A valuable lesson in diplomacy

    For choice diplomatic postings, the Wari tribe in the remote Andes in the four centuries leading up to 1000 A.D. doesn’t immediately spring to mind. But researchers in Peru have found cause to rethink that assumption.

    They have concluded that the remains of a settlement atop a crag overlooking the Altacama Desert were those of a diplomatic outpost where statecraft involved the consumption of copious amounts of beer.

    The Wari and envoys from the rival Tiwanaku tribe would convene on the mountaintop and there be served, in ceremonial tankards holding a half gallon, chicha, special brews made from corn mash or pepper berry pulp. The chicha came from a 475-gallon capacity brewery tended by brewmistresses drawn from the nobility.

    It all sounds very festive and seems to have been effective at keeping the peace. The two cultures suddenly died out about 1,000 years ago, and while the reasons aren’t known precisely, failed diplomacy does not seem to have been a cause.

    The site itself, called Cerro Baul, came to an abrupt and surprising end. After a night of revelry, the partygoers deliberately _ or as deliberately as one can after a gallon or two of beer _ burned the place down.

    After a lavish dinner of several different kinds of meat and eight different kinds of fish, the diplomats set fire to the banquet hall and then moved on to the brewery. After torching it, they threw their tankards into the ruins and called it a night.

    Somewhere in there is a lesson for modern-day diplomacy. A microbrewery and a few high-level brewmistresses on the roof of the State Department might break a lot of impasses, although burning the place down at the conclusion of negotiations might be a little extreme. Condoleezza Rice, take note.

    (Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)