Ancient Americans became chocoholics 400yrs earlier than believed

February 3rd, 2009 - 4:38 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, February 3 (ANI): Ancient Americans might have walked hundreds of miles to procure chocolates, for a new study suggests that the practice of drinking chocolate had spread in northern New Mexico by A.D. 1000 to 1125, about 400 years earlier than chocolate was thought to have reached the US.
The discovery based on the study of chemical residues found on pottery jar shards excavated from trash mounds at Pueblo Bonito, an ancient residential complex in Chaco Canyon, suggests a vast trade network helped deliver chocolate from Central America, where the seeds of the cacao tree were first transformed into beverages some 3,000 years ago.
“That’’s a long way to go for something that you don”t need for survival, [something] that’’s more of a delicacy,” National Geographic quoted Patricia Crown, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico and co-author of the new study, as saying.
Appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, the study suggests that the closest cacao source might have been 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometres) away.
“It suggests that the only way for this material to get (to New Mexico) is (that) either people from Chaco walked down to get it, or it was traded hand to hand from Mesoamerica to Chaco, or people from Mesoamerica came up and traded it,” Patricia said.
“There are a lot of questions about how that exchange worked. But once you had that connection and had tasted chocolate, you probably wanted to keep that exchange going, whatever the mechanism,” she added.
Patricia and her co-author Jeffrey Hurst, a biochemist at the Hershey Foods Technical Center, have revealed that they found traces of theobromine, a compound that is the principal base of cacao beans and chocolate, on the pottery shards.
The researchers said that many pottery samples in museums around the US might someday yield evidence of additional cacao use, and perhaps an even wider trade network for chocolate.
Louis Grivetti, professor of nutrition at the University of California, Davis, said that the study confirmed previous evidence of trade between Central America and Mexico, and “changes all the chronologies regarding cacao use in the Americas.”
“It’’s one of the most exciting reports on the history of chocolate of the past 10 to 15 years,” he said. (ANI)

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