Tag Archives: cacao vessel

Candied Ceramics: The Relationship Between Ancient Mayan Pottery and Cacao Storage

When archaeologists find remnants of cups, bowls, and plates, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that these items were used for eating and drinking. However, this is not always the case. In today’s culture, one might reserve certain silverware for only the most important dinner guests or have some plates that are meant to be displayed instead of eaten off. Archaeologists are learning that similar cultural practices may have been implemented by the ancient Mayans in regard to their pottery. The difference between today’s fancy china and decorative vases from ancient Mesoamerica, though, is that ancient Mayans are no longer alive to verbally explain the specific purpose and use of each piece in their ceramics collection. This job falls onto the shoulders of archaeologists are anthropologists, and they can assure us it’s a trickier job than first meets the eye. Some vessels were once thought to hold liquid cacao because they were labeled as such. However, analysis that goes beyond the words on the vessel leads experts to believe that the uncovering the uses of such containers is not as simple as reading a label (Loughmiller-Cardinal, 2018). It turns out that the Mayans were similar to us in that they had different uses for different shapes, grades, and qualities of ceramic containers. Below is a detailed differentiation of these types of vessels and their uses.

Drinking Vessels

Archaeologists have discovered that the Mayans used different vessels to drink from than the ones they used as decoration (Loughmiller-Cardinal, 2018). This is analogous to a modern-day drinking cup vs. a modern-day vase. You could drink out of a vase if you wanted to, but it would be largely inefficient. Mayan drinking vessels were often much smaller than vases and vessels used for decorative celebrative purposes. Additionally, the drinking vessels would have fewer engravings and carving adorned on the exterior. The drinking vessels were most commonly small cylinders or bowls. Below is an image from the Rufino Tamayo museum in Oaxaca. Figure 1 depicts a bowl that was most likely used for the consumption of liquids. While there are some carvings on this bowl, these decorations are minimal compared to those on vases that were put on display or set out at special events. This bowl would be the equivalent of a coffee mug with a simple pattern on it while the decorative vessels would be the equivalent of artistic and elaborate vases or jars. 

Figure 1: A small, minimally-decorated bowl that was likely used for the consumption of beverages. Source: Museo de Rufino Tamayo Oaxaca

Decorative Vessels

Many Classic Mayan vessels are adorned with similar strings of characters that seem to identify to whom the vessel belongs and what is inside of it (Macri, 2005). This syntactical pattern is known as the Primary Standard Sequence, or PSS. Figure 2 details the pattern of the PSS and gives a few examples of what this may have looked like on Mayan ceramics. 

Figure 2: The Primary Standard Sequence broken down with examples. Source: Artstor

While many Mayan vessels adorned with a PSS include the glyph for cacao, it can be argued that these decorative vessels were not used to store liquid cacao. The PSS on these specific vessels may have been referring to raw cacao ingredients, such as seeds, that could have been stored in the containers (Loughmiller-Cardinal, 2018). Another theory is that the PSS is referring to a scene drawn or etched onto the vessel. For example, if the scene depicts a king sipping from a jar, then the PSS might refer to the king and his cacao beverage in the scene, regardless of what was inside the vessel itself. Figure 3 shows a decorative vessel with a PSS around the top rim and a battle scene on the exterior. The battle could have been a reason for celebration and cacao libation.

Figure 3: A decorative vessel with a PSS across the top rim. The battle scene depicted might have been a reason for celebration. Source: Cleveland Museum of Art

In comparison to the drinking vessels, the decorative vessels were larger, bulkier, and ostensibly harder to drink from. In addition to the inconvenient size and shape, chemical and visual analysis supports the idea that these larger decorative vessels were not used to hold liquid, including liquid cacao (Loughmiller-Cardinal, 2018). Residue analysis run on decorative vessels with a PSS, for the most part, return a negative result for theobromine as well as other alkaline chemicals found in liquid cacao. Additionally, a visual scan of these vessels will find no traces of liquid being held inside the vessels. What it will find, however, is small chips and divots on the interior of the decorative vessels. This suggests that dry goods, such as raw cacao beans or seeds, may have been stored in these vessels. Dried goods would not leave behind a chemical residue like liquid would because the porous ceramic would not absorb particles from the dried goods. An exception to this rule of thumb is the Río Azul cacao pot. This elaborately designed piece of pottery both features a PSS and tested positive for cacao residue (Stuart, 1988). Figure 4 shows the Río Azul pot. It might look recognizable, as it is one of the more famous pieces in the field.

Figure 4: The Río Azul cacao pot that contained chemical residue of cacao and features a PSS across the top. Source: Carla Martin, Lecture 2: Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods”


Glyphs: various kakaw (cacao) drinks recorded in the Primary Standard Sequence: Ref.: drawing. Retrieved from https://library-artstor-org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822003733423

Loughmiller-Cardinal, J. (2018). Distinguishing the uses, functions, and purposes of Classic Maya “chocolate” containers: Not all cups are for drinking. Ancient Mesoamerica, 30(2019), 13-30.

Macri, M. J. (2005). Nahua loan words from the Early Classic period: Words for cacao preparation on a Río Azul ceramic vessel. Ancient Mesoamerica, 16(2005), 321-326.

Martin, C. (2020). Lecture 2: Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods.” [Google Docs Slides]. Retrieved from URL: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1c6fZMj2cW7A-bByTKzaP-YS7pLdm0dmVPidneg4T4XU/edit#slide=id.gef490479d_2_25

Stuart, D. (1988). The Río Azul cacao pot: Epigraphic observations on the function of a Maya ceramic vessel. Antiquity, 62(234), 153-157.

Cacao in Mayan Religious Stories and Rituals and Community Celebrations

While chocolate may just seem like a dessert food to most people today, its main ingredient, cacao, and the tree from which the fruit stems played essential roles in the lives of the people in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It was associated with fertility rites, marriage rituals, and even rites of death for the Maya people. As illustrated through their mythology, the cacao tree connected generations. Cacao brought people together by being a part of their religion illustrated through vases and by bringing together communities during feasts and celebrations. It established the Mayan hierarchy, and during the feasts of the elite, the people in the local community were able to exchange goods with others outside of the community. The cacao tree and the fruit it bears played a significant role in the religious and community life of the Maya people in the Pre-Columbian era.

