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Cacao Residues in Ancient Maya Vessels from Rio Azul, Guatemala

Grant D. Hall, Stanley M. Tarka, Jr., W. Jeffrey Hurst, David Stuart and Richard E. W. Adams
American Antiquity
Vol. 55, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 138-143
DOI: 10.2307/281499
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/281499
Page Count: 6
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Cacao Residues in Ancient Maya Vessels from Rio Azul, Guatemala
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Abstract

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.

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