In The Power of Chocolate (in the Nov./Dec. 2010 issue of Archaeology Magazine), author Blake Edgar describes research into the ancient uses of cacao being done in the past decade by the Hershey Company and other more typical historical researchers like grad students and field archaeologists.
Although only an abstract of the article is available online, it’s still an interesting read. Who knew Hershey’s labs weren’t only researching new ways to make chocolate candies? And it shows the Mayan glyph for cacao, which looks like a skull and a comb to me, but which in the longer print version of the article they say is a fish and a fish fin (which makes no more sense to me than skulls & combs).
If you can find the longer article, it describes in detail the research that has found trace amounts of theobromine (chemical compound similar to caffeine that’s found in chocolate) on ancient pottery from the chocolate belt of the Americas. It also includes more ancient cacao-themed images and fun asides like how the Mayans prepared drinking chocolate.
Thanks to Eric Knight, indefatigable reader of the printed word, for sending us this interesting article.