The religious significance of the cacao tree for the Mayan people is illustrated through their creation myth. In this myth, the twin sons of the couple who created the universe are beheaded in the Maya underworld, Xibalba, by the lords of the underworld. One of the severed heads, which is now known as the Maize God, is hung up in a cacao tree, like the figure depicted by the lidded vessel below. As the daughter of an Xibalban ruler holds her hand up to the tree one day, the severed head is able to impregnate her. This woman then gives birth to the Hero Twins named Hunahpu and Xbalanque. These twins go on to accomplish a number of exploits and eventually defeat the underworld. They then resurrect their father, the Maize God, as their final task. With their final task completed, they become the sun and the moon (Coe). The cacao tree in this story allows the Maize God to “pass on his procreative seed and to eventually triumph through the heroic deeds of his offspring” (Martin 178). The importance of the cacao tree and its fruit were also passed between communities and generations.

This Mayan Lidded vessel depicts the Maize God as a Cacao Tree. The cacao pods surround the vessel, and the lid’s nob is a cacao tree with a bird that is now broken (Wikimedia Commons contributors).

The tree and its fruit connected each generation of the Maya people and permeated Mayan religion in rites like baptism and funerals. During the baptismal ritual, the noble giving the ceremony would dip a bone in a vessel filled with water, flowers, and cacao. With this mixture, “he anointed the children on their foreheads, faces, and in the spaces between the fingers and toes, in complete silence” (Coe). Like the tree that the Maize God manifested himself in allowed him to have children and reconnect with the world, the Maya people would bury people with vases that were used to drink cacao with inscriptions of cacao on them. As the dead traveled to the underworld, the cacao would continue to provide for the Maya as it did when they were alive and would ensure their safe travel (Martin). In addition to rituals, the cacao tree and its fruit played an essential role in the celebrations and community interactions of the Maya people.

During religious ceremonies and celebrations, the Maya would drink from vases that had inscriptions of cacao and the cacao tree. These inscriptions and drawings “made even a sip of chocolate a sacramental act” (Martin 179). The cacao was celebrated by all in the community, but the inscriptions reinforced the Maya rulership as many portrayed Mayan rulers among the deities. The cacao vases demonstrated the order within the community by establishing the power of the elite as they were compared to supernatural deities as shown in the image of a Maya vessel below. They would be exchanged among elites during feasts that “created a forum for sociopolitical alliance formation” (Reents-Budet 209). These feasts then extended to the local community where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds were able to exchange goods which extended their relations beyond the local community. The vases were still present in the lower tier society, although they were not as elaborate as the elite vessels. While the people would offer cacao to the gods for gifts like fertility and rain, it also reinforced “their sense of community by way of a fabric of overlapping rights and obligations developed between sponsors and participants” (Reents-Budet 209). Cacao and the practice of drinking from and giving vases were a central part of the lives of the Mayan people.

The inscription around the rim of the this Maya vessel refers to its function as a chocolate-drinking cup and also states that it was owned by a Namaan king. The drawing portrays a king on a throne and a supernatural being in front of him, illustrating the connection between the elite and religion.

Overall, the cacao tree and fruit were central aspects to the religious, social, and economic lives of the Maya people in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. In their creation story, his manifestation in tree enabled the Maize God to give way to the next generation which then resurrected him from the underworld. The importance of the cacao tree and its fruit permeated the Mayan religion and played essential roles in the religious rituals of the people. Cacao was present in the baptismal rites and in the tombs of people, illustrating a connection between cacao and religion. The drinking of cacao and exchange of vases that held cacao and also had inscriptions of the elite and cacao during feasts and celebrations demonstrated order within the Maya community. From these feasts, different people were able to connect and extend relations beyond their local community. Cacao connected people in the community through its role in religious stories and rituals and celebrations among elites.

Works Cited:

Chocolate Cup (2002-9). https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/40908. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.

Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019. Garthwaite, Josie. “What We Know About the Earliest History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian Magazine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/archaeology-chocolate-180954243/. Accessed 25 Mar. 2020.

Martin, Simon. Cacao in Ancient Maya Religion: First Fruit from the Maize Tree and Other Tales from the Underworld. University Press of Florida, 2009, doi:10.5744/florida/9780813029535.003.0008.

Reents-Budet, Dorie. The Social Context of Kakaw Drinking Among of the Ancient Maya. University Press of Florida, 2009, doi:10.5744/florida/9780813029535.003.0010.

Wikimedia Commons contributors. File:Mayan – Lidded Vessel – Walters 20092039 – Side D.Jpg. Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository., https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/37/Mayan_-_Lidded_Vessel_-_Walters_20092039_-_Side_D.jpg.

On Cacao's Origins and Original Preparations

People enjoy chocolate. Even if not universal, it is indisputable. Each of us has probably eaten more chocolate than we could feasibly keep track of throughout our lives. However, despite that, if asked even a few months ago, I would not have been able to state accurately the origins of the cacao making up that chocolate: not geographically, not culturally, and certainly not as pertaining to its original use and preparation. While this is somewhat presumptuous, I believe this is true of a great many people, and it is not entirely an accidental phenomenon: when we pick up a Hershey’s bar or a bag of Lindt truffles at a drugstore, there is not a single indication as to where the cacao making up our chocolate bar is actually from. That said, or perhaps given that, there is a certain amount of value to examining the origin of the treats now ubiquitous to our culture, which is to say both their geographic origin and the original ways in which they were prepared.

While Theobroma cacao’s geographic origin is likely either South or Central America, experts disagree as to where exactly. According to JC Motamayor, some believe it may have originated in South America and subsequently migrated upon the shoulders of moving populations up to Central America, while some believe that different strains of the same tree might have taken root in different places, encompassing both Southern and Central America at once (Motamayor, et al. 380). Still, evidence of its presence in Mesoamerica, possibly starting from the earliest days of civilization, is plentiful. Four ceramic vessels excavated from one of the tombs of Río Azul, Guatemala (Adams 30), which dates back to the Mayan Early Classic period (Hall, et al. 138), were found to contain traces of theobromine and caffeine, compounds found together only in cacao (139). 

