Money Matters - Simplified

Mayan society used chocolate as spice 2,500 years ago!

In the Mayan society, seeds of the cocoa tree were crushed and mixed with chilies, special herbs, honey, and flowers to make a spicy chocolate beverage.

The Mayans and other pre-Hispanic cultures love for chocolate is well documented! However, unlike the sweet treats of the modern world, their preferred method of consumption was a thick frothy beverage.

New evidence unearthed suggests that chocolate was used more extensively in the Mayan culture than previously believed.

Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (NIAH) have discovered traces of a 2500-year-old chocolate on a plate in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

The remains in the dinner plate and not a cup indicate the cocoa delight was added as condiment or sauce to solid food by the Mayans.

Experts believe that the beans were not ground on the plate because mutates (grinding stones) were used for that purpose.

Chemist Timothy J. Ward at Millsaps College stated, “One of the pottery shards that has been identified as having had cacao residue was not a bowl or jar, as is typical, but a plate."

“This raises the possibility that cacao was not only being used to prepare a beverage at this early time, but was already being used in sauces for dishes, perhaps similar to the popular dish known as Molé.”

According to a statement by the University the plate tests uncovered a "ratio of theobromine and caffeine compounds that provide a strong indicator of cacao usage.”

Plate dates from 500-600 BC
The plate fragment with chocolate traces was discovered in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 2001. The pottery which dates about 500 to 600 BC is not the oldest evidence of chocolate usage.

The earliest known use of chocolate is from 1000 years earlier thanks to excavations at Gulf coast sites of the Olmec culture to the west of the Yucatan and other sites in Chiapas.

Plate fragments with chocolate residue tested
Tests conducted by experts at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi of the plate revealed its candy coating.

According to a statement by the University the plate tests uncovered a "ratio of theobromine and caffeine compounds that provide a strong indicator of cacao usage.”

Archaeologist Thomas Gallareta Negron at INAH stated, “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."

“The Northern Maya world 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.”

Chocolate in Mayan Culture
In the Mayan society, seeds of the cocoa tree were crushed and mixed with chilies, special herbs, honey and flowers to make a spicy chocolate beverage.

Archaeological evidence shows the chocolaty liquid concocted was then turned into frothy hot and cold beverages, fermented into intoxicating drinks or brewed into a kind of porridge.

Mayan chocolate drinks were a luxury only afforded and enjoyed by the nobility and wealthy, due to its high price.