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Chicha Chat with Dr. Williams

Dig into the past of Peru’s ancient Andean empires with Field Museum Curator and archaeologist Dr. Patrick Ryan Williams and his distinguished team of fellow scientists. For the past seven years, they have led excavations at Cerro Baúl, a remote mountaintop citadel that was the sole point of contact between the Tiwanaku and the Wari—two great kingdoms whose dynamic relationship ultimately contributed to the rise of the Incan Empire.

A more secular and militant nation than the Tiwanaku, the Wari governed most of highland and coastal Peru from their upland capitol at Ayacucho, along the spine of the Andes. Cultivating these steep mountain slopes into fertile farmland for corn, peppers, and other crops required high-altitude terracing and irrigation, agricultural techniques perfected by
the Wari.

Throughout their realm, the Wari also erected immense courtyard complexes lined with tall, barrack-like palaces that are easily distinguished from the Tiwanaku architectural style. Large, D-shaped temples and linear “libation halls,” rather than pyramidal temples, functioned as the sacred center of Wari culture by hosting traditional festivals and ceremonial sacrifices to the gods.

About the same time that the Tiwanaku colonists first established their agricultural center in the Moquegua Valley (A.D. 600), the Wari made a bold thrust into the region. Here, they quickly established a political outpost along the Wari frontier bordering Tiwanaku territory. Their remote city, built atop Cerro Baúl, is the only known point of interaction between these two powerful Andean empires. 

An essential sacrament shared by both cultures revolved around chicha, an alcoholic beer made most often from maize (corn). During drinking rituals, inferiors and superiors cemented their relationship by imbibing chicha in massive quantities. Keros (drinking cups) found at Cerro Baúl show a blending of artistic styles that reveal an exchange of religious iconography between the neighboring Wari and Tiwanaku peoples.

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