1933 Heyerdahl began studying zoology and geography at the University of Oslo . His zoology professor Kristine Bonnevie also dealt her students with physical anthropology . Heyerdahl also had Bjarne Kroepelien's largest library on Polynesia at the time. The student Heyerdahl was so well read before he left that he could give lectures on the Marquesas .

On Christmas Eve 1936, Thor married Liv Coucheron Torp, with whom he left for Tahiti the next day - at the same time honeymoon and preparation for the state examination on the origin of the fauna there. The journey first went via Marseille to Tahiti, where the four-week waiting period for a copra schooner to continue their journey with Chief Teriieroo, Kroepelien's father-in-law, was spent: The young couple was introduced to the Polynesian way of life by Teriieroo's family.

The destination of this first trip was the island of Fatu Hiva , on which Gauguin had spent some time around the turn of the century . During his stay Heyerdahl turned increasingly to ethnology and began to seriously consider the origin of the islanders "from a large country in the east".

In the spring of 1938 the couple returned to Norway, where in September their son Thor jun. was born. Heyerdahl's research on the origin of the Polynesians brought him to America in 1939. For the first time, he had put together an interdisciplinary puzzle from Kroepelien's library that was almost ready for publication as an English-language manuscript: Polynesia and America . The shipowner Thomas Olsen was interested in Heyerdahl's revolutionary idea and made it possible for the family to cross over to Vancouver “for a symbolic contribution”.

After Norway was occupied by German troops in 1940, the family was initially stuck in Canada without money. Heyerdahl was unable to travel home, but was also unable to get a work permit because he had entered the country on a student visa. The Norwegians were also "at best unwelcome", as it had been rumored in the USA and subsequently also in Canada that Norway had voluntarily joined the Nazis. The shipowner intervened again by finding out the address of his friend and on his own initiative advanced him sums of money necessary for survival until he could look after his family again.

In order to take part in the struggle for the liberation of Norway, Heyerdahl volunteered at the Norwegian recruitment office, for which he had to travel to the USA: The German-born Norwegian consul in Canada, von Stahlschmidt , did not help. After training as a radio operator and parachute jump, the recruit was briefly deployed in Finnmark shortly before the end of the war without firing a shot, but met Knut Haugland , who arrived a little later on the Kon-Tiki.

Memorial stone for Heyerdahl at Colla Micheri

In 1947, Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki expedition demonstrated that balsa rafts and reed boats could have made intercontinental contacts possible even before Columbus' time. He initiated numerous other expeditions and archaeological projects and was awarded numerous medals and prizes: Universities in Europe, North and South America awarded him a total of eleven honorary doctorates .

The Kon-Tiki and Ra II vehicles can be seen in the Kon-Tiki Museum , which is part of the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo . In the Piramides de Güimar Park (Tenerife) there is another, small museum with a replica of a ship.

Thor Heyerdahl died on April 18, 2002 at the age of 88 of a brain tumor. He stayed in Colla Micheri, Andora, Italy, where he spent Easter with some of his close family members. An official state funeral by the Norwegian government took place on April 26, 2002 in Oslo Cathedral. His grave is in the garden of the family property in Colla Micheri.

Thor Heyerdahl was married three times and fathered five offspring:

  • 1936 with Liv Coucheron Torp (* 1916; † 1969), sons Thor (* 1938) and Bjorn (* 1940).
  • 1949 with Yvonne Dedekam-Simonsen (* 1924; † 2006), daughters Anette (* 1953), Marian (* 1957), and Helene Elisabeth, called Bettina (* 1959).
  • 1991 with Jacqueline Beer (* 1932).

One of the navigators of the Tigris expedition , Detlef Soitzek, named his three-masted traditional sailing ship after the researcher and adventurer.


Fatu Hiva (1937)

The Marquesas

Heyerdahl had dreamed of "natural" life since childhood. He and his first wife Liv realized this dream in 1937 on the island of Fatu Hiva in the southern part of the Marquesas Group. They spent more than eight months there and on the “neighboring island” Hiva Oa , 100 km NNW, largely doing without technical aids. The attempt to forego medication, however, almost ended in fiasco. On Fatu Hiva without any medical care, they had to sail to Hiva Oa in a decrepit lifeboat under adventurous conditions, but returned to Fatu Hiva after a few weeks.

