Autumn 1999 (7.3)
Thor Heyerdahl in Baku
Norwegian Archeologist Identifies
Azerbaijan as Early Cradle of Civilization
by Betty Blair
Other articles related to Thor Heyerdahl:
(1) Thor Heyerdahl in Azerbaijan: KON-TIKI Man by Betty Blair (AI 3:1, Spring 1995)
(2) The Azerbaijan Connection: Challenging Euro-Centric Theories of Migration by Heyerdahl (AI 3:1, Spring 1995)
(3) Azerbaijan's Primal Music, Norwegians Find 'The Land We Come From' (AI 5.4, Winter 1997)
(4) Scandinavian Ancestry: Tracing Roots to Azerbaijan - Thor Heyerdahl (AI 8.2, Summer 2000)
(5) Quote: Earlier Civilizations - More Advanced - Thor Heyerdahl (AI 8.3, Autumn 2000)
(6) The Kish Church - Digging Up History - Interview with J. Bjornar Storfjel (AI 8.4, Winter 2000)
(7) Adventurer's Death Touches Russia's Soul - Constantine Pleshakov (AI 10.2, Summer 2002)
(8) Reflections on Life - Thor Heyerdahl (AI 10.2, Summer 2002)
(9) First Encounters in the Soviet Union - Thor Heyerdahl (AI 10.2, Summer 2002)
(10) Thor Heyerdahl's Final Projects - Bjornar Storfjell (AI 10.2, Summer 2002)
(11) Voices of the Ancients: Rare Caucasus Albanian Text - Zaza Alexidze (AI 10.2, Summer 2002)
(12) Heyerdahl Burns "Tigris" Reed Ship to Protest War - Letter to UN - Bjornar Storfjell, Blair (AI 11.1Winter, 2003)
Thor Heyerdahl, archeologist and marine migration historian who is most popularly known as "Kon-Tiki Man", was back in Baku recently. Heyerdahl is best remembered for daring to make four trans-oceanic voyages beginning in 1947 when he crossed the Pacific in a primitive balsa-log raft named "Kon-Tiki" in order to challenge Euro-centric explanations of migration by early man.
Heyerdahl, examining ancient weaponry in Azerbaijan for similarities to those found in other parts of the world.
Heyerdahl, now 85, has never stopped asking if there is a "zero hour for civilized man". His pursuit has taken him all over the globe searching for man's earliest settlements and for links of migration from region to region and continent to continent. Heyerdahl is convinced that the vessels of antiquity permitted unrestricted voyages in pre-European times, and that there is a complex global relationship between many of the rapidly growing civilizations that suddenly appeared 5,000 years ago which had an advanced knowledge of boat building.
This was Heyerdahl's third visit to Azerbaijan (1980, 1994, 1999). Heyerdahl has long been fascinated with the rock carvings at Gobustan (about 30 miles west of Baku), having discovered that their artistic style closely resembles the carvings found in his native Norway. The ship designs, in particular, are similar and drawn with a simple sickle - shaped line, representing the base of the boat, with vertical lines on deck, illustrating crew or, perhaps, raised oars.
Thor and Jacqueline Heyerdahl at Azerbaijan's Academy of Sciences.
Based on this and other published documentation, Heyerdahl proposes that Azerbaijan was the site of an ancient advanced civilization. He believes natives migrated north through waterways to present-day Scandinavia using ingeniously constructed vessels made of skins that could be folded like cloth. When voyagers traveled upstream, they conveniently folded their skin boats and transported them via pack animals. Herodotus also describes such boats from this region in his works of the 5th century B.C.
Heyerdahl has elaborated on these ideas in a new book due out in November 1999 in the Norwegian language [It will be published by J. M. Stenersen Forlag in Oslo; Fax: 47-22-55-09-82, contact: Johan H. Stenersen]. An English version is expected to follow soon afterwards.
On this visit to Baku, Heyerdahl lectured at the Academy of Sciences about the history of ancient Nordic Kings. He spoke of an interesting notation made by Snorri, a 13th-century historian, which reads: "Odin (a Scandinavian god who was one of the kings) came to the North with his people from a country called Aser." [See "Snorri, The Sagas of the Viking Kings of Norway". English translation: J. Stenersens, Forlag, Oslo, 1987]. Further description of the geographic location of Aser leaves no doubt that it matches the region of contemporary Azerbaijan-"east of the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea".
Heyerdahl at the Gobustan caves near Baku in 1994. Petroglyph boats there resemble those found in Norway and caused Heyerdahl to further examine the possibility that Azerbaijan was one of the early cradles of civilization from which people migrated to northern Europe several millennia ago. Courtesy: Statoil.
"We are no longer talking about mythology," says Heyerdahl, "but of the realities of geography and history. Azerbaijanis should be proud of their ancient culture. It is just as rich and ancient as that of China and Mesopotamia."
Heyerdahl challenges historians and scientists to go beyond the dogmatic medieval view of history that puts Europe in the center of exploration, discovery and settlement of the rest of the world. He believes Europe arrived later in the global scheme of things, and that Azerbaijan may well be one of the very first centers of migration.
Heyerdahl came to Baku upon the invitation of Statoil, the national oil company of Norway, to mark the opening of their new Baku office in the Landmark Building.
Note: In our Spring 1995 issue (AI 3.1, page 60 ff.), we featured Heyerdahl's last visit to Baku. Heyerdahl wrote AI's Editor, Betty Blair, in February 1995: "This is the first time I disclose publicly my growing suspicion that what today is left as the little Republic of Azerbaijan around the capital Baku is only the vestiges of a large and dynamic nation bordering an inland sea but transmitting merchandise and even colonists to remote outposts in Asia and Europe. I hope Azerbaijan International can stimulate Azerbaijan scholars to look deeper into Azerbaijan's foreign relations in prehistoric times."