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The Maya archaeological site at Colha in northern Belize, Central America, has yielded several spouted ceramic vessels that contain residues from the preparation of food and beverages. Here we analyse dry residue samples by using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to atmospheric-pressure chemical-ionization mass spectrometry, and show that chocolate (Theobroma cacao) was consumed by the Preclassic Maya as early as 600 bc, pushing back the earliest chemical evidence of cacao use by some 1,000 years. Our application of this new and highly sensitive analytical technique could be extended to the identification of other ancient foods and beverages.
he Maya archaeological site at Colha in
northern Belize, Central America, has
yielded several spouted ceramic vessels
that contain residues from the preparation
of food and beverages. Here we analyse dry
residue samples by using high-performance
liquid chromatography coupled to atmos-
pheric-pressure chemical-ionization mass
spectrometry, and show that chocolate
(Theobroma cacao) was consumed by the
Preclassic Maya as early as 600
BC, pushing
back the earliest chemical evidence of cacao
use by some 1,000 years. Our application of
this new and highly sensitive analytical
technique could be extended to the identifi-
cation of other ancient foods and beverages.
The site at Colha is known for its spe-
cialized production of lithic tools
and for
its collection of intact, spouted vessels
which were manufactured only during the
Preclassic period (900
BC to AD 250)
. These
have generally been recovered from burial
sites associated with elite individuals and
are relatively rare, typically being found
with other serving vessels such as bowls,
dishes and plates, and were probably used
to dispense liquid from the spout, in much
the same way as a teapot.
Based on epigraphic analysis of vessels
dating from the Classic (
AD 250–900) period
and documents written at the time of the
Spanish Conquest, liquid chocolate was
frothed to produce a foam — considered by
the Maya and the Aztecs to be the most
desirable part of the drink
— by pouring
the liquid from one vessel into another
. In
the earlier Preclassic spouted jars (Fig. 1),
frothing would also have been accomplished
by introducing air through the spout,
enabling the vessel to be used for preparing,
as well as pouring, liquid chocolate.
At the time of the Spanish Conquest,
chocolate was consumed with most meals
and was usually mixed with another ingre-
dient (for example, water, maize, chilli
and/or honey) and in different proportions
to produce a variety of drinks
. Our aim,
however, was to confirm the existence of
cacao residues in spouted vessels, rather
than to investigate the presence of other
We used high-performance liquid chro-
matography (HPLC) coupled to atmos-
pheric-pressure chemical-ionization mass
spectrometry (APCI MS) to analyse each of
the samples collected from the 14 vessels
recovered from a series of burials at Colha
All of these vessels date to between 600
and AD 250 (ref. 2). The procedure involved
withdrawing about 500 mg from each sam-
ple vial, and adding 3 ml distilled water at 80
7C to solubilize the materials. Before analy-
sis, we passed each sample through mem-
brane filters to eliminate particulate matter.
Cacao has a unique chemical composi-
tion of over 500 different compounds,
including members of the methylxanthine
class (primarily theobromine, with a lower
concentration of caffeine). As T. cacao is the
only Mesoamerican plant that contains
theobromine as the primary methylxan-
, this compound can be used as a
marker for the presence of cacao. For exam-
ple, HPLC coupled to thermospray mass
spectroscopy has revealed cacao residues in
ceramic vessels found in an Early Classic
AD 460–480) tomb at the Maya site of Rio
Azul in northeastern Guatemala
For APCI MS, the probe was operated
in positive-ion mode to monitor for peaks
at m/z4181 (theobromine) and m/z4195
(caffeine), with the ultraviolet detector set
at 270 nm. The results of the HPLC MS
confirmed the existence of theobromine in
3 of the 14 samples analysed. Peaks from
the extract of the residue from vessel 13
(Fig. 1) were evident in the total-ion and
ultraviolet chromatograms and the selected-
ion-monitoring trace at m/z4181 (Fig. 2;
for peak calibration for standards, see sup-
plementary information) and was con-
firmed by the fact that the mass spectrum
(see supplementary information) and
ultraviolet chromatogram of this peak
show the same retention time as theo-
bromine (Fig. 2b).