Another vessel, this one with a locking lid, recovered from the same location also tested positive for traces of cacao, and upon examination was found to have hieroglyphs on its surface essentially corresponding to “phonetic values for the word ‘cacao’ in the Mayan language” (138), further verifying the theory that cacao must have been present within Mayan culture for quite some time and must have gained enough importance that—at least in this case—there would be special vessels to contain or carry it.

Pictured here is the lock-top vessel mentioned above which contained traces of cacao when analyzed. Two of the characters on its surface represent the phonetic spelling of the word “cacao” using Mayan hieroglyphs.

 Indeed, cacao has much significance in Mayan culture, appearing in “Maya mythology and religious thinking” (Kufer, et al. 2); numerous “rites of passage, including those associated with birth, social personhood, initiation, marriage, and death” (Prufer and Hurst 273); and even in “iconographic works and fragments [suggesting] medical use” (Lippi 1574). 

In addition to its other points of importance in Mayan society, cacao was also of course consumed—but not in the form most popular in the present day, the ultra-smooth, sweet European chocolate. If that is the case, how was cacao prepared for consumption? The answer lies in analysis of vessels used both for carrying food and drink. Samples detected to contain cacao were primarily drinking vessels: “Forms include[d] a seed jar […] bowl, flowerpot-shaped vessel, two pitchers, four small jars, and three mugs” (Crown et al. 11439). Given this, it is likely that cacao was most commonly prepared as a drink, and contemporary art seems to indicate much the same. The Princeton Vase, for example, depicts a person, perhaps an attendant of some sort, holding a vessel containing cacao and pouring it out into a smaller cup. 

As we are now aware of the fact that cacao was likely consumed mostly in liquid form, we can turn our attention to the question of what ingredients are used to prepare said beverages. Firstly, the cacao itself was prepared by fermenting, roasting, and winnowing; once the outer shell was removed, the nib was then ground into fine particles (11440). Sometimes, these grounds would then be made into cakes, small portions of which would then be added to water with other ingredients to “sweeten or flavor the drink” (11440). One such ingredient might have been fruit, as suggested by the frequency in which the term yutal kakaw appears in Mesoamerican texts; D. Beliaev translates yutal cacao as “fruity” or “fruit” cacao (Beliaev et al. 260). Other ingredients like maize may also have been added to the beverages, giving them a more filling quality; maize, like cacao, was regarded as an almost divine food, often “considered the source of life and fertility” (Soleri et al. 346).

Further, the way the beverage is poured is a part of a regimented preparation, as essential to the recipe as any individual ingredients — the depiction of the attendant on the Princeton vase as pouring the drink while standing is purposeful. According to scenes on Mayan and Mexican artifacts, “women stand and pour chocolate from one vase to another until foam appears” (Dreiss and Greenhill 108). Much like in the lattes of the modern day, foam was considered a luxurious and desired texture, good “for the soul” (108) and even possibly the “most desirable part” of a cacao beverage (111). It is not only a sensory pleasure but also has connotations of the divine; according to Soleri, “a central concept in Zapotec worldview is that of pé, a life force present in all animated objects, said to specifically include the foam atop a cacao beverage” (346). 

The Princeton Vase illustration; the woman pouring cacao stands to the right of the figure on the raised platform. She is most likely pouring the cacao from such a height to raise foam, a common and desired preparation.

Even if a colossal amount of time has passed between the height of pre-colonial Mesoamerica and the present day, the echoes of the past are not so easily lost. Today, classic traditions remain, and cacao is prepared in Central American communities in ways highly reminiscent of what is detailed here. Learning the histories and the cultural pasts of household items that we take for granted nowadays not only allows us to know where they came from, but allows us to make connections to the modern world that we may not even have known about beforehand — connections like this.

Here, a woman from Belize, Central America grinds cacao nibs and grain on a metate until they both become pastes, likely in a way that directly calls back to how they would have been processed in classic Mayan times. Portions of each are then added to a bowl along with water, and the resulting beverage is poured back and forth from the bowl to a cup, the cup to the bowl, and so on to cultivate the froth that the Mayans would have found so physically and spiritually satisfying — and which people find so appealing in the same region, hundreds of years later.

Works Cited


“Stirrup lidded vase, from Rio Azul.” Harvard Fine Arts Library, Digital Images & Slides Collection 2004.H06.00848, accessed through Hollis.

“Princeton Vase, from Nakbe region.” Harvard Fine Arts Library, Digital Images & Slides Collection 2004.H06.00729, accessed through Hollis.


“Toledo Ecotourism Association – Making a Chocolate Drink.” Youtube, teabelize, 10 May 2008, https://youtu.be/8vC4dq69rqE.


Beliaev, Dimitri, et al. “Sweet Cacao and Sour Atole: Mixed Drinks on Classic Maya Ceramic Vases.” Pre-Columbian Foodways: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Food, Culture, and Markets in Ancient Mesoamerica (2009): 257-272.

Crown, Patricia L., et al. “Ritual drinks in the pre-Hispanic US Southwest and Mexican Northwest.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.37 (2015): 11436-11442.

Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Greenhill. Chocolate: pathway to the gods. University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Hall, Grant D., et al. “Cacao residues in ancient Maya vessels from Rio Azul, Guatemala.” American Antiquity 55.1 (1990): 138-143.

Kufer, J., N. Grube, and Michael Heinrich. “Cacao in Eastern Guatemala––a sacred tree with ecological significance.” Environment, Development and Sustainability 8.4 (2006): 597-608.

Lippi, Donatella. “Chocolate in history: food, medicine, medi-food.” (2013): 1573-1584.

Motamayor, Juan Carlos, et al. “Cacao domestication I: the origin of the cacao cultivated by the Mayas.” Heredity 89.5 (2002): 380-386.

Prufer, Keith M., and W. Jeffrey Hurst. “Chocolate in the underworld space of death: Cacao seeds from an early classic mortuary cave.” Ethnohistory 54.2 (2007): 273-301.

Soleri, Daniela, et al. “Archaeological residues and recipes: exploratory testing for evidence of maize and cacao beverages in Postclassic vessels from the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico.” Latin American Antiquity 24.3 (2013): 345-362.

