Aliens and the Secret Code

The segment on Thor Heyerdahl was edited 15/4 to add clarity. 

Are you ready to uncover the secret code to Alien navigation? Or are the evidence just historical sites that are being misinterpreted?

In Digging up Ancient Aliens, our host Fredrik uses his background in archaeology to discover what is genuine, fake, and somewhere in between on the TV show Ancient Aliens.

This time we're investigating the claim that different lines and grids cross the earth with strange powers. According to the believers, these grids were used by the Ancient Aliens to navigate, and in some of the locations, power stations were built. So, is there any truth in this? Let's examine this with a bit of skepticism and science.

First, we start by trying to locate what some call the World Grid, Planetary Grid, or Earth Energy Grid. Some propose that Plato first discovered this. Is this true, or was the philosopher talking about something else?

Then we go to Ireland and the Newgrange Mound. Could this monument hold alien alignments that the Neolithic people of Ireland could not have known?

Then we investigate Ley Lines, Viking forts, and if the Vikings could have traveled not by sea. But by air. 

Lastly, we will look into Thor Heyerdahl and ask ourselves what harm pseudoscience can cause and what other ideas it can inspire. 

In this episode:


The World Grid (03:07)

Newgrange Mound (12:30)

Ley Lines of Alfred Watkins (22:15)

Viking ring fortress (Trelleborgar) (29:33)

Thor Heyerdahl (40:06)

Kon-Tiki - Hypothesis

Scientific Racism

Sources, resources and further reading suggestions


Hi, hello, and välkommen to Digging Up Ancient Aliens. This is the podcast where we examine strange claims about alternative history and ancient aliens in popular media. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there? 

I am your host, Fredrik, and this is episode 34, and we are back with our aliens after a more extended excursion with Graham Hancock. This time we will investigate how the aliens could have oriented themselves on earth while visiting and if there are any remains of this left. We will cover the supposed world grid. Could Plato have discovered these alien travel patterns in his day? 

From there, we travel north and look at strange Viking forts. Were these alien fueling stations, or what do we know about the old Viking ringforts? What was their function, and in what sort of time were they built?

Lastly, we return to Rapa Nui and look into some strange claims about white and bearded seafarers going from Cusco in Peru to Easter Island. 

Remember that you can find sources, resources, and reading suggestions on our website, There you also find contact info if you notice any mistakes or have any suggestions. And if you like the podcast, I would appreciate it if you left one of those fancy five-star reviews I've heard so much about. 

Now that we have finished our preparations, let's dig into the episode.

World Grid

Our path to decoding the secret alien code starts with a grid. The World Grid, Planetary Grid, Earth Energy Grid, or simply Earth Grid is an idea that a grid spans the Earth. As we will learn, this grid does not have a set of easily defined properties. The World Grid is a concept thought up by William Becker and Bethe Hagens in 1978 (Newman, 2008), arguing that the Earth can be sectioned into a dodecahedron (Becker and Hagens, 1987). Or, as Bethe Hagens describes it in more detail:

"Here you can see a cluster of ten of the triangles of the 120 that Plato mentioned. Besides seeing this as triangles, you can see it as 15 equators that actually cut the Earth in half. You can see they all go around whichever way you look. They're all great circles. It's a geometric model of the Earth Energy Grid of what Plato discovered 2,500 years ago." - Bethe Hagen.

The idea is that this grid spans our globe and ties ancient sites, mysterious places, and other locations together. According to Becker and Hagens (1987), we find increased UFO activity and megalithic structures. As you might presume, a part of this idea is inspired by Plato, who was among the first to suggest that Earth was not flat. Or it's more Platos student Aristoteles who presents the concept of an actual spherical earth (Kragh, 2007). Hold on, don't write that angry comment just yet. I know that Hesiod, Anaximander, and Pythagoras are credited with suggesting a spherical earth. Critics have pointed out that Hesiod was too early for this claim, but if we find first-hand sources, we might need to revisit this. Anaximander thought Earth looked like a column drum, and Pythagoras is basically attributed to everything in ancient Greece (Couprie, 2011). Pre-Plato, many philosophers argued for a flat Earth (Couprie, 2018), while the shape could differ philosophers like Thales, Xenophanes, and Anaxagoras argued that Earth was flat (Couprie, 2011). Something that aligned with the religious ideas of the time, where gods represented the Earth, sky, and stars, and where there was a real fear of the sky literally falling down (Kragh, 2007). 

Becker and Hagens base the grid idea on something Plato (2010) wrote in Phaedo, in verse 110b. "It is said first that the Earth itself, if

one could view it from above, would appear to the eye like one of those

balls of twelve leather pieces /.../."

