The remains of a brewery in the southernmost settlement of an ancient Peruvian empire appears to provide proof that women of high rank crafted the beer-like beverage made from corn and spicy berries–chicha–treasured by the Wari people of old and their modern day descendants. Decorative shawl pins, worn exclusively by high caste women, littered the floor of the brewery, which was capable of producing more than 475 gallons of the potent brew a week.
“The brewers were not only women, but elite women,” says Donna Nash of the Field Museum in Chicago, a member of the archaeology team studying the Cerro Baúl site where the ruins were found. “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.”