As anyone who has experienced Peru travel will tell you, the country is rich in ruins and ancient mystery. Archeologists have only scratched the surface of discovery in many areas. A recent itch: the historic mountain-top city of Cerro Baúl. Here, at over 8,000 feet above sea level, an ancient brewery of the Wari Empire was found. Twenty ceramic 10 to 15 gallon vats suggest that this was much more than a Mom-and-Pop-shop. In fact, it may be the oldest large-scale brewery ever found in the Andes. It was used to produce great quantities of chicha, a fermented beverage similar to beer made from barley and berries of the pepper tree, Schinus molle. Chicha was an important part of many rituals feasts and daily consumption. The drink is still an influential part of today\'s local traditions and customs. Corn is the main ingredient in modern chicha.
While Cerro Baúl was not the center of Wari\'s political stronghold, it is believed that the city had a large population of elite members who invited the surrounding communities to great gatherings. Chicha was served to the thousands. These assemblies were important, not only for ritualistic purposes, but they also brought citizens of the empire together, many of which were conquered people who spoke different languages. Individual consumption of 2.6 gallons of chicha during the ceremonies was common. PHEW! The gatherings helped to unify the Wari Empire into a single political structure.
Pre-dating the Inca, the Wari Empire ruled Peru for nearly 400 years between 600-1000 AD. Its civilization conquered all of present-day Peru before inexplicably disappearing. The Wari paved the way - quite literally - for the road systems and regional governmental structure of the Incas. Resembling today\'s urban blocks, its major cities were laid out in a calculated grid-patterned design. Ruins of the same-name capital city are found near Ayacucho. A visit to the remains is a worthy stop during any Peru travel. Shaped like a giant llama, a maze of underground ceremonial sites and funeral chambers were discovered under the capital. The majority of the area is unexcavated.
Just as the downfall of the Wari empire remains a mystery, no one quite knows the why the elites pulled out of Cerro Baúl. But ones thing is for sure - they left in style. After a final elaborate closing ceremony, the brewery complex was set on fire. As the flames grew, the beams and roof collapsed, burying the site, keeping it safe and well preserved for the archaeologists who would unearth it a millennium later.
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