 If you play Barbarian in Dungeons and Dragons, you're most familiar with this shape since you find it in the D12 dice. Or, if you want to use the fancier word for it, the dodecahedron. But note that Plato does not mention the shape, and just alludes to it since a ball with twelve pieces has a limited combination set and still be a ball. Plato somewhat continues describing the structure of the Earth in Timaeus, a text maybe more known for its Atlantis connection (see episode 30). But while he spends a lot of time going into the details of the building elements fire, air, water, and earth, he does not give the shape of our planet. There is this fifth element within the text, but in Timaeus (55c), it refers to the universe itself. The dodecahedron shape in the text is decorated with an animal pattern, alluding to the constellations. An idea that Plato probably borrowed from the Pythagoreans (Couprie, 2011). But where did Becker and Hagen get the 120 number from?

This is a mystery to me since, looking at Phaedo and Timaeus, we don't get a whole lot about the earth's shape in that sense. The closest I can find is the Platonic objects. Plato thought the four elements had different forms: fire is a tetrahedron, air is an octahedron, water is an icosahedron, and earth is a cube. The text also argues that all elements have smaller building blocks (Burgin, 2017). Each element is formed by smaller triangles; in this case, fire consists of 24 triangles. But water, an icosahedron, consists of 120 triangles. Or rather, Plato's idea of a water molecule consists of 120 atoms (Burgin, 2017). Again we have an idea that crumbles if you actually read what the source material says. 

Of course, this hypothesis also comes with even stranger claims; for example, Hugh Newman, in this episode, talks about the power centers that exist within the world grid.

"There's fascinating ideas that they were actually using this for anti-gravitational purposes. And they were actually able to lift, and quarry, and move the huge megalithic blocks great distances around the planet. And so we have to question, was there something to do with this grid that they were actually harnessing, and they were able to use the energies from it to move and construct these sites?" - Hugh Newman.

These power centers exist within the World Grid system in locations such as Stonehenge, the Giza Pyramids, and Coral Castle. The issue with claims like this is that we can test if something strange is happening there. As far as I can find, gravity works as expected at Stonehenge and Giza Pyramids. We also have a reasonably good understanding of how Edward Leedskalnin built the site with simple block and tackle (Dunning, 2009). Some even claim (Newman, 2008) that the supposed Philadelphia Experiment used the grid lines to teleport USS Eldrige between Norfolk and Philadelphia. One of the more significant issues for the Philadelphia experiment is that it never was in Philadelphia, according to Naval History and Heritage Command (2017). USS Edlrige was stationed in New York when the experiment was supposed to have occurred in 1943. We know the exact movement of the ship during this time, and it's almost impossible it would have been in Philadelphia. Of course, the believers think the evidence from the Navy is just part of the conspiracy. In a conspiratorial mind, the proof against something becomes evidence for the conspiracy itself. 

There are also claims from David Childress and others that the grid is used to wireless charge the alien space crafts. But again, energy can be measured and quantified; one that comes to mind is Earth's magnetic field. But I can't find any model or explanation (Campbell, 2003) close to what the World Grid proponents and Ancient Alien believers suggested. While several forces operate on earth, none shape up as neat grids. The ancient sites they claim incorporate the grid are cherry-picked, and the ones they think fit within the model are kept, while the misses are forgotten. This is nothing more than selective thinking. This a common trope among the more fringe theorists and something essential to look out for. William Becker, Bethe Hagens, and other authors like Bruce Cathie and Hugh Newman use this to defend their grid theory.

But let's leave this web of logical fallacies and move to a place where the grass is green, and the beer is dark.

Stellar Alignments in Newgrange

Welcome to Ireland. Home of leprechauns, Guinness, and whiskey. But we're not here for that. No, we're here since there are hints of star alignments that might suggest an extraterrestrial connection. One of these monuments can be found in an area the locals call Brú na Bóinne. Located some 40 km from Dublin (or 25 miles) and contain a minimum of 37 passage tombs (Hensey, 2015) from the Irish Neolithic era. Within Brú na Bóinne, we have three large sites of these monuments, Dowth, Knowth, and Newgrange. 

