Time Line in the New World

Time Line for Chocolate in the New World
Show real Cacao pod K8356
14 photographs
2000 BC to 300 AD
A portrait of an Olmec Man carved in jade
A monkey holding a cacao pod decorates a vase
The head of the Father of the Hero Twins of myth, hung in a cacao tree
This is the time of the Olmec civilization. Although this is a culture that reached great heights of
artistry in ceramic, stone, and jade sculpture, we have no written or pictorial record of how they
lived or what they ate. We only find the remains of vessels and artifacts and amazing portraits of
this enigmatic people. A later story, called the Popol Vuh, tells of the exploits of the Hero Twins and
the assorted supernaturals and gods who inhabit the Otherworld. It is possible that the cacao pod
played a seminal role in this creation story, as it may have represented the head of the Father of the
Hero Twins and their half-brothers, the monkeys, who were known as scribes.
300 AD to 600 AD
The inscribed jade celt called the Leiden Plate K
Temple 1 from Tikal, an ancient city carved out of the jungle in Guatemala
This is the pre-classic and early classic period. It is marked by exquisite pottery and sculpture. An
example of the earliest known writing in the New World, inscribed with a date corresponding to 320
AD, appears in an inscription on a jade celt named the Leiden Plate. The Maya civilization is on the
rise. Cities begin to be built and there is active coastal trade by canoe. To the west, Teotihuacan is
an important center, setting up contact and trade routes with the Maya. Undoubtedly, cacao, from
the hot jungle regions to the south and east was an important trade commodity. Cacao beans also
became a means of exchange and were used as money.
600 AD to 900 AD
The Glyph for Cacao on the rim of a vase.
Two Ladies holding a Cacao Pod & drinking cup.
K6048 & 49
An offering of chocolate is made to the carved stone head of an old god.
Most of our information about the Maya comes from this time, the classic period. Now, great cities
are springing up, writing flourishes on paper and ceramics, carvings in stone, on bone and shell.
Our first tangible information about chocolate appears in the inscriptions that rim some ceramic
vessels that have been found in burials. The text may say that the vessel contained chocolate and
belonged to persons of rank. Whether these were cache vessels for cacao beans or actually
contained liquid is not really known. It is rumored that ceramic cacao pods were found in a tomb.
We do know that chocolate was a food for the gods and in turn for royalty and the elite.
900 AD to 1200 AD
Ruins at Chichén Itzá, an ancient city in Yucatan, Mexico.
The post classic period saw many changes; constant warfare, terrible disruptions of daily life
occurred; people on the move to escape the violence and the worn out land. Many cities fell into
ruin. But in the West a new group of people were arriving from the north and settling in the area we
know today as Mexico City. They were to become the Aztecs. They had never heard of chocolate in
the north, but when they were introduced to this most delicious essence, they made it an elite food
and called it chocolatl in their language. Only royalty was allowed to partake of it.
1200 AD to 1492 AD
A modern Chocolate whisk to make frothy drinks.
This period saw the Aztec civilization rise meteorically. They built their great city Tenochtitlán. It
had paved roads, canals, parks, temples and plazas and a great market. They wrote poetry and
many documents in picture writing; they found royal wives from surrounding clans and began a
dynasty. They invented new farming methods and a cuisine that included a great variety of foods.
Chocolate, beaten to froth with a wooden whisk, remained a privileged delicacy—until—The New
World was “found” by Christopher Columbus.
1492 AD to 1519 AD
A painting of a holy man and the ships that brought the Spaniards
Although the Aztecs had no idea how profoundly they were to be affected, when the news
reached Europe that a vast new land had been found filled with gold. It set off a spate of exploration
fever. Spain, among other countries, vied to make the journey to this fabled land. In 1519 AD, the
first Spaniards set foot in Mexico -forever to change history.
1519 AD to 1521 AD
A meeting between Spaniards and Aztecs (after Codex Durán)
These two years saw fierce political maneuvering by Spain to make allies of other tribes, in order to
conquerhu the Aztecs. Warfare ravaged the city of Tenochtitlan. Finally, after a long siege, the
Aztecs gave up and Spain now ruled “New Spain”.
1521 AD
The 16th century kitchen in Puebla
Europe and the rest of the world were on the very brink of discovering chocolate!
By the end of the 16th century, the most famous Mexican stew was invented. It incorporated the
native delicacy, chocolate, in an astonishing sauce made from local peppers and many spices to be
cooked and eaten with turkey, also indigenous to the New World. It is called Mole Poblano, after
Puebla, the town where it was invented. The original kitchen still exists in the convent where the
nuns first prepared this dish for the visiting Bishop.