February 04, 2009

The first chocoholics

Mystery of Ancient Pueblo Jars Is SolvedFor years Patricia Crown puzzled over the cylindrical clay jars found in the ruins at Chaco Canyon, the great complex of multistory masonry dwellings set amid the arid mesas of northwestern New Mexico. They were utterly unlike other pots and pitchers she had seen.

Some scholars believed that Chaco’s inhabitants, ancestors of the modern Pueblo people of the Southwest, had stretched skins across the cylinders and used them for drums, while others thought they held sacred objects.

But the answer is simpler, though no less intriguing, Ms. Crown asserts in a paper published Tuesday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the jars were used for drinking liquid chocolate. Her findings offer the first proof of chocolate use in North America north of the Mexican border.
And:The Mayan vessels, decorated with court scenes and hieroglyphics, were used to ceremonially consume chocolate at sumptuous feasts, Ms. Reents-Budet said. An expensive luxury, the cacao beans were fermented, roasted and ground up, then mixed with water and flavorings before being whipped into froth. It made sense to present the beverage in a special vessel, she said.

“It’s as if you were having a dinner party and serving Champagne,” said Ms. Reents-Budet. “You serve Champagne in really nice glasses.”
Comment:  This isn't exactly a pop-culture item, but it reminds me of our unacknowledged debt to Native America. Indians gave us something like half of our dessert and snack foods: chocolate, vanilla, peanuts, pecans, cashews, potato chips, corn chips, popcorn, sunflower seeds, chicle (gum), etc. Without them we'd be stuck eating celery and carrot sticks between meals.

Whenever Superman appears in the media (comics, cartoons, movies, etc.), the producers are required to add a line saying "Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster." Imagine if every time a chocolate product appeared in the media, it had to include a tag saying "Brought to you by Native Americans." That alone would start changing our perception of Indians as unaccomplished savages.

For more on the subject, see 100 Amazing Indian Discoveries and The Native Culinary Tradition.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

The creation of corn alone is quite remarkable.