Monday 20 June 2011
Kon-Tiki explorer was partly right – Polynesians had South American roots
It is probably the most epic journey ever undertaken just to prove a point.
Thor Heyerdahl clung to Kon-Tiki, his balsa wood raft, for 4,300 miles to show that Polynesia could have been colonised from South America rather than Asia as commonly thought.
But despite achieving his goal – sustaining his 101 day voyage with sharks caught with his bare hands – the Norwegian failed to sway the scientific community.
Now – 64 years later- new research has finally proved the adventurer was at least partly right after all.
A team of scientists have tested the genetic make up of descendants of the original islanders and found it includes DNA that could have only come from native Americans.
That means that some time before the remote islands – including Easter Island – were colonised by Europeans the locals had interbred with people from South America.
The Polynesian islands are some of the most remote in the world – lying thousands of miles west of South America and thousands of miles east of Asia.
The established theory has always been that Polynesia was colonised via Asia around 5,500 years ago.
This has been backed up by archaeology, linguistics and some genetic studies.
But in 1947, Heyerdahl controversially claimed that Easter Island’s famous statues were similar to those at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and sailed a raft from Peru to French Polynesia to prove it could have been colonised from America.
Now Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo in Norway has found clear evidence to support elements of Heyerdahl’s hypothesis.
In 1971 and 2008 he collected blood samples from Easter Islanders whose ancestors had not interbred with Europeans and other visitors to the island.
Prof Thorsby looked at the genes, which vary greatly from person to person.
Most of the islanders’ genes were Polynesian, but a few of them also carried genes only previously found in indigenous American populations.
Prof Thorsby found that in some cases the Polynesian and American genes were shuffled together, the result of a process known “recombination”.
This means the American genes would need to be around for a certain amount of time for it to happen.
Prof Thorsby can’t put a precise date on it, but says it is likely that Americans reached Easter Island before it was “discovered” by Europeans in 1722.
Prof Thorsby believes there may have been a Kon-Tiki-style voyage from South America to Polynesia.
Alternatively, Polynesians may have travelled east to South America, and then returned.
However, Prof Thorsby said that his new evidence does not confirm Heyerdahl’s theory that the islanders were originally all from South America.
The first settlers to Polynesia came from Asia, and they made the biggest contribution to the population, he said.
“Heyerdahl was wrong but not completely,” he said.
The work was presented at a Royal Society talk in London and reported in the New Scientist.
I remember when I was still a child how intrigued and fascinated my own father was by the journey of the Kon-Tiki and the whole theory that led intrepid Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl to put his own life in the balance to prove his point – but his point was much more than what the above scientific reporter makes it out to be. Well, my father’s deep interest for all this became my deep interest too, it turned out, and here I am, decades later, still resonating just the same to the mere name of ‘Kon-Tiki’.
The thought-provoking thing is that in the meantime I happen to have learned a lot more on all these questions of the far origins of some peoples of the world, and about what importance it may have on our understanding of actually much older, fabled times as well.
As you may have noticed if you read which ‘Categories’ this post is listed under, they are special and revealing indeed: ‘ATLANTIS IN OUR LIVES’, and ‘LIFETIMES & BETWEEN’. What I am going to say has no ‘scientific’ basis whatsoever, but I am going to say it nevertheless: to me, it has been obvious since long that Thor Heyerdahl had been a Viking, and, way before a Viking, precisely one of those who even much longer ago journeyed like he did again in our times, on the kind of raft he so easily found again the technique to build and the way to navigate with.
Just yesterday night, on TV5 Monde, the great magazine ‘Thalassa’ was presenting a gripping filmed reportage on what?… The intense yearly celebrations through which what is left of the Rapa Nui, the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island, are keeping alive and active in themselves the half-forgotten traditions and sacred legends of their people. In recent years, those celebrations have attracted an immense, ever-growing number of outsiders, from all parts of the world, who during at least that period of time, under the red natural colour of the island, painted all over their face and body, want to identify themselves with that people and its culture. How moving – and telling.
Exactly how old are all those very ancient cultures that subsist as odd mysteries on the tiny isolated islands of today, which are in fact all that is still emerging of the mountains that long ago were not yet under water? Nobody really knows; the dates officially given for a while often suddenly need to be pushed back much further in time, as some unexpected discovery shows beyond doubt that the previous datings were too conservative.
Today I read only 25 out of the 113 comments that this ‘science news’ item elicited from the readers of the Daily Telegraph. Many of those who put in a comment seemed to know a lot about the whole Kon-Tiki story. Many of us, whatever Official Science may say, have our own feelings and inner connections with those times past, strangely holding a part of our present consciousness tied up with those remote civilizations we are usually told never actually existed. Something deep in ourselves knows better, and doesn’t allow us to cut off those inner links with other parts of ourselves beyond time and space as we know them.
Serious research exists (see my very first posts on this blog, in ‘Previous, older entries’, two or three scrolls down from here…) that connects many identified places around the present Atlantic Ocean with refugees from the time of Atlantis’ disappearance. Many of us may have apparently many old roots, but actually a still older common origin – like perhaps the very peoples from Peru as well as from those far away islands, that Thor could feel had a strong connection between them, and shared a common more ancient culture, expressed for example in those strange statues…
As Seth (among others), speaking through Jane Roberts, once said, announcing the new evolutive step we are in: when our enlarged consciousness will be vast enough, we will be able to hold safely and harmoniously together our various personalities of all those lifetimes, and our present lifetime will be all the more rich and stable for it (you will find that quote, if you are interested, in one of my earlier posts: ‘Seth & the New Step in Terrestrial Evolution’).
This shows us the general direction things will take, and how today’s vague memories or strange predilections for some precise times and/or places may one day become the numerous and colourful living petals of our full-bloomed deeper Self’s lotus… (just an image that came up that way as I was writing…).