Elite brew mistresses

Pre-Incan women made corn and pepper beer 1,000 years ago

Nov 15, 2005 - Archeologists in southern Peru have uncovered a brewery dating to about 1000 A.D., and, in a new research paper, conclude that it was staffed by "elite brew mistresses" probably selected for their "beauty or nobility."'


The brewery on a mountaintop in southern Peru produced hundreds of gallons of beer every week, and was part of the Wari empire, which predated the Incas.

Archaeologists have concluded that the brewery was burned and the city then evacuated for unknown reasons. Nobility drank the final batch pf chicha, as the beer was called, as part of a big feast and ceremony. More than two dozen precious ceramic chicha mugs were then tossed into embers of a fire and smashed as sacrifices to the gods.

"Our analyses indicate that this specialty brew was a high-class affair," said Patrick Ryan Williams, curator of anthropology at the Field Museum and co-author of the research report. "Corn and Peruvian pepper-tree berries were used to make the beer, which was drunk from elaborate beakers up to half a gallon in volume."

"The brewers were not only women, but elite women," Donna Nash, an adjunct curator at the Field Museum and part of the study team, said Monday. "They weren't slaves, and they weren't people of low status. So the fact that they made the beer probably made it even more special."

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