In addition to trying to realize his childhood dream, Heyerdahl initially focused on zoological studies. After he had found stone artifacts (statues and bas-reliefs) on the two islands he visited, which were similar to statues in South America , and an old local told him about the mythical origins of his people from the East, Heyerdahl began the well-known but unreliable called the thesis of a settlement of Polynesia from the east, which fundamentally changed his life: From now on he devoted himself to ethnology and archeology.

For the six-week return trip, the couple embarked in Tahiti on December 27, 1937 - on the anniversary of their departure from Oslo.

Bella Coola (1939-1940)

Heyerdahl traveled to the northwest coast of Canada to complete his English-language manuscript on the settlement of Polynesia, which was almost ready for publication. At that time there were at least two relevant contradicting theses: The New Zealander Sir Peter Buck took the view that Polynesia had been settled via Melanesia , with the apparently only reason that this could in no way have happened via Micronesia . The ethnologist Alfred Métraux contradicted this , because the blood groups of Melanesians and Polynesians did not match. Due to his knowledge of ocean currents, Heyerdahl declared both technical opinions to be superfluous (!), Since the Philippines Current ( Japan Current ) runs from Asia to Northwest America, where it then turns to Hawaii and Polynesia. For a large part of the route from America to Polynesia, the seafarers would have had the trade winds behind them in addition to the current . Nobody had previously considered this possible course of settlement, although it was known that a maritime population of the islands of British Columbia must have come from Asia and still lived in the Stone Age when the first Europeans arrived.

First, Heyerdahl studied material in Vancouver that was not available in Norway:

“[In the capital's museum] the ethnographic and archaeological collections were locked in boxes in the basement, but the museum director had the key and was a zoologist. As a colleague, and because I had brought him a jam jar with fruit rats in formalin from the Marquesas, I got a place at Dr. Cowan's own desk, with access to an excellent library. "

Photos and objects from the Bella Coola Valley were strikingly reminiscent of Polynesian work. Other similarities between Polynesians and Native Americans were the lack of pottery and weaving, earth ovens for food preparation, clothing made from bark soaked in water and then pounded soft with mallets, stone axes, similarities in fishhooks, clubs, musical instruments and other utensils, seaworthy Double canoes and similar customs. Heyerdahl therefore settled in Bella Coola to complete his research on site.

A New York Times article about Heyerdahl's work was reprinted at the same time as a scathing comment by popular ethnologist Margaret Mead, sparking years of controversy against Heyerdahl's theories.

Kon-Tiki (1947)

Kon-Tiki, 1947.
Kon Tiki Museum, Oslo

Heyerdahl became known worldwide through his Kon-Tiki expedition. It proved that it was technically possible for the pre-Columbian Indians of South America to colonize Polynesia . Heyerdahl did not consider colonization of Polynesia from Asia impossible, but more difficult, since it would have to run against the direction of the Humboldt Current and the trade winds .

For the expedition, Heyerdahl and his team went to Peru to build a raft from locally harvestable balsa wood and only with material that must have been available to the indigenous people. The modern equipment was limited to the radio system, a dinghy, survival equipment as well as navigation aids and a film camera to document the experiment, which should also provide information on survival at sea. In addition to fresh food such as coconuts, canned food and a plankton net were also brought along. The crossing proved, however, that the participants also survived from fishing alone. The documentary about the expedition won an Oscar .

Heyerdahl showed through this trip that a raft made of freshly cut balsa wood could be buoyant for about two years. During the journey it was also found out that such a vehicle could be steered reasonably well by means of sail position and guaras (plug-in swords). Even showing up would have been possible, albeit with very little success. The abandonment of modern aids ultimately saved the expedition. Heyerdahl had been strongly advised to change the connection of the balsa trunks to solid iron chains for safety reasons and not to resort to pre-Columbian ropes. On the high seas, however, it turned out that the ropes worked with the wood, but chains practically sawed the raft through the movements of the balsa trunks.

