Ancient tribe in Peru burned and abandoned ceremonial brewery

About 1,000 years ago, an ancient tribe abandoned a settlement atop a mountain in what is now southern Peru, ceremonially destroying the outpost that may have been one of the continent's earliest diplomatic posts. A people known as the Wari had used the settlement atop Cerro Baul for some 400 years before departing, according to a study done by a team headed by anthropologist Michael E. Moseley of the University of Florida.

It was an unusual location for the Wari, atop a forbidding summit nearly 2,000 feet (600 meters) above the surrounding land, where the necessities of life had to be carried up steep slopes.

But that location also offered protection for the community, located adjacent to the lands of the rival Tiwanaku, who resided in what is now Bolivia.

It was the only location where the two groups didn't maintain a wide buffer zone and may have served as a diplomatic post for the two to communicate, say the researchers in a report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That may mean it was the birthplace of international relations between South American states.

The outpost wasn't destroyed in battle, Moseley said, noting that a battle would have caused more damage to structures. What the researchers found was buildings with roofs that had been burned and ceramic vessels used at feasts that had been ritually smashed - ing at the brewery which was destroyed last. Both the Wari and Tiwanaku went into a decline for unknown reasons about A.D. 1,000, which was about the time the community was abandoned.

Studying the artifacts provides a depth of understanding of how these early Indian people organized themselves, Moseley explained in a telephone interview. Like the Inca who populated the region later, the Wari and Tiwanaku left no written records.

Chicha, a fermented beverage similar to beer, was a staple of the diet at that time and the brewery at Cerro Baul had a capacity of 475 gallons, serving a population of under 1,000.

The researchers said the discovery of several shawl pins in the brewery area indicates that brewing chicha was done by select, high-status women. The pins were not found elsewhere. Among the later Inca, chicha also was brewed by an elite class of women, they said. The researchers said Cerro Baul's population included three groups of people - commoners, mostly farmers and herders; artisans, technicians and religious specialists; and governing nobles.

Housing, food, dining ware and other items varied by class. Nobles and leaders drank chicha from pottery vessels decorated with an image of the culture's paramount god, the researchers said, and the brewery was burned following a banquet that included deer, llama or alpaca and seven types of ocean fish. The research was funded by Southern Peru Copper Corporation, the G. A. Bruno Foundation, the Heinz Family Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A.M.

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