Chocolate is older than we thought
The origins of chocolate and cocoa cultivation date back 5300 years in South America. Study in ecology and evolution
An international study today identified the first evidence of the cultivation and use of cocoa, dating from 5,300 years ago in Ecuador, about 1,500 years earlier than previously thought. This is the earliest evidence of cocoa, as reported by the research group, which includes the University of British Columbia in Canada. The results of the study are published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Cocoa is known to have played a major role in the agricultural production and culture of the Central American population, a historic region that included parts of North and Central America (the southern half of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, the western part of Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica). In the past, cocoa was considered a product of great value, since according to recent research, these people used it as an exchange currency. According to current evidence, cocoa domestication has occurred in Central America about 3,900 years ago.
However, scientists from the University of British Columbia question this assumption. In fact, the discoveries of ceramic pots at the Santa Ana (La Florida) archaeological site in Ecuador, in South America, show that cocoa has been consumed in these southern regions (most of South Central America) already 5,300 years ago. . This suggests that its domestication occurred there at that time. The place analyzed by the authors is the first archaeological site to find discoveries from the culture of Mayo Chinchip, a culture on which civilization originated some 5,500 years ago in the highlands of Ecuador.
Researchers have identified the presence of cocoa in ancient ceramics by the presence of traces, starch beans, which are thin compact structures of glucose sugar, which are important to archaeologists because they provide evidence of cocoa. But their presence was also detected by chemical biomarkers and DNA investigations. “For the first time, three independent lines at the base of archaeological evidence document the existence of ancient cocoa,” explains Sonia Zarello, the first author of the study, from the University of Calgary. According to analyzes, the genetic diversity of these ancient chocolates is greater than that found in Central America: this indicates that cocoa domestication occurred in South America and not in Central or North America. Researchers have shown that cocoa was used by the culture-based Mayo Ch Principe civilization between 5300 and 2100 years.
“This new study,” says co-author Michael Blake of the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, “suggests that people on the highlands of the Amazon basin, which extends to the foothills of the Andes in the south.” East of Ecuador, they collected and consumed a type of cocoa that looks very similar to the cocoa produced in Mexico – this happened about 1500 years ago. To the north, to present-day Colombia, Panama and other parts of Central America and southern Mexico, in ancient Central America.
It is also important to discover the origins of foods that continue to please us to learn more about the history and culture of these products. Therefore, a typical American Halloween party, which we also import, can become an occasion to celebrate chocolate and remember its origins.