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Chocolate Craving Has Ancient Roots
Date:11/16/2007

Archaeologists find traces of the sweet in pottery more than 3,000 years old

FRIDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Archaeologists say they've found one of the oldest traces ever of human chocolate consumption in pottery vessels more than 3,000 years old.

The jugs -- thought to have contained a fermented chocolate concoction -- date from 1150 B.C. and were used by Mesoamerican people in what is now Puerto Escondido, Honduras.

"It appears to have been used in a beverage, which was made from the pulp of the chocolate fruit. Later, they started to focus on the bean itself," said researcher Patrick McGovern, a senior research scientist and associate professor of anthropology at the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania Museum.

The cacao drink appears to have been fermented and was mildly alcoholic, containing about 5 percent alcohol, McGovern said. These ancient peoples apparently domesticated the cacao (chocolate) tree to produce these drinks, commonly consumed in ceremonies that marked weddings and births.

The findings were published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While McGovern's team claimed the find represented the "earliest cacao beverages" found, not everyone agreed.

"Chocolate is incredibly old in that part of the world [Mesoamerica]," said Michael D. Coe, the emeritus professor of anthropology at Yale University and co-author of The True History of Chocolate.

Newer studies have found even older chocolate on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Coe said. "The earliest sample is 1,200 years older than what this team reports. It looks like chocolate is almost 4,000 years old in that part of the world," Coe added.

Study lead author John S. Henderson, a professor of anthropology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said that while he wasn't aware of the new data Coe cites, "it is very possi
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