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Chocolate in MesoamericaA Cultural History of Cacao$
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Cameron McNeil

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780813029535

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813029535.001.0001

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The Biology, Antiquity, and Modern Uses of the Chocolate Tree (Theobroma cacao L.)

(p.1) 1 Introduction
Chocolate in Mesoamerica

Cameron L. McNeil

University Press of Florida

In the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas, the Theobroma cacao L. tree or commonly known as the “cacao tree” played a very significant and central role in the culture and religion of those regions. For the people, cacao seeds, and the products derived from them, played a central role in their spiritual beliefs and their social and economic systems. For the ancient and modern cultures of the Central and South America, cacao seeds not only play a part in religious rituals but were also important ingredient for food and beverages, topical creams, and medicinal concoctions. Apart from playing a central role in the culinary practices of these cultures, cacao was also an indispensable item for trade and economics. This introduction discusses the origins and history of cacao. It explores the importance of cacao in the cultures of Mesoamerica and beyond. The periods discussed in this introduction where cacao played a central role on the culture, economics, and religion include the Classic Mesoamerica, Colonial Mesoamerica, and Modern Mesoamerica eras. The introduction also includes a discussion on the impact of cacao use and consumption in the societies and social strata of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

Keywords:   pre-Columbian cultures, Americas, Theobroma cacao, cacao tree, cacao, Central America, South America, origins of cacao, history of cacao

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