Bio & Contact
Dr. Johan Reinhard was an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society (NGS) during 1999-2013 & 1997. He is currently (2021) affiliated as an Explorer with NGS, as a Research Professor at Future Generations University, and as a Senior Research Fellow at The Mountain Institute (Peru). He has previously been a Research Associate of the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), a Research Associate of the National Institute of Archaeology (La Paz, Bolivia), a Visiting Professor at Catholic University (Salta, Argentina), an Honorary Professor of Catholic University (Arequipa, Peru), a Research Scientist of the Anthropology Department of the University of Wisconsin (Madison), and a Director of Peace Corps Training Projects for Nepal.
Born in Illinois, he began his undergraduate studies in anthropology at the University of Arizona, before going on to receive his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Vienna, Austria (1974). Much of his research has focused on the sacred beliefs and cultural practices of mountain peoples, especially in the Andes and the Himalayas, and on preserving the cultural patrimony of indigenous peoples. Since 1980 Dr. Reinhard has conducted anthropological field research primarily in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador. His investigations have led him to present theories from the perspective of sacred landscape to better understand pre-Hispanic ceremonial sites on mountain summits up to 6,739 m (22,109 ft), the Nazca Lines (giant desert drawings), and the ancient ceremonial centers of Machu Picchu, Chavín de Huantar, and Tiahuanaco. During 1989-92 he directed the first Andean underwater archaeological research project in Lake Titicaca, at 3,812 m (12,506 ft) the world’s highest navigable lake. In 1982-83 he and his colleagues conducted underwater archaeological investigations in two crater lakes, one on the summit of Licancabur at 5,850 m (19,192 ft) and the other at 5,800 m (19,029 ft) near the summit of Paniri (5,946 m/19,508 ft).
While making over 200 ascents over 5,200 m (17,060 ft) in the Andes, he led expeditions resulting in the discovery of more than 60 high-altitude Inca ritual sites. He directed teams that recovered four Inca human sacrifices on Ampato (6,312 m/20,708 ft). His expeditions in the Andes during 1996-1999 led to the discovery of fourteen more Inca human sacrifices on five mountains above 5,500 m (18,044 ft), including three perfectly preserved mummies at 6,739 m (22,109 ft) on Llullaillaco, the world’s highest archaeological site. In 1995 and 1999 Time selected Dr. Reinhard's finds as among “the world's ten most important scientific discoveries” for each of those years--making him one of the few scientists to have had his research chosen twice for this recognition.
He has lived more than ten years in the Himalayas, conducting anthropological research primarily in Nepal, in addition to having undertaken investigations in Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, and the Garhwal Himalaya. His studies included: Himalayan shamanism; the role of sacred mountains in Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism; the sacred "hidden lands" of Tibetan Buddhism (seven of which he has explored); and culture change from nomadic hunting-gathering to settled agriculture among the Raji. In the late 1960s he was the first to study two of the world's last nomadic hunting and gathering tribes, the Raute and the Kusunda (speakers of one of the world's rarest languages), and to identify a Dravidian language (Dhangar) in Nepal. While in Nepal, he also directed Peace Corps Training Projects. Elsewhere in Asia he has conducted ethnographic research on Muslim fishermen in the Maldive Islands (Indian Ocean) (1977) and studied traditional religious practices in Mongolia (2012), Bali (Indonesia) (2007), Israel (2012), and Turkey (2015).
While living in Europe, Dr. Reinhard participated in Austria's first underwater archaeological project (a Neolithic site at Mondsee) (1972). He was also a member of teams that undertook nautical archaeological research of Roman shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea off southern Italy (1965 & 1967) and of an Iron Age Villanovan village (1965) in an Italian lake (Bolsena Lake). He has investigated sacred mountains and traditional religion in Greece (2002). In Mexico he was a member of underwater archaeological investigations (2007 & 2010) of sacred lakes of the Aztecs at 4,216 m (13,832 ft) on Mt. Toluca. In 2009 he participated on underwater archaeological research in Ecuador in the mountain lake of Culebrillas (3,915 m/12,844 ft) and off the coast of Bahia de Caráquez. Research on traditional religious practices was carried out in Venezuela (2012) and Guatemala (2014). Underwater archaeological sites in Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan were investigated in 2010.
He has served as a cinematographer for the BBC, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Scientific Film Institute of Germany, and his research has been featured in several TV documentaries, including National Geographic Explorer, NOVA, PBS, Discovery, History Channel, Smithsonian Channel, and the BBC. He has lectured on cruise ships traveling in the Caribbean, along the Pacific coast of South America, and to Antarctica, the Galapagos, and Easter Island, and also lectured on round-the-world flights for the National Geographic Society. He speaks Spanish, Nepali, and German, and analyzed two unwritten languages, Raji (a Tibeto-Burman language) and Kusunda (a language isolate).
