Ancient Chocolate Unearthed in Chaco Canyon

FOR SEVERAL YEARS University of New Mexico anthropologist Patricia Crown tried to figure out how Puebloans 1,000 years ago used the distinctively cylindrical jars unearthed at Chaco Canyon, the ancient center of Puebloan culture in northwest New Mexico. Then a tip from a Mayanist inspired her to have fragments tested for cacao residue, even though the nearest cacao tree would have been about 1,000 miles away. The Mayans drank chocolate from decorative cylindrical jars on ceremonial occasions, and their trade networks extended as far north as Chaco. An analysis of the Chaco shards revealed the presence of cacao, and the results had Crown walking around for days, exclaiming, "It's chocolate!" Because there were so few of the jars, and because they were found in what had been a cache, Crown believes the cacao was drunk on ritual occasions like marriages and funerals.