The ancient Mayan people cultivated sacred cacao trees in the heart of karst swamps

Archaeological excavations have provided historians with new tracks to better explain the past. Recently, American and Mexican archaeologists found cocoa biomarkers in the karst ponds located in the Yucatan peninsula. This discovery revealed that the first population of the Maya practiced cocoa cultivation on a karst ground.

Among the ancient Mayas, cocoa beans are considered a divine gift. At the time, they even served as money change because of their great value. Thus, the cultivation of cocoa has been meticulously regulated by the mayan chiefs of the northern region of Yucatan. Only cocoa trees were grown in sacred orchards.

In this new study, the researchers tried to discover the cultivation areas exploited by the Mayan people. The research results were revealed in the journal Journal of Archaeological Science.

A climate unsuitable for cocoa cultivation and surprising discoveries

The researchers found that the particularly dry climate of the Yucatan Peninsula was not not conducive to cocoa cultivation. However, they also noticed that several ponds located in the area had microclimates suitable for growing this plant. By analyzing soil samples from a dozen sinkholes, archaeologists have found traces of caffeine and theobromine on nine samples.

In addition, they identified remains related to ancient ritual ceremonies, such as stair steps arranged for processions, stone carvings. From altars as well as ceramic and jade offeringsincluding small ceramic cocoa beans, were discovered in sinkholes.

“The discovery of ceremonial remains also amazed us. My students abseiled into one of the sinkholes and exclaimed, “Wow, what a structure in that hole! It was in fact a staircase whose stones occupied a third of the doline. »

Richard Terry, professor at Brigham Young University

The importance of cocoa for the Mayans

In fact, some findings indicated that cocoa crops were important during rituals and trade of the early Maya. The presence of cocoa in archaeological excavations has supported the thesis of the importance of cocoa in the ideological evolution of the Maya.

In a lost hole not far from Coba, the scientists recovered an arm and a chain attached to an incense pot. In addition, cocoa pods were modeled in ceramic. Due to the cocoa residues cultivated at that time, it is very likely that this sinkhole housed a sacred cocoa plantation.


Leave a Comment