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UVU Anthropology Professor Uncovers Secrets of Ancient Sacrificial Mummies

2 September 2009 No Comment

September 2, 2009
For Immediate Release

For more information: Danny Damron, (801) 863-8703
University Marketing & Communications: Erin Spurgeon, (801) 863-6807
Written by: Chelsey Richardson, (801) 863-8504

In a video clip on National Geographic’s Web site, Utah Valley University assistant professor of anthropology Haagen Klaus stands in front of a stark desert landscape. Sporting a ballcap with the UVU logo emblazoned on the front, he discusses the unusual 2007 discovery of 33 mummies, mostly female, at a site northeast of Chiclayo, Peru.

As the director of the Lambayeque Valley Biohistory Project, Klaus has been examining the remains with the help of several anthropology students from UVU. Together, they have been extracting DNA from the mummies to uncover clues about the their diets, ages, illnesses and their cause of death — sacrifice.

“The blood sacrifice of a large group of women is something that is very, very unusual. It’s the first time that we’ve ever seen this,” Klaus said.

It is uncommon, he said, that such a large group of sacrificed humans is found together, especially with such a high number of young females. Only three of the mummies were male, and they ranged in age from 9-15 years old. Several of the mummies still had their teeth and hair intact. Klaus has determined that they were most likely sacrificed to ensure rain and agricultural fertility.

“There are certain aspects of their biology that reveal certain parts of lives they’ve led and their identity,” Klaus said. “It’s quite likely that these people are not the members or coming from the Chimu or the Inca societies. Those were the ruling powers in Lambayeque during the time these sacrifices were committed. It is quite likely that these were a local people.”

The full National Geographic video featuring Klaus can be found online at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/090714-peru-chotuna-video-ap.htm.

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