ARC2AZT Essay: Life, Death and Chocolate in Mesoamerica: The Aztecs and the Maya; Where did the Ritual Use of Cacao Originate?by Caroline Seawright
Year 2 Essay for Archaeology of Ancient Mexico, Culminating with the Aztec Empire at LaTrobe University, June 2012.
Ritual use of cacao permeates the Maya, the Aztec, and other cultures of Mesoamerica. Cacao, an indigenous plant, originally appeared in the Soconusco region of Mexico, with archaeological evidence of its use stretching over millennia. Next to maize, it was the most important plant food in Mesoamerica. Cacao connected mankind to their gods; it was used as a milestone for important life events, a healing beverage, and a luxury. This essay will investigate the archaeological and ethnohistorical history of cacao in rituals and religion, and its origin. The similarities in cacao rites associated with various milestones of the lifecycle of indigenous peoples, and the symbolism of cacao and its use with human sacrificial rituals, in religion and at death, will be explored, focusing on the Maya, the Aztec and other cultures (Figure 1). Cacao has permeated the ritual life of the Mesoamerican people since ancient times. Despite the millennia that have passed, and the different cultures that procured cacao, there is a remarkable similarity in ritual contexts. It is postulated that cacao must have originated from an early culture, stemming back to the time of the Olmecs.
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Seawright, C 2012, Life, Death and Chocolate in Mesoamerica: The Aztecs and the Maya; Where did the Ritual Use of Cacao Originate?, Articles by Caroline Seawright, <http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/ kunoichi/themestream/ ARC2AZT.html>.
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