New Evidence Points to Mayans as Eating Chocolate

August 3, 2012 10:02 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Chocolate. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Looks like you're not the only ones pigging out on too much chocolate.

Archaeologists in Mexico are claiming that they've just unearthed the remnants of 2,500-year-old chocolate on an old plate in the Yucatan Peninsula. According to these experts, it looks like cacao may not have been used just as a beverage, which previous knowledge dictated, but also as a condiment alongside which food was served.

Experts are fairly baffled by the news. They've long thought the pods and beans of cacao were used primarily in pre-Hispanic cultures as a drinkable substance, obtained from the plant by either smashing the beans and mixing them with various liquids or letting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod ferment into an alcohol.

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It's no secret that modern Mexican cuisine is home to a chocolate sauce known as mole, which gets served up alongside chicken. This ancient chocolate substance is analogous to that. And although cacao residue has been found on other artifacts from sites that are around one millennium old, this is the oldest trace of cacao prepared for eating that archaeologists have found in this region.

Though the jury's still out on what, exactly, the Mayans used it for, the implications of such a finding are certain: "The fact that the inhabitants were able to acquire and use cacao indicates they were part of the larger Maya world even at this early date," began archaeologist George Bey.

His colleague, Gallareta Negron, continued in the analysis: "This evidence, combined with other archaeological, architectural, and settlement data, is providing us with a new view of this little known area of the Maya world during the earliest times... [it] was just as complex and sophisticated as the far better known Southern Maya area, and we can now add the consumption of cacao to this list of traits."

If chocolate-eating were still a signifier of sophistication, our staff would be in every country club.

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