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Chocolate in Mesoamerica
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New models of research and analysis, as well as breakthroughs in deciphering Mesoamerican writing, have recently produced a watershed of information on the regional use and importance of cacao, or chocolate as it is commonly called today. McNeil brings together scholars in the fields of archaeology, history, art history, linguistics, epigraphy, botany, chemistry, and cultural anthropology to explore the domestication, preparation, representation, and significance of cacao in ancient and modern communities of the Americas, with a concentration on its use in Mesoamerica.

Cacao was used by many cultures in the pre-Columbian Americas as an important part of rituals associated with birth, coming of age, marriage, and death, and was strongly linked with concepts of power and rulership. While Europeans have for hundreds of years claimed that they introduced "chocolate" as a sauce for foods, evidence from ancient royal tombs indicates cacao was used in a range of foods as well as beverages in ancient times. In addition, the volume's authors present information that supports a greater importance for cacao in pre-Columbian South America, where ancient vessels depicting cacao pods have recently been identified.

From the botanical structure and chemical makeup of Theobroma cacao and methods of identifying it in the archaeological record, to the importance of cacao during the Classic period in Mesoamerica, to the impact of European arrival on the production and use of cacao, to contemporary uses in the Americas, this volume provides a richly informed account of the history and cultural significance of chocolate.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
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  1. List of Figures
  2. pp. vii-xii
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  1. List of Tables
  2. p. xiii
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  1. Foreword
  2. pp. xv-xvi
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  1. 1. Introduction: The Biology, Antiquity, and Modern Uses of the Chocolate Tree (Theobroma cacao L.)
  2. pp. 1-28
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  1. Part I. Evolution, Domestication, Chemistry, and Identification of Cacao and Its Close Relatives
  2. p. 29
  1. 2. Cacao and Its Relatives in South America: An Overview of Taxonomy, Ecology, Biogeography, Chemistry, and Ethnobotany
  2. pp. 31-68
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  1. 3. The Domestication and Distribution of Theobroma cacao L. in the Neotropics
  2. pp. 69-89
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  1. 4. The Jaguar Tree (Theobroma bicolor Bonpl.)
  2. pp. 90-104
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  1. 5. The Determination of Cacao in Samples of Archaeological Interest
  2. pp. 105-113
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  1. Part II. Cacao in Pre-Columbian Cultures
  2. p. 115
  1. 6. The History of the Word for ‘Cacao’ and Related Terms in Ancient Meso-America
  2. pp. 117-139
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  1. 7. Brewing Distinction: The Development of Cacao Beverages in Formative Mesoamerica
  2. pp. 140-153
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  1. 8. Cacao in Ancient Maya Religion: First Fruit from the Maize Tree and other Tales from the Underworld
  2. pp. 154-183
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  1. 9. The Language of Chocolate: References to Cacao on Classic Maya Drinking Vessels
  2. pp. 184-201
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  1. 10. The Social Context of Kakaw Drinking among the Ancient Maya
  2. pp. 202-223
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  1. 11. The Use and Representation of Cacao During the Classic Period at Copan, Honduras
  2. pp. 224-252
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  1. 12. Cacao in Greater Nicoya: Ethnohistory and a Unique Tradition
  2. pp. 253-270
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  1. Part III. Cacao in the Colonial Period
  2. p. 271
  1. 13. The Good and Evil of Chocolate in Colonial Mexico
  2. pp. 273-288
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  1. 14. The Itza Maya Control over Cacao: Politics, Commerce, and War in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
  2. pp. 289-306
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  1. 15. Cacao Production, Tribute, and Wealth in Sixteenth-Century Izalcos, El Salvador
  2. pp. 307-321
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  1. 16. Soconusco Cacao Farmers Past and Present: Continuity and Change in an Ancient Way of Life
  2. pp. 322-337
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  1. Part IV. Mesoamerican Cacao Use in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries
  2. p. 339
  1. 17. Traditional Cacao Use in Modern Mesoamerica
  2. pp. 341-366
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  1. 18. Cacao, Gender, and the Northern Lacandon God House
  2. pp. 367-383
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  1. 19. Food for the Rain Gods: Cacao in Ch’orti’ Ritual
  2. pp. 384-407
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  1. 20. Cacao in the Yukatek Maya Healing Ceremonies of Don Pedro Ucán Itza
  2. pp. 408-428
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  1. 21. From Chocolate Pots to Maya Gold: Belizean Cacao Farmers Through the Ages
  2. pp. 429-450
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 451-514
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  1. List of Contributors
  2. pp. 515-517
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 519-542
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