Mouth-watering find

Chocolates are 2,600 years old

Published: Thursday 15 August 2002

chocolates even tempted our 2,600 year-old ancestors. Testimony to this are cocoa residues found in ancient ceramic vessels discovered from the town of Colha in Central America. Using a new, ultra-sensitive technique to analyse the residues, W Jeffrey Hurst and his colleagues from the Pennsylvania-based chocolate company Herschey, have found traces of a cocoa compound in the vessels.

Cocoa has an unique composition of more than 500 different compounds. But the researchers just concentrated on the theobromine compound be-cause the only flora species capable of producing this compound in the region are the cocoa trees.

According to the researchers, their analysis indicates that chocolate consumption began 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. The previous evidence for chocolate consumption dates back to 400 ad. The vessels have been dated to between 600 bc and 250 ad.

The first references to chocolates in recorded history started in the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadors noted the Aztecs' relish for a dark, sweet beverage unknown in Europe, and which often included honey, maize or chilli. Both the Mayan civilisation -- which had almost vanished by the time of the Spanish conquest -- and the Aztecs, preferred chocolate in the form of a drink and considered the foam delectable. The vessels found at Colha also have spouts, through which air was blown to provide the precious froth.

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