Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News, November 16, 2005
A thousand years ago, the residents of Cerro Baúl evacuated the frontier town in southern Peru. But first they drank themselves silly on spicy corn beer, then set the brewery, palace, and temple on fire.
This was no impromptu blowout, however. The event marked the ceremonial destruction of a sacred mountain enclave of the Wari people, a new archaeological study suggests.
The Wari empire built the settlement on top of a mesa—a flat-topped mountain—in the Andes mountains around A.D. 600.
Populated by the Wari elite, Cerro Baúl served as an embassy outpost to the neighboring Tiwanaku state for 400 years. As the two nations started to decline, the town was abandoned.
"Before torching the buildings as part of a systematic evacuation ritual, they brewed one last batch [of beer] and drank it all," said Michael Moseley, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
"That was the end of the party—time to get out of Dodge," said Moseley, who led the study, which appears today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ... [read on ...]