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The ruins of the ancient civilization of Wari.

Ancient Wari Culture of Peru Prevented Wars with Beer Parties

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Archaeologists have found evidence that the ancient Wari civilization of Peru brewed beer, and that it was central to the cultural and political life of their Empire. Beer seems to have been one of the reasons why the Wari Empire was so successful for over 400 years.

A team from the Field Museum of Natural History in America have been working on the Wari site known as Cerro Baúl in the magnificent Moquegua Valley in Peru. They have made a series of exciting discoveries, including a brewery found buried under the sand.

Cerro Baúl was once a strategic frontier post in the Wari Empire as it neighbored the powerful Tiwanaku state. This frontier post was not only strongly fortified but was also an important center ‘for lavish banquets and beer brewing’ according to National Geographic .

Wari Banquets

Archaeologists believe that members of the elite held lavish parties at the outpost. They would feast on llama and guinea pig and drink beer from vessels that represented Wari deities. Beer and intoxication played a part in many of the culture’s religious ceremonies . However, much of the festivities at the site had a political purpose and this continued from roughly 700 to 1100 AD.

The Wari ruled a diverse range of people and were in a centuries’ old rivalry with the Tiwanaku Empire based in southern Peru and northern Chile. Instead of engaging in perpetual and bloody wars, the Wari secured their position by other means. They adopted a policy of conciliation with their neighbors and subjects. They would hold lavish festivals at Cerro Baúl to bind their subject people to their Empire and to ensure that they remained on good terms with the Tiwanaku.

Wari and Peace-Making

Beer played a crucial role in these peace-making celebrations and they helped to stabilize the Wari realms for many centuries. The National Geographic refers to this as ‘beer diplomacy’. It appears that Wari notables from the capital would meet local subject people and representatives from the Tiwanaku to seal diplomatic agreements with bouts of beer drinking. The Daily Mail reports that these parties “formed a unity among these populations and kept people together” and this reduced war and rebellions.

The Wari used beer, known as chicha, as a tool of diplomacy. (Tisquesusa / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Wari used beer, known as chicha, as a tool of diplomacy. (Tisquesusa / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The Wari state emerged in the highlands of Peru about 600 AD and it dominated a large area until about 1100 when it mysteriously collapsed. The Wari were great builders and constructed well- planned cities and sophisticated irrigation projects .

They were one of the successors of the Moche and were very powerful and rich judging by their archaeological remains such as the temple and astronomical observatory found, recently near Cusco. It appears that their state was a loose confederation of local Wari centers, who had a great deal of autonomy.

Wari Beer

The Wari brewed a beer known as chicha in a brewery in the outpost. This could produce “400 to more than 500 gallons of chicha at a time” reports the Tech Times . There is also evidence that the local people made their own ornate drinking vessels and imported some from afar. The site is offering further evidence of the importance of “ancient fermented beverages were central to human communities around the world” reports the National Geographic.

The Wari ornate drinking vessels were unearthed. (CGTN / YouTube)

The Wari ornate drinking vessels were unearthed. (CGTN / YouTube)

Experts sought to recreate the beer in order to better understand life at this important Wari center. They were able to confirm using chemical analysis that the liquor was made from corn and pepper berries that are abundant in the area even during droughts. Chicha is still brewed in the region and a local elderly woman was asked to help them to make the ancient drink. The results were quite good and there are plans to brew more of the beer in the future and this may even become a commercial venture.

The Fall of the Wari Empire

However, the good times ended at Cerro Baúl about 950 years ago. At this date, the Wari state had almost completely disintegrated, possibly because of civil war. During the collapse of their state, they abandoned many sites, such as the formerly important ceremonial and ritual site of Pikillaqta near modern-day Cusco. It appears that they also destroyed many of their own outposts and buildings, the reasons for this are also unknown.

Pikillaqta, outside Cusco. The Wari were there before the Inca. (Carsten ten Brink / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Pikillaqta, outside Cusco. The Wari were there before the Inca. (Carsten ten Brink / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Cerro Baúl was apparently one of the last strongholds of the Wari.

 After one last night of festivities, the brewery was deliberately burned to the ground. It appears that local notables threw their drinking vessels and jewelery into the fire and this may have been part of an abandonment ceremony.

The blackened ruins of the brewery were later buried under a mound of earth and sand so that it could not be re-used. The fact that the brewery was one of the last buildings possibly destroyed by the Wari as their Empire collapsed indicates the importance of ‘beer diplomacy’ to this civilization.

Cerro Baúl, Peru where the ancient Wari brewed beer . (Simon chara / Public Domain)

Cerro Baúl, Peru where the ancient Wari brewed beer . (Simon chara / Public Domain )

Top image: The ruins of the ancient civilization of Wari. Source: Ryszard Stelmachowic / Adobe.

By Ed Whelan

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