The main theory about the life of the Mayan civilization has been refuted

For a long time, scientists assumed that for the ancient Maya, cocoa was considered sacred. These fruits are evergreen

trees from the genus Theobroma were not usedonly as currency, but also in special ceremonies and religious rituals. It was called "a gift for the gods" and the role of cocoa in the life of the Maya was one of the main theories about the life of the ancient civilization. However, in the course of a new study, scientists refuted it. They found that cocoa beans were more readily available for human consumption.

In the past, experts have identified traces of cocoaonly in highly decorative ceramic vessels associated with elite ceremonial contexts. For example, in richly decorated drinking vases. Other utensils simply have not been studied so thoroughly. As a result, for the most part, scientists thought that access to cocoa was strictly regulated.

A painted cylindrical vase depicting a foaming drink in a vase and a tamale in a plate.
Photo: Justin Kerr,, Kerr number: 6418

“For a long time it was believed that cocoa was for the Mayaelite exclusive,” explains Anabelle Ford, anthropologist and director of the Mesoamerican Research Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Now we know that this is not the case. Eating cocoa was a luxury available to everyone. The important thing is that it was a requirement of the rituals associated with it.”

To check exclusivity of usecocoa, the researchers studied 54 archaeological ceramic shards. They all hail from El Pilar, located between Belize and Guatemala. The study includes chemical analysis of these shards, specifically cocoa biomarkers caffeine, theobromine and theophylline.

Mesoamerica and the lowlands inhabited by the Maya.
Credit: Mesoamerican Research Center

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