In 1952 Heyerdahl became XXX. International Americanist Congress in Cambridge . The audience, mostly international scientists, assumed that this would be Heyerdahl's last confrontation with the professional world. It was all the more astonishing that a supposed adventurer was able to stand up to the scholars. The first lecture was already well attended and impressed the audience. In the discussion that followed, there was no attack, but applause only after the discussion leader, the Danish scientist Professor Kaj Birket-Smith , was skeptical of Heyerdahl's theories and highlighted the unusual importance of Heyerdahl's research. After the third lecture, the Canadian anthropologist Professor Reginald Ruggles Gates stated that the latest results in blood research supported Heyerdahl's view. Alfred Métraux now had to admit that Heyerdahl had been badly treated in the professional world, not least because of his criticism, but remained skeptical and thus set the tone for future dealings with Heyerdahl's work: They were very critically noted, especially because he well-known counter-arguments to his theses have regularly hidden.

Galápagos Islands (1952–1953)

The photo of the statue of a "long-eared" lured Heyerdahl to embark on an expedition on which he was first accompanied by the later renowned archaeologist Arne Skjølsvold (then a student). Although the trace about the statue turned out to be erroneous ( Heinz Wittmer , German resident of the Galapagos, had made it "for the pleasure of his children"), the excavations yielded around two thousand ceramic shards from different regions and cultural epochs of northern Peru and Ecuador. The oldest finds come from the Mochica culture (300–800 AD) and the Tiahuanaco culture (540–900 AD). The areas of origin of the ceramics extend on a 1500 km long coastal strip of South America. Based on the dating of the sherds, the islands must have been visited by South Americans over a period of more than 1000 years. The book that Heyerdahl and Skjölsvold published on this topic received no reviews and was hardly noticed by experts.

Some American scholars, however, began to doubt that the great Indian cultures were quite as isolated as had previously been believed. Evidence of a direct sea connection between Mexico and Peru / Ecuador emerged from archaeological finds by Samuel Kirkland Lothrop , Michael D. Coe and others.

Peru, Bolivia, Colombia (1954)

Field studies of pre-Inca ruined cities from Lake Titicaca (Peru) via Bolivia to Colombia.

Easter Island (1955–1956; 1986–1988)

Archaeological expeditions; For the first, a Greenland trawler and crew were chartered for a whole year (Easter Island was only called once a year by a Chilean warship; an expedition team and equipment would not have been brought to the island otherwise).

The expedition was supposed to investigate the thesis that there was also a wave of immigration from South America. Heyerdahl based this theory on the fact that the totora reeds (Scirpus totora) used for boats on Lake Titicaca are identical to the reeds that the Easter Island people planted in the crater lake and used for similar boats. The Toromiro tree, Lycium carolinianum (bush with edible berries), Cyperus vegetus ( fresh green sedge , edible roots), bottle gourd , paprika and Polygonum acuminatum ( bird knotweed ), a freshwater plant native to Peru and Easter Island, also come from South America is used medicinally. The most important staple food, the sweet potato (whose origin has been proven to be from South America), was called kumara by the islanders as well as in Peru, and a name could not have come across the sea without humans.

It is also documented that the Spanish captain de Cadres received precise instructions from an Indian in the 16th century for the journey to Easter Island. The most suitable ports for the start were named, Arica and Ilo , and the duration up to the uninhabited bird island Salas y Gómez , two months. Then this island has to be ignored. The trip is favored by the trade winds and the southern curve of the outer Peru Current.

For the reasons mentioned, there are no doubts about Indian contacts to Easter Island, but recent archaeological, genetic and linguistic findings have refuted the theory of the first settlement from South America.

Heyerdahl also conducted practical experiments with the moai . When he arrived, these were either overturned, half-buried under centuries-old sediments, or unfinished. He had a group of islanders work on the unfinished stone figures with the hand axes found in the quarries and erect some completed statues.

