MARES DIVE GEAR HELPS ARCHAEOLOGIST UNCOVER WORLD'S MYSTERIES
Imagine the pounding headache, thumping heart, and dry mouth of Everest Base Camp. Now climb about 4,000 feet higher. And be sure to bring picks and shovels, and yes, even scuba gear, to use for weeks on end. Do all this and you'll approximate the conditions under which cultural anthropologist and archaeologist Johan Reinhard, Ph.D., operates during his many expeditions.
For over 20 years, Dr. Reinhard has conducted anthropological field research in the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador, and the Himalayan countries of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, focusing on the sacred beliefs and cultural practices of mountain peoples.
Dr. Reinhard, an Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic Society, recovered the frozen Inca "Ice Maiden" on the volcano Ampato (20,709-ft.). The finding was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the world's ten most important scientific discoveries of 1995. At an age of about 500 years, it yielded the oldest, best-preserved DNA found to date. His expeditions in the Andes from1995-2000 led to the discovery of 14 more Inca human sacrifices on five mountains over 18,000 feet, some of which were filmed for National Geographic Explorer, BBC/NOVA, and Discovery. One expedition, to 22,109-ft. Llullaillaco, excavated what is considered the world's highest archaeological site.
Dr. Johan Reinhard was honored in 2002 by the prestigious Explorers Club for his lifetime of exploration, receiving the Explorer's Medal, the Club's highest honor. In 1997, he appeared twice in the Guinness Book of World Records for his discoveries of ice mummies in the Andes and for the world's highest scuba dive in a crater lake at 19,250-ft. in the summit of Licancabur, Chile. In November 1999, his work was featured on the cover of National Geographic Magazine.
Dedication to Education
Dr. Reinhard, who grew up in Illinois but has lived most of his life outside the U.S., is passionate about educating the nation's children about archaeology. He has found that discoveries of frozen mummies bring science alive. "Kids are crazy about mummies. They're a wonderful way to teach schoolchildren about a variety of scientific disciplines ranging from history to DNA. Once you have mummies like the Ice Maiden, the world takes notice," said Dr. Reinhard, who was chosen in 2001 as one of the "Heroes of the Planet" by the Ford Motor Company.
Dr. Reinhard is driven by a desire to document and conserve sacrificial remains, "assuming we arrive before looters, who will sometimes use dynamite to uncover ancient remains. We will publish how the placement of burial sites, human remains, and artifacts relate. The remains will be housed in local museums."
The work is physically exhausting, "You're at the limit of what people can do over periods of time at those altitudes."
His investigations have led him to present new theories to explain the mystery of pre-Hispanic ceremonial sites on Andean mountain summits; of the Nazca Lines (giant desert drawings); and of the ancient ceremonial centers of Chavin, Tiahuanaco, and Machu Picchu. While making more than 150 ascents over 17,000 feet, Reinhard has discovered more than 40 high altitude ritual sites.
While in Nepal, he directed Peace Corps training projects, and was a member of the successful 1976 American Everest Expedition. He speaks Spanish, Nepali, German, and Raji, a tribal language of Nepal. Dr. Reinhard also found and analyzed Kusunda, one of the world's rarest languages.
Underwater Research is Like a Detective Story
During his time in Austria, Dr. Reinhard participated in the first underwater archaeological research conducted there (a Neolithic Age site at Mondsee), and was a member of teams which undertook nautical archaeological research of Roman shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea off southern Italy and Sicily. He also explored an Iron Age Villanovan Village in an Italian lake called Lago di Bolsena. During 1989-92, he directed underwater archaeological research of Inca and Tiahuanaco sites in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.
He has dived in many other parts of the world, including such places as the Maldives, Easter Island, the Galapagos, Cocos Island, Robinson Crusoe Island, Antarctica, and various islands in the Caribbean and along the South American coast.
"Anthropology combines my interests in other cultures, history, and archaeology with outdoor activities (mountain climbing, scuba diving) and exploration, thereby increasing my understanding of enigmatic customs and places," he says.
"People look at what I've done and make the comparison to Indiana Jones. I don't really like that if what they are thinking about is the adventure. They often don't try to understand the science behind the mystery. I perceive it more as delving into the mystery and the knowledge I can find. When the pieces come together, and it just clicks, I get so excited I can't sleep at night." Dr. Reinhard continues, "Nobody had any idea why the Incas were building structures at altitudes that Westerners didn't reach until hundreds of years later.
"It's like a detective story. I want to come up with a better explanation than there was before."
For more information: www.johanreinhard.org or come to Beneath the Sea when it convenes the weekend of March 28th, 29th, and 30th at the Meadowland Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey and meet Dr,. Johan Reinhard in person … www.BeneaththeSea.org