Cacao Was First Cultivated in South America, Not Mexico and Central America

Cacao Was First Cultivated in South America, Not Mexico and Central America

New study pinpoints birth of chocolate to some 5,300 years ago, or nearly 1,500 years earlier than previously believed

ByMeilan Solly

smithsonian.com

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According to legend, the last Aztec emperor, Montezuma II, relied on a daily dose of chocolate—he reportedly drank gallons of it every day—to revitalize himself.

It’s long been thought that Montezuma’s people first learned of chocolate, then enjoyed mainly as a bitter drink, from their Mayan neighbors, who in turn drew on knowledge passed down by the Olmecs. But a study recently published in Nature Ecology and Evolution suggests the classic treat actually originated in another part of the world: the Amazon rainforest. And that’s not all—as Colin Barras reports for Science magazine, the new findings place the birth of chocolate some 5,300 years ago, or nearly 1,500 years earlier than previously believed…