The book Aku-Aku about the first expedition was published in September 1957 and was again a great success with the public. The scientific evaluation took a long time, as the archaeologists ( Edwin N. Ferdon Jr., New Mexico; Gonzalo Figueroa García-Huidobro, Chile; William Mulloy, Wyoming; Arne Skjølsvold, Stavanger, later Oslo; Carlyle S. Smith, Kansas) not only Scattered halfway around the world, but were also involved in their own projects. The first volume of Archeology of Easter Island appeared in 1961, just in time to deeply impress the delegates of the 10th Congress of the Pacific Science Association - almost in the "Den of the Lion", Honolulu, where Heyerdahl's most important opponent Peter Buck had worked for decades: The Congress passed a resolution according to which, with immediate effect, South America should receive just as much attention in research into the settlement of the Pacific region as Southeast Asia had done up to now, and elected a six-person commission, which Heyerdahl also belonged to. Only now could Heyerdahl see himself as a recognized scientist. In the same year he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo.

Pitcairn, Raivavae, Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva (1956)

On the way back from Easter Island, the expedition visited the islands of Pitcairn , Raivavae , Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva . The last three are other islands on which monumental statues exist. Only insignificant remnants of earlier statues are left on Pitcairn, traditions from travelers from the 19th century indicate the former existence of four figures.

Ra (1969) and Ra II (1970)

Model of the Ra in the
Pirámides de Güímar Museum

In 1969 Heyerdahl tried to reach America from Safi in Morocco in the equatorial current and in the northeast trade wind with the papyrus boat Ra, which was designed based on the model of Egyptian reliefs and wall paintings and clay models found as grave goods .

He let the boat going from experienced African reed boat builders from the people of Buduma from Lake Chad to build, but it took many issues into account: On Lake Chad boats were much smaller, were merely used for day trips and then taken to dryness. These boats were cut off at right angles stern so that they could dry well. The bow-shaped stern post of the Egyptian templates was considered by the Buduma to be "ornament" and was only reluctantly added. Other design flaws, such as the undersized double rudder, the controls that broke several times during the crossing, unsuitable lashing of the reeds and the increasingly sinking and thus braking stern ultimately led to the trip being broken off. It should show that the bow-shaped stern post of the Egyptian models was by no means added as an ornament, and the rope from the tip of the bow to the stern, which can be seen in Egyptian images, did not have the purpose of forming the bow of the stern, but rather of lowering the stern prevent. As the Buduma did not attach this rope to the stern post, which they considered superfluous, the stern sagged in the first place. 960 kilometers before the destination in Barbados , the vehicle was still buoyant - in contrast to the "around 14 days" predicted by experts - and had sufficient provisions in reserve, but was about to disintegrate due to the design defects.

Replica of the Ra II in the Pyramid Park of Güimar on Tenerife

After the experiences from the first experiment, Heyerdahl had the slightly smaller Ra II built by Andean Indians from Lake Titicaca , because he was now convinced that their shipbuilding technology was closer to that of Egypt than that from the interior of Africa.

Ra II set sail again from Safi on May 17, 1970, and reached Barbados on July 12. During the expeditions, on behalf of the UN, the team documented the marine pollution by regularly collecting samples , which Heyerdahl had already drawn attention to after the Ra’s voyage . This resulted in a UN resolution.

Tigris (1977)

Ra II was also unsatisfactory from the travelers' point of view: the ship was so saturated with water in the end that it was only possible to stay on the cabin roof with dry feet. This problem never arose for today's residents of Lake Titicaca and Lake Chad, as they only put their reed boats into the water for use. It was not until the inhabitants of the Mesopotamian region made the researcher aware that the Berdi reeds used there had to be cut at a certain time of year in order to maintain buoyancy for as long as possible - specifically in August. This meant that the trip with the Tigris reed boat from Al Qurnah ( Iraq ) via the mouth of the Indus ( Pakistan ) to Djibouti could take five months. The Tigris would have been seaworthy for a longer time, but because of the warlike situation at the time on the Horn of Africa ( Ogadenkrieg ), which prevented entry into the Red Sea , the voyage was canceled and the reed boat burned off Djibouti as a protest against the war in the region.

Maldives (1982, 1983, 1984)

Heyerdahl's three archaeological expeditions to the Maldives investigated artifacts from the time before the Islamization of the Maldives. On the island of Toddu, at the northern tip of the Alifu Atoll, to the west and near Male, a monumental Buddha statue was found, which triggered Heyerdahl's first visit in November 1982. However, Islamic fanatics had destroyed them before the researcher arrived.

