The Use and Representation of Cacao During the Classic Period at Copan, Honduras

Cameron L. McNeil, W. Jeffrey Hurst and Robert J. Sharer

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:
The Use and Representation of Cacao During the Classic Period at Copan, Honduras

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This chapter discusses the use and representation of cacao in Copan, Honduras, during the Classic period. Cacao in Copan, Honduras, played a significant role in rituals. In the mountains of the Copan Acropolis, Early Classic queens and kings were entombed with several comestibles containing cacao. Although cacao iconography has not been found recorded in Early Classic material culture in Copan, by the turn of the Late Classic times sculptured cacao pods started to appear on ceramic vessels, stone censers, vessels, and temple displays. Cacao representation in Copan indicates that cacao was seen as a scared tree linked to rebirth, maize, and fertility. Cacao and cacao iconography in Copan was different when compared to that of Mayan culture. Although Copan Maya employed cacao symbolism, they did not use other Maya traditions linked to cacao. Instead, Copan's use of cacao demonstrates a hybrid culture, combining traits of the Mayan culture and those of non-Mayan neighbors. This chapter discusses the importance of cacao in the Early Classic tomb and cache offerings at Copan. The chapter also examines the cultivation of cacao at Copan and its religious significance. The chapter ends with a discussion on the continuity of these traditions between the Early and Late Classic periods at Copan, Maya regions, and non-Maya regions.

Keywords: cacao; Copan; Honduras; Classic period; importance of cacao; Early Classic tomb; cache offerings; cultivation of cacao; religious significance

Chapter.  10295 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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