Thor Heyerdahl Jr
Azerbaijan is hosting a four-day scientific conference on "Thor Heyerdahl and Azerbaijan", organized by Azerbaijani academics in cooperation with the University of Oslo (Norway) and dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the famous traveller's first trip to Azerbaijan, the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan's independence and the 200th anniversary of the University of Oslo.
Thor Heyerdahl has gone down in history not only as a brave sailor, scientist and oceanographer, but as an author of books and bold ideas. He initiated studies to investigate the truthfulness of ancient Scandinavian sagas and medieval sources which show that the Vikings resettled to Norway from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan. For this purpose, Thor Heyerdahl Senior visited Azerbaijan four times (between 1981 and 2000) and dug up interesting facts to prove this theory.
1news.az interviewed Thor Heyerdahl Jr, a member of the Norwegian delegation to Baku, about kinship between Scandinavian and Azerbaijani peoples and other issues.
How does it feel to be in Azerbaijan at an international event on the life and work of your father, Thor Heyerdahl, who was a frequent visitor here and devoted some of his studies to our country?
I am deeply impressed and pleased at the deep respect shown towards my father and vivid interest in his scientific work in Azerbaijan. My father was a man with a complex nature and internal world. In his work he paid great attention to erroneous views in science and offered new, different theories to solve these problems. He saw issues the way others could not see them or did not pay attention to them.
For example, you could also see the different views of scientists here and fierce discussions about Heyerdahl's ideas about the integral link between Scandinavian people, Vikings and Azerbaijan. I think that these discussions have just started and will continue. As this issue is dealt with by serious scientists from different spheres, it means that the issue the of migration of Vikings from Azerbaijan to Norway is actual and has its place in history.
If I am not mistaken, the resettlement of the Vikings is not the first issue of ancient migration, raised by Thor Heyerdahl.
I should recall here that my father started work as an oceanographer doing research in the Pacific Ocean where he studied the migration process of people from Asia and South America to the islands. At that time, there were fierce discussions about the places people had migrated from to settle in the Polynesian islands, since most people stated that they had migrated only from Asia, while Heyerdahl proved that they came from South America too.
My father managed to prove with facts and studies that migration processes to Polynesia were recorded from both Asia and South America. Heyerdahl travelled with his team via this route on the Kon-Tiki to prove the possibility, but scientists maintained doubts about these migration routes.
There is an impression that your father has always been at the centre of disputed scientific hypotheses and sought to refute established stereotypes.
You are absolutely right, this is how it was. And Heyerdahl was right in most cases. For example, after his death, a professor of medical genetics of the University of Oslo studied DNA samples taken from Polynesians and citizens of South America. As a result, based on the analysis of DNA and fingerprints, it was proven that some Polynesians, especially on the eastern isles of Polynesia, really went there from South America in ancient times.
So why is DNA analysis not used to put an end to the years of debates about the kinship of Scandinavian peoples, particularly Norwegians, with Azerbaijanis, and the issue of the possible migration of the Vikings to Scandinavia from Azerbaijan?
This has already been done! DNA samples were taken from a Viking found at a burial site alongside the ancient Drakker longship. Those samples were compared to samples from Caucasian people and Azerbaijanis and it was proven that this Viking really did have kinship with them. Look at a map of ancient Europe and you will see that in ancient times Northern Europe was all covered with ice. After the ice started melting, people began migrating to the north and if you pay attention to the route, you will see that they migrated there from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan, since they had no other route to travel to the north because elsewhere, to the left and right, was entirely covered with ice.
This is a recognized scientific fact. You know, when I was obtaining a visa for a trip to the United States, I indicated "Caucasian race" among all the options offered since not only international science but also international practice acknowledges that Caucasians are a separate race and ancestors of the Europeans.
Applicants for a visa to the United States are often surprised at this. International science recognizes that the Caucasians were the Europeans’ ancestors and, additionally, as you have mentioned, recent analysis of the DNA of the ancient Vikings and Caucasians has proven this once again.
Yes, it is already an obvious and recognized fact.
