cover image The Maldive Mystery

The Maldive Mystery

Thor Heyerdahl. Adler & Adler Publishers, $19.95 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-917561-19-1

When the Maldive Islanders converted to Islam in the 12th century, they discarded or destroyed all traces of earlier cultures, thus denying their past. Recent archeological discoveries prompted the government to invite Heyerdahl to examine the artifacts and attempt a reconstruction of pre-Islamic history. Located in the Indian Ocean southwest of India and west of Sri Lanka, the Maldives encompass two broad, reefless sea passages (""One-and-Half'' and Equatorial Channels) well-known to ancient mariners. Heyerdahl, an authority on primitive sea travel (Kon-Tiki, The Ra Expeditions, unravels a mystery that reaches into the vanished civilizations of Sumer and the Indus Valley. The Maldivan artifacts showed that temples were built around A.D. 550; that the original settlers had been sun-worshipers. An important export of the Maldives in ancient times was cowrie shells, found only in the Islands and used as moneythese shells were unearthed in pre-Viking tombs (A.D. 550800) in Sweden! This is heady material for cultural diffusionists. Photos not seen by PW. (September 10)