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From today's NYTimes:

"Chocolate's Deep Roots

The ancient Central American civilizations had a yen for chocolate (some things never change, apparently). Montezuma II, the Aztec ruler at the time of the Spanish conquest, used to drink cup after cup of the stuff. Although rather than milk and marshmallows, his chocolate had honey, maize or other ingredients mixed in.

New research reported in Nature gives a better idea of how long this ancient love affair with chocolate had been going on. Previously, the earliest physical evidence of cacao use was found among Maya artifacts from the fifth century. But the new studies, by an anthropologist at the University of Texas and a chemist from the Hershey Foods Technical Center (where else?) and colleagues, show that the Maya consumed chocolate at least 1,000 years before that, about 600 B.C.

The researchers analyzed residues from 14 ceramic teapotlike vessels found in burial grounds at Colha, a Maya site in Belize, and found that three contained theobromine, a well-established marker for the presence of cacao. The researchers suggested that the pots were used to prepare chocolate the preferred Mayan (and Aztec) way, by pouring it from vessel to vessel to create a frothy head that was considered the choicest part of the drink."

------My "editorial" comment: 600 BC? The earliest evidence SO FAR.
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