In Newgrange, the Ancient Alien proponents claim that we find this alien star alignment. While there are more tombs in the area, the focus is on the large chamber tomb that is beautifully decorated. This pattern type is usually called megalithic art and consists of lozenges, curls, and circles found here and in Gavarinis, France (Scarre, 2009). Something worth noting is that not all of these patterns are in visible places; some are hidden from view (Hensey, 2015). The reason for this is unknown. It can be argued it was ritualistic, a message to the gods. Some would say that it can be due to a change in the building plan or the reusing of stones from another monument (Hensey, 2015). The last statement might be the most plausible. We know the area has been used since Mesolithic times, and in the western region, there's evidence of an earlier turf mound (Lynch et al., 2014). The turf mound seems to have been created around 3200 BCE, while the construction of the main Cairn started around 3000 BCE (Lynch et al., 2014). 

But what about that alignment? Well, it is in two parts. The first is a Winter Solstice alignment that can be found in the Newgrange tomb. During about five days during the winter solstice, a "pencil of light" is visible in the rear chamber of the grave (Hensey, 2015). This is possible due to what's referred to as the "roof-box," the sunlight does not enter the grave through the entrance, but a kind of dormer. But this is sunken in; Hensey (2021) thinks a better description might be a funnel. One issue is that we are unsure if this roof-box is an accurate reconstruction. When O'Kelly started to excavate the Newgrange site in 1962, it had fallen in quite some disrepair. But it was not the first time the passage tomb was excavated or opened. The earliest documented opening is by Edward Lhwyd. It took place around 1699 CE; later excavations would follow in 1746; disturbances around the entrance were reported in 1776, and it seems to have been opened again in early 1800 (Henesey, 2021). William Wilde mentioned the roof-box in 1849, but then it's theorized to have been an entrance to a second chamber. 

So when O'Kelly started the reconstruction, he did not only have to deal with years of roots from trees moving things around, but he also had all of these past excavations to deal with. Something worth noting is that before O'Kellys reconstruction, the roof box was not in a position that allowed light to enter the chamber. But by moving the stones RS1 and RS2 in the base of the roof-box, the room would now see the sun during the solstice (Henesey, 2021). Other passage tombs from this era have solstice alignments, but the alignments vary between locations (Henesey, 2015). But we should consider if O'Kelly had restored this lintel differently, would this have changed how this phenomenon took place? Was O'Kelly repairing the mound trying to find an astronomical connection, or was it a coincidence? It would be strange if the roof-box did not have some astronomical function (Henesey, 2021), but we should remember that what we see today is not what they saw all those thousands of years ago. 

So we can agree with the Ancient Alien crowd that solar alignments might have been significant for the Neolithic people. They do not add much meaning to the solstice alignment, but we're then taken for a ride. 

"The passage and chamber are cruciform in shape. They're shaped like a cross, which we think is very significant because it seems to be based on the shape of the constellation, Cygnus, which is the swan constellation of the sky." - Anthony Murphy.

Anthony Murphy is correct in that the tomb is shaped like a cross, but the comparison between the Swan constellation and the Newgrange is far-fetched. I guess you can make it work if you remove parts of the constellation, but then it's not the Cygnus constellation longer. Even if we only focused on the crucifix form, it does not match. The tomb has one short chamber going northeast and an even shorter room going southwest. Trying to pair the mound with Cygnus is wishful thinking and on the verge of pareidolia. But there is an actual alignment that the Ancient Alien authors have missed; most of these tombs are all skewed right (Henesey, 2015). There's no excellent explanation for why this is, but it's not only that the burials are skewed. We also find more art and objects on the right side of the tomb (Henesey, 2015). 

Also worth noting is that while most would accept a solar solstice connection, there's no evidence of a stellar link at Newgrange or any other passage tomb. This is just wishful thinking from the proponents of these fringe ideas. This is not new, we have covered the "Orion Correlation Theory" in the past, which is usually described like this.

"I discovered in the early 80s, that there was a correlation between Orion's Belt and the layout of the three pyramids, you have two large pyramids, aligned with each other, and the third smaller one offset from that alignment. Well that's the same way you have the stars. You have two bright stars and a third less bright star offset from the line of the other two. The correlation is evident." - Robert Bauval.

This theory is predominantly argued by Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock. They have, in turn, based most of their thought on Robert Temple's ideas in "The Sirius Mystery" and removed the aliens to look more studious. But as you might suspect, there's an issue. The Pyramids of Giza do not align with Orion's belt without flipping the pyramids or the constellation upside down. Something Bauval leaves out here is that while the stars and pyramids might not be a perfect match today, they were back in 10 500 BCE. The magical date for Hancock. There's one hitch. The pyramid is offset 38°, but if it's based on Orion's belt 10 500 BCE, it should be 50° offset (Fairall, 2001). Not really a perfect match when we look closer, right.