Prospector Arne Skjölsvold (University of Oslo) was based on the radiocarbon method, the construction of the temple complex of Nilandu to the time around 500 n. Chr. Dated, with older artifacts found in the filling of building fragments could not be dated. This applies in particular to brick-like blocks of reddish limestone, which the expedition found at the center of the base of the Hawitta .

An initial settlement of the Maldives from the Harappa culture in the Indus Valley, especially from Lothal, was postulated .

A hawitta was also worked on on the island of Gan (Gaaf Atoll) .

In particular, phallic sculptures that have been excavated in many cases refer to the older cultural epoch. In addition, cowrie shells (Cypraea Moneta) were discovered as grave goods in many graves in Lothal .

The archaeologist Öystein Johansen discovered pot shards with Neolithic pottery on the island of Vadu on the bottom of the lagoon, which suggest a much earlier settlement of the Maldives.

Tucumé, Peru (1988–1993)

Excavations at 26 pyramids of the pre-Inca high cultures of the Moche (200 BC to 750 AD), Lambayeque and Chimu, the largest collection of pyramids in South America.

The coastal people of Peru were excellent seafarers. In 1527 the Spaniards captured a raft that had 20 people on board and a gross capacity of 36 tons. But there was also a very large type of raft that could carry 60–70 tons. At least 1000 years before the arrival of the Spaniards, goods were transported to Peru from Ecuador, Panama and Chile by raft.

Güímar, Tenerife (1990–1998)

One of the pyramids in Güímar, Tenerife

In 1990 Heyerdahl started an international archaeological project with the help of the Olsen family of ship owners to excavate the step pyramids of Güímar . To this end, the FERCO (Foundation for Exploration and Research on Cultural Origins) was established in 1992, initially chaired by Heyerdahl.

Excavations by the University of La Laguna , Tenerife, however, clearly showed the 19th century when the step pyramids were created.

In 1998, after the excavations were completed, the 65,000 square meter area was opened to the public. Since then, an information center has been informing visitors about Heyerdahl's research trips and his hypotheses. Two pavilions show exhibitions about Heyerdahl and models of his vehicles, including a 1: 1 replica of the Ra II.

Despite the unambiguous excavation results presented, Heyerdahl seems to have never completely ruled out "a possible relationship between the existence of the pyramids and the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Tenerife".

Pietraperzia, Sicily (2000–2002)

Archaeological research into a possible pyramid structure in the years 1955–1956.

Azov, Russia (2001-2002)

Archaeological project "Search for traces of Odin ".

Gobustan, Azerbaijan (~ 1981)

Illustration of a ship dated to 12000 BC, Gobustan

In August 1981 Heyerdahl traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan for the first time. Several times he had previously made expeditions and archaeological finds in Gobustan (Azerbaijan), a historical place in world history. In his last book “In Search of Odin”, with the help of various arguments and evaluations of materials, he drew the conclusion that the history and development of the Vikings must also be sought in Azerbaijan. Accordingly, answers to questions about the origin of today's northern peoples can be found there.

"The history and culture that I found in Azerbaijan, undiscovered for the rest of the world, is far older than the history of Mesopotamia."

Pictures that Heyerdahl brought to light and analyzed in Gobustan show surprising similarities between local and old Scandinavian and English history.


In his Heyerdahl “biography”, the Norwegian writer, historian and adventurer Ragnar Kvam jr. Heyerdahl plans to collaborate with the National Socialists: In 1938 he corresponded with the German National Socialist Hans FK Günther , one of the leading race researchers, and expressed himself enthusiastically about the “German race with firm character”.


