What do you think, how much old is cocoa for the world? Previously the evidence on cocoa’s use was as old as 1500 years. But this new study finds that our ancestors have been enjoying cocoa for over 5000 years ago. Sounds unbelievable, isn’t it? Here, read the complete details on this new discovery.
It would not be wrong if we say that everyone loves at least one form of cocoa. The cocoa beans are extracted from the tree Theobroma cacao. Chocolate is one product from this cocoa and there are a lot more.
As many of us already know, dark chocolate works as a cognitive booster that improves the vision protects the heart and induces a happy feeling.
The study highlights that ancient Mesoamerican peoples i.e. Olmecs, the Maya, and the Aztecs have been using cacao beans to make drinks thousands of years ago. The evidence also suggests that they used these beans as currency. Now the origins of Mesoamerican suggest them to be living 3,900 years ago. This is probably the oldest found use of cacao beans by an ancient civilization.
For hundreds of years, the researches thought that Theobroma cacao trees just made their way to Central American. But the recent study, posted in journal Nature Ecology & Evolution proposes that cacao tree was cultivated in the USA much earlier.
Cocoa is thousands of years old!
The study conducted by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada examined the genomes of various cacao trees while studying diversity. The initial purpose of this project was to find early domestication of cacao trees.
The findings led them to an assumption that Theobroma cacao may have originated from equatorial South America, and not in Central America. Also, it is at least 1000 years before the experts believed it was.
The authors of this study told that they found traces of cacao on ancient pottery from South American regions. It is a clue that these civilizations were already cultivating and using this plant. And later on, cacao plant made its way to Central America.
This means that the use of cacao most probably as a drink was popular, thousands of years ago. This is long ago before cacao made its way to Central America and Mexico.
What is the evidence?
To track cacao trees back in history, the researchers investigated different ceramic pottery items from Santa Ana-La Florida in Ecuador. These pottery pieces belong to the Mayo-Chinchipe culture which used to live 5,450 years ago.
The experiment was completed in three lines to prove that the cacao tree was cultivated somewhere between 5,300 and 2,100 years ago.
In the first phase, the research team confirmed the presence of starch grains that are related to Theobroma cacao in ceramic pottery of these people.
Secondly, they identified the presence of theobromine in domesticated cacao tree. This theobromine is an alkaloid that is present in the domesticated trees but not in wild varieties of this tree.
Finally, the team studied the ancient DNA fragments and matched them with current day DNA sequences of the cacao tree.
All the evidence were sufficient to reveal that the Mayo-Chinchipe people were the first to domesticate cacao tree. And this is at least 1500 years before Central American cultures were introduced to cacao tree.
These three methods made it easy to track cacao tree which was otherwise difficult to trace in the archaeological record. This study also promotes to investigate the origins of foods that we are still using. It will help to understand how human civilizations developed with time.