They also use different locations as evidence for this theory, such as Teotihuacán, Hopi Villages in the USA, and the Thornborough Henges in England. All of these sites suffer from the same issue on closer examination. They do not line up with the Orion belt other than in an "if you squint your eyes" kind of way. It is a fun idea, but it's not really credible. You can also find a lot of things that kind of looks like other things by random chance. I've three birthmarks that kind of look like Orion's belt. Does this mean I have more of the Alien DNA and can do Jedi tricks?

On that note, let's take a quick break while I go out to see if I can levitate large boulders with my mind. But when we're back, we will investigate ancient flight paths. 

Ley Lines

Let's go back in time, 1921, to be precise. A man named Alfred Watkins is visiting Blackwardine in England on a beautiful, if England has such a thing, summer day. On June 30, Alfred was pondering what sites to see, and while pouring over a map, he noticed something. A straight line could be drawn from Croft Ambury, over hill points, through Blackwardine, over Risbury Camp, ending at the high ground over at Stretton Garrison, a location Watkins assumed to be on top of an old Roman garrison (Watkins, 1922). When looking closer at the map, Watkins noted more locations within a straight line.

This could not simply be chance, according to Watkins. Alfred explains the origin of these lines as follows. 

"Presume a primitive people, with few or no enclosures, wanting a few necessities (as salt, flint flakes, and, later on, metals) only to be had from a distance. The shortest way to such a distant point was a straight line, the human way of attaining a straight line is by sighting, and accordingly all these early trackways were straight." Alfred Watkins (1922).

Watkins postulated that these ancient people took their sightlines from peaks, of course not higher than 300 meters or 1000 feet (Watkins, 1922). But getting your lay of the land, so to say, is one thing, but how did they keep their direction while off the peak? To maintain these straight trade routes, Walkins (1922; 1945) claimed that they built mounds, circular earthworks, and other artificial markings. These mounds and monolithic monuments were later repurposed into burials or cult sites, but their original function was a waymarker. But they could also plant clusters of trees or use natural formations such as water and stones to mark out the route for the wanderers (Walkins, 1945). 

Watkins was not the only one having these ideas. As Keith Fitzpatrick-Mattews pointed out (2014), an article was published on a similar theme 30 years prior. Titled "Ancient Trackways in England," this paper was published in "The Antiquary - Volume XIX" in 1889 and written by an architect named Joseph Houghton Spencer. Our architect friend had a similar thought to Watkins, and Houghton started his paper with an anecdotal account of how he saw in Barton Grange a "broad pathway, about 600 feet, which is crossed by another of the same length, thus forming a greek cross." Spencer suggests that there are straight lines connecting locations in the landscape and that there are astronomical connections. But what Spencer failed to research was that what he was looking at, most likely, was the old remains of the Barton Grange old gardens (Fitzpatrick-Mattews, 2014). Looking back at maps from Barton Court, we see these features being a part of the garden area. 

While both Watkins and Spencer had a similar idea, Watkins is the origin of Ley Lines as they are presented today. Watkins most likely didn't know about Spencer's article published 30 earlier (Fitzpatrick-Mattews, 2014). But that's the thing, the ideas are not so strange. The human mind is excellent at finding patterns, and it seems almost hardwired in our brains. This is how we interpret a shadow from a lamp to be a person or how we see shapes in clouds. Random noise can turn into sounds we understand or see writing in random places. So what Watkins and Spencer do here is commit a Type-1 error; they have a false positive and believe something to be true when it's not. 

Today we can be reasonably sure that these ley lines are nothing more than coincidence. We know these sites were constructed at widely different times and had diverse purposes. The archaeological dating has become so good that Watkin's idea of Neolithic straight trade routes is impossible. These Ley Lines are also selected with a bias. Locations from different times and eras that fit the line are included, while other sites that do not are left out. So while the science maybe isn't great here, I want to highlight that neither Watkins nor Spencer seemed to have any claims about either spirits, energy forces, or UFOs. These are things that got introduced later when the Ley Line idea got adopted by New Agers. 

We briefly looked at Ley Lines in episode 13, when Giorgio Tsoukalos claimed there is a line between Calais, France, and Cales, Italy. Even when he made up locations that do not exist in France, he could not get the Ley Line straight. Unfortunately, we will witness that the Ancient Alien crowd has yet to learn their lesson. Because Giorgio describes the Ley Lines as:

"Something extraordinary happened along those Ley Lines because the once very physical and real visit of extraterrestrial beings has been forgotten." - Giorgio Tsoukalos.

