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Did 8th century corn farmers in the southwest US eat cacao?

January 27, 2013

Here is a snippet (and link to full article) on recent findings that suggest early corn farmers in current-day Moab, Utah may have eaten cacao (Theobroma cacao) that would have arrived to the American southwest though trade routes established by humans migrating north from Mexico… But the possibility remains that the caffeine and theobromine residuum analyzed from “non-local” ancestral ceramic bowls could have come from a holly (Ilex) species….

Read more below.

Ancient farmers may have nibbled chocolate

By Eric M. Johnson

Ancient corn farmers living in pit houses among arid canyons of what is now Utah may have sweetened their lives with a chocolate derivative imported from the tropics of Central America, recent archeological findings suggest.

An archeologist and team of chemists analyzing the remains of an eighth century village near present-day Moab found theobromine and caffeine, compounds found in a cacao tree native to Central America and from which chocolate is derived.

“We associate cacao use with the migration of corn farmers from Mexico into the Southwest,” University of Pennsylvania archeologist Dorothy Washburn said on Friday.

But the new findings suggest that cacao, a bean that was ground up and used to flavor food and make drinks, may have arrived in the region hundreds of years earlier than previously thought, and from farther afield, she said.

Read the full article at (originally published in Reuters).

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 28, 2013 10:08:59 am

    A most interesting article. It will be interesting to hear if it was indeed cacao or rather an endemic holly. Cacao would open up a raft of questions

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