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Cacao Residues in Ancient Maya Vessels from Rio Azul, Guatemala

  • Grant D. Hall (a1), Stanley M. Tarka (a2), W. Jeffrey Hurst (a2), David Stuart (a3) and Richard E. W. Adams (a4)...


Results of chemical analyses on residues collected from ceramic vessels found in an Early Classic period Maya tomb revealed that certain of the residues contained theobromine and caffeine, a clear indication that the corresponding vessels once contained cacao in some form. One of the vessels yielding cacao residues is decorated with hieroglyphs, two of which we believe have the phonetic values for the word “cacao” in the Mayan language. These findings are significant for three reasons: (1) a new method for recognizing ancient cacao use is demonstrated, (2) a novel way of verifying glyph interpretations is presented, and (3) data are generated that indicate what contents certain Maya vessels actually held, thus permitting useful functional interpretations.


Se comentan los resultados de análisis químicos efectuados sobre residuos recogidos de vasijas ceramicas encontradas en una tumba maya del período Clasico Temprano. Estudios revelaron que ciertos de los residuos contenían theobromina y cafeina, lo cual es una indicación clara que dichas vasijas alguna vez contuvieron cacao en alguna forma. Una de las vasijas que contiene residuos de cacao esta decorada con glifos, dos de los cuales pensamos tienen los valores fonéticos para la palabra “cacao” en la idioma maya. Estos descubrimientos son significantes por tres razones: (1) un nuevo metodo de reconocer la utilización antigua de cacao es demonstrado, (2) una manera de verificar las interpretaciónes de glifos es presentada, y (3) estan presentados datos que indican el contenido actual de ciertas vasijas Mayas, asi permitiendo interpretaciónes funcionales útiles.



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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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