A.D. 900-1130, American Indian Museum, New York
Pottery holds early evidence of cultures crossing the Americas
For years scholars puzzled over the purpose of the cylindrical clay jars found at New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. Then, in 2009, an anthropologist found traces of theobromine, a biomarker for cacao, inside the