So the idea is that the Ley Lines was a navigation system for the aliens who visited earth. My best guess is that they left some of the unquantifiable energies the New Age believers talk about on the sites. Let's for a moment set aside the fact that believers can only measure these energies and that the locations they include range from Neolithic to overgrown gardens from the 1800s. What is the best evidence for these lines? Choklingly we find it in Denmark, consisting of several round Viking fortifications. These forts are known today as Trelleborgar. 

Viking ring fortress (Trelleborgar)

Let's start with some of the histories of these fortifications before we get into the Ancient Alien claims. Something worth noting is that fortifications have been part of history for a long time. The earliest examples of fortifications can be found in Denmark and southern Sweden (in Skåne/Scania) and can be dated to Neolithic times (Burenhult, 2012). In Sweden, there are 1000 defense systems, most of which can be found in Mälaren Valley. Most of the intense construction period was during the migration period (300 CE to 800 CE) and consisted of highland forts and lowland forts (Burenhult, 2012). The largest of these fortifications is Torsburgen on Gotland, the wall stretching almost 2 kilometers (Burenhult, 2012). 

Scandinavian fortification building continued during the Viking Era at settlements such as Västergarn on Gotland, Birka in Stockholm, and Hedeby in Denmark. What makes Trelleborgarna different is their design and the period when they were built. They are all circular, have four ports aligned with the cardinal directions, and were created within a short time span. The gates corresponding with the cardinal points seem to be inspired by Flemish fortresses constructed earlier (Rosendal, 2008). Round fortifications are not new. One example would be Ekeborg on Öland (Burenhult, 2012). But these are perfectly round with a very identifiable layout (Rosedal, 2008). 

The currently accepted Trelleborgar is Trelleborg on Sjælland (Zeeland), Nonnebakken, Fyrkat, and Aggersborg (Rosendal, 2008; Weidhagen-Hallerdt, 2009; Pedersen, 2016). We recently added another location, Borgring, also located in Sjælland (Pedersen, 2016), to this group. Then we have the question that might upset any Danish listener: Is Trelleborgar in Sweden? Here is an excellent example of regional identity influencing archaeology (Pettersson, 2008); there are three suggested locations in Skåne (Scania). Borgaby, which is more or less accepted as a Trelleborg (Rosendal, 2008; Weidhagen-Hallerdt, 2009; Pedersen, 2016), Helsingborg (Weidhagen-Hallerdt, 2009), and then we have Trelleborg. It's mainly the last example in the Swedish city of Trelleborg, where Danish archaeologists are most skeptical about the definition. For a long time, some protests have been against classifying the ring fortification in Trelleborg as what the city name seems to indicate it is (Petterson, 2008). 

When were these Ringforts built, then? Here it becomes really fascinating; they are all constructed around 980 CE (Rosendal, 2008). Dendrochronological tests in Trelleborg on Sjælland (Zeeland) show that the construction started in the winter of 980/981 CE, and the logs of Fyrkat started to be cut down in 979 CE (Pedersen, 2016). Aggersborg was built maybe earlier; we see indications that a possible start date would be around 970 CE. But this put the creation of the fortifications firmly within the reign of Harald Blåtand (Or Harald Bluetooth), the one who that technology you might use to listen to this is named after. 

These ringforts all have identical layouts, or they almost have a similar layout. While Trelleborg and Fyrkat are split into four equal quadrants consisting of 16 long houses, Aggersborg consists of 12 quadrants and 48 longhouses. They are also strategically placed along important trade routes, except Aggersborg, none of them is built on previous settlements (Rosenberg, 1977; Pedersen, 2016). While not placed directly by the water, except for again Aggersborg, they are relatively close by when accounting for the land rise. But their function was to keep peace within Denmark and not to protect against raiders, so having them closer inland makes sense (Pedersen, 2016). Harald Blåtands reign was lined with internal struggle, and it seems that Harald ordered these to be constructed to keep the peace. Their intended purpose appears to not have been working very well, and just a few decades later, the fortifications were abandoned. 

Armed with some knowledge about these fortifications, let's see what mainstream science is trying to hide from you. The alien proponents are, as usual, claiming that scientists are baffled. If we should believe these fringe theorists, we seem to spend our days befuddled about everything. Except we have spent much time studying Viking-era navigations and the tools they used (Bernáth et al., 2013; Száz et al., 2017). A simple yet foolproof trick taught in survival situations is different variations of a "sun-stick." The more accurate version takes about a day but results in exact directions (Wiseman, 2014). Alien proponents think this is a bit farfetched and suggest an alternative explanation.

