Extraction of Soil Biomarkers from the Sacred Cacao Groves of the Maya


In Post Classic and Colonial times, cacao was an important crop to the Maya. Landa and others reported sacred groves of trees in the Yucatan region, and among these groves they saw cacao growing. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, cacao seeds were even used as a form of currency near Chichen Itza. Cacao typically grows in hot, humid climates. The Yucatan region is too dry and humidity is too low during the winter months to sustain cacao, but it has been found to grow in the humid microclimates of rejolladas. Here, we explore methods for extracting cacao biomarkers from soils in the region to better understand which types of rejolladas can be used to grow cacao. Cacao is the only known plant in the region to produce theobromine and caffeine so we used those chemical markers to determine whether or not cacao had previously been grown in the rejolladas sampled. We proceeded to extract soils from various rejolladas in the region. We found significant amounts of theobromine and caffeine in six of the thirteen rejolladas tested.

Cite this Record

Extraction of Soil Biomarkers from the Sacred Cacao Groves of the Maya. Richard Terry, Bryce M. Brown, Aline Magnoni, Tanya Carino. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403186)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;