A Mestizo Tradition in Cacao: The Introduction and Incorporation of Molinillos

The history of chocolate mirrors the history of mestizaje from Mesoamerica to modern-day Mexico and Central America, with the contemporary product serving as the result of both Mesoamerican and Spanish influences. Even the production of authentic, ancient, or traditional Mesoamerican cacao beverages and chocolate are infused with post-colonial influences, from the addition of new ingredients to entirely new techniques for crafting chocolate. Of these, the introduction of the molinillo, now considered a staple component in crafting traditional Mexican chocolate, represents the culmination of indigenous and Spanish techniques.

Pre-Conquest Mesoamerican Chocolate

Cacao was harvested and consumed as early as the Olmec civilization, with cacao originating from their word for currency, ka-ka-w [1]. The Mayans adopted cacao into their respective civilization–for consumption, as legal tender, and for rituals.

Cacao was essential for social, physical, and spiritual well-being, regarded for its medicinal, spiritual, and aphrodisiac qualities. The Mayan would prepare the batidos and other hot chocolate beverages from the ground cacao pulps. They were also used for arranging marriages, with the term tac haa, “to serve chocolate,” commonly used to describe the discussions in which they would determine marriages while drinking chocolate. Mixtec went a step further, using “cacao” as a phrase for royal marriage [2]. For the Aztecs, only the elites and wealthy consumed it because it couldn’t grow in Mexico, so they had to transport it 900 miles on their back [3].

Aztec sculpture holding a cacao pod.

Early pre-Columbian religious references to cacao are also prevalent in both Mayan and Aztec artifacts, with the Popol Vuh ascribing cacao with godly qualities and the Dresden Codex featuring cacao throughout, including consumption by the gods [4]. Likewise, in the Madrid Codex, Aztecs believed that cacao beans were the physical manifestation of Quetzalcoatl [5]. Other religious depictions included:

  • Cacao in fertility rites, with Ixchel and the rain god exchanging cacao.
  • Cacao tree depictions of royal bloodlines, with deities emerging from cacao trees with pods and flowers to symbolize their royal blood [6].

Figure: Aztec statue holding a cacao pod.

“Chocolate for the body; foam for the soul.”

Meredith Dreiss, Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods [7]

The foam produced was of special religious importance, with the foam seen as the most sacred part of the drink [8]. With this reverence toward the froth, the molinillo, as the instrument used to facilitate easier production of the froth, would also be revered and would become deeply intertwined in the chocolate-making process.

Molinillo in Mesoamerica? The Spanish Arrive

Many would expect that the Mayans and Aztecs used molinillos, since they are now regarded as crucial instruments when crafting authentic traditional chocolate beverages, but in fact, the molinillo was most likely introduced by the Spanish, possibly during the 16th century. While it is true that pre-Columbian texts mentioned turtle/tortoise shell stirring spoons and stirrers, there were no mentions of molinillos in pre-Columbian texts. Moreover, it was noticeably absent from the first Nahuatl-Spanish dictionary in 1571 [9].

Some of the possible confusion could stem from anachronistic depictions of the molinillo, such as the one below:

 “The artist has misunderstood the use of the metate [curved cacao grinding stone], and has mistakenly included the post-Conquest molinillo. (From J. Ogilby, America, London, 1671.) 

Instead, they used “small, hemispherical bowls” as drinking and mixing vessels, made with materials ranging from ceramics, to decorated calabash gourds (Crescentia cujete tree), to gold (huei tlatoani). Foam was created by pouring chocolate repeatedly between drinking vessels to produce the foam [10].

Left: 6-9th century Mayan ceramic vessel, Guatemala  | right: 7-8th century Mayan ceramic vessel, Mexico
Mayan woman producing foam via pouring technique

It wasn’t until 1780, when Jesuit Francesco Saverio Clavigero, mentioned the molinillo but not the traditional method of pouring the beverage to produce foam [11].

Molinillo: The Basics

The molinillo, a kitchen tool used to froth hot chocolate beverages, is a carved, handcrafted wooden stick, with a slender handle at one end and a knob at the other [12]. Its name is derived from its circular shape and its motion when used for producing foam resembling that of a molino (windmill) [13]. Each molinillo is unique and varies in size depending on the amount of beverage to be produced. The first iterations involved a simple ball or square at the end of a long handle. However, these soon were adapted to better facilitate frothing. Modern molinillos are crafted from a single block of wood, forming a slender wooden “whisk” with a long tapered handle and a carved knob with rings and other movable parts on the other end [14].

Each molinillo is unique, and the basic design can be flourished with details such as colored accents or ivory pieces, as well as square tops instead of rounded [15].

Molinillo with Color Accents
Molinillo with Squarish Top

Using a Molinillo

Frothing hot chocolate beverages with a molinillo is straightforward. Simply put, the slender handle is gripped between the palms, which are then rubbed together to rotate the carved knob back and forth. This motion grinds the chocolate discs used for the beverages against the pestle bottom of the drinking vessel [16], allowing the beverage to froth within a few minutes.

A Mexican Cook, “Using A Molinillo to Make Hot Chocolate.”

The motion is so simple, in fact, that the molinillo frothing process is even a popular rhyme among Mexican children and their teachers:

Bate, bate, chocolate,
tu nariz de cacahuate.
Uno, dos, tres, CHO!
Uno, dos, tres, CO!
Uno, dos, tres, LA!
Uno, dos, tres, TE!
Chocolate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, chocolate!
Bate, bate, bate, bate,
Bate, bate, CHOCOLATE![17]

Bate = Stir or whip
tu nariz de cacahuate = roughly "your peanut nose"
Uno, dos, tres = One, two, three

Crafting Molinillos

“Molinillo and chocolate depend on each other–one cannot exist without the other. “

Molinillos are carved from a single piece of wood rotating on an axis. Typically soft wood from trees like the aile mexicano (Alnus acuminata ssp. glabrata) are used for carving because they are odorless and flavorless as to not impact the flavor of the chocolate. The black sections of the molinillo are not painted; rather, the friction from the velocity of the wood spinning on the axis of the machine burns the wood a darker color, which the crafter then polishes. Once the base is completed with all the large grooves, all the smaller notch carvings (helpful for circulating the milk to increase frothiness) are completed by hand [18].

