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Mugs of the Mesa and Old Chocolate: Evidence of Prehistoric Cacao Use in the Mesa Verde Region of the North American Southwest

Author(s): Lauren Klein ; Andrew Fernandez ; Alexia De Loera ; Donald Millar

Year: 2015

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Undergraduate Anthropology and Chemistry students at the University of San Diego (USD) collaborated on the application of analytical chemistry to archaeological ceramics. USD curates 1000’s of prehistoric Southwestern artifacts, all of which are available for student research. We examined some of the collections vessels for cacao, which is the raw form of chocolate. Patricia Crown and W. Jeffrey Hurst recently found it in cylinder jar fragments from Chaco Canyon. Crown’s methodology was adapted for our project, using the university’s mugs from the Mesa Verde region near Durango, Colorado. The chemical analysis of residues extracted from Pueblo II to Pueblo III period (A.D. 1100 to 1300) Mesa Verde mugs indicates the presence of theobromine, a chemical component of cacao. In all, 24 vessels were tested using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Two mugs had positive indications for chocolate. Cacao is endemic to Mesoamerica and was used in ritual practice that made its way north with other exotica. The chemical results will be discussed along with an analysis of long distance trade networks as well as the morphological, iconographic and use-wear characteristic of each vessel.

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Mugs of the Mesa and Old Chocolate: Evidence of Prehistoric Cacao Use in the Mesa Verde Region of the North American Southwest. Andrew Fernandez, Lauren Klein, Donald Millar, Alexia De Loera. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398341)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America