John W. Hessler

Curator, Computational Archaeologist, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

John W. Hessler

Curator, Computational Archaeologist, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

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When not climbing in the Alps, searching for rare plants in some jungle, or looking at Nahuatl manuscripts, I am the curator of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology of the Early Americas at the Library of Congress and a lecturer in Mathematics & Computer Science in the Odyssey Program at Johns Hopkins University. I am also on the faculty of the Rare Book School of the University of Virginia, where I teach the structure of the Mesoamerican Codex.

Over the past few years I have lectured or taught classes on computer vision for archaeological applications, the Mathematical Foundations of Deep Learning, Stochastic Processes & Markov Fields, and most recently, on the Science of Pandemics. I have also taught seminars in the applications of computer vision for art historical applications at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, Italy.

The founder of the BIO COMP Lab, our work combines deep and machine learning, along with advances in computer vision, to solve difficult, but computationally tractable, problems in archaeology and cultural heritage preservation. Our current research focuses on the application computer vision and Markov Random Fields to the reconstruction of ceramic assemblages from archaeological contexts, and to the extraction of Maya hieroglyphs from damaged inscriptions.

The author of more than one hundred articles and books, including the New York Times bestseller, MAP: Exploring the World, my writing and work has been featured in many national media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, the BBC, CBS News and most recently, on NPR’s All Things Considered, Bloomberg News and MAPLAB.

My most recent book, Collecting for a New World, examines the history of the archaeological collections at the Library of Congress.

I often find myself pondering the intricacies of the game of go, wondering about the mysteries of contained in ancient DNA, and marveling at the complexity to be found in James Joyce's Ulysses.