Cacao use and the San Lorenzo Olmec

Terry G. Powis, Ann Cyphers, Nilesh W. Gaikwad, Louis Grivetti, Kong Cheong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8595-8600
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 24 2011


  • Chemistry
  • Chocolate
  • Mexico
  • Residue analysis
  • Tandem mass spectrometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Cacao use and the San Lorenzo Olmec'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this