April 06, 2004

Anthropologist wins outstanding thesis award

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An anthropologist whose work turned conventional thinking about burial practices in ancient Peru upside down has won the Southern Illinois University Alumni Association's eighth annual outstanding thesis award.

Haagen D. Klaus, who completed his master's degree last spring, will receive $500 from the association during its board meeting Saturday, April 24, at the Carbondale campus' Student Center.

Aik-Liang Lim of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Energy Processes and Ippei Watanabe of the Department of Cinema and Photography were runners-up.

Four years ago, Klaus excavated a number of pre-Incan gravesites on Peru's northern coast. The Sicán, a society of farmers, fishermen, potters and metalworkers whose culture reached its height between 900 and 1100 A.D., had buried their dead both in a ceramics and metal shop and at a nearby cemetery.

In what Izumi Shimada, a fellow in pre-Columbian studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., and the world's top expert on Sicán culture, called an "in-depth, highly original and provocative study of human burials," Klaus's dissertation not only described what he found but analyzed the social and symbolic meaning of such factors as the quality of the goods interred with the dead and the manner in which those goods were placed.

"For over 50 years, archaeologists held the widespread notion that the dead on the north coast were disposed of and forgotten," Shimada wrote.

"Klaus effectively demonstrated that this static conception is untenable by documenting diverse post-interment visitations, offerings and alterations. Further, he showed that these activities were elements of a poorly studied but pervasive and persistent mortuary program on the north coast spanning the last 2,000 years of prehistory."

Now a doctoral student in anthropology at The Ohio State University and an associate investigator with the Museo Nacional Sicán, Klaus is continuing his work in Peru and this summer will help direct the excavation of gravesites from a 16th-century chapel.

Klaus, a native of Long Island, N.Y., earned his bachelor's degree in 2000 from the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, where his parents, Gunther and Brenda Klaus, currently live.

Lim, supervised by Professor Kambiz Farhang, wrote his thesis on friction and vibration in mechanical systems such as automotive brakes and clutches, receiving his master's degree last spring. He now lives in Malaysia, where he has founded his own engineering company.

Watanabe, supervised by Assistant Professor Michael D. Covell, produced a three-part experimental film titled "Noon/Beach/August" as his thesis exhibit. He received his master's degree last summer and has since returned to Japan.

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