Thor Heyerdahl Kent Bush - Essay

Kent Bush

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In "American Indians in the Pacific"] Heyerdahl marshals exceedingly convincing visual evidence of pre-Columbian American Indian influences in the Pacific. In no other single book can there be found an equally rich collection of that data—scientific, cultural, historical—so necessary for the developement of a reasoned theory of the colonization of Polynesia. Without taking into account these facts and their interpretation—many of them published for the first time in this volume—no scholar can speak with accuracy on the problem. This book will be required reading for all students of American and Pacific culture, history, and pre-history.

Any scholar who necessarily deals with the findings in a dozen or more sciences will come under attack from the siege guns of specialization. The central question in evaluating an effort to synthesize broadly in any scholarly field is: has the factual evidence been handled with respect on its own merits and has all available evidence been presented and brought to bear on resulting conclusions? I can find no mark of Heyerdahl's failing in this scholarly trust.

But don't accept the notion that this is only a scientific document. For anyone who has sailed the enormous distance between the major Polynesian island systems—distances known to have been navigated in canoes, and possibly rafts, by Stone-Age migrants—in fact, all travelers will gain from Heyerdahl's account a new appreciation of the intelligence and vigor of Neolithic man. "American Indians in the Pacific" is as stirring a tribute to ancient man as "Kon-Tiki" is to modern….

The exhaustive treatment makes the book bulky and the presentation occasionally tortuous. It may be that a desk dictionary will have to be used now and then, although the context usually provides operational definitions. But even so, most readers will find in the reading of it straightforward enjoyment.

[It] will be clear that the conclusions are based on first-hand observation and first-rate scholarship. It will be clear that the excitement of unraveling an ethnographic "detective thriller" is a delightful way to enjoy and appreciate a scholarly theory and dissertation in this important field of study.

Kent Bush, "Solving Some of the Problems of Pacific Pre-history," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1953 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), August 13, 1953, p. 11.