Winter 2006 (14.4)
Involvement with Azerbaijan
Read More about Thor Heyerdahl
Heyerdahl in Azerbaijan: Kon-Tiki Man," Spring 1995 (AI 3:1).
Azerbaijan Connection: Challenging Euro-Centric Theories of Migration," Spring 1995
Ancestry: Tracing Roots to Azerbaijan," by Heyerdahl. Summer 2000 (AI 8.2).
Civilizations: More Advanced." Quote: Autumn 2000 (AI 8.3)
Death Touches Russia's Soul," by Constantine Pleshakov. Summer
2002 (AI 10.2).
by Heyerdahl. Summer 2002 (AI 10.2).
Encounters in the Soviet Union". Summer 2002 (AI 10.2).
Heyerdahl's Final Projects," by Storfjell. Summer 2002 (AI 10.2).
Burns Tigris Reed Ship to Protest War: Letter to UN". Winter 2003
about Expeditions by Rafts.
This year marks 60 years since
Thor Heyerdahl (1914 - 2002) dared to cross the Pacific Ocean
on a raft made of balsa logs. Most people - including experienced
sailors - were convinced that the primitive vessel would quickly
become waterlogged or inundated with huge waves.
Left: Thor Heyerdahl visited Azerbaijan on four occasions
(1980, 1994, 1999 and 2000). Here, on his second trip (and the
first after Azerbaijan had gained its independence), he visited
Gobustan, intrigued by the petroglyphs still visible on hillside
rocks and cave walls.
Several carvings - like the one shown here - emphasize the importance
of reed boats to these early settlers who are believed to have
inhabited the region at least 5,000 years ago. In 1982, Heyerdahl
had constructed a similar looking reed boat - the Tigris - and
successfully sailed it in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.
But a determined Heyerdahl
and his crew proved them wrong. One hundred and one days and
4,000 miles later, they arrived in the Polynesian islands.
Heyerdahl had proved his hypothesis that Early Man could have
migrated westward, carried by strong ocean currents.
Though Heyerdahl went on to make three more equally difficult
trips in other oceans with reed boats, it was the Kon-Tiki that
captured the imagination of millions of people worldwide. His
book "The Kon-Tiki" would eventually be translated
into 65 languages and the film of the voyage won an Oscar for
"Best Documentary" in 1951.
Heyerdahl was no stranger to Azerbaijan. He visited Azerbaijan
on four occasions (1980, 1994, 1999 and
2000), the last three of which were on the personal invitation
of President Heydar Aliyev.
Left: The Heyerdahls at the Academy of Sciences
in Baku, 1999. Left: Academician Jamil Guliyev (showing painting
of early sailing vessel) and the President of the Academy of
Sciences Faramaz Magsudov. Right side of table: Thor Heyerdahl
(85 years old at the time) with his wife Jacqueline Beer.
Heyerdahl went on to hypothesize that thousands of years ago
Scandinavians had immigrated from the region, which is now known
as Azerbaijan. He selected our magazine, Azerbaijan International,
as the first place to publish these ideas [See Spring 1995, AI
3:1. Search at AZER.com]
As Jacqueline, Thor's
wife, tells the story: In the early days of Azerbaijan's independence
when foreign oil companies were just getting established in Azerbaijan,
BP had invited Margaret Thatcher to Baku.
Not to be outdone, in 1994, Statoil approached the President
and asked whom they might bring from Norway. Aliyev had commented
that the only person he knew was Thor Heyerdahl.
And thus began an enduring friendship. It was a concept that
came under heavy criticism in Norway. But to the end, Heyerdahl
did not back off, though it has yet to be proven.
"Some people believe in
fate, others don't. I do and I don't.
It may seem at times as if invisible
fingers move us about -like puppets on strings. But for sure,
we are not born to be dragged along.
We can grab the strings ourselves and adjust our course at every
crossroad, or take off at any little trail into the unknown."
Foreword in the 35th Anniversary Edition of "Kon-Tiki",
1984. Washington Square Press: NY
Left: Heyerdahl (right) with Georgi Kechaari (center)
an elder in the Udin community from the village of Nij (north
central Azerbaijan). Here they examine a gravestone (possibly
more than 1,000 years old, dating back to Albanian Caucasian
Christians, ancestors of the Udins.
Right: Touring Ateshgah
(Fire Temple) in the suburbs of Baku with Statoil personnel.
Above: Heyerdahl, with his wife Jacqueline
Beer, visiting the Honored Cemetery where many victims of Black
January 1990 and the Karabakh War (1988-1994) are buried. 10.
Jacqueline Beer with her husband Thor Heyerdahl, visiting the
archaeological dig at Kish
Church in Shaki, a small town in the foothills of Caucasus
mountains, Azerbaijan. 2002
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AI 14.4 (Winter 2006)
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