Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Brewery Discovered On Mountaintop In Peru

Date:
July 28, 2004
Source:
Field Museum
Summary:
Archaeologists working in southern Peru found an ancient brewery more than 1,000 years old. Remains of the brewing facility were uncovered on Cerro Baúl, a mountaintop city over 8,000 feet above sea level, which was home to elite members of the Wari Empire from AD 600-1000.

Archaeologists discover a 1,000-year-old brewery from the Wari Empire's occupation of Cerro Baúl, a mountaintop city in the Andes. Remains of the brewery were well preserved because a fire set when the brewery was closed made the walls collapse over the materials.
Credit: Photo by Patrick Ryan Williams, courtesy of The Field Museum

CHICAGO -- Archaeologists working in southern Peru found an ancient brewery more than 1,000 years old. Remains of the brewing facility were uncovered on Cerro Baúl, a mountaintop city over 8,000 feet above sea level, which was home to elite members of the Wari Empire from AD 600-1000.

Predating the Inca Empire by at least four centuries, this Wari brewery was used to make chicha, a fermented beverage similar to beer that played an important role in ritual feasting and drinking during Peru's first empire. Ancient Peruvians made chicha with local grains and fruit, which is quite different from today's commercial beers typically made with barley and hops.

"We believe this important find may be the oldest large-scale brewery ever found in the Andes," said Patrick Ryan Williams, PhD, Assistant Curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum.

"The scale of chicha production in this building with multiple fires and vats, indicates that this was not a home-brewing operation," he added. "It was an elaborate brewery that produced massive amounts of chicha."

Cerro Baúl is about 250 miles south of Cuzco. In early July, Dr. Williams and colleagues from The Field Museum and the University of Florida discovered more than 20 preparation vats and the remains of what were once open-hearth fire pits. In the fire pits, hot-burning llama and guinea pig dung, along with other refuse from the settlement, were used to boil water and other ingredients to make chicha. These fire pits revealed ash and broken shards of the large ceramic preparation vats, which held 10-15 gallons.

Boiling fruits or grains is the first step in preparing chicha. Like the mash created in the beer brewing process, the boiling vats contained the sugary mass that would be converted to alcohol in the fermentation stage. From these boiling vats, the liquid would be transferred to fermenting jars where it was converted into chichi in about 5-7 days.

In the brewery, researchers also found large deposits of used seeds from the Peruvian pepper tree, Schinus molle. Chicha brewed with these pepper seeds would have produced a spicy beer.

"Today Peruvians make chicha primarily from corn, a tradition passed down from earlier Andean civilizations, including the Inca," Dr. Williams said. "However, archaeological evidence shows the Wari preferred the spicy chicha made from molle."

Project botanists are attempting to recreate the ancient Wari beer brewed from the pepper tree berries using traditional pottery. Video of this process can be seen at www.fieldmuseum.org/expeditions/index.html on the website of expeditions@fieldmuseum.orgTM, a free, interactive online program that follows Field Museum scientists as they conduct scientific research around the world. Through this expedition website, the public can subscribe to free email dispatches from scientists working in the field. Currently, the site features Dr. Williams' dispatches from the Cerro Baúl excavation site, and a video report on the ancient brewery.

The chicha-making facility is unusual because of its mountaintop location. The closest water source, a major component in making chicha, would have been located down a long, steep mountain trail.

When Wari colonists eventually abandoned the monumental complex atop Cerro Baúl, the ceremonial drinking halls and brewing facilities were treated to elaborate closing rites. After the final batches of chicha were served up to elites in ornate ceramic drinking vessels called keros, the sacred halls were torched. As the fire consumed the building, the beams and thatch roofs would have collapsed followed by the Wari throwing their cups into the fire. As a result of having been buried under collapsed walls, the ruins of the Wari settlement on Cerro Baúl are well preserved.

Archaeologists discovered Cerro Baúl in the early 1980s and conducted preliminary excavations in 1989. Extensive investigations have been underway for the past five years, and this season revealed the first evidence of a large-scale brewery.

"As we continue our excavations, we will learn more about the scale of chicha production and how it fit into the political life of Wari lords on Cerro Baúl," said Dr. Williams, who specializes in the anthropology of South American empires, and the use of chemical and geophysical science in archaeology.

###

The Field Museum's expedition website, http://www.fmnh.org/expeditions/index.html, includes dispatches and video reports from other expeditions, including peregrine falcons nesting in Chicago, the discovery of a tomb in Mexico, deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean, dinosaur hunting in Montana, and other exciting scientific forays.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Field Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Field Museum. "Ancient Brewery Discovered On Mountaintop In Peru." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040728090222.htm>.
Field Museum. (2004, July 28). Ancient Brewery Discovered On Mountaintop In Peru. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040728090222.htm
Field Museum. "Ancient Brewery Discovered On Mountaintop In Peru." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040728090222.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) — Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Newsy (Apr. 11, 2014) — A new fossil has revealed daddy longlegs one had an extra pair of eyes. Modern species retain the gene for the extra pair but never develop them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins