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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 24;108(21):8595-600. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100620108. Epub 2011 May 9.

Cacao use and the San Lorenzo Olmec.

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Department of Geography and Anthropology, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA 30144, USA.


Mesoamerican peoples had a long history of cacao use--spanning more than 34 centuries--as confirmed by previous identification of cacao residues on archaeological pottery from Paso de la Amada on the Pacific Coast and the Olmec site of El Manatí on the Gulf Coast. Until now, comparable evidence from San Lorenzo, the premier Olmec capital, was lacking. The present study of theobromine residues confirms the continuous presence and use of cacao products at San Lorenzo between 1800 and 1000 BCE, and documents assorted vessels forms used in its preparation and consumption. One elite context reveals cacao use as part of a mortuary ritual for sacrificial victims, an event that occurred during the height of San Lorenzo's power.

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