Sunday, November 21, 2010

Origins of Chocolate

Archaeologists seem to be continually pushing back the dates of origin of many different items. Additional digs, new technology, and expanded analysis all contribute to gathering new evidence and information about such origins.  I find the subject fascinating, especially when it relates to food and drink.

When did chocolate originate?  It is widely agreed that chocolate originated in Mesoamerica but the date of its origin has recently been significantly revised.  In the latest issue of Archaeology (Nov/Dec. 2010), there is an article, The Power of Chocolate, written by Blake Edgar, a senior editor at the University of California Press and a contributing editor to Archaeology magazine.

In 1984, chemists at the Hershey Company analyzed the residue in an ancient clay pot, trying to ascertain whether they had contained cacao or not. They determined that the chemical theobromine was the perfect indicator of whether cacao was present or not, and found some in the pot, which was aged to 460-480 A.D.  At the time, this was the earliest known evidence of cacao use.  Since then, other pots have undergone similar analysis, and the earliest evidence for cacao use has been pushed back, to at least 1500 B.C., and likely is even older.  So, in just 20 years of analysis, the origin date of chocolate has changed by about 2000 years. 

It is a fascinating article, and supplies some additional information about the role of cacao in Mesoamerica so I recommend you pick up the latest issue of Archaeology.  Their website only has an abstract of the article so you need the actual magazine for the entire article.

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