Last Update 22:30
Ra II Voyage: How Ancient Egypt inspired Pre-Colombian civilizations
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Thor Heyerdahl, the legendary explorer famous for showing the Pharaohs were possibly capable of crossing the Atlantic to establish contact with Western Hemisphere’s cultures
Mohammed Elrazzaz, Sunday 22 Jul 2012
Share/Bookmark
Views: 4328


Ra II - From a documentary film on YouTube
Ra II Crew - From a documentary

“Civilization grew in the beginning from the minute that we had communication, particularly communication by sea that enabled people to get inspiration and ideas from each other and to exchange basic raw materials” – Thor Heyerdahl

Was it a coincidence that both the Pharaohs and the Aztecs built pyramids? Or that the Inca, just like the Pharaohs, practiced mummification? Or that both Ancient Egyptians and Native Americans built reed boats?  One man, a Norwegian ethnologist and explorer, thought it was not at all a coincidence.

Between what he thought and what he proved, an epic voyage would immortalise his name and practically demonstrate a fact that shocked everyone: contact could have been established between Ancient Egyptian seafarers and Native American cultures millennia before the Vikings and Columbus.

What did it take to prove this theory? It took an extraordinary man called Thor Heyerdahl and a weird-looking boat called Ra II.

To understand the relationship between the Pharaohs and Pre-Colombian civilizations, one has to start in Oslo, and to be more accurate, at the Kon-Tiki Museum. The Museum is named after the Inca-style balsa raft that carried Heyerdahl on one of his most famous journeys, in which he sailed across the Pacific for 101 days from Peru to Polynesia (1947). The raft is on display at the Museum, and so is ‘Ra II’, the ship that carried him and his crew on an expedition that further immortalised his name and cemented his legacy.

A GOD SAILS INTO THE SETTING SUN

“Sailing a ship of papyrus reeds, held together only with rope, we crossed the Atlantic from Africa to the West Indies. We make the 57-day trip in this incredible craft to learn if such a boat – a copy of those used thousands of years ago – could have crossed the ocean and carried elements of ancient culture of the Mediterranean to the Western Hemisphere"  – Thor Heyerdahl, The Voyage of Ra II (National Geographic, January 1971, Volume 139, Number 1).

Passion and belief can work miracles, especially for an explorer. That was exactly the case for Heyerdahl, who defied all the long-standing theories, which held that it was impossible for Ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean vessels to cross the Atlantic. Following a failed attempt with a papyrus boat (called Ra, after the Egyptian God), he set sail again from Safi (a Phoenician port in Morocco) with the same crew in a new boat, Ra II.

On board, eight men from eight nations formed a multicultural crew working in harmony under the sun disc that adorned the sail (one of the crew members, Georges Sourial, was Egyptian).

Day after day, the crew faced the bad temper of the Atlantic, unaware they were making history. The whole world held its breath as the 12-metre reed boat floated like a cork on the surface of a ruthless ocean, finally reaching Barbados after an epic journey of 6100 km over 57 days.

The expedition’s success quickly made headlines all over the world, and proved that prehistoric journeys of the sort were possible. No one believed a reed boat could survive more than two weeks on the high seas, let alone cross the Atlantic. Heyerdahl put an end to the controversy: cross-oceanic contact is much older than we thought, and so is cross-cultural exchange.

Later, Heyerdahl would embark on other expeditions, most notably on the Tigris, in which he set his boat on fire as a political statement against the war. He received countless honours and published many books, two of which remain to be among the best travel literature of all time: The Kon-Tiki Expedition and The Ra Expeditions.

THE LEGACY

The Ra II Expedition eventually inspired generations of explorers, adventurers and scientists. Dominique Görlitz was one such figure. Building on the –disputed- discovery of traces of tobacco and coca (native to the Americas) in some ancient Egyptian mummies, he decided to set sail in 2007 in a reed boat (Abora III) from the US to Spain (and then North Africa). The point was to prove that sailing the Atlantic against the current was possible, and that tobacco could have reached Egypt through Western seafarers.

The legacy of Heyerdahl is not limited to his scientific work. His humanistic values remain to inspire everyone that reads about his life and work: value like peace, condemning violence, respect for cultural diversity, and above all, the power of the dream.

Throughout a long career marked by bitter failures and spectacular successes, he never gave up on dreaming and working hard on pursuing his dreams. Last year, Heyerdahl’s Archives were inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Photos, films, documents and diaries, the Archives are of great historical and cultural value, but the true value lies in his humanism, something that can be appreciated when we contemplate what he said reflecting on his personal experience: “Borders, I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.”





Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 4000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
1



Bill A
22-07-2012 04:58pm
0-
5+
Heyerdahl did not prove ancient Egyptians crossed Atlantic.
Although Thor Heyerdahl was a great adventurer and did indeed make two bold journeys, and he did prove such journeys were possible from Egypt to the Americas, he most definitely did not prove that they did cross. To prove that will require far more effort.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
alanborky
26-07-2012 10:56pm
1-
1+
Heyerdahl & Tobacco Mummies = Proof?
Bill Mohammed if you factor in Heyerdahl's proof the journey was possible with subsequent evidence such as the Tobaco Mummies then you could argue Heyerdahl did ultimately prove to many people's satisfaction the Ancient Egyptians did indeed make the crossing.
Mohammed Elrazzaz
22-07-2012 10:52pm
0-
1+
Re: Heyerdahl did not prove ancinet Egyptians crossed Atlantic.
Thank you for this remark, you are absolutely right. They rephrased the header and it is inaccurate the way it is. In the main article, I only refer to possibilities, and not absolute proof. Mohammed Elrazzaz. Thank you for the clarification. Ahram Online made necessary correction. Heritage Editor.

© 2010 Ahram Online. Advertising