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Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl made a celebrated journey aboard a raft called Kon-Tiki in 1947, and later wrote an international best-seller about his amazing expedition.
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There, he found pottery that linked the islands to early Ecuadorian and Peruvian Indian cultures. Two years later, Heyerdahl led one of the first scientific explorations of Easter Island, where he would discover evidence of possible South American ties. This trip became the basis for the 1958 book The Secret of Easter Island.
Returning to the sea,
Heyerdahl tried to prove that the ancient Egyptians could have sailed to the Americas. He built the boat Ra—named after the Egyptian sun god—out of papyrus reed for his first attempt in 1969. While that effort failed, he managed to make it from Morocco to the Bahamas in Ra II the following year.
In the late 1980s, Heyerdahl focused his attention on the Tucume pyramid complex. He again tackled pyramid excavation in the 1990s on the Spanish island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. The step pyramids he uncovered now make up the Chacona Pyramid Ethnological Park there.
One of Heyerdahl's final projects was exploring the idea that the Norse god Odin was, in fact, a real ruler. He sponsored an effort to find evidence to support his theory through archaeological exploration in southern Russia, and subsequently published The Hunt for Odin (2001).
That same year, Heyerdahl underwent surgery as part of his treatment for cancer. The operation failed to stop the spread of the disease. By the following March, he was in the hospital and battling brain cancer. Heyerdahl died on April 18, 2002, at his home in Colla Micheri, Italy. He was 87 years old.
While he never received accolades from his scientific peers, Heyerdahl was considered a leading figure in his native Norway. He also became an international folk hero for his many adventures.
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