"Given that the Vikings were basically seafaring people and these sites were spread out so far over land in great distances, it implies that maybe they had some other way of getting to these places. Perhaps they even were able to fly, now how they would fly, what the technology was – it's a good question, but it seems unlikely they would be able to find all these spots, surveyed and place monuments and structures there if they were simply a seafaring race." - Michel Bara.

Michel Bara and others point out that the fortresses Aggersborg, Fyrkat, Eskeholm, and Trelleborg are in a straight line. Looking at a map, they appear linear, but if we draw a lone from Aggersborg and Trelleborg, it will miss Fyrkat with about 1,5 kilometers. Isn't it strange that these surveying aliens would be so much out of the course? Also, did you react to the new name that suddenly appeared? The alien proponents do claim that there's a fort on Eskeholm, a small Danish island. Except there isn't any archaeological site there. They either somehow misinterpreted located Nonnebakken further west or decided to move Nonnebakken to fit within their Ley Line. Things do not get better when they try to connect these sites with other sites further south.

"How could a straight line link ancient Egypt, the pyramids, the Oracle of Delphi in Greece, and Viking fortresses that would've been established thousands of years later. It made no sense. But it does make sense if these installations are along straight lines across the Earth's grid, and somehow those straight lines mark navigational routes for ancient extraterrestrials that used them as markers to navigate the globe from society to society." - Bill Barnes.

One important rule with Ley Lines is that distance is not your friend. Can we get a line to go through these locations? The answer is, sadly, no. If we start in Aggersborg aiming for the Giza plateau, we will miss Fyrkat with 1,3 kilometers, Trelleborg with 11 kilometers, and Deliphi with 306 kilometers. The Ley Lines seem rather useless for navigation. The idea proposed by the Alien Theorists is that these lines are flight paths, except that planes fly in an arc (Morris, 2022), and it would be uncontroversial to assume aliens have a similar flying technique. 

Even so, why would aliens want to connect these forts used for such a short time with sites not in use by then? We know too much about these fortifications to attribute them to anyone other than the Danish Vikings. And they clearly didn't need aliens to construct them since they aimed to keep local rebellious people under control. The Ley Line theory isn't more than seeing patterns where there aren't any. 

Since I've done a whole segment about Denmark without making any snide remarks, I deserve a break and a treat. While I'll get myself a standard Danish breakfast, which is a six-pack of beer and sausages, we will have relocated to the Pacific Ocean.

Thor Heyerdahl

This next part of the Ancient Alien episode is supposed to be about Geodesic placements. Looking closely at this section, you realize they basically repeat the claims about the World Grid but add misinterpreted myths. We have looked into most of those in the past, but Giorgio Tsoukalos did bring up a claim that got me thinking.

Since we covered the Danes without incident, how about we go after one of Norway's national heroes? You might even be familiar with this name, Thor Heyerdahl. Let's hear the claim from Ancient Aliens and see how it connects with Thor.

"The walls at Cusco are identical to the walls we can find in the base foundations of some of the Moais on Easter Island. And those two places are so far apart. I wonder how was it done? Either the builders traveled from one place to the other or the builders in each culture were visited by the same teachers. The teachers from the stars, extraterrestrials." - Giorgio A. Tsoukalos.

Before I get bombarded with emails from Norwegians, I will not claim that Heyerdahl was an alien proponent. Wait until the end of this segment before writing that comment. 

We will circle back to the stone masonry claim later. But if you are not familiar with Heyerdahl is usually described as an adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. He was born in 1914 in southern Norway and became famous for his voyage on the raft named "Kon-Tiki" in 1947 over the Pacific Ocean. The reason for this journey was that Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory of migration from South America; more on that later. 

The migration into Polynesia predominantly comes from South East Asia and Melanesia (Vinton Kirch, 2017). But there's been questions if there might have been a South American contact. In 2020 a group of scientists published a paper in Nature (Ioannidis et al., 2020) in where DNA in Polynesian people could be tied to indigenous people in Colombia. The earliest estimated contact would be around 1150 on Fatu Hiva, and it was on that island Heyerdahl first came up with his hypothesis (Melander, 2019b). This contact might have been when the Polynesian explorers made their lengthiest explorations (Ioannidis et al., 2020). Like the article's authors, I want to note that this does not show the direction of the contact, and it's just as likely that Polynesian explorers reached the north of South America and brought people back, as the other way around. Paul Wallin from Uppsala University (2020) suggests the next step "would be to assess how well their model fits with material-culture studies, ethno-historical records, linguistics and evidence of plant and animal distributions."

