Kon-Tiki items to return home

Norway’s royals, Thor Heyerdahl Jr. visited Chile to sign the agreement

Kon Tiki - Thor Heyerdahl

Photo: Bjørn Fjørtoft / Riksarkivet / Wikimedia Commons
Thor Heyerdahl took many objects with him from the places he visited; now some are going back.

Pieter Wijnen
Norway Today

Norway’s royal couple witnessed a moving ceremony as the agreement on the return of objects taken during the Kon-Tiki expedition to Easter Island was signed in Chile.

“Today there is every reason to celebrate,” Chile’s minister of culture stated after a ceremony at the National Library in Santiago on March 28. The Norwegian king and queen were honored with dancing and singing by inhabitants of Easter Island.

The items of cultural heritage that adventurer Thor Heyerdahl took with him from the isolated island community in Polynesia to Norway in the 1950s will finally be returned to their owners. His son, Thor Heyerdahl Jr., signed the agreement with Chilean authorities on behalf of the Kon-Tiki Museum.

The matter has received a lot of attention in Chile. Easter Island Governor Tarita Alarcon Rapu was overwhelmed: “It is the most enormous gift we could have dreamed of in 2019. It’s like ten-fold Christmas Eve for us,” Rapu told NTB.

The material that will go back to Easter Island is today located in a warehouse in Oslo at the Kon-Tiki Museum. These include 950 hollow stones, 300 to 400 stone axes, and 2,000 to 3,000 other objects, as well as four skulls and several skeletons of persons who lived on Easter Island hundreds of years ago.

The latter is especially important for the local population.

“It’s as if all our souls are coming back. The remains of our ancestors will return. They have been important for research, but now they are coming back home,” she explains.

To show their gratitude, several representatives of the locals danced and sang at the venue on Easter Island where the agreement was signed. The event ended with presenting gifts of jewelry, figurines, and pictures, both to the royal couple and Heyerdahl.

The royal couple has visited Easter Island before, in 2014. “It was very moving to suddenly be here and relive some of” that previous trip, Queen Sonja stated.

King Harald says that his strongest memory from Easter Island is the stone statues that the island is so famous for.

“The population was very interested in the story itself, and was very grateful for Thor Heyerdahl’s research on the island,” King Harald said.

The king has a special connection to Thor Heyerdahl and the expedition. He was on board Heyerdahl’s ship before it left Oslo in 1955.

Heyerdahl Jr. emphasizes that the plan has always been to return the items. He maintains that his father made this promise during the expedition in 1955-56.

According to Kon-Tiki Museum Director Martin Biehl. “The Kon-Tiki Museum has long been in dialogue about the return of the material, but the museum on Easter Island has not wanted it until now.”


This article was originally published on Norway Today.

This article originally appeared in the April 19, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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