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Archaeologist studies human skeletons

Dr. Haagen Klaus graduated from Plattsburgh State and now spends much of his time studying human remains around the world.

Dr. Haagen Klaus graduated from Plattsburgh State and now spends much of his time studying human remains around the world. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

— Klaus earned his doctorate from Ohio State University and in 2008 was offered a position at Utah Valley University. He is currently an assistant professor of anthropology there, and his primary research interests include bioarcheology, dental anthropology, mortuary analysis, forensic anthropology and taphonomy, a branch of archeology dealing with fossilization.

“My focus is on human remains,” he said. “You learn who these people were and how they interacted with each other by studying their biological characteristics. I study skeletons to reconstruct the totality of their lives.”

Through several research projects in South America, Klaus has studied prehistoric and historic Andean South America and the organization of complex societies, health, violence, identity and ethnogenesis.

Klaus has won a number of awards for his works, including the Utah Valley University Presidential Fellowship for Faculty Scholarship; an honorary diploma and degree at the University de Senor de Sipan, Chiclayo, Peru; and the Utah Valley University Presidential Award for Student engagement, which is that university’s highest award, given for excellence in teaching.

Plattsburgh State’s Distinguished Visiting Alumni Program invites Plattsburgh State graduates who showcase excellence of their alma mater to return to campus and share their knowledge with the campus and community.

“In some of these cultures, there is very little evidence of warfare or violence outside of ritual killing,” Klaus said. “You just don’t see lots of violence outside areas of human sacrifice.

“But the offering of bodies was quite prolific, and there is a lot of evidence of the slitting of throats, and the extraordinary and disquieting mutilation of victims.”

For example, Klaus studied a child, between the ages of 9 and 12, whose chest had been torn open and his heart removed.

“When we think of human sacrificing, it is a terrifying subject, but we need to think of their understanding of the cosmos.”

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