The Maldive Mystery

by

Thor HEYERDAHL

308 pages

Published  by Adler & Adler Publishers in 1986

This book counts for the following challenges:

      

      

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I had a hard time finding a book on the Maldive Islands, for the South Asian Challenge. Apart from tourist guides, my local library had basically only The Maldive Mystery. But that was also a great opportunity to finally read something by Heyerdahl.

I know he is sometimes criticized, and I understand, as I felt frustrated sometimes by repetitions in this book, and mostly because at the end of the book, I never got the real final answer that seemed to be originally promised.

Nevertheless, I found The Maldive Mystery very interesting: invited by the government of the Maldive Islands, Heyerdahl organizes archeological diggings to try to identify where the first inhabitants of these islands were coming from. I know absolutely nothing of these islands, so that was a nice foray in the region and its history.

Heyerdahl’s maritime expertise did help him identify the areas where digging would prove most fruitful.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

When the Maldive Islanders converted to Islam in the 12th century, they discarded or destroyed all traces of earlier cultures, thus denying their past. Recent archeological discoveries prompted the government to invite Heyerdahl to examine the artifacts and attempt a reconstruction of pre-Islamic history. Located in the Indian Ocean southwest of India and west of Sri Lanka, the Maldives encompass two broad, reefless sea passages (“One-and-Half” and Equatorial Channels) well-known to ancient mariners. Heyerdahl, an authority on primitive sea travel (Kon-Tiki, The Ra Expeditions, unravels a mystery that reaches into the vanished civilizations of Sumer and the Indus Valley. The Maldivan artifacts showed that temples were built around A.D. 550; that the original settlers had been sun-worshipers. An important export of the Maldives in ancient times was cowrie shells, found only in the Islands and used as money, these shells were unearthed in pre-Viking tombs (A.D. 550800) in Sweden!  [Publishers Weekly]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914, Larvik, Norway – April 18, 2002, Colla Micheri, Italy) was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a scientific background in zoology and geography. Heyerdahl became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed 4,300 miles (8,000 km) by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. All his legendary expeditions are shown in the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo.

Thor Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, the son of master brewer Thor Heyerdahl and his wife Alison Lyng. As a young child, Thor Heyerdahl showed a strong interest in zoology. He created a small museum in his childhood home, with a Vipera berus as the main attraction. He studied Zoology and Geography at University of Oslo. At the same time, he privately studied Polynesian culture and history, consulting what was then the world’s largest private collection of books and papers on Polynesia, owned by Bjarne Kropelien, a wealthy wine merchant in Oslo. This collection was later purchased by the University of Oslo Library from Kropelien’s heirs and was attached to the Kon-Tiki Museum research department. After seven terms and consultations with experts in Berlin, a project was developed and sponsored by his zoology professors, Kristine Bonnevie and Hjalmar Broch. He was to visit some isolated Pacific island groups and study how the local animals had found their way there. Just before sailing together to the Marquesas Islands in 1936, he married his first wife, Liv Coucheron-Torp (b. 1916), whom he had met shortly before enrolling at the University, and who had studied economics there. Though she is conspicuously absent from many of his papers and talks, Liv participated in nearly all of Thor’s journeys, with the exception of the Kon-Tiki Expedition. The couple had two sons; Thor Jr and Bjørn. The marriage ended in divorce and in 1949 Thor Heyerdahl married Yvonne Dedekam-Simonsen. They in turn had three daughters; Annette, Marian and Helene Elisabeth. This marriage also ended in divorce, in 1969. In 1991 Thor Heyerdahl married for the third time, to Jacqueline Beer (b. 1932).

Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson, Olav Heyerdahl, retraced his grandfather’s Kon-Tiki voyage in 2006, as part of a six-member crew. The voyage, called the Tangaroa Expedition, was intended as a tribute to Thor Heyerdahl, as well as a means to monitor the Pacific Ocean’s environment. A film about the voyage is in preparation.  [goodreads]

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