The Tigris expedition : in search of our beginnings

by Thor Heyerdahl

Paper Book, 1980



Call number

DS326 .H48 1981


Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1981, c1980.


Describes the expedition that retraced the trade routes that may have existed between Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and Egypt a thousand years before Christ.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Meredy
Six-word review: Exploring nautical links among earliest civilizations.

Extended review: Thor Heyerdahl, of Kon-Tiki fame, set out in 1977 to answer by direct experimentation the question of whether the oldest known human civilizations could have been linked by seagoing vessels. Using technology
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that is five thousand years old, he oversaw the construction of a ship made of bundles of reeds exactly like those depicted on ancient artifacts found in Mesopotamia and launched it in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf.

With an eleven-man international crew, the Tigris followed sea routes that might have been taken by the Sumerians of 2500 BCE and their descendants, showing that their reed ships not only were seaworthy but were in some ways better suited to long ocean voyages than later vessels built of wooden planks with breachable hulls. Along the way they visited archaeological sites where excavations had uncovered indisputable evidence of cultural and mercantile ties among the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley. Heyerdahl's exploratory voyage proved the concept that competent prehistoric navigators could have made such journeys over centuries whose records are lost to time.

This book isn't literature, but it merits a respectable 3½ stars for scope and depth of content as well as engaging delivery. It's a clear, vivid narrative, with moments of high drama and danger, occasional lyricism, and a wealth of historical detail interwoven with present-day (1970s) observations. I was led to it by citations in the annotated Gardner & Maier Gilgamesh, and I enjoyed seeing how each of these two works illuminated the other. The modern-day depiction of lands and phenomena and relics that were matters of myth already ancient at the time of the cuneiform text breathed a reality into the epic tale that it could not achieve through footnotes. At the same time, Heyerdahl's allusions to the Gilgamesh lore and other historic literature anchor his adventure within a context that gives it a broader meaning.
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LibraryThing member nandadevi
It's not clear from this account that Thor Heyerdahl has a sense of humour. As I laboured through this completely fascinating and well written story of his dramatic voyage of over 4000 miles on a replica Sumerian boat I was struck by his unrelenting seriousness. If it wasn't the fact that he seemed
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to be personally responsible for financing a project that was in peril of running off the rails before it started, or responsible for the lives of ten crew who were in constant danger of being drowned, murdered, or eaten by sharks, or responsible for developing theories involving communication (by sea) between ancient civilizations which had already attracted scorn from traditional historians, or responsible for attempting to navigate in polluted waters between war torn and lawless countries - well then I'd say it was certain that he had no sense of proportion or humour. But he does all of that, and if he's nothing else he is remarkably stoic, and constantly stimulating in his discussion of early civilizations in the middle and near east.

It was hard work - reading - because he made no concessions in his writing. He tells the story of the history and archaeology of ancient Sumeria and the cities of the Indus Valley in very considerable detail, and he tells the story of the mishaps and difficulties of their voyage, and he never quite tells the story of his crew, which would have been fascinating because they never quite - that he relates anyway - rose to his early expectations of disharmony and conflict. So the reader has to 'fill in the details', or wait for a livelier account written by one of his sailing compatriots, to get a sense of what it was like crewing such a vessel. Heyerdahl would probably say that wasn't the point of his account - he set out to prove what was clearly impossible and unreasonable, sailing a reed boat across thousands of miles of dangerous open water, and along dangerous coasts. And he proved it, in spades. Very few books would inspire me to pick up again the Cambridge Ancient History (9, or 11, volumes of some of the driest material on the planet), but this one did. If it is overly serious, it's infectious, and Heyerdahl has created a very worthy book about a remarkable voyage and theory of early civilization. Oh, though that there had been more pictures...
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LibraryThing member kenno82
Probably the worst of the three Heyerdahl books I've read. I really struggled to follow the history side of things, and I didn't find the writing very compelling.
LibraryThing member David-Block
Another adventure with Thor Heyerdahl. Testing historical events and probabilities and science of marine construction. Reflections on the adverse developments of mankind. Have we progressed or regressed?


Physical description

349 p.; 24 cm


0385173571 / 9780385173575


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