Could The Ancient Egyptians Have Sailed To America?
For years, Americans have learned about ancient civilizations and then, inevitably, posed the crucial question: "Did they ever come here?"
After all, Jesus came to America; the Mormons proved this. And while other ancient people may have lacked Jesus' skill with water, they did have boats, and some of those boats traveled far. How about that most ancient of peoples, the Egyptians? Could they have sailed their boats to America? To find out, we at Cracked constructed a boat using ancient Egyptian techniques and attempted to sail from Africa to America.
Wait, no, we didn't do that. We don't have the budget (though we absolutely have the low regard for our own survival). But in 1969, a man named Thor Heyerdahl did try that. Thor Heyerdahl hailed from Norway. We were just joking before about this idea being an American obsession—people all over the globe are interested in the capabilities of ancient societies and in connections with the New World.
In 1969, Thor Heyerdahl was already an explorer of much renown. Back in 1947, he'd crossed the massive Pacific Ocean on a raft to test whether Peruvians could have made it to Polynesia. Now, he turned his expertise to building a boat out of papyrus and crossing the Atlantic. Notably, the ancient Egyptians had wooden boats, which might make his choice of papyrus sound like a stunt. But Thor reasoned that if Egyptians sailed a wooden ship to Central America, then Central Americans would have started building wooden boats of their own. Since Central Americans stuck to reeds, he had to assume that any hypothetical Egyptians who made contact must have done the same.
The expedition set sail from Morocco (Egyptians would have stopped in West Africa instead of sailing nonstop). Things quickly went bad. Thor had built his boat too primitively, skipping even on some of the ancient safeguards that kept boats from taking on water thousands of years ago. His boat, the Ra, eventually fell apart, and the crew sought rescue from a nearby yacht.
Still, they got shockingly far. They made it more than 3,000 miles in that failing boat, disintegrating just around 100 miles from their destination. Thor would have been a fool and a coward not to try again. So the following year, he constructed another reed boat (pictured above) and set off from Morocco anew. This time, again guided by a natural current called the Canary Current instead of any special navigation, he made it all the way to Barbados.
Did this prove the Egyptians went to America? No, said Thor. But it showed they could have. Indeed, his research showed that all ancient civilizations may have been linked, said Thor. However, he also believed Peruvians might have got their culture thanks to being educated by mariners from Atlantis, so uh, let's not all call ourselves members of Team Thor just yet.
Top image: Ralf Roletschek