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John Hessler

When not climbing in the Alps or searching through ruins in Central America, I am the Curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology & History of the Early Americas and a Specialist in Computational Geography & Geographic Information Science (GIS) at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. An avid climber and mountaineer, I am a frequent contributor to Alpinist Magazine, where I write on the history of climbing, high-altitude physiology, alpine archaeology & climate change. My current research focuses on the linguistics of the ethnobotany of the ancient Maya and Nahua and on traditional plant classification schemes in the Amazon. I am also researching the ethnobotanical language of the Cahuilla, or Iviluqaletem culture, in the deserts of the southwestern California & Joshua Tree National Park. I have participated in archaeological and paleobotantical studies of plants, including a recent investigation of the remains of ancient agave. The author of more than one hundred articles and books, including the New York Times best-seller, MAP: Exploring the World, my writing and work has been featured in many national media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Discover Magazine, WIRED, the Atlantic’s CITYLAB, the BBC, CBS News and most recently on NPR’s All Things Considered. My most recent publication, Collecting for a New World, highlights the early Americas collections at the Library of Congress and will be featured in a National Book Festival Presents program in the Spring of 2020. Like the great French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss before me, who owned every volume except one, I am currently making my way through the entire run of the Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, a flawed, but priceless, 50,000 page, 48 volume treasury of indigenous languages, culture and thought.

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