Thor Heyerdahl 1914–
Norwegian writer on travel, anthropology, and archaeology.
Heyerdahl, an anthropologist, is best known for his accounts of the exciting journeys he undertook to prove his scientific theories. He has long contended that the early settlers of the Polynesian Islands were Indians from South America, not Asians, as was generally believed. To demonstrate that ancient Peruvians could have completed a trip to Polynesia on balsa rafts, he himself accomplished the feat. Kon-Tiki describes his voyage. Continuing the argument in Aku-Aku and The Art of Easter Island, he explores similarities between the cultures of pre-Inca Peru and that of Easter Island. In further adventures, he tests his theories that Egyptians could have settled in Mexico (The Ra Expeditions) and that the Sumerians could have built ocean-going ships, thereby extending their contact with other civilizations (The Tigris Expedition).
Heyerdahl relates his experiences in a way that captures the interest of both experts and the general reader. His books are informative without being dry and scholarly and contain enough humor to mitigate the actual dangers encountered. Although the majority of Heyerdahl's colleagues do not feel he has sufficiently proved his hypotheses, they agree that his questions provide new insight into anthropological study.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed. and Something about the Author, Vol. 2.)