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Berthold Laufer

Dr. Berthold Laufer (left) with two men and one boy. All in Chinese costume or dress. Hankow, ca. 1904. Tea cups and pipe on table. © The Field Museum, A98299

Berthold Laufer (1874-1934), curator of Asian Anthropology from 1908 to 1934, was a pioneer in the study of Asian cultures. With a doctorate in oriental languages from the University of Leipzig, Laufer was a sinologist who was fluent in more than a dozen languages, many of which were non Indo-Eurpoean. Polymath and polyglot, his interests seemed unbounded and his linguistic skills unequaled. For information on his work and collections at The Field Museum, click here.

Laufer was born in Cologne, Germany. At a young age he was interested in music and the arts. He dreamt of becoming a dramatist, until discovering his passion for archeology in his early 20’s. His family’s wealth afforded him a good education and in 1893 he attended the University of Berlin where he first studied Oriental languages. For more on Laufer’s life and career, click here.

Late 19th century woodblock print tryptich depciting women viewing cherry blossoms, purchased by Berthold Laufer during his 1910 Blackstone Expedition. © The Field Museum, A112784c