Archaeologists say the Mayans used chocolate, as a spice. (Photo : Reuters)
Researchers have found remains of chocolate on an ancient plate in Mexico, and it might have belonged to the Mayans.
Found in the Yucatan peninsula, archaeologists suggest the traces of chocolate are up to 2,500-years-old. Experts' initial theory was chocolate was used as a beverage in pre-Hispanic cultures, either by mixing them with liquids or crushing cacao beans. Instead, the latest discovery suggests the chocolate was used as a condiment or sauce as it was found on a plate, rather than a cup.
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Archaeologist Tomas Gallareta of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said, "This is the first time it has been found on a plate used for serving food. It is unlikely that it was ground there (on the plate), because for that they probably used metates (grinding stones)."
The plate fragments, found at the Paso del Macho archaeological site in Yucatan, are reported to date back about 500 B.C., but are not the oldest chocolate traces found in Mexico. The oldest title goes to beverage pots found in excavations of Gulf coast sites of the Olmec culture and other sites in Chiapas, which traced around 1,000 years older.
Mississippi's Millsaps College provided assistance in testing the plate fragments, and concluded "ratio of theobromine and caffeine compounds that provide a strong indicator of cacao usage.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Cornell University Professor John S. Henderson found the results "interesting."
Henderson further supports the idea that the pre-Hispanic Mayans used chocolate as a sauce for their food.
He told the AP, "I think their inference that cacao was being used in a sauce is likely correct, though I can imagine other possibilities," he added, citing possibilities like "addition to a beverage (cacao-based or other) as a condiment or garnish."