Molinillo Tradicional [Making a Molinillo from Wood]

Each molinillo is unique, and the basic design can be flourished with details such as colored accents or ivory pieces:

Artisanal Molinillo Crafting

For molinillo artisans in areas popular for their chocolate, such as 3rd generation crafter Jesus Torres Gomez, carving molinillos, among other wooden kitchen utensils, is both a skill and an artform, passed down for over 100 years as they continue to modify and perfect their craftsmanship. While he uses a motor to facilitate the rotation of the wood piece, all the carvings are completed by hand. He produces 3 types of molinillos:

  • Criollo, for making the foam for chocolate atole in the central valleys.
  • For making the foam for hot chocolate.
  • More elaborate item to serve as a decorative souvenir for tourists in Oaxaca (not meant to be used).

Similar to the more extravagant uses of chocolate and chocolate-producing equipment in Mesoamerica, these items are often also used for special events, including weddings and quinceañeras (coming of age celebration for 15th birthday) [19].

Jesus Torres Gomez, “Artesano de Molinillos”

Modern-Day Molinillos and “Authentic Recipes”

Contemporary molinillos serve more as a nostalgic artifact than a necessary tool for the average chocolate beverage consumer. For champurrado–traditional Mexican chocolate-based atole– and hot chocolate, recipes available online often include many modifications to traditional recipes, incorporating many ingredients not available to pre-Columbian Mesoamericans. For the thicker champurrado, they are often flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cloves, and other spices, as well as grated piloncillo (raw, undefined sugar cane)[20].

Likewise, they often include milk instead of water, and they are frothed with whisks or spoons. For “authentic Mexican hot chocolate” recipes, chocolate beverages are not strictly based on traditional Mayan or Aztec chocolate recipes; similar to the effect of molinillos on chocolate crafting, they combine indigenous and Spanish influences. However, molinillos are still incorporated into more traditional recipes, particularly Oaxacan hot chocolate, which uses water instead of milk and is whisked with a molinillo [21].


  • [1] Khan, Gulnaz. “Watch the Ancient Art of Chocolate-Making.”
  • [2] Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”
  • [3] Festa, Jessica. “Sweet Guatemala: A Look At The Country’s Mayan Chocolate History And Modern Experiences.”
  • [4] Martin, Carla D.
  • [5] De la Fuente del Moral, Fatima.
  • [6] Martin, Carla D.
  • [7] Dreiss, Meredith L., and Sharon Greenhill. Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods.
  • [8] Martin, Carla D.
  • [9] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate.
  • [10] ibid
  • [11] ibid
  • [12] Edwards, Owen. “A Historic Kitchen Utensil Captures What It Takes to Make Hot Chocolate From Scratch.”
  • [13] CORTV. Jesús Torres Gómez artesano en molinillos.
  • [14] Bowman, Barbara. “Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer).”
  • [15] ibid
  • [16] “Molinillo: Hot Cocoa Frother | Mexico, Wooden Stick, Traditional Hot Chocolate Grinder, Frothing Stick, Molinillos.” UncommonGoods.
  • [17] Fain, Lisa. “Mexican Hot Chocolate and a Molinillo.”
  • [18] Cocinando con Rita. Molinillo Tradicional.
  • [19] CORTV.
  • [20] Rodriguez, Vianncy. “How to Make Champurrado.”
  • [21] “How to Make Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate.” A Side of Sweet.

Works Cited

Multimedia Cited

———. Molinillo with Squarish Top. Gourmet Sleuth, Molinillo – Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer). Accessed May 16, 2019. https://www.gourmetsleuth.com/images/default-source/articles/molinillo-3.jpg?sfvrsn=2.

From Cultural to Commercial: Cocoa’s Geopolitical Transformation

Molded by years of exposure to masterfully crafted marketing campaigns, average consumer knowledge of cacao [or cocoa] is limited to its function as an ingredient and source from which their beloved chocolate is derived. There is much more to the birth, rise, and spread of Theobroma cacao.

The following seeks to explain how a culturally significant crop among early civilizations dating back to 1500 BCE (Coe and Coe, 2013) transformed from a highly treasured ingredient and social currency cultivated within a fairly limited zone to a globally produced and traded commodity: a highly reformulated, mass-produced, and readily available confectionery product.

This journey traces cacao back to its genetic and cultural beginnings where it was religious and cultural fixture among early civilizations; how exploration and migration played into the geographical expansion of its cultivation and rise in popularity as a food; role in accelerating industrialization; and transformation from a social currency and treasured ingredient to a heavily traded commodity and mass manufactured consumer product.

Genetic and Cultural Beginnings

From births and burials, recipes and rituals, cacao’s cultural origins are linked to Mesoamerica (present day Mexico through Central America), where its social and religious significance among the Olmec dates back to 1500 to 400 BCE (Coe and Coe, 2013). The rise of Maya and Aztec civilizations gave way for cacao’s evolution utility and proliferation as a consumable.

Cacao’s Role in Society and Religion

Evidenced by archeologic discoveries, translated texts, and scientific testing, several vessels and writings have been unearthed, clarifying and validating cacao’s significance, religious ties, and early application as a currency.

Mayan and Aztec civilization associated cacao with the gods. As such, they were believed to enrich and afford protections during and after life, playing a central role in offerings and rituals (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Ceramic vessels similar to those pictured here which date back to 455 to 465 CE were found in burial tombs at Río Azul (Martin, 2019). Further testing confirmed positive traces of caffeine and theobromine—two of cacao’s alkaloid signatures (Martin, 2019).

Dating back to 455 to 465 CE, “funerary vessels” similar to those pictured here were discovered in tombs at Río Azul. As testing revealed traces of caffeine and theobromine, two of cacao’s signature alkaloids, this further supported evidence of cacao’s religious significance (Martin, 2019).

As a food or drink, cacao took many forms. Popular among the Maya and Aztec, “cacahuatl” was a frothy preparation often transferred from one vessel to another and served cold (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Described by Coe and Coe in The True History of Chocolate and drawn by Diane Griffiths Peck, this illustration provides a glimpse into one of many Maya and Aztec cacao preparation and serving methods.
Of the 15 discovered, translated, and still intact, the Dresden Codex contains the aforementioned Mayan hieroglyphic depiction of cacao being consumed by gods and used in rituals (Martin, 2019). Other major works include the Popol Vuh or “Book of Counsel” is a colonial document later translated by Friar Francisco Ximénez that reveals the importance of cacao among early civilizations.

Exploration and Migration: Changes in Cultivation and Consumption

By definition, explorers were bound to make new discoveries and learn from their experience. Capturing the innocent confusion and eye-opening experience (only to be realized years later), the following briefly details just how one explorer mistakenly thought that cacao beans were almonds.”