So this is undoubtedly some fascinating ongoing research; with more genetic studies of the populations, we will undoubtedly learn more about our past (Ioannidis et al., 2020). Does this mean that Heyerdahl was on to something? To some extent, it could be argued that Thor was somewhat correct, but there is more to Heyerdahl's ideas than usually is brought up.

Kon-Tiki Theory

A large part of Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki theory was that while migration occurred from South East Asia, it could not explain the monuments he saw. Heyerdahl suggested that there had been a migration from South America of white, bearded Caucasian looking people with blue eyes and red or blond hair (Heyerdahl, 1952; Holton, 2004; Magelssen, 2016; Mellander, 2019b). These culture bearers were the people who introduced the ideas of culture and stone cutting to Polynesia. These ideas are based on the Spanish chroniclers who described the Inkan god Viracocha as a white-bearded man (Heyerdahl, 1952; Holton, 2004; Magelssen, 2016; Mellander, 2019b). This description is as we noted with the claim that Quetzalcoatl was white, an idea presented by Spanish colonizers. The first claim that Quetzalcoatl was from Gerónimo de Mendieta. Pedro Cieza de León was the first who describe Viracocha as white in 1553. But no scholar has found a pre-colonial description of these gods that match what the Spanjards after contact.

Heyerdahl took this white god idea and changed it a little. Instead of one person, Viracocha or Con-Tiki, was to represent one group. This group emigrated from the west to South America, bringing culture, stonework, written language, and society (Heyerdahl, 1952; Mellander, 2019b). This theory includes that these white culture bearers made the monumental buildings around Titicaca (Holton, 2004). Heyerdahl claimed in 1979 that "/../ Incas lived more or less as savages till a light-skinned, bearded foreigner and his entourage came to their country, taught them the ways of civilization, and departed."

Heyerdahl suggested these white gods possibly originated from Marrocco, where the Nordic people of Scandinavia might have stemmed from (Magelssen, 2016). That's why Heyerdahl set out on the Ra and Ra II expeditions with boats based on Egyptian drawings (Magelssen, 2016).

Scientific Racism 

We see examples other examples of scientific racism in Heyerdahl's writings. In "Fatu-Hiva Back to nature" from 1974, Heyerdahl describes an excursion to collect skulls. Before traveling to Fatu-Hiva for a scientific study in 1937, Thor was asked by his university and the chief anthropologist in Nazi Germany, Hans Günther, to bring back indigenous craniums (Heyerdahl, 1974 p. 81). To save time, Heyerdahl and his wife decided to head for an old temple where it was rumored to be hundreds of skulls. After arriving at the site, they learned that the rumor was accurate, and Heyerdahl describes what he saw "There must have been more than a hundred, like a hatchery of ostrich eggs. Some were complete and bleached like coral by the strong sun; others were broken, fragmentary, and even stained green by age. I did not need calipers to see that most were typical long-heads, like Europeans, some more so than others (Heyerdahl, 1974 p. 81)." Thor refers to the Cephalic index, an idea introduced by the Swedish professor Anders Retzius and further worked on by Gustaf Ratzius. The idea was to prove a hierarchy among the races by measuring the craniums, dividing them into three distinct ground, long, medium, and short heads. This type of racial anthropology was common until the first half of the 20th century. The habit of stealing craniums was common; Retzius had some 800 skulls collected. Today these collections are slowly returning to their origins (Fugelsnes, 2022; Århen, 2022); the Retzius collection is going slower than the smaller Heyerdahl. 

According to Heyerdahls Kon-Tiki's theory, the Polynesians were populated by two immigration waves. First came the white-bearded culture bringers and settled, then there was a second wave of a yellow/brown race Heyerdahl refers to as the Maori-Polynesians from South East Asia (Heyerdahl, 1952; Melander, 2019b). This second invasion was of a more violent and primitive people that overtook the islands by force and sometimes assimilated with the caucasian like original inhabitants (Heyerdahl, 1952). But Heyerdahl makes a clear distinction that the white culture bringers were of a higher civilization spreading their knowledge as they went. There's no secret that Heyerdahl was a strong proponent of diffusion; more correct would be to describe it as hyperdiffusion. Reading the books, we see a lot of this colonial language used to minimize indigenous people, such as while Europeans invent something, other cultures stumble upon a discovery (Spurr, 1993). Authors like Holton and Magelssen (2004; 2016) point out that this kind of diffusion is used to this day, impacting legislation, and is used to deny land and other benefits to the indigenous populations. Peru's government even supported Heyerdahl's expedition since it endorsed the idea that whites owned the ground before the Quechua; therefore, they would not need to return any land (Holton, 2004). Holton points out (2004) that this White-Race idea has been used in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil to exalt a preferred pre-history while being able to turn down claims from the indigenous people. 

