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Digging up engaged learning in Peru

Near the north coast of Peru, Utah Valley University Assistant Professor of Anthropology Haagen Klaus and a handful of students are exploring a hidden world of gold, mummies and human sacrifice. They’re unearthing an ancient pre-Hispanic civilization, called the Sicán, whose culture, architecture and metallurgy may rival that of the Incas, and even ancient Egypt.

Utilizing skills and knowledge obtained in the classroom, UVU students —like Sylvia Bentley of Moab — are applying those biology, anatomy and anthropology tools in the field. At three sites in the region, Bentley and her classmates are excavating, analyzing, and identifying human remains from towering pyramid-shaped tombs constructed by the Sicán, circa A.D. 1,000.

Whether studying the bone fragments of a Sicán noble or a human sacrifice victim, the students are breaking new scholarly ground in unraveling the biohistory of the people by gleaning data from the remains such as patterns of health, genetic interaction, and how the person died.

In short, these undergraduates aren’t just learning about archaeology — they’re doing professional-level archaeology while also unlocking the mysteries of the Sicán civilization.

Learn more about the UVU Behavioral Science Department Anthropology Emphasis.

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