UVU associate professor participates in archaeological find

Haagen Klaus, a new faculty member in the UVU Behavioral Science department, recently took part in an important archaeological find in northern Peru: an ancient tomb belonging to the Moche civilization.

The tomb was discovered by Steve Bourget, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Bourget invited Klaus to participate in the bioarchaeological research connected with the find, studying the human skeletal remains found in the tomb in order to collect data that will shed light on the enigmatic Moche culture.

“Health is produced by genetics and biological structures,” said Klaus. “But human health is most fundamentally a product of social conditions and economics. Patterns in the teeth and bones will tell us about social constructions. Human remains are the most information-dense archaeological material of any kind.”

The Moche civilization was the dominant culture along the northern coast of Peru between A.D. 100 and A.D. 750. It is the most-studied pre-Inca culture in the Andes mountain range and is known for sophisticated artwork, large pyramids and creating the first Andean state.

The tomb is estimated to be from A.D. 350-400. It contains one principal figure who is the focal point of the tomb and may be a member of one of the civilization’s royal families. In addition to the main figure, there are four other individuals who likely served as offerings, though they bear none of the knife marks that would indicate they were human sacrifices, a common practice in the Moche civilization. In fact, at least two of those four sets of remains show evidence of having died years before the principle figure was buried, having been naturally mummified in preparation for the burial to come. The tomb also contains specimens of early Moche art and gold, silver and copper working.

“Klaus is an expert in forensic study of skeletal remains,” said David Knowlton, an associate professor in the UVU Behavioral Science department. “As the find’s bioarchaeologist, he will not only contribute greatly to understanding the physical anthropology of the nobility of the area, but also to the understanding of this brilliant and important civilization.”

Klaus will begin teaching classes at UVU in the fall of 2008, including introduction to physical anthropology and introduction to world prehistory. He is from Long Island, N.Y., and holds a master’s degree in anthropology from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Ohio State University. In addition to teaching, Klaus also runs the Lambayeque Biohistory Project, a project focused on discovering the impact and influences of societies on human biology through the examination of human skeletal remains in the Lambayeque region of Peru. The Lambayeque Biohistory Project began in 2003 and will be completed by 2025.

UVU has included an anthropology emphasis in the behavioral science department since 2004.

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