To our knowledge, this is the first time
that this new technique has been used to
analyse dry residues from the interior sur-
faces of prehistoric pottery. The presence
of cacao in Maya spouted vessels at Colha
indicates that its usage pre-dates evidence
from Rio Azul by almost a millennium.
We now know that the Maya had a long,
continuous history of preparing and con-
suming liquid chocolate from the Preclassic
period through to the Spanish Conquest.
Cacao wood charcoal dating to the same
period has been found at several sites in the
, further supporting the idea that
cacao drinking has its roots in the Preclas-
sic, and indicating that this part of northern
Belize may have been one of the main pro-
duction areas for cacao during this period.
W. Jeffrey Hurst*, Stanley M. Tarka Jr*,
Terry G. Powis†, Fred Valdez Jr†,
Thomas R. Hester†
brief communications
VOL 418
18 JULY 2002
| 289
Cacao usage by the earliest Maya civilization
Foaming chocolate prepared in spouted vessels made a delectable Preclassic drink.
Figure 2 Chromatographic analysis of residue from Maya cooking vessels. a, Mass-spectroscopy chromatogram of dry extract from
vessel 13. Red, total-ion chromatogram; green, selected-ion monitoring (SIM) at
4181 for theobromine; blue, SIM at
4195 for
caffeine. For the mass spectrum of the peak at 2.6 min, as well as details of methods and standards, see supplementary information.
b, Ultraviolet chromatogram of the same extract, showing a peak at 2.6 min, which is consistent with results in a. Dashed lines are
integration markers; arrows indicate the starts and ends of peaks. The peak at around 1.5 min is due to the chromatography solvent. The
peak for caffeine is not evident as its concentration in cocoa is about 10 times lower than that of theobromine.
Figure 1 Early Maya use of cacao (
Theobroma cacao
): spouted
vessel no. 13, which was found to contain cocoa residue. This
vessel is one of 14 excavated from Colha in northern Belize,
dating to between 600 BC and AD 250.
1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0
Time (min)
1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0
Relative peak
area counts
© 2002
Reprint, New York, 1941).
6. Potter, D. R. in The Colha Project, Second Season, 1980 Interim
Report (eds Hester, T. R., Eaton, J. D. & Shafer, H. J.) 173–184
(Center for Archaeological Research, San Antonio, Texas;
Centro Studi Ricerche Ligabue, Venice; 1980).
7. Potter, D. R. in Archaeology at Colha, Belize, 1981 Interim Report
(eds Hester, T. R., Shafer, H. J. & Eaton, J. D.) 98–122 (Center
for Archaeological Research, San Antonio, Texas; Centro Studi
Ricerche Ligabue, Venice; 1982).
8. Hurst, W. J., Martin, A. J. Jr, Tarka, S. M. Jr & Hall, G. D.
J. Chromatogr. 466, 279–289 (1989).
9. Hall, G. D., Tarka, S. M. Jr, Hurst, W. J., Stuart, D. &
Adams, R. E. W. Am. Antiquity 55, 138–143 (1990).
10.Stuart, D. Antiquity 62, 153–157 (1988).
11.Turner, B. L. & Miksichek, C. H. Econ. Bot. 38, 179–193 (1984).
Supplementary information accompanies this communication on
Nature’s website.
Competing financial interests: declared none.
Uday K. Tirlapur, Karsten König
Laser Microscopy Division, Institute of Anatomy II,
Friedrich Schiller University, Teichgraben 7,
07743 Jena, Germany
1. Stephens, D. J. & Pepperkok, R. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 98,
4295–4298 (2001).
