Dr. Haagen Klaus graduated from Plattsburgh State and now spends much of his time studying human remains around the world.
A calm overtakes Dr. Haagen Klaus when he measures teeth.
“It is very systematic,” Klaus said.
Through the study of skeletons, he can learn the totality of the lives he is investigating.
The globetrotting archaeologist has had much success since graduating from Plattsburgh State. He said some of the foundation of who he is today was laid at Plattsburgh State.
“The education I received here is something I carry with me every day of my life,” he said, speaking to students, faculty and the community at Plattsburgh State.
He returned to the campus to present “Tombs, Mummies and Treasures: A Retrospective on 15 years of Archeological Adventures from SUNY Plattsburgh to South America.”
Klaus didn’t always want to be an archeologist.
At 10, he was sitting in the back of the car as his father drove through Long Island when an F14 Tomcat tore open the sky.
“I was hooked and knew I was going to be a pilot,” Klaus said.
But his eyes weren’t good enough, and later in life, on a whim, he applied to Plattsburgh State.
Klaus tried half a dozen majors, but nothing clicked. He was close to dropping out of college and joining the military when he tried an archeological field school.
“Within the first five minutes of bots on the ground and being on site, it clicked that this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Eventually, he ended up studying human bones in Peru.
“The amount of information you can read in human bones is so compelling,” Klaus said.
Klaus graduated from Plattsburgh State in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a double minor in archeology and studio art.
He went on to earn his master’s degree at Southern Illinois University.
He would again find himself in Peru.
“There are 12,000 years of complex culture before the Inca,” Klaus said.
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.”