Chapter

The Determination of Cacao in Sample of Archaeological Interest

W. Jeffrey Hurst

in Chocolate in Mesoamerica

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780813029535
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039503 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813029535.003.0005
The Determination of Cacao in Sample of Archaeological Interest

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Although the use of cacao by the Mesoamerican people has been documented since the early Colonial period, archaeologists have been hindered from discovering the breadth of its use in rituals and in the daily life of the Mesoamericans because of its rare recovery from archaeological context. In 1989, the author of this chapter determined chemically the possible existence of cacao residues in vessels recovered from Classic period tombs in Rio Azul, Guatemala. This research led to the opening of a new area of research on the manner with which cacao was used in the pre-Columbian period and the research showed that cacao was consumed in Mesoamerica one thousand years earlier than it was previously known. This chapter discusses the results of the analyses on cacao samples in a range of contexts. It also explains the methods used for chemically determining the presence of Theobroma cacao L. in decayed macrofossils and residues. In this chapter samples from diverse locations in Central America, Belize, and Honduras are examined and discussed. The chapter also outlines the experimental protocols and techniques used in the four studies presented in this chapter.

Keywords: cacao; Mesoamerican; Theobroma cacao L. cacao residues; archaeological; macrofossils; Central America; Belize; Honduras

Chapter.  2683 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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