  • The Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography awarded Heyerdahl with a unanimous decision the Retzius Medal 1950 for the organization and implementation of the scientific Kon-Tiki expedition. This was the first and perhaps the most important award in Heyerdahl's scientific career, as his opponents could no longer claim that the raft trip was a purely sporting achievement.
  • Gold Medal from the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, 1951.
  • Prix ​​Bonaparte-Wyse of the Société de Géographie in Paris, 1951.
  • Commander of the Order of St. Olav , 1951 - Appointed on behalf of His Majesty the King of Norway
  • Elisha Kent Kane Gold Medal from the Philadelphia Society of Geography, 1952.
  • Elected honorary member of the Norwegian Geographical Society, 1953.
  • Honorary member of the Society for Geography of Peru, 1953.
  • Officer of the Order of Special Merit, Peru 1953
  • Honorary member of the Society for Geography of Brazil, 1954.
  • Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences , 1958
  • Member of the New York Academy of Sciences , 1960
  • Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Oslo , 1961
  • Vega Gold Medal from the Swedish Society of Anthropology and Geography , 1962.
  • Lomonosov Medal from the University of Moscow, 1962.
  • Gold Medal from the Royal Geography Society of London, 1964.
  • Member of the American Association for Anthropology, 1966.
  • Grand Officer of the Order of the Merits of the Italian Republic , 1968
  • Commander of the Knights of Malta of America, 1970
  • Order of Merit, Egypt 1971.
  • Grand Officer of the Royal Order of the Alauits , Morocco 1971
  • Kiril Metodi Prize of the Society for Geography of Bulgaria, 1972.
  • Honorary Professor of the Polytechnic Institute of the National University of Mexico, 1972.
  • United Nations International Pahlavi Environment Prize, 1978.
  • Officer of the Order of El Sol of Peru , 1975
  • Golden Ark Order , Holland, 1980
  • Golden Flower by Rheydt , 1981
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of the Russian Academy of Sciences , 1980
  • Bradford Washburn Prize, Boston Museum of Science, USA, 1982.
  • Detlef Soitzek, who sailed in the Indian Ocean from 1977 to 1978 as a navigator on the reed boat expedition "Tigris", is converting his former ship into the top sail schooner Thor Heyerdahl for sailing and life training for young people. The namesake enthusiastically takes over the sponsorship, 1983
  • Name giver for the asteroid (2473) Heyerdahl , 1986
  • Doctor Honoris Causa University of San Martín, Lima, 1991.
  • Appointment as international advisor to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  • Personal advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev in founding Green Cross International at the environmental conference in Kyoto in 1992
  • Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Havana , 1992
  • Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Kiev, Ukraine, 1993.
  • International Prize of the Geographical Society of Spain, 1998.
  • Doctor Honoris Causa from D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology of Russia, 1999.
  • Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art , 2000
  • Doctor Honoris Causa from Rostov State University, Russia, 2000.
  • Kiel high school is named after him, 2004.


  • Kon-Tiki. A raft drifts across the Pacific . Ullstein Verlag, Vienna 1949, DNB  452005701 (Original title: Kon-Tiki Ekspedisjonen . Translated by Karl Jettmar).
  • American Indians in the Pacific. The Theory Behind the Kon-Tiki Expedition . Allen & Unwin, London 1952.
  • Great Norwegian Expeditions . Dreyer, Oslo 1956 (English).
  • Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific . Allen & Unwin, London 1962-1965
  • Americans and Old Asians in the Pacific. The adventure of a theory . Wollzeilen-Verlag, Vienna 1966, DNB  456984704 .
  • Discussions of Transoceanic Contacts: Isolationism, Diffusionism, or a Middle Course? In: Anthropos. Vol. 61, H. 3/6, Anthropos Institute, 1966, pp. 689-707.
  • Expedition Ra. With the sun boat into the past. Translated into German by Heinz Kulas and Jette Mez. Bertelsmann-Sachbuchverlag, Gütersloh / Vienna 1989. ISBN 3-570-08849-9 .
  • Fatu Hiva. Back to nature . Bertelsmann, Munich / Gütersloh / Vienna 1974, ISBN 3-570-00035-4 .
  • Between the continents. Archaeological adventure . Bertelsmann, Munich / Gütersloh / Vienna 1975, ISBN 3-570-02609-4 .
  • The art of Easter Island. Secrets and riddles . Bertelsmann, Munich / Gütersloh / Vienna 1975, ISBN 3-570-00038-9 .
  • Tigris. In search of our origins . Bertelsmann, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-570-02152-1 (Original title: Tigris . Translated by Wolfgang Rhiel).
  • Paths across the sea. Migration in the early days . Bertelsmann, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-570-00107-5 (original title: Early Man and the Ocean . Translated by Theodor A. Knust, Jutta Knust).
  • Fua Mulaku. Journey to the forgotten cultures of the Maldives . Bertelsmann, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-570-01800-8 .
  • Easter Island. The Mystery Solved . Souvenir-Press, London 1989, ISBN 0-285-62946-8 .
  • Archaeological Evidence of Pre-Spanish Visits to the Galápagos Islands . University Press, Oslo 1990, ISBN 82-00-02879-8 (English-Spanish).
  • The pyramids of Tucumé . Langen Müller, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-7844-2535-6 (Original title: Pyramidene i Tucume . Translated by Ursula Gunsilius).
  • The navegación maritima en el antiguo Perú con éfasis en Tucumé y el valle de Lambayeque . University Press, Lima 1996 (English-Spanish)
  • Let them speak at last. Native Americans tell their story . Langen Müller, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7844-2609-3 (original title: Skjebnemøte vest for havet . Translated by Lothar Schneider).
  • Green Was the Earth on the Seventh Day . Little Brown, London 1997, ISBN 0-316-88227-5 .
  • Ingen Grenser . Stenersen, Oslo 1999, ISBN 82-7201-270-7 (together with Per Lillieström ).
  • Jakten på Odin . Stenersen, Oslo 2000, ISBN 82-7201-316-9 (together with Per Lillieström).
  • In Adam's footsteps. The adventures of my life . Ullstein Verlag, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-550-07108-6 (Original title: I Adams fotspor . Translated by Heinz Kulas, Jette Mez).


