The Early History of Chocolate
John Henderson, Mayan Archaeologist
Membership Lecture, James A. Little Theater
Thursday, May 14, 2009, 7:00–8:00 pm
Chocolate is so iconic in American and European culture today that it is difficult to imagine life without it. In fact, chocolate was unknown to the Western world until the 16th century, when Spaniards learned of it from the Aztecs. New archaeological evidence shows that Mesoamericans were making beverages from cacao before 1000 BC. Dr. Henderson’s rich talk takes a careful look at archaeological evidence that indicates chocolate was an essential component of all important ceremonial and social occasions among the Aztecs and their Mesoamerican neighbors, and was so valuable that the cacao seeds even served as a form of money.
Dr. Henderson’s interest in Mesoamerica dates to his days as an undergraduate at Yale. He is currently Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. His recent archaeological work in the village of Puerto Escondido in Honduras is in collaboration with archaeologists from Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley, and under the auspices of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History. Their discoveries have added at least 1,000 years to the documented story of a region where a hunting-and-gathering society settled and skilled pottery-makers flourished.