A mere 2 days from now, on Tuesday August 31, 2021, at 7 PM Central Daylight Time, and free online via Zoom, Dr. Michael Ruggeri, Professor Emeritus from the City Colleges of Chicago, presents “Mesoamerica/Ancient Southwest Chocolate Trade,” sponsored by the Aztlan Listserv. He will explain that although trade between Mesoamerica and the ancient Southwest in macaws, parrot feathers, copper bells, turquoise, turkeys, and pottery has been well known to archaeologists, they have only recently become aware of the large chocolate trade that began in about the 9th century.
Researcher Patricia Crown had seen cylindrical vessels at Maya sites that previous scientists had discovered contained chocolate by using sophisticated new technology that identified theobromine and caffeine, the chemical building blocks of chocolate. In 2009, Crown was looking at similar cylindrical vessels from Chaco Canyon's Ancestral Pueblo site of Pueblo Bonito that contained pigment decoration applied in the same manner as the Maya had used in decorating their vessels. In Pueblo Bonito Room 28, Crown found layers of these types of jars, and with further digging, recovered an astounding 200,000 ceramic items. She sorted out the cylindrical ones and, hypothesizing that like the Mayan vessels they may also contain chemical proof of chocolate, had them tested for theobromine and caffeine. The tests came back positive. Thus we now know that the Ancient Pueblo people were trading for chocolate grown 1,200 miles to the south in Mesoamerica around 1000 CE.
Dr. Ruggeri continues,
Then came the huge surprise, still a mystery. Dorothy Washburn, from the University of Pennsylvania, tested shallow “Abajo Red on Orange” bowls at the site of Alkali Ridge, far to the north of Chaco in Utah. And to her surprise, they contained theobromine and caffeine – in other words – chocolate! The folks at Alkali Ridge were an extension of the Ancient Puebloan culture far to the south, and these Red on Orange bowls were different from the usual pottery found in the area. And they date to 780 CE, a full two centuries before chocolate at Pueblo Bonito.
This is an astounding find for many reasons. How did this happen? Why is this so much further north from Mesoamerica and yet the dates are 200 years earlier than the Chaco Culture dates? Why have there been no finds of chocolate between this Utah site and the New Mexico sites on the way to Utah? How did it arrive there? Who transported it? Mysteries now abound."
To register for this lecture go to https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83950845951, or go to Mike Ruggeri's Ancient Americas Events page, scroll down to his August 31, 2021, lecture, and follow the Zoom link there.
/s/webmaster [images via Nat.Hist.Museum of Utah/U. of Utah]