Last Call at a Wari Brewery
Cerro Baúl is an impressive hilltop site in the Moquegua Valley of southern Peru that features a palace, a temple, and even a brewery. The Wari established the settlement at their southernmost border on top of a 2,000-foot-high (600-meter-high) mesa right next to the neighboring Tiwanaku Empire. For reasons that archaeologists are still puzzling out, the Wari eventually evacuated the site. What we do know, however, is that before evacuating, the elite Wari residents drank all the fermented corn beer (chicha) in the brewery and then set the entire site, brewery included, on fire.
"Before torching the buildings as part of a systematic evacuation ritual, they brewed one last batch [of beer] and drank it all," says Michael Moseley, an archaeologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
One theory behind the swift departure is that the demise of the rival Tiwanaku Empire diminished the political importance of Cerro Baúl to the Wari since it may have served as an ancient buffer. The Wari may have then abandoned the site due to the costly nature of maintaining the settlement (imagine bringing water up the 2,000 foot climb!).
- Matthew Piscitelli