Mistaken for Almonds: When recounting observations from his 1502 landing at Guanaja, one of many landmasses that make up the Bay Islands archipelago, Ferdinand Columbus, one of Christopher Columbus’ sons wrote about cherished “almonds” that traded hands similarly to how currency would pass between customers and merchants (Coe and Coe, 2013). It was not until years later after multiple interpretations and sources concluded that what he presumed to be almonds were in fact cacao beans.

As it came to be more widely known, not far from where Ferdidnad landed, throughout the Rio Ceniza Valley (present day coast of El Salvador), cacao was an increasingly popular form of currency being produced and traded in record volume—something . In time, this led to further learnings about the “Nahua counting system” and subsequent adoption of cacao as payment for “protection” by Spanish conquistadors.

Generally relegated to tropical climates falling 10-15 degrees north and south of equator, is was inevitable that cacao would make its way around the world. So as people moved, and culture spread, so too did the cacao, as a crop, currency, and curiosity, ultimately leading to its introduction to new geographies, and paving the way for new industries and traditions around the world (Martin, 2019).

New Formulations and Complementary Ingredients

As ingredients such as vanilla, chili, and many others traveled around the world, pairings and formulations rapidly evolved. Marking a major development and informing direction for the confectionery side as we know it today, sugar was introduced to Europe around 1100 CE and chocolate followed shortly thereafter in 1500 CE (Martin, 2019).

Cacao’s Role in Accelerating Industrialization and Expanding its Place in Society

While cacao consumption continued to be reserved for certain classes during its journey around the world, increasingly sophisticated processing methods streamlined productions, regulation eventually brought its price down, and despite medical and religious challenges to its place in society, cacao products were increasingly available to a grander population.

By the 1600 and 1700s, advances in processing continued to align with rising and more diverse consumption habits. Of course, by this time, the separation between “producing” and “processing” countries (read: colonies vs. industrialized nations) was increasingly clear.

So while cultivation and production spread across Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa to meet demand, industry began to take shape on the consumer side as well with the emergence of social gathering halls or “Chocolate Houses” in Britain, France, Spain, the United States, and other “industrialized” nations who had transitioned to managing the cacao’s trade as a commodity and processing for various food and beverage applications. It was not until Rudolphe Lindt’s invention of the conche in 1879, an advancement that bolstered flavor and feel (among other things), and set the stage for quality, processing, and mass production to take off (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Illustrated above, the matete, grinder, and conche are examples of what cacao processing tools were used by early civilizations (and are still used in the same or similar forms today) and evolved or industrialized processing equipment employed today (Martin, 2019).

From early civilizations to present day, cacao’s role in society, cultural significance, availability and consumption have evolved tremendously. However, its mystique and association as something special are still true to this day—just as they were in different and more elaborate forms among early civilizations. Perhaps this condensed history will give pause and reason for the average consumer to think beyond commercialization of cacao, cocoa, or chocolate, and value and validate its history and claims made by brands to improve global understanding, perception, and consumer habits.

Works Cited

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd Edition, Thames & Hudson, 2013.
  • Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.Hu, Vol. 3, 2015, pp. 37–60.
  • Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.
  • Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018

Media Cited

  • Hansen, Magnus Pharao. “Cacao: How a Single Word Holds the Key to Understanding the Mesoamerican Past”. Nawatl Scholar. January 1, 1970. Accessed March 15, 2019. http://nahuatlstudies.blogspot.com/2015/01/cacao-how-contested-history-of-single.html?spref=tw.
  • Olver, Lynne. “Food Timeline FAQs: Aztec, Maya, & Inca foods and recipes”. Lynne Olver 2000. March 1, 2015. Accessed February 17, 2019. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodmaya.html.
  • Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies. “Map of Mesoamerica.” Accessed February 17, 2019. http://www.famsi.org/maps/.
  • Río Azul [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Wikimedia Commons. File:Popol vuh.jpg. (January 16, 2015). Retrieved February 17, 2019. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Popol_vuh.jpg&oldid=146695431.
  • Matete [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Grinder [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.
  • Conche [Electronic Image]. Retrieved from Lecture. Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.

Lectures Cited

  • Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. February 13, 2019. Lecture.
  • Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. February 20, 2019. Lecture.
  • Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Politics: How History, Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. January 30, 2019. Lecture.

Let Us Raise a Vessel to Cacao… Mayan Style!

Do you remember the last time you had a cup of hot chocolate? Was it served in a mug, topped with whipped cream? Or maybe you sipped it from a to-go cup from your favorite drive-thru restaurant. Most of the time we don’t fuss with what we’re drinking our hot chocolate from because we’re too busy enjoying the aroma and experience this time honored beverage provides us. Yet, ancient cultures, alike the Mayans, respected their cacao drinking methods and admired the cup they drank from just as much as they prized the drink itself. In many cases, cacao wouldn’t have been drunk if it wasn’t out of an artistically treasured and symbolized vessel… a far cry from how we view and present our version of hot chocolate today. Nevertheless, this customary beverage and the material in which it was once presented in was systematically ritualized throughout the ancient Classic Maya culture, proving a frothy cup of cacao was more than just something to cheers with.

The Classic Maya period (250 A.D. to 900 A.D.) was considered to be the most influential and profound stage of the ancient Mayan civilization. Fabulous accomplishments, such as towering pyramids and vast palaces throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, beautifully decorated ceramics, and a distinguishable writing system flourished during this time. This was also a time when the Maya elite prospered, and their admiration for the finer things in life influenced their daily lives and dietary intake, ritualizing items such as cacao and the vessels they were ingested from. David Stuart, an archaeologist and epigrapher who specializes in Mesoamerican cultures, describes in a chapter within the book, Chocolate in Mesoamerica, the ways in which the Maya civilization upheld the role of cacao within their society. Stuart suggests, “The importance of cacao in Classic Maya society was not widely appreciated until the decipherment of glyphic texts on ceramics in the 1980s, when it became clear that seemingly countless ceramic vessels were inscribed with a dedicatory formula identifying them as drinking vessels for chocolate” (Stuart 184).

