Chocolate eaten as early as 1,000 years ago, in Chaco Canyon, NM





WASHINGTON – Chocolate for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? Folks may be surprised to know how far back chocolate goes — perhaps 1,000 years in what is now the United States. Evidence of chocolate was been found in Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, N.M., the earliest indication of the tasty substance north of Mexico, Patricia L. Crown of the University of New Mexico and W. Jeffrey Hurst of the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Drinking chocolate was associated with a variety of rituals in ancient Central America, including weddings, but Crown said she is not sure of its exact uses in her area.

The discovery, dated to between A.D. 1000 and 1125, indicates trade was under way between the Chaco Canyon residents and cacao growers in Central America.

But the nearest cacao plantation would have been more than 1,000 miles away, so importing the material would have been a major undertaking, she said. Chocolate was probably something not consumed often, she said in a telephone interview.

It also probably tasted bitter compared with what is available today. Central Americans didn't sweeten their chocolate and sometimes mixed in hot peppers. Crown said honey might have been available in new Mexico but she didn't know if it was used.

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