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A Journey Into Paradise

Ancient Mayans Used Chocolate to Flavor Meals

12 September, 2012

Major news outlets from ABC to NPR reported in early August that archaeologists have discovered traces of chocolate on the plates of ancient Mayans that is more than 2,500 years old. Experts were already aware that the Mayans drank chocolate,but this new evidence shows that they also used it as a condiment,according to the reports.

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

This is a major breakthrough for understanding the indigenous tribes of the Yucatan region that have long called Riviera Maya real estate “home.” The discovery was made by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and suggests that there are ancient roots for traditional dishes still served throughout the region,such as mole,which is a popular chocolate-based sauce that is often served with meat. 

According to MSNBC,the plate fragments discovered at the Paso del Macho archaeological site date back to around 500 BCE. However,it is important to note that other traces of chocolate have been found on ancient beverage vessels in the region just west and south of the Yucatan that are at least 1,000 years older.

ABC News reports that,“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 to the elite.”

This is partially why the recent discovery is so important. It shows that chocolate may have actually been used in a wider variety of ways than previously believed,and consumed by everyday citizens of the ancient Mayan culture.