Around the same time those descriptive discoveries were uncovered, much excitement arose when two vessels were found in Guatemala containing chemical remains of cacao (Theobromine), a study that was performed by W. Jeffery Hurst, a chemist at the Hershey Foods Technical Center (Carla D. Martin, Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods,” January 31, 2018). By identifying the Maya word and glyph for cacao (ka-ka-wa), including the remains of Theobromine, archaeologists soon realized the extensive amount of Maya vessels which were artistically depicted with the kakaw glyph, symbolizing the importance of cacao within their culture, alongside the vessels in which they were consumed from (Stuart 184). In most early cases, a vessel that depicted the kakaw glyph was considered to be apart of a Maya elites collection, illustrating the consumption of cacao was reserved for those of importance within the community.

The Kakaw Glyph
Figure 1. The kakaw glyph (ka-ka-wa) in the Dresden Codex. a. The individual syllables of ka-ka-wa. b. The representation of the God of Death holding an offering of a bowl of cacao. Drawings by Carlos Villacorta from the Dresden Codex (1976).

Maricel E. Presilla, a cultural historian, chef, and author of the book, The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes, reviews the ways in which the kakaw glyph was depicted on Maya pots and drinking vessels, and goes on to say, “Dozens of Classic Maya pots and jars, included along with other furnishings in burial chambers, depict chocolate as a crucial, central element of opulent feasts” (Presilla 12). Archaeologists have also come to believe that the vessel in which the cacao drink was drunk from had different levels of significance and cultural value, through the means of the artwork depicted on the cup and the individuals utilizing this piece of material culture (Presilla 12). Realizations as such have contributed to many other professionals from a plethora of academic fields, such as anthropologists and art curators, into the mix, creating a vast amount of research conducted around this specific topic. Dr. Dorie Reents-Budet, an Art Curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, describes the functionality of these impressive vessels in a chapter within the book, Chocolate in Mesoamerica, and considers these vessels, “Function as containers for edibles and also as portable props whose myths-political imagery lent power and prestige to their owners and the event during which they were used” (Reents-Budet 210).

As a result, these elaborate cacao drinking vessels served up a frothy-drink of dualism between the vessel itself and the individual enjoying this influential beverage. Illustrations of exclusive banquets held by the Maya elite were plentiful, and according to Reents-Budet, these elite banquets which included fantastic kakaw serving vessels, “Transcended their primary function as food service wares and were transformed into indispensable status markers and essential gifts; that is, they became social currency” (Reents-Budet 213). The aftereffect of these frequent banquets lead to those creative kakaw drinking vessels to be perceived as social currency and a higher status, and soon after, production of cacao drinking vessels by “highly trained artisans and renewed painters” (Reents-Budet 214) was off and running.

A Late Classic Maya Vase
Figure 2. A Late Classic Maya period polychrome vase for serving chocolate beverages and giving as gifts during elite feasts. Collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art. Photograph copyright Justin Kerr (K2800).

As a result of this newfound kakaw drinking vessel popularity, the Maya civilization never looked back, and the ideals around this foamy, ritualized beverage flourished for the rest of their reign. Through mysterious circumstances, the decline of the Maya culture happened sometime between the late eighth and ninth century, creating a sense of wonder around this distinguished ancient civilization. While we may never know what truly happened to the Mayans and their artistic culture, the remnants of their treasured vessels and love for cacao has overcome their deterioration, and continues to thrive in our modern day society through academic means and pure curiosity for what was once a fascinating and complex society.

Depiction of a Cacao Beverage Being Frothed
Figure 3. Classic Maya period depicting the aerating of a kakaw beverage by pouring the liquid from one jar to another placed on the floor. Collections from the Princeton Art Museum (acc. no. 75-17, the Hans and Dorthy Widenmann Foundation). Photograph copyright Justin Kerr (K511).

References Cited:

Martin, Carla D. Mesoamerica and the “food gods.” Harvard University, Jan. 2018, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1XF-lM9Z9iks0cVhUFRJ1QWBokKTRrdvZISwAJVSe_Ag/edit#slide=id.gef490479d_2_18

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Ten Speed Press, 2009.

Reents-Budet, Dorie. “The Social Context of Kakaw Drinking among the Ancient Maya.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, edited by Cameron L. McNeil, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. 202-223.

Stuart, David. “The Language of Chocolate References to Cacao on Classic Maya Drinking Vessels.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, edited by Cameron L. McNeil, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. 184-201.

Dumbledore Loves Chocolate
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Dir. Chris Columbus. Warner Bros., 2001. DVD.


This Little “chocolate pot…”

Much literary attention has been given to Pre-Columbian cacao artifacts, specifically the cylindrical types used by both the Maya and Aztec for cacao preparation and consumption. Until more recently, however, there has been little attention given to the much older Preclassic spouted vessels excavated throughout Maya highlands and lowlands (see figures below). The pichinga, as these vessels are now called by modern Maya groups living in the Guatemalan highlands, are historically significant as they fit into the earlier segment of the cacao and chocolate narrative; furthermore, these pots have only more recently been able to provide the ethnographic data to substantiate why for the past century “Mayanists have dubbed [these] Preclassic spouted vessels as “chocolate pots”” (Powis et al., 2002).


Figure 1: Spouted Vessel, Tomb 1, Mound 1, Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico 100 BCE-100 CE, 21 x 18.5 cm. (source: http://www.mesoweb.com/lords/feasting.html)

Figure 2: Excavated from the Colha site in northern Belize between 600 BCE-250 CE, is one of 14 vessels that contained substantial amounts theobromine.
(source: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6895/fig_tab/418289a_F1.html)

As early as 1918 the term “chocolate pots” was used in Thomas Gann’s report, “The Maya Indians of Southern Yucatan and Northern British Honduras” to describe the Late Preclassic spouted vessels found in burial sites at Santa Rita Corozal, Belize without any supporting evidence to confirm its accuracy. The term “chocolate pots” has since permeated literature, uncontested albeit the lack of “supporting contextual, residual, phytolith, or iconographic analyses to either confirm or deny” cacao usage (Powis et al., 2002). Why then has this phrase “chocolate pot” become so embedded within the literature? With the discovery of new methods to analyze phytoliths, these vessels now provide substantial data to conclusively determine that these vessels were indeed used during the preparations and consumption of cacao, given the high levels of theobromine found within them (Powis e al, 2002).

