What’s in your ancient chicha?: Ethnoarchaeology and organic residue analysis

Author(s): Ann Laffey

Year: 2015


Ethnoarchaeological chicha brewing was conducted on modern ceramic sherd samples for organic residue analysis. The goal was to identify botanical biomarkers that can evidence the use of Schinus molle L., Erythroxylaceae coca, and Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro cactus) for ancient brewing in the Middle Horizon (MH) era (c. 600-1100 CE). There is strong evidence that during this period socio-political influence was inexorably linked to the ability to provide chicha in exchange for labor, goods, and during competitive hosting. Oversized vessels, likely used for boiling and fermentation, as well as fineware and plainware serving and drinking vessels suggest that both the MH Wari and the Tiwanaku secured their interests by serving large amounts of chicha. All three botanicals have been identified in MH paleobotanical assemblages. However, whether they were used in chicha recipes remains unknown. This research is designed to identify these ingredients in archaeological ceramic assemblages in an effort to refine our understanding of large-scale Middle Horizon chicha-production. By tracing these ingredients it may be possible to identify chichas that were restricted to ritual use, seasonally limited chichas, and chichas that were used for mass consumption. Pressurized liquid extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry were employed to qualify chemical biomarkers.

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Cite this Record

What’s in your ancient chicha?: Ethnoarchaeology and organic residue analysis. Ann Laffey. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398413)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;