The Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902) was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to investigate the links between the people and the cultures of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America and the Eastern Coast of Siberia. Ostensibly the goal of the expedition was to prove the Bering Strait Migration theory which postulated that the North American continent was populated by the migration of Asian peoples across the Bering Strait. However, Franz Boas, the leader of the expedition was more concerned with documenting the cultures on both sides of the Northern Pacific that he and many other anthropologists feared were soon to be lost to colonialism and acculturation.
Berthold Laufer was a philologist, anthropologist, museum curator and sinologist. Laufer was born in Germany and studied Asian languages at the University of Leipzig. In 1898 and 1899 he led expeditions to Sakhalin and the Amur River region of Siberia during the Jesup North Pacific Expedition directed by Franz Boas, who became Laufer's mentor. From 1901 to 1904, Laufer worked in China, collecting for the American Museum of Natural History. Laufer moved to the Field Museum of Natural History in 1907, becoming curator of anthropology, and leading two more expeditions: to China and Tibet in 1908-1910, and to China in 1923. Laufer published over 200 works on ethnology, language studies, art, archaeology, and the histories of domestic animals and cultivated plants.
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