• Túcume
  • (1988-1992)

From 1988 to 1992, Thor Heyerdahl led archaeological excavations at the La Raya pyramid complex near Túcume, Peru. The site has 26 pyramid-shaped structures built of sun-dried bricks, sometimes referred to as adobe.

The excavations at Túcume was, at the time, the largest archaeological project in the world. The investigations determined that the pyramids were first constructed 1100 AD.

In March of 1992, the archaeologists made what was to be the their most important discovery, a temple wall with well-preserved reliefs of mythical birdmen aboard two large seagoing vessels. Waves and more birdmen are depicted below the boats, all of them holding a spherical object.

Heyerdahl immediately summoned Arne Skjølsvold, his long-time friend and then Head of the Kon-Tiki Museum Research Department. Skjølsvold arrived four days later, and immediately exclaimed: “Thor, those things are birdmen crouching with eggs in their hands, just like the ones on Easter Island!”

In addition to the many beautiful objects that were found, the team also discovered some double-bladed ceremonial oars that were identical in shape to those known from Easter Island. This discovery, not to mention the temple wall of the birdmen, provided new evidence supporting Heyerdahl’s theory that Indians from South America had also visited this legendary island.

Heyerdahl’s Túcume expedition concluded his research on who discovered and settled the eastern Polynesian islands. He himself was convinced that the answer was to be found in the ancient maritime culture he discovered a part of at Túcume. Other researchers argue that the first inhabitants of these islands predominantly came from the west, but it is now generally accepted that there had also been contact between Polynesians and South American indians around 1300 AD. This encounter did indeed bring the sweet potato to Polynesia. 

Recently, the DNA of South American Indians was found in the blood of the indigenous people on the Easter Island.

Heyerdahl’s Expeditions