VOL 418
18 JULY 2002
*Hershey Foods Technical Center, PO Box 805,
Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA
Department of Anthropology, University of Texas,
Austin, Texas 78712-1086, USA
1. Hester, T. R. & Shafer, H. J. in Archaeological Views from the
Countryside: Village Communities in Early Complex Societies
(eds Schwartz, G. M. & Falconer, S. E.) 48–63 (Smithsonian
Institution, Washington DC, 1994).
2. Valdez, F. Jr The Prehistoric Ceramics of Colha, Northern Belize.
Thesis, Harvard Univ. (1987).
3. Powis, T. G. & Hurst, W. J. Proc. 66th Annu. Meeting Soc. Am.
Archaeol. (New Orleans, 2001).
4. Coe, S. D. & Coe, M. D. The True History of Chocolate
(Thames & Hudson, London, 1996).
5. Tozzer, A. M. Landa’s Relación de Las Cosas de Yucatán (Kraus
brief communications
Cell biology
Targeted transfection by
femtosecond laser
he challenge for successful delivery of
foreign DNA into cells in vitro, a key
technique in cell and molecular biol-
ogy with important biomedical implications,
is to improve transfection efficiency while
leaving the cell’s architecture intact. Here
we show that a variety of mammalian
cells can be directly transfected with DNA
without perturbing their structure by first
creating a tiny, localized perforation in the
membrane using ultrashort (femtosecond),
high-intensity, near-infrared laser pulses.
Not only does this superior optical tech-
nique give high transfection efficiency and
cell survival, but it also allows simultaneous
evaluation of the integration and expression
of the introduced gene.
Previous techniques that have been devel-
oped for transfection of cells with DNA
include carrier-mediated transfer
fer by plasma-membrane permeabilization
as well as direct transfer
, but the efficiency of
targeted DNA delivery by these methods
may not be optimal. Moreover, none allows
contact-free, non-disruptive, stable trans-
fection of individual cells and concomitant
evaluation in situof transgene expression.
We directed a high-intensity (10
), near-infrared, femtosecond-pulsed
laser beam (wavelength, 800 nm) from an
80-MHz titanium–sapphire laser, with a
mean power of 50–100 mW and tightly
focused using a high-numerical-aperture
objective, at a sub-femtolitre focal volume
at the cell membrane. This resulted in the
formation of a single, site-specific, transient
perforation in the cell membrane through
which DNA could enter. This mode of
targeted transfection differs from the less
precise nanosecond-pulsed, ultraviolet (355
nm) lasers used previously
and which were
found to disrupt cellular integrity
Using Chinese hamster ovarian (CHO)
and rat–kangaroo kidney epithelial (PtK2)
cells, we studied the process of transfection
mediated by intense near-infrared femto-
second laser pulses. Cells were suspended
inside a sterile miniaturized cell chamber in
0.5 ml culture medium containing 0.2 mg
plasmid DNA vector pEGFP-N1 (4.7 kilo-
bases) encoding enhanced green fluorescent
protein (EGFP)
. Transmission images of
cells were obtained at low power (*5 mW),
and the near-infrared laser beam was then
focused (under the same microscope) on
the edge of the membrane of a target cell,
which was exposed to an enhanced mean
laser power of 50–100 mW for 16 ms so that
transfection could occur. More than 200
cells of each type were targeted in each of 18
replicate experiments; it took 10–15 s to
prepare for the transfection of each cell.
We assessed the integration and expres-
sion efficiency of the EGFP gene in situ by
time-lapse two-photon fluorescence imag-
at a mean laser power of *1 mW over a
period of 72 h, as well as by two-photon flu-
orescence-lifetime imaging (TPFLIM)
. Fig-
ure 1 shows that diffraction-limited focusing
of intense femtosecond near-infrared laser
pulses selectively facilitates transfection of
the target cells, but not of the adjacent cells.