Preclassic spouted vessels were associated with the elite class. The contextual findings presented by Powis et al. suggest that approximately 90% of these vessels were excavated in “special deposits”, and were of elaborate forms, suggesting that cacao drinking was incorporated in ceremonial and ritual practices. Patricia McAnany and Eleanor Harrison, in their seminal 2004 work, K’axob: Ritual, Work, and Family in an Ancient Maya Village, confirm these special burial caches, suggesting that the K’axob site yielded “signature pieces” and that “they contain special characteristics such as modeling, gadrooning, incising, and appliqué,” which denoted dedicated function (McAnany and Eleanor, 2004). As is more commonly known, this practice of dedicated vessel usage was exhibited with the Classical cylindrical vessels and continued on up until the arrival of the Spaniards. However, the Primary Standard Sequence (PSS) does not appear on any spouted vessels, only on the Classic cylindrical types. Nonetheless, these elaborate spouted ceramics were part of the elite continuum of cacao’s status among the Mesoamerican people.

Spouted vessels provide the linguistic evidence needed to link the word kakawa or cacao to the Olmecs. Until the discovery of these vessels, there was no strong evidence, either archaeological, botanical, or iconographic to support the Olmec theory of origin for the word, according to David Lentz and Michael Coe (Powis et al., 2002). Within scholarship there were two opposing hypothesis to the origin of the word cacao.  On the one side, as articulated by Karen Dakin and Sren Wichmann (2001), kakawa was a Uto-Aztecan term, of Nahuatl origin. This would then suggest that the history of cacao consumption started sometime during the 5th century CE.  However, Lyle Campbell and Terrence Kaufman’s seminal article in 1976, “A Linguistic Look at the Olmecs”, contended that the term kakawa was of Mixe-Zoquean origin, which the Olmec spoke as early as 1500 BCE, suggesting that Preclassic Mesoamerican cultures produced, distributed, and consumed cacao at least two millennia before the Aztec. Thus the discovery of these pots was significant in that they provided the necessary data to support the much earlier Olmec origin (Powis et al., 2002).

Although it is not definitive as to why Protoclassic Mayans replaced their spouted pots with the Teotihuacan-style tripod cylindrical vases, Powis et al. suggest that the new method for cacao preparation was perhaps introduced by Mayan contact with Mexican highlanders as these new vessels were superior for cacao usages than the spouted variety. Given its form and larger size, the cylindrical vessels provided better storage; made it easier for transportation; provided more space for inscribing glyphs to identify ownership, purpose and location of craftsmanship;  and perhaps most importantly, these new vessels provided wider mouths, openings from which to pour the liquid cacao from one vessel to another in order to create the all coveted foam for their beverages (Powis et al., 2001). Joseph W. Ball, in his 1983 article, “Teotihuacan, the Maya, and Ceramic Interchange,” provides a discussion of the notable homologies between the Mayan and the Teotihuacan ceramics, suggesting that:

…either aesthetic considerations or a desire to emulate a particular vessel form associated with a foreign social system and so connoting high status might have motivated such copying. Consideration should also be given to the possibility that lidded tripod cylinders might have represented specialized commodity containers. Some possible association with the transport, presentation, storage, and/or consumption of cacao or a cacao preparation comes immediately to mind given the Teotihuacan and Guatemala highland distributional foci of such vessels (Ball, 1983).

Although the “chocolate pots” of Preclassic Maya are less known and studied than the more recent cylindrical vessels, these spouted ceramics, nonetheless, play a vital role to understanding the Mesoamerican ethnography surrounding cacao and chocolate. The discovery and analyses of these spouted pots and the important data they provide have enriched scholars and chocolate lovers alike, providing us with a richer picture of how this “food of the gods” has evolved throughout the ages, and how it became intrinsic to the Pre-Columbian peoples: their sustenance, their rituals, their beliefs, and ultimately their enjoyment, a pleasure now indulged throughout the world.

Works Cited

“Archaeology Cacao Usage by the Earliest Maya Civilization : Nature.” Accessed February 20, 2016. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6895/fig_tab/418289a_F1.html.

Ball, Joseph W. “Teotihuacan, the Maya, and Ceramic Interchange: A Contextual Perspective.” In Highland-Lowland Interaction in Mesoamerica: Interdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Arthur G. Miller, 125–45. Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, 1983.

Brady, James E., Joseph W. Ball, Ronald L. Bishop, Duncan C. Pring, Norman Hammond, and Rupert A. Housley. “The Lowland Maya ‘Protoclassic.’” Ancient Mesoamerica 9, no. 01 (March 1998): 17–38. doi:10.1017/S0956536100001826.

Campbell, Lyle, and Terrence Kaufman. “A Linguistic Look at the Olmecs.” American Antiquity 41, no. 1 (January 1976): 80. doi:10.2307/279044.

Dakin, Karen, and Sren Wichmann. “Cacao and Chocolate: A Uto-Aztecan Perspective.” Cambridge University Press, Ancient Mesoamerica, 11, no. 1 (2000): 55–75.

“Gadrooning – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadrooning.

Gann, Thomas W. F. The Maya Indians of Southern Yucatan and Northern British Honduras. Bulletin/Bureau of American Ethnology 64. US Government Printing Office, 1918.

“K’axob – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%27axob.

“Lords of Creation: Royal Feasting.” Accessed February 20, 2016. http://www.mesoweb.com/lords/feasting.html.

McAnany, Patricia Ann, and Eleanor Harrison, eds. K’axob: Ritual, Work, and Family in an Ancient Maya Village. Monumenta Archaeologica 22. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles, 2004.

“Mixe–Zoque Languages – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixe%E2%80%93Zoque_languages.

“Phytolith – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytolith.

Powis, Terry G., Fred Valdez, Thomas R. Hester, W. Jeffrey Hurst, and Stanley M. Tarka. “Spouted Vessels and Cacao Use among the Preclassic Maya.” Latin American Antiquity 13, no. 1 (March 2002): 85–106. doi:10.2307/971742.

“Santa Rita Corozal – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Rita_Corozal.

“Sourcebook on Ceramics – Stuartceramictexts.pdf.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://decipherment.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/stuartceramictexts.pdf.

“Theobromine – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobromine.

“Uto-Aztecan Languages – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Accessed February 20, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uto-Aztecan_languages.