While speaking about the migration of Vikings from Azerbaijan to Scandinavia, Thor Heyerdahl referred to Scandinavian sagas, including the texts of famous 13th-century Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson. In a text dated 1220-1240, he talked about events that occurred two millennia ago, apparently referring to now lost sources. According to the text, two generations before the birth of Christ, a King Ogden lived in the Caucasus, ruling a people called the Asams from a country called Azer. Thor Heyderdahl said that Ogden was Odin, the supreme God of the Scandinavian heathen pantheon and found other facts proving the migration of the Vikings, particularly, from Azerbaijan and their common spiritual roots and beliefs.
Yes, those very well-known facts that had gone unnoticed by others inspired Heyerdahl to find archaeological and other proofs of the settlement of Vikings here.
The text by Snorri Sturluson notes that when Roman Legions came to Azer, Ogden was unable to stand against the invasion and moved north through the lands of Rus. What do you think about all those facts, sources, archaeological finds and results of DNA analysis?
I think that if specialists, scientists of different scientific spheres show interest and gather factual information about this, anyone who becomes familiar them will understand that the migration of the Vikings from Azerbaijan and the Caucasus took place. If scientists have been studying this issue for decades, if they are gathering in Azerbaijan for a scientific conference that lasts a few days, it means they have something to say on this issue.
So why do some scientific circles and countries deny the migration of the Vikings from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan?
The thing is that every scientist is a specialist in their own narrow sphere, they have their scientific chair, students, image and scientific degrees. So, if something goes contrary to the scientific world created by the specialist, their influence and wage, they will start opposing an idea and facts that threaten to destroy the ideal life. Every specialist and scientist has gone deeply into their sphere of studies where they have dug a deep hole from which they cannot see anything else. Then along comes someone who views everything not through the prism of "holes" but gathers all the facts accumulated by others into a single concept.
Does this mean that mercantilism and fear of loss of influence force some academics and scientific circles to deny anything that is not profitable to them or poses a threat?
Quite true! They see a threat to their career, influence and income which is why they oppose anything that runs counter to their studies.
How will studies on the migration of Vikings from Azerbaijan, the finds of petroglyphs of Viking ships in Gobustan, as well as the current event in Baku, bringing together scientists from different countries, contribute to the international study of history?
First of all, Norwegian and Azerbaijani scientists in Baku are doing important work in exchanging views, facts and findings, which will allow them to bring it all together into a single whole. Second, leaving science aside, we are making friends, sharing knowledge and invaluable experience, which promotes our common cause and research.
I have to note that the ancient tribe of Mugs (Magi) which gave their name to the Mugan province, as well as their music, now called mugam, beliefs, traditions and culture, have left their trace in the formation of most ancient civilizations and peoples. The Magi and Midians who created ancient empires and were the ancestors of the Azerbaijanis have always been known as supreme priests-shamans, since they possessed sacred knowledge and science. European manuscripts and Icelandic sagas make it clear that King Odin, who moved the Vikings to Scandinavia, was the supreme shaman, which also shows his link to Azerbaijan.
These are very interesting facts. I would like to note that once my father had those facts, but, unfortunately, he passed away. But young specialists, including those gathered here, in Baku, Norwegian and Azerbaijani scientists, can study and compare these facts.
In ancient sagas, chronicler Snorri called the country Azer and said that the first king of the Vikings Odin (Ogden) led his people from the country of Azer. Odin was one of the "clan of Gods" and as a human he was a shaman, while his magical knowledge and practice were respected by others. The sagas have much that it is interesting about fire worship among the Vikings. According to Snorri, it was Odin who came and spread it. When he fell fatally ill, he instructed that his body be burnt and this form of burial, taken from the country of Azer, was common among Norwegians for many centuries before Christianity.
Right you are. My dad relied on this information from ancient sagas. As for new facts, including, those you’ve listed, I am sure that they will attract specialist attention and I do hope that scholars will use it in their work. As for me, I will be able to communicate these facts to my father, as soon as I meet him (laughs) and try to keep contact with this world to bring my dad’s opinion to specialists on this issue.