Expression of EGFP in the transfected cell is
also demonstrated by TPFLIM, and the
measured fluorescence lifetime of about
2.4 ns is consistent with that reported for
mammalian cells expressing EGFP
Irrespective of cell type, the transfection
achieved by this technique was invariably
100%. This high level of selective and total
transfection, without any detrimental effects
on growth and division, and with virtually
no cell death or sign of apoptosis, together
with the ability to determine expression by
fluorescence-intensity imaging and TPFLIM
with the same microscope, demonstrate the
potential of this non-disruptive technique
in transfection and expression studies. The
ability to transfer foreign DNA safely and
efficiently into specific cell types (including
stem cells) — circumventing the need for
mechanical, electrical or chemical means —
will be an encouraging advance for a range
of ventures, including targeted gene therapy
and DNA vaccination.
Figure 1 Analysis of the targeted transfection of Chinese hamster
ovarian (CHO) cells with a plasmid encoding enhanced green fluor-
escent protein (EGFP) by
in situ
visualization, and measurement of
its expression by near-infrared, two-photon-excitation-evoked,
real EGFP fluorescence detection and fluorescence-lifetime imag-
ing. a, Real EGFP fluorescence image of several CHO cells trans-
fected with the pEGFP-N1 plasmid. b, Transmission image of a
single transfected CHO cell (arrow). c, Two-photon fluorescence-
lifetime image of the same cell expressing EGFP; colour scale
indicates the fluorescence lifetime (
) between 0 and 5 nano-
seconds. Inset, distribution of fluorescence lifetime (in picoseconds)
of EGFP throughout the entire transfected cell. Scale bar, 25 mm.
© 2002
... For the Classic Maya, Baron [56] points to southern Belize as an intensive cacao producing region, where networked principals hosted foreign merchants and exported cacao. Cacao served both as a ritual beverage of symbolic value and as a currency throughout Mesoamerica [118]. In southern Belize, export of cacao likely helped enrich certain households in these districts and returned valued goods from the Classic Maya heartland [56]. ...
Full-text available
Inequality is present to varying degrees in all human societies, pre-modern and contemporary. For archaeological contexts, variation in house size reflects differences in labor investments and serves as a robust means to assess wealth across populations small and large. The Gini coefficient, which measures the degree of concentration in the distribution of units within a population, has been employed as a standardized metric to evaluate the extent of inequality. Here, we employ Gini coefficients to assess wealth inequality at four nested socio-spatial scales–the micro-region, the polity, the district, and the neighborhood–at two medium size, peripheral Classic Maya polities located in southern Belize. We then compare our findings to Gini coefficients for other Classic Maya polities in the Maya heartland and to contemporaneous polities across Mesoamerica. We see the patterning of wealth inequality across the polities as a consequence of variable access to networks of exchange. Different forms of governance played a role in the degree of wealth inequality in Mesoamerica. More autocratic Classic Maya polities, where principals exercised degrees of control over exclusionary exchange networks, maintained high degrees of wealth inequality compared to most other Mesoamerican states, which generally are characterized by more collective forms of governance. We examine how household wealth inequality was reproduced at peripheral Classic Maya polities, and illustrate that economic inequity trickled down to local socio-spatial units in this prehispanic context.
... Esta técnica ha sido ampliamente utilizada para analizar y detectar básicamente la existencia o la ausencia de lípidos, carbohidratos, proteínas, fosfatos y pH. En particular el estudio de la cerámica de cocina ha permitido evaluar los alimentos cocinados y su forma de cocción (Evershed 1993(Evershed , 2008aChartres et al. 1993;Malainey, Przybylski y Sherriff, 1999;Regert 2011), la cerámica de almacenamiento y de servicio, ha ayudado a entender los alimentos conservados y consumidos (Barba 2014;Hurst et al. 2002). Y a pesar de que es una técnica recurrente en arqueología en superficie, son pocas las investigaciones y la aplicación de esta a material cerámico proveniente de medios acuáticos. ...
