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Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao (Maya Studies) Hardcover – January 28, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Maya Studies
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida; 1st edition (January 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813029538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813029535
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,182,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A monumental contribution to the study of a plant food of basic importance from pre-Columbian times to the present in the Americas and now the world.... It will be the baseline for studies of chocolate in the Americas and the world for the foreseeable future. -- Rene Millon

Book Description

“A monumental contribution to the study of a plant food of basic importance from pre-Columbian times to the present in the Americas and now the world. . . . It will be the baseline for studies of chocolate in the Americas and the world for the foreseeable future.—René Millon, professor emeritus,
University of Rochester
 
New models of research and analysis, as well as breakthroughs in deciphering Mesoamerican writing, have recently produced a watershed of information on the regional use and importance of cacao, or chocolate as it is commonly called today. McNeil brings together scholars in the fields of archaeology, history, art history, linguistics, epigraphy, botany, chemistry, and cultural anthropology to explore the domestication, preparation, representation, and significance of cacao in ancient and modern communities of the Americas, with a concentration on its use in Mesoamerica.
            Cacao was used by many cultures in the pre-Columbian Americas as an important part of rituals associated with birth, coming of age, marriage, and death, and was strongly linked with concepts of power and rulership. While Europeans have for hundreds of years claimed that they introduced “chocolate” as a sauce for foods, evidence from ancient royal tombs indicates cacao was used in a range of foods as well as beverages in ancient times. In addition, the volume’s authors present information that supports a greater importance for cacao in pre-Columbian South America, where ancient vessels depicting cacao pods have recently been identified. 
            From the botanical structure and chemical makeup of Theobroma cacao and methods of identifying it in the archaeological record, to the importance of cacao during the Classic period in Mesoamerica, to the impact of European arrival on the production and use of cacao, to contemporary uses in the Americas, this volume provides a richly informed account of the history and cultural significance of chocolate.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Vasta on April 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great contribution to the field of Mesoamerican studies. When I ordered it I wasn't sure what to expect, but I have really enjoyed it. The interdisciplinary approach allows for a thorough examination of the role of cacao in the cultural life of indigenous Mesoamericans, past and present. I appreciated the diachronic examination of the subject as it allows the reader to better understand how cacao was and is culturally important to Mesoamericans. Additionally, it demonstrates how this seed become significant to the colonial economy as well as the larger world market. The history of cacao's Native American origins is fascinating. Cacao or chocolate has become an important part of many cultures foodways however its Native American origins are largely overlooked in its contemporary context. McNeil's compilation of current scholarly research about cacao nicely demonstrates the origin and development of this Native American resource.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kosarux on May 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This volume includes papers by a number of experts on chocolate and Mesoamerica. The chapters are well written and form the most complete coverage of this domesticate in a single volume. The papers consider cacao from multiple perspectives including botany, iconography, ritual, politics, and economy. They also cover a broad geographic area including a number of pre-Columbian and modern cultural groups in Mesoamerica.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John E. Staller on May 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao, 2006., edited by Cameron L. McNeil, Gainesville: University Press of Florida (ISBN 0-8130-2953-8) represents the most comprehensive study of cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) published to date. The breadth and scope of this important reference source is impressive. Contributions include research and analysis involving various methodological approaches, anthropology, archaeology, art history, conservation biology, and epigraphy, to explore the role of cacao in ancient and contemporary Mesoamerica and its origins as a domesticate. Scholars from a variety of fields provide new evidence on the domestication of cacao, its ancient use in foods other than beverages, its significance in Mesoamerican religion, and its role in elite feasts. Contributors also discuss: the value of cacao; the artistic conventions concerning cacao and its use; and the archaeological identification of cacao, including the recovery of seeds in archaeological context, residue analysis from ancient ceramics, and the hieroglyphic markings on ancient ceramic containers. These studies pose various questions such as: where beverages made from cacao pulp or only the seeds? Was cacao associated with the ancient elite and consumed primarily as a beverage? Was cacao widely available to individuals and societies of non-elite status? Some researchers study current religious practices involving cacao, especially in Mexico and Guatemala, in order to determine if these practices may provide clues to ancient associations of this plant.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JCW on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you are a chocolate lover, this is the book for you! So many books about this topic look at how chocolate developed outside of Mesoamerica. It is nice to read about cacao in its original cultural context. Interesting and well-organized. A nice addition to any chocolate connoisseur's library.
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