  • Thor Heyerdahl: RA Expeditions. VHS, English
  • Thor Heyerdahl: Kon Tiki. 1997. 1951. DVD, NTSC, English, Oscar best documentary 1951.
  • Thor Heyerdahl: The Adventures - Across the sea of ​​time. 1997, ISBN 0-7806-2066-6 , VHS, English
  • Thor Heyerdahl: Explorer & Scientist. 1997, ISBN 1-56839-037-8 , VHS, English
  • In addition, 3 documentaries were made at NDR in the 1990s .
  • Joachim Rønning: Kon-Tiki . 2012

radio play


  • CC Bergius : Thor Heyerdahl . In: Ders .: The great explorers . Present publisher Peter, Gütersloh 1974, ISBN 3-87644-040-8 .
  • Snorre Evensberget: Thor Heyerdahl. The explorer . Stenersen, Oslo 2002, ISBN 82-7201-189-1 .
  • Arnold Jacoby: Señor Kon-Tiki. Thor Heyerdahl's adventurous research life . Ullstein, Berlin 1966.
  • Ragnar Kvam: Heyerdahl. On the raft to research glory . Mare Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-86648-155-8 .
  • Christopher Ralling: The Kon-Tiki man. Thor Heyerdahl . ISIS Books, Oxford 1990, ISBN 1-85089-297-0 .
  • Berndt Schulz : Thor Heyerdahl. Science and adventure . Rasch & Röhring, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-89136-655-8 .
  • Bernt Schulz: Thor Heyerdahl. Expeditions with the Kon-Tiki, the Ra and the Tigris. National Geographic, Volume 234. 2nd Edition. Frederking & Thaler, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-89405-234-8 .
  • Yuri Senkevich : На "Ра" через Атлантику ; deutsch With the papyrus boat across the Atlantic (1973)

