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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Thor Heyerdahl ‘back home’ in Norway

Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl was honoured with a state funeral at the Oslo Cathedral after he died in 2002 at the age of 87, but his remains were kept in an urn at his last residence in Italy. Now they’ve been sent back to Norway, 110 years since he was born in the coastal town of Larvik.

The “Kon-Tiki” crew, with Thor Heyerdahl in the center, won international attention after they sailed over the Pacific on their Kon-Tiki raft, to prove how ancient civiliations also could have migrated Heyerdahl launched several more expeditions and kept trying to prove his theories throughout his life. PHOTO: Kon-Tiki Museum

Heyerdahl remains one of the country’s most famous Norwegians, best known for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, when he and his crew sailed 8,000 kilometers over the Pacific on a raft they’d made, and later with his Ra expeditions, also on papyrus rafts. He wanted to prove his theories, many of them controversial, that ancient civilizations could have been formed after such journeys, and that it’s no coincidence that pyramids and art similar to that of the Egyptians also showed up thousands of miles away in Mexico.

After an adventurous life, which later became the subject of major film projects, Heyerdahl settled on an estate in the Italian town of Colla Micheri, where he died 22 years ago. Even though his funeral was held in Oslo, and attended by Norwegian dignataries and members of the royal family, his urn was taken back for burial in Italy.

His grave has since been attended to by his family but state broadcaster NRK reported that for various reasons that had become more complicated. His son Thor Jr still lives in Norway and when some civic enthusiasts in Larvik proposed bringing Heyerdahl’s remains back to his birthplace, the family eventually agreed.

Thor Heyerdahl’s theories continued to be debated also after his death in 2002. PHOTO: Kon-Tiki Museum

They recently gathered, along with Norwegian officials including government minister Terje Aasland and former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik,for a new burial ceremony at the church in Larvik where Heyerdahl was christened. His nearby childhood home in Larvik has also become a museum and a local monument has been erected in his memory.

“Heyerdahl had an exciting life, with many different projects,” Øyvind Riise Jenssen, former mayor of Larvik, told NRK. Bringing his urn back to Larvik, Jenssen believes, completes the circle of that life. Both Jenssen and Heyerdahl’s daughter Marian also think Heyerdahl’s old home and grave will attract more visitors and help carry on his legacy, while Thor Heyerdahl Jr said he was touched and grateful that the people of Larvik wanted to have his father home.

“Many people will visit his grave, and that firms his position as a Larvik boy,” Jenssen said. “It means a lot for us that he’s come home.” Berglund



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