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Was It Choco-Late Or Early?

Chocolate……. a typically sweet, usually brown, food preparation that fills our heart with happiness! The chocolate-crazy world has dedicated a whole day for this product! Yes, we mark the World Chocolate Day on July 7 each year. But, when we first enjoyed the taste of chocolate?
So far, it has been commonly believed that we got this extraordinary lucrative food item 3,000 years ago (precisely 3,100-4,000 years ago). However, the scientists recently confirmed the existence of chocolate 5,450 years ago, courtesy to some ancient Ecuadorian containers. The scientists found Theobromine, an alkaloid, which is commonly found in cacao trees.


Ecuadorian containers

Anthropologist Michael Blake of the University of British Columbia and his colleagues detected residues of cacao in elaborate funerary containers and on stone tools unearthed at Santa Ana-La Florida – an archaeological site in the highlands of Ecuador. Blake claimed that the samples – radiocarbon dated to more than 5,000 years ago – contained traces of Theobromine, a substance found in high concentrations in cacao seeds, as well as genetic material from cacao. He said that the greatest genetic diversity among cacao trees is found in the Amazonian region. The development indicates that they may have originated there before travelling to Mexico and Central America some 3,600 years ago and being fully domesticated by the Maya. It is to be noted that pepper and corn of ancient times were also found in this particular region.

Blake and anthropologist Sonia Zerillo also found cocoa in the Amazonian region and we know that chocolate is made from cocoa beans. The two found the remains of the Theobroma cacao – also called the cacao tree, a small (4-8mt tall) evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae, native to the deep tropical regions of the Americas – and caffeine inside the ceramic containers. Later, they conducted a DNA analysis of the tree.


Cocoa tree

Archaeologists further claimed that they found the earliest example of cacao usage in the Americas on pieces of stone and ceramic from Andes Village in Ecuador’s Mayo-Chinchipe sites that are about 5,300 years old, 1,700 years earlier than the evidence from Mesoamerica. But, the people used to enjoy liquid chocolate at that time and also used cacao seeds as coins.


Mayan Civilisation

According to Blake, the presence of Theobromine in the containers helps analyse the existence of chocolate in ancient Ecuador. This is the first evidence of the use of cacao in ancient times. Still, the Amazon forest houses several species of Theobromine. Scientists believe that the easy availability of cacao in the region makes it popular in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Mexico. The Micronesian and Polynesian, too, used to enjoy cacao even before their arrival on the Pacific Islands.


Amazon Forest

Although the Mexicans introduced the chocolate to markets as a food product in the mid-19th Century, farmers first used the cocoa seeds to produce quality crops in 1663-68. And, man tasted the chocolate for the first time 5,450 years ago!

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