Mayas may have used chocolate as spice

2012-08-03 14:42
Archaeologists say they have found traces of chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula. (Tyrone Turner, National Geographic, AP)

Archaeologists say they have found traces of chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula. (Tyrone Turner, National Geographic, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Video

VIDEO: Mayan culture

2012-08-03 08:11

This BBC video on YouTube shows how descendants of the ancient Mayan culture still live off the land in Mexico.WATCH

kalahari.com

Mexico City - Archaeologists say they have found traces of 2 500-year-old chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, the first time they have found ancient chocolate residue on a plate rather than a cup, suggesting it may have been used as a condiment or sauce with solid food.

Experts have long thought cacao beans and pods were mainly used in pre-Hispanic cultures as a beverage, made either by crushing the beans and mixing them with liquids or fermenting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod. Such a drink was believed to have been reserved for the elite.

But the discovery announced this week by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History expands the envelope of how chocolate may have been used in ancient Mexico.

It would also suggest that there may be ancient roots for traditional dishes eaten in today's Mexico, such as mole, the chocolate-based sauce often served with meats.

"This is the first time it has been found on a plate used for serving food," archaeologist Tomas Gallareta said. "It is unlikely that it was ground there [on the plate], because for that they probably used metates [grinding stones]."

Fragments


The traces of chemical substances considered "markers" for chocolate were found on fragments of plates uncovered at the Paso del Macho archaeological site in Yucatan in 2001.

The fragments were later subjected to tests with the help of experts at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, as part of a joint project. The tests revealed a "ratio of theobromine and caffeine compounds that provide a strong indicator of cacao usage", according to a statement by the university.

"These are certainly interesting results," John S Henderson, a Cornell University professor of Anthropology and one of the foremost experts on ancient chocolate, said in an e-mail.

Henderson, who was not involved in the Paso del Macho project, wrote that "the presence of cacao residues on plates is even more interesting... the important thing is that it was on flat serving vessels and so presented or served in some other way than as a beverage".

"I think their inference that cacao was being used in a sauce is likely correct, though I can imagine other possibilities," he added, citing possibilities like "addition to a beverage (cacao-based or other) as a condiment or garnish".

The plate fragments date to about 500 BCE (Before Common Era), and are not the oldest chocolate traces found in Mexico. Beverage vessels found in excavations of Gulf coast sites of the Olmec culture, to the west of the Yucatan, and other sites in Chiapas, to the south, have yielded traces around 1 000 years older.

But it does extend the roots of Mexican cuisine, and the importance of chocolate, further back into the past.

"This indicates that the pre-Hispanic Maya may have eaten foods with cacao sauce, similar to mole," the anthropology institute said in a statement.
- AP

Read more on:    archaeology
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Movies
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Hout Bay - 18:19 PM
    Road name: Chapmans Peak Drive
    WEDNESDAYS - ROAD CLOSED between 10am and 3pm for Alien Vegetation Clearing - every Wednesday - weather permitting
  • Wednesday Nyanga - 18:19 PM
    Road name: Duinefontein Road
    PROTEST ACTION and STONE THROWING at The Downs
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is always easier to look out and see what needs changing. Looking in is a lot harder... Today you may need to look at what...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.