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Cameron McNeil: “The Chocolate Tree and Its History among the Ancient Maya”

February 17, 2011 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm  |  Stevenson Fireside Lounge


This presentation will explore the use of the chocolate tree (Theobroma cacao L.) in Mesoamerican communities with a focus on the ancient Maya polity of Copan in Honduras. While the areas where cacao thrived in Mesoamerica were limited, the seeds were easily transportable and became a valued source of stimulants. By 1900 B.C. cacao was used in feasting rituals as evidenced by chemical residue analysis of vessels from Paso de la Amada, Mexico. For the pre-Columbian people T. cacao came to be associated with markers of life passage events (such as birth, marriage, and death), was linked to rulership and power, and was used as a medium of exchange. Where the cacao grew well, it was one of several important tree crops which undoubtedly aided populations in preserving forest cover while providing an esteemed comestible and trade good. Today, traditional cacao consumption and production has been lost in many areas, and where it remains it is on the wane for both positive and negative reasons.


February 17, 2011
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


Stevenson Fireside Lounge
Humanites 1 University of California, Santa Cruz Cowell College
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
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