Reading Heyerdahl's 1952 book American Indians in the Pacific, we see many racial ideas. Ranging from racial hygiene to racial wars. Heyerdahl mentions in “American Indians in the Pacific” that these necessarily came from Europe (Heyerdahl, 1952, p. 225, 304), and that the white skin and fair hair could be a local mutation. But it seems that Heyerdahl changed his mind somewhat when trying to prove the Mediterranean migration to South America with Ra and Ra II (Magelssen, 2016). 

Im not claiming that Heyerdahl was. But the language and ideas presented in his book are inherently colonial and racist. These explanations were not uncommon for the time (Melander, 2019b), and some have pointed out that when Heyerdahl said “primitive,” it was not meant as inferior. This a statement that sounds a bit odd when we see in the books a clear order of where high civilization is associated with the white-bearded men, while the other non-white groups are viewed as violent and primitive (Holton, 2004; Magelssen, 2016; Mellander, 2019b). We can't also see these ideas in a vacuum. These books are used by different white supremacy organizations and authors like Arthur Kemp (Holton, 2004). Even if some didn't think these ideas were wrong back then, we know better now and must deal with them.

It's essential also to note that Heyerdahl continued to argue for these hyperdiffusion ideas well after Collin Renfrew's "Before Civilization" and when archaeology switched to a post-processual approach. In the later books, we continue to see depictions of liking people to Neanderthals (Holton, 2004) and depict people of color as more primitive. Heyerdahl also never recanted or changed these ideas (Holton, 2004; Magelssen, 2016) and was trying to prove them until he died in 2002. 

If you go to the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, you will find a museum focusing on Heyerdahl as an adventurer and worker for world peace. Racial ideas are conveniently left out (Magelssen, 2016). Josephine Rasmussen and Vibeke Viestad published an article in 2021 in the journal Critical Arts, discussing the colonial legacy of two Norwegian museums. In it, they point out the problematic legacy of the museum that The Kon-Tiki Museum had not dealt with. Ranging from the human remains collected by Heyerdahl to the looted artifacts he brought back. While it could be argued that some of these objects were received through trade, Rasmussen and Vistad (2021) point out the uneven power structures in these trades. The Kon-Tiki Museum, as Rasmussen and Vistad point out in a 2022 comment to the article that the museum has not dealt with the provenance of these items within their exhibition.

This behavior of not properly dealing with this legacy is not only something the Kon-Tiki Museum should be accused of. But we can compare this to Karolinska Institutet's openness towards its own legacy. In public communication, they state, “In the 19th century, the dominant colonial world order influenced KI's professors and researchers. Some of them committed acts or expressed opinions that, from our point of view today, would be regarded as unethical, unscientific, undemocratic or racist. Those things are part of KI's history.

I bring this up because we must deal with these old ideas and pseudoarchaeological claims even if we don't want to. We also need to accept that these ideas have real-world consequences. The upside of Heyerdahl's thesis is that the scientific community worked hard to see if there was truth to these ideas. Thanks to this, we now have one of our history's best-understood prehistoric migration processes (Melander, 2019b). While the study in Nature is fascinating, it does not mean Heyerdahl was right, partly correct, but his white gods should be dismissed as the pseudo-science it is. 

To tie this segment back together. Do you remember the Ahu Vinapu or foundation that Giorgio Tsoukalos mentioned before? That this wall was evidence of a connection between Cusco and Rapa Nui. Well, this is a Heyerdahl idea. Sure, Tsoukalos has added some aliens, but it's an example of how pseudo-science can influence even stranger claims. 

But till then, remember to leave a positive review anywhere you can, such as iTunes, Spotify, or to your friend at the trench. I would also recommend visiting to find more info about me and the podcast. You can also find me on most social media sites, and if you have comments, corrections, suggestions, or just want to write an email in all caps, you can find my contact info on the website.

You will find all the sources and resources used to create this podcast on our website. You will often also find further reading suggestions if you want to learn more about the subjects we bring up.

Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

But till then, remember to leave a positive review anywhere you can, such as iTunes, Spotify, or to your friend at the trench. I would also recommend visiting to find more info about me and the podcast. You can also find me on most social media sites, and if you have comments, corrections, suggestions, or just want to write an email in all caps, you can find my contact info on the website.

You will find all the sources and resources used to create this podcast on our website. You will often also find further reading suggestions if you want to learn more about the subjects we bring up.

Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

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“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv

Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur