Would you like some corn with that chocolate?
Could it be that Native Americans in the Southwest drank “instant hot chocolate” reconstituted from cacao and maize cakes 1,200 years ago?
According to research reported in Science Now, the indigenous people in Utah and New Mexico might have been enjoying chocolate long before white people brought it the long way round through Europe. And since cacao only grows in a narrow belt around the Equator, it also means there was a lot more trade happening between these early North Americans and their Mesoamerican neighbors than previously thought.
In the most recent research, Dorothy & William Washburn, an archaeologist and chemist couple, tested bowls excavated in the 1930s from a site near Canyonlands National Park in Utah, which dates to roughly 770 C.E. They also tested pottery from similar sites in Colorado.
They found traces of theobromide and caffeine, both found in cacao, in nearly every bowl they tested. Previously, they detected evidence of cacao in pottery from 11th century burial sites in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and in vessels from other Southwestern sites.
The researchers make some suppositions about this widespread evidence of chocolate consumption, including that villagers might have carried cakes of maize and cacao on trips, reconstituting the cakes with water to make an early version of instant hot chocolate.
Other researchers dispute the findings and suggestions that chocolate drinking was a commonplace occurrence in the northern Southwest when it was reserved for special occasions in Mesoamerica where it was grown.
As for me, I’m wondering when somebody is going to come out with an update on hot cocoa & corn travel tablets.