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This dissertation presents the investigation of underwater materials, specifically, a total of six vessels were collected, their contents and sediments from the cenotes, Kan Kab Chen and Kan Kal, located in the municipality of Homún, Yucatán, México. The research developed a wide range of analyzes applied to ceramics, sediments, pollen, phytoliths, macrobiological identification (mainly seeds), carbon-14, identification of chemical residues. The results together provided us with more precise information about the variability of uses and practices that were carried out by societies since the pre-classic around the cenotes. Esta disertación expone la investigación de materiales subauáticos, específicamente, se colectadas un total de seis vasijas, sus contenidos y sedimentos provenientes de los cenotes, Kan Kab Chen y Kan Kal, ubicados en el municipio de Homún, Yucatán, México. La investigación desarrollo un amplio rango de análisis aplicados a la cerámica, sedimentos, polen, fitolitos, identificación macrobiológica (principalmente semillas), carbono-14, identificación de residuos químicos. Los resultados en conjunto nos proporcionaron de información más precisa acerca de la variabilidad de usos y prácticas que se llevaron a cabo por las sociedades desde el preclásico entorno a los cenotes.
... Historically, the consumption of cocoa (T. cacao L.) and its seeds -dried and fermented by Mayan and Aztec civilizations -has been documented since 1,100 BC (Hurst et al., 2002). In Brazil, according to old reports (over 100 years ago), the southeast region of Bahia State has stood out worldwide by its high cocoa production (Souza et al., 2014). ...
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This study evaluated the genotoxicity of lyophilized glycolic extract of Theobroma cacao Linné seeds (TCL), using the micronucleus assay in bone marrow of mice. The interaction between TCL and doxorubicin (DXR) was also analyzed. Experimental groups were evaluated 24-48 h after treatment with N-Nitroso-N-ethylurea (NEU: 50 mg/kg), DXR (5 mg/kg), NaCl (145 mM), TCL (0.5-2 g/kg), and TCL (2 g/kg) in combination with DXR (antigenotoxic assays). Analysis of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes (MNPCEs) showed no significant differences between all the treatment doses of TCL and NaCl control. Mice experimentally treated with DXR and NEU significantly induced MNPCEs. However, a significant reduction of MNPCEs was also observed when TCL was administered in combination with the chemotherapeutic agent DXR. The analysis of the PCE/NCE ratio revealed no significant differences between the NaCl control, all doses of TCL, and DXR. However, there were significant differences in the PCE/NCE ratio between positive NEU control and all other treatments. The PCE/NCE ratio observed after treatment with TCL and DXR showed significant differences and intermediate values to controls (NaCl and NEU). This study suggests absence of genotoxicity and cytotoxicity of TCL, regardless of dose, sex, and time. TCL reduced genotoxic effects induced by DXR, suggesting potential antigenotoxic effects. Keywords: bone marrow; cacao; cytotoxicity; doxorubicin hydrochloride (DXR); phytotherapeutic; rodents
... Cacao and cocoa products are valued for their unique taste and aroma, and has been used for medicinal, ritual and nutritional purposes in Central and South America since 600 BC [1]. Ever since, cacao has become one of the most popular food ingredients and is consumed worldwide [2]. ...
Cacao and cocoa products are worldwide important commodities, which are often a subject of adulteration. Therefore, a sufficient and reliable analytical technique is required to provide fast screening results, which will accommodate the need to reveal adulteration and evaluate the quality of selected cocoa products in real time. The goal of this paper is to validate and optimise settings of the DART (direct analysis in real time) technique coupled with TOF-MS. The ionisation mode, ionisation temperature and type of solvent for sample extraction were optimised. Characteristic compounds of cocoa products (theobromine, caffeine, phenolic and flavonoid compounds) were determined and quantified in a set of 17 and 12 samples of cocoa powders and instant cocoa beverages, respectively. Quantitative analysis of theobromine and caffeine applying DART was evaluated as well and obtained data sets were compared with those obtained from HPLC measurements. The correlation equation between these two methods, for each compound and product, is as follows: theobromine: cocoa powders: DART = 1.6394 × HPLC – 1.4353; cocoa drinks: DART = 1.0385 × HPLC – 0.019 and caffeine: cocoa powders: DART = 1.0234 × HPLC – 0.0195; cocoa drinks: DART = 0.7909 × HPLC +0.0054. Mass spectra data was statistically processed applying PCA (principal component analysis). In conclusion, the fast DART/TOF-MS screening technique displays a great potential to evaluate the quality and authenticity, i.e. identify and quantify characteristic compounds of cocoa products.