Dr. Reinhard has over eighty publications, including six books and is a member of several organizations, including the American Anthropological Association, the American Alpine Club, the Explorers Club, the Institute of Andean Studies, the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, the Royal Geographical Society, the Society for American Archaeology, and the European Association of Archaeologists. Three museums have been built to exhibit the archeological finds made during his expeditions: the Museum of High Mountain Sanctuaries in Arequipa, Peru; the Museum of High Mountain Archaeology in Salta, Argentina; and a site museum in the village of Challapampa, Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.
He is a recipient of the 1987 Rolex Award for Enterprise in the field of exploration for his Andean research. In 1992 the Bolivian government awarded him the Puma de Oro, its highest distinction for archaeological research. The city of Arequipa, Peru awarded him its Gold Medal for his archaeological research in 1996. The Junior Library Guild selected his Discovering the Inca Ice Maiden as an "Outstanding Book" for young adults in 1998. In 2000 he was selected by Outside Magazine as one of “today’s 25 most extraordinary adventurers, outdoor athletes, and explorers.” In 2001 the Ford Motor Company chose him as one of twelve "Heroes for the Planet." In 2002 his finds of the frozen Inca mummies were highlighted by Time in their book Great Discoveries about the world’s most important finds in all fields of science. He was awarded the Explorers Medal of the Explorers Club of New York in 2002 and in 2009 the city of Bahia de Caraquez honored him with a Key to the City for his underwater archaeological investigation off the coast of Ecuador. In 2017 he received the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal, for remarkable service in the conservation of cultures, involving archaeological discoveries and scholarship in the Himalayas and the Andes.
His publications include The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes (2005), Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center (2007), and Inca Rituals and Sacred Mountains: A Study of the World's Highest Archaeological Sites (2010) (with Constanza Ceruti). In 2010 The Nazca Lines: A New Perspective on Their Origin and Meaning (1988 edition) was made available as a Kindle (electronic) book on Amazon.com.
A selection of Reinhard's images of expeditions, archaeological sites, etc. can be found in the Photo Archives on this website: www.johanreinhard.net. (High-resolution images and his CV are available upon request.)
Further Interests And Non-academic Activities
After he began to scuba dive in 1962, he has accumulated nearly 1,000 hours diving in the lakes and oceans in various parts of the world. These include diving off Baja California, the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Caribbean islands (San Blas, Aruba, Bonaire), Antarctica, Easter Island, Greece, Italy, Malta, Yugoslavia, the Maldive Islands, Papua New Guinea, and the coasts and islands of western South America (Galapagos, Cocos Island, Isla Plata, Lobos de Tierra, Pachacamac). He has also dived in lakes in Austria, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico (crater lakes and Lake Catemaco), Guatemala, Bolivia (Lake Titicaca), Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, where in 1981 he dove in the summit crater lake of Licancabur--at 19,200 ft a world altitude diving record.
He first began climbing in 1964 in the Alps, beginning with ascents of Mount Blanc in France, and the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and solo climbs of Jungfrau and Monch in Switzerland. Later climbs were made in Greece and Austria. He began climbing in the Himalayas in the mid-1970s, including participating on the successful 1976 American Everest Expedition and a first ascent of the West Face of Buni Zom (6,551 m/21,494 ft) in the Hindu Kush of Pakistan (1979). He has also climbed several volcanoes in Mexico. A historian of Andean ascents noted in 1989 that Reinhard had climbed more high-altitude Andean peaks (over 6,000m/ca. 20,000 ft) than any person. In 1997 his Andean ascents were noted in the Guinness Book of Records.
Since he began sky diving in 1962, he has participated in 150 jumps in Europe and the US, including in snow, water, at night, and in large free fall “stars.” In 1963 he was a member of a team that set a group altitude record (22,000 ft) and in 1974 participated in the 1st International Ten-Man Star Competition in Austria.
He has participated in some of the first descents of Himalayan rivers in the mid-1970’s (Trisuli, Sun Kosi). In 1983 he participated in the first Chilean descent of the Bio Bio in Chile and in 1998 was a member of an unguided rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.
Land & Sea Explorations
In 1977 he participated in one of the first camel crossings by westerners of the Great Indian (Thar) Desert. In 1980 he and his companion made one of the few land crossings of Tierra del Fuego in Chile. That same year he was a member of a team that made a crossing of the Llanganatis mountain range in Ecuador to reach the Amazon. He has explored much of the Himalayan range, including isolated regions in the Hindu Kush, Garhwal (NW India), western Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal (including around Chamlang in 1977 and a solo trip through inner Dolpo in 1971). He has been three times to Antarctica, and also undertaken expeditions into the jungles of southern Nepal, Ecuador, and Peru.
*More about his background can be found in the "FAQs and Further Resources" section. For his CV and further information with regard to employment and field research, please contact Dr. Reinhard directly.
Top Photo by Molly Roberts