The Priestess of Chornancap

Reading Time: 2 minutes Two Utah Valley University professors reconstruct the face of an 800-year-old Peruvian priestess, receiving international media attention.

Reading Time: 2 minutes
 By Liz Rojas

In the city of Lambayeque, Peru, Dr. Haagen Klaus and Dr. Daniel Fairbanks of Utah Valley University presented the Peruvian nation and the world the reconstructed face sculpture of the Priestess of Chornancap on Dec. 11, 2012.

Dr. Klaus, bioarchaeologist in the Behavioral Science Department and human remains specialist at the Bruning Museum in Lambayeque, Peru, collaborated with his colleague, Dr. Daniel Fairbanks, associate dean of ccience and health and forensic sculptor. Both lent their knowledge to the sculptural facial reconstruction on La Sacerdotisa de Chornancap, whose 800-year-old remains were found in 2011.

“This is about identity, it’s about heritage, it’s about history and reclaiming what has been for a long time lost,” said Dr. Klaus of the project.

PeruThe extensive project took five months to complete, starting in June 2012. Dr. Fairbanks and Dr. Klaus used the facilities of the Bruning Museum in Peru thanks to collaborators in the area. The sculpture has received international attention from major news organizations and will be displayed at the Bruning Museum.

Copies of the Priestess skull were made to preserve the remains. Dr. Fairbanks used depth markers to find the distance between the surface of the skull and the surface of the skin to begin the process of reconstruction. Photographs of Moche women taken by Hans Heinrich Bruning in the late nineteenth century helped scientists determine facial features that would otherwise be unknown.

“There is also that very personal side. [The remains] were actual people, they had lives, they had feelings, they had emotions, they had a culture, which is important for us to understand,” Dr. Fairbanks said. “What this brings back is very meaningful both to those who study it and those who observe it.”

Both professors are very pleased with the outcome of their project and promised similar projects in the near future.

This was Dr. Fairbanks’s first experience working in Peruvian archeology, though he’d been in Peru already on several different occasions conducting genetic research.

Dr. Klaus’s interest in Peru and in native american prehistory emerged while studying for his undergraduate degree at State University of New York in Plattsburgh.

Liz Rojas is a journalist for the UVU Review and UCAS Ascent