This paper discusses the effect of chrononutrition on the regulation of circadian rhythms; in particular, that of chocolate on the resynchronization of the human internal biological central and peripheral clocks with the main external synchronizers, light–dark cycle and nutrition-fasting cycle. The desynchronization of internal clocks with external synchronizers, which is so frequent in our modern society due to the tight rhythms imposed by work, social life, and technology, has a negative impact on our psycho-physical performance, well-being, and health. Taking small amounts of chocolate, in the morning at breakfast at the onset of the active phase, helps speed up resynchronization time. The high flavonoid contents in chocolate promote cardioprotection, metabolic regulation, neuroprotection, and neuromodulation with direct actions on brain function, neurogenesis, angiogenesis, and mood. Although the mechanisms of action of chocolate compounds on brain function and mood as well as on the regulation of circadian rhythms have yet to be fully understood, data from the literature currently available seem to agree in suggesting that chocolate intake, in compliance with chrononutrition, could be a strategy to reduce the negative effects of desynchronization. This strategy appears to be easily implemented in different age groups to improve work ability and daily life.
The importance of cacao in ancient Mesoamerica is attested by the presence of cacao biomarkers in ritual pottery. By at least the Postclassic period, if not earlier, cacao beans are thought to have been a prominent mode of currency in the central Yucatan. During the colonial period the Maya of Yucatan were tending sacred groves of cacao trees in the shaded, humid microclimates of karst sinkholes that dot the peninsula. We report on the development of a method for the extraction and quantitation of the methylxanthine biomarkers of cacao (theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine) from soil. The presence of these biomarkers provides evidence of the distribution and ritual importance of these sacred cacao groves to the Maya. Methylxanthine biomarkers were present in the soils of nine of eleven sampled sinkholes in Yucatan and Quintana Roo, MX.
Money in Mesoamerica has a long history and many forms; cacao, a tree seed, was one kind of currency. Abundant archaeological evidence of cacao money in Mesoamerica contributes to broader theoretical debates about money and monetization. Among many competing theories of money, the constitutional model of money particularly emphasizes materiality as well as the importance of money in relationships of governance and finance in ways distinct from both classical and chartalist theoretical approaches. The propositions of this theory bear up when tested with Mesoamerican examples. In particular, the Izalcos polity located in what is today western El Salvador is an important late prehispanic to colonial case study because it relied upon cacao money to an unusual degree and had extraordinary levels of cacao production. Archaeological evidence of Izalcos region settlement patterns, built environment, and material culture patterning indicate the political and economic consequences of cacao money for configuring authority, state finance, agricultural production, and commercial systems. This evidence accords with constitutional model expectations, including governance seeking to measure and mobilize material resources and labor in order to deploy their power in public projects as well as contexts of well-developed markets, some degree of commodity trade, and complex household economies.
Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers tend to target single or classes of neurotransmitters. Given that most cognitive functions are the expression of multiple physiological processes, it is unsurprising that classic drug development has resulted in a few effective cognitive enhancers. At the same time there are well-characterised botanical extracts which appear to influence numerous neurotransmitter, neurohormonal and neurovascular processes involved in cognition. While many of these botanical extracts—e.g. cannabis, opiates and alcohol—are impairing, others can act as cognitive enhancers. This chapter will focus on acute cognitive enhancement from administration of select botanical extracts including Asian and American ginseng, sage and cocoa polyphenols. When benchmarked against pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers, these extracts enhance cognition with similar effect sizes to modafinil. The mechanisms of action appear to be different to those underlying pharmaceutical interventions, with positive effects on cerebral blood flow and central glucose utilisation complementing direct neurotransmitter effects. These mechanisms may be further elucidated through recently developed neuroimaging methodologies.