Web links

Commons : Thor Heyerdahl  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Heyerdahl, on Adam's footsteps, p. 344
  2. Thor was the only descendant from this marriage; There were several half-siblings from previous marriages of both parents with whom there was no contact. Only Ingerid, eleven years older half-sister on her mother's side, also lived in the Heyerdahl house, Larvik, Stengate 7 . Ragnar Kvam: Biography Heyerdahl,… p. 44. In the following abbreviated with RK + page number.
  3. Heyerdahl, in Adam's footsteps, hereinafter abbreviated as Adam; P. 35
  4. Adam 45
  5. There are different opinions about Heyerdahl's swimming skills: He himself admits in Adam p. 131 that his swimming skills were still “miserable” in 1943. Knut Haugland describes him as a “non-swimmer” during the Kon-Tiki trip in 1947 (interview with Ragnar Kvam).
  6. Adam 60f .; RK 67ff
  7. Adam 82ff: The wine merchant Bjarne Kroepelien had lived together with a chief's daughter in Tahiti when she was young and, after she died of the Spanish flu and he had returned to Oslo, collected everything that was printed about this island world that he could get hold of. After Kroepelien's death, the library was moved to the Kon-Tiki Museum.
  8. Adam p. 108f
  9. Thor Heyerdahl. In: Who is Who. November 24, 2007.
  10. RK 173. Heyerdahl's handwritten diaries were available to Kvam.
  11. Adam p. 108f
  12. Adam p. 110f; probably Ian McTaggart-Cowan (1910-2010)
  13. Adam, p. 112. The two only met decades later and were amused by the fact that Mead had just as little knowledge of the stone drawings in British Columbia as Heyerdahl of Mead's subject, the love life of the Samoans.
  14. RK 425: Heyerdahl had published his 821-page essay American Indians in the Pacific about a week earlier, on August 12 , which, logically, none of the experts could have worked through by now.
  15. RK 427.
  16. RK 428f.
  17. RK 432.
  18. RK 433.
  19. RK 448f
  20. America in sight - With the Ra across the Atlantic (German)
  21. Thor Heyerdahl: Expedition Ra, in a papyrus boat across the Atlantic. Volk und Welt publishing house, Berlin 1973.
  22. cf. Thor Heyerdahl . In: International Biographical Archive (accessed on July 18, 2009 via Munzinger Online)
  23. After August 30, 2009 the FERCO website was shut down, s. The FERCO Mission ( Memento from August 30, 2009 in the Internet Archive ). At that time, one of the links referred to the TIMEXPO Museum (Waterbury, Connecticut, USA) of the watch manufacturer Timex , where Fred. Olsen & Co. has been involved since 1940. Heyerdahl no longer appeared on the FERCO Scientific Committee on December 6, 1998 : Scientific Committee Members ( Memento of December 6, 1998 in the Internet Archive )
  24. ^ Juan Francisco Navarro Mederos, Maria Cruz Jiménez Gómez: El difusionismo atlántico y las pirámides de Chacona. In: Miguel Ángel Molinero Polo, Domingo Sola Antequera: Arte y Sociedad del Egipto antiguo. Madrid 2000, ISBN 84-7490-604-0 , pp. 241-253; here, pp. 246-249.
  25. Juan Francisco Navarro Mederos: Arqueología de las Islas Canarias. (PDF; 1.5 MB), In: Espacio, Tiempo y Forma. Series I, Prehistoria y Arqueología, Vol. 10, 1997, pp. 447-478; here: 467.
  26. ^ Antonio Aparicio Juan, César Esteban López: Las Pirámides de Güímar: mito y realidad . Centro de la Cultura Popular Canaria, La Laguna 2005, ISBN 84-7926-510-8 .
  27. Flyer from the "Pyramidenpark" in Güímar, purchased on February 16, 2008 at the ticket office: Pirámides de Güímar. Parque Etnográfico. GERMAN . Published by Pirámides de Güímar, parque etnográfico. A Fred. Olsen Company. ( Memento from March 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  28. The German-language edition, published in 2012, includes the first two of three volumes of Kvam, which were published in Norway in 2005 and 2008. It deals in great detail with the time from Heyerdahl's childhood to the Kon-Tiki voyage. Pages 413-430 deal with the book Kon-Tiki, its reception and Heyerdahl's 821-page academic review of American Indians in the Pacific, which is only available in English. Pages 431-450 describe the expeditions to the Galapagos (1952) and Easter Island (1955) and the two trips of the Ra; so this biography ends in 1970.
  29. Heyerdahl worked with Nazi researchers. In: The world . November 24, 2005.
  30. Regarding the "enthusiastic" statement, it should be noted that Kvam quotes from Heyerdahl's letter to his mother, written immediately after the most unpleasant experiences on Fatu Hiva and their ultimate escape when the couple stayed in Berlin for a few days before returning to Norway To hand over the promised material to Günther and to sell other parts of the Fatu-Hiva collection if possible.
  31. Kon-Tiki in the Internet Movie Database (English).