The Peruvian Wari Empire was supported by beer and drugs
Archaeologists believe that beer and hallucinogenic drugs helped cement the reign of the ancient Peruvian Wari Empire, which ruled the Peruvian highlands from AD 600 to AD 1000.
In a study published in the journal Antiquity, archaeologists postulate that hallucinogens from the vilca tree were added to beer during the holidays, a community drug use that strengthened Wari’s control by bonding during celebrations and making leadership important as a supplier of drugs.
Botanical remains of vilca have been found at the archaeological site of the Wari outpost of Quilcapampa, Peru, which was established in the 9th century and occupied for decades.
Fieldwork by the Royal Ontario Museum has uncovered over a million botanical remains, including the first ever seeds of the hallucinogenic vilca tree found at a Wari site. The team also found evidence that “chicha”, an alcoholic beverage similar to beer, was brewed from the soft tree in large quantities at the outpost.
Evidence from the site’s core, including pottery and vilca seeds, suggests that the production and consumption of shisha took place at parties held for guests, and that the remains studied most likely came from a party that took place. took place towards the end of the Quilcapampa occupation. The study postulates that finding shisha, vilca, and ceramics so closely related indicates that vilca was added to shisha to enhance the psychoactive effects.
Vilca has a long history of use in South America, as evidenced by a 4000-year-old pipe at the Inca Cueva site that was found with compounds from the plant inside, including the seeds. The study indicates that during the time of the Wari Empire, neighboring Tiwanaku also used the drug intensively, by inhalation.
But Quilcapampa’s Wari site seems to show a new method of ingesting the substance. While the earlier use of vilca appeared to be exclusive, with only a privileged few allowed to participate and in isolated contexts, such as at the Chavin de Huantar site in Peru from the first millennium BC, where a limited number of priests or saints men can have vilca consumed in powder form in closed galleries.
In contrast, the Wari outpost shows that the vilca was incorporated into communal feasts organized by the elites that “cemented social relations and enhanced state hospitality,” according to the study. The researchers suggest that the more inclusive strategy could be an integral part of strengthening political control.
“These individuals were able to provide some memorable collective mind-altering feasts, but made sure that they could not be reproduced independently,” the study says, noting that the difficulty obtaining and preparing the vilca would grant the Wari which gave it a special status.
The study postulates that this new way of using vilca was a key development for politics in the region, noting that the last Inca Empire also followed the Wari style of community drug use, while favoring consumption. of corn-based beer group rather than vilca.