Full-text available
Introduction: Spices are an ingredient that today is considered indispensable in the kitchen not only for the important role of flavoring and coloring food, but also for the antibacterial, antioxidant, eupeptic, antidiabetic and anticancer properties, which have been highlighted through chemical and pharmacological analysis. Methods: In order to use spices in the food sector, it is necessary to have a product with characteristics of authenticity and genuineness such as to protect the consumers from possible health risks. The aim of the present study was to find the best extractive conditions for vanilla capsules with the use of different solvents such as ethyl ether, methyl alcohol and dichloromethane and subjecting the extracts obtained to qualitative and quantitative analysis. Results: From the analysis carried out it was possible to highlight that the main component of the vanilla pod is vanillin from which the particular aroma derives. Other important compounds are: vanillic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde, anisic alcohol; and vanillin degradation products which are also available in small concentrations. In addition, the following flavonoids have been identified: rutin, morine, quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, apigenin, whci are considered to be responsible for pharmacological activities. Conclusions: Knowledge of chemical composition of a spice is necessary to guarantee its authenticity. In the case of vanilla, possible sophistications can be highlighted considering the relationship between vanillin and the other main components which in the natural extract is well defined and, in addition to being an index of good quality, allows to identify the origin of the plant and to discover any adulterations,as by adding synthetic vanillin or other spices.
Full-text available
The issue of plant species used by the ancient Maya of the Yucatan region previous to A.D. 900–1,000 has involved a number of types of arguments, 5 of which are identified: ecological speculation, ethnobotany, plant relicts, linguistics/ iconography, and plant remains/fossils. Recent emphasis on uncovering and analyzing plant remains from Maya occupational and agricultural relics demonstrates that direct evidence from archaeological contexts can be obtained. This evidence, including fossil pollen, seeds, and stem and wood fragments, is used to evaluate various issues involving those species proposed to have been used by the Maya. The results support views dealing with the dominance of maize as a staple and the use of squash, agave, cotton, and tree species. Propositions concerning significance of ramón, cacao, root crops, and amaranth are not yet supported by direct evidence.
Despite decades of extensive study of ancient Maya ceramics, a few basic questions still vex the archaeologist: What were the actual uses of the distinct types of Maya vessels? How can we determine the precise function of some pottery forms? How can we understand the classification the Maya themselves had for their pots? This brief note, using a recently-discovered vessel from Río Azul, Guatemala, as an illustration, will show that such questions can be addressed using combined data from different analytical approaches. Here I also wish to emphasize the notion that some of the most important sources of information on these issues are the hieroglyphic texts painted or carved on numerous Maya ceramics.
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.
Samples of a dry residue collected from the interiors of ceramic vessels at the Maya site of Rio Azul in northeastern Guatemala were analyzed by a variety of high-performance liquid chromatographic techniques. Archeologists at the site had strong indications that the vessels contained cocoa. Since the literature indicated that cocoa would tend to be the only Mesoamerican commodity that would contain both theobromine and caffeine, initial studies concentrated on the determination of these compounds. Reversed-phase chromatography coupled with photodiode array and mass spectrometry detection confirmed the existence of these cocoa alkoloids in several of the vessels. Amino acid and fatty acid analysis were also conducted on the residues.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Harvard University, 1987. Includes abstract. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 283-295). Microfiche. s
Jr The Prehistoric Ceramics of Colha
  • F Valdez
  • F Valdez Jr
Valdez, F. Jr The Prehistoric Ceramics of Colha, Northern Belize. Thesis, Harvard Univ. (1987).
  • T G Powis
  • W J Hurst
Powis, T. G. & Hurst, W. J. Proc. 66th Annu. Meeting Soc. Am. Archaeol. (New Orleans, 2001).