60 years since the first Easter Island expedition

60 years since the first expedition to Easter Island

60 years ago, Thor Heyerdahl conducted the first archaeological expedition to Easter Island. Thor Heyerdahl is as relevant today as he has ever been. In 2014 The Thor Heyerdahl Institute launched a new book with previously unpublished manuscript by Thor Heyerdahl.

Facts: Easter Island is the geographically most isolated place in the world. The island, a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean, is located 3512 km west of Chile and far east of Polynesia. The area is 163,6 km2, with 5761 inhabitants (2012). The nearest inhabited island is Pitcairn Island, located 2075 km further west. Easter Island is famous for its 887 monumental stone statues (moai) and has been on the UNESCOs list of World Cultural and Natural Heritage since 1995.

Thor Heyerdahl: In 1955/56, Thor Heyerdahl led the first professional archaeological excavations on Easter Island. In six months, the stone platforms, dwellings, caves and new types of stone statues, were unearthed by five archaeologists. 

The results were published in Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific (2 bd., 1961–65), and Indianer und Alt-Asiaten im Pazific (1966). Three cultural epochs were found on Easter Island. The large stone statues belong to the second epoch. Excavations also revealed a number of older statues of another kind, showing great similarity with statues in Tiwanaku in the Bolivian highlands. On Rapaiti, the ruin city Moronga Uta was excavated. It is the largest edifice known from Polynesia. Heyerdahl’s expedition is portrayed in the books Aku-Aku, Easter Island – a mystery Solved from 1957 and Sea Routes to Polynesia from 1968. 

Heyerdahl went back to Easter Island in 1986, and in 1989 he launched the book Easter Island – the mystery Solved, explaining how the large stone statues were transported and placed.

News: On October 6th 2014, on the occasion of the celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Thor Heyerdahl’s birth, the book Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki in New Light was launched, by The Thor Heyerdahl Institute. 

In the book, scholars of international standing from different disciplines confront the theories behind the Kon-Tiki expedition. Heyerdahl’s theories challenged established science. The authors have taken up this challenge and discuss Kon-Tiki based on today’s knowledge.

Among the many findings in the book are new blood-sample analyses that show traces of contact between Polynesia and coastal mainland America, and new research on the genetic composition of the sweet potato. Also, the book presents a previously unpublished manuscript by Thor Heyerdahl where he revises the introduction to his thesis American Indians in the Pacific.

Buy the Heyerdahl Anniversary book here:
Price: 250 NOK + delivery costs.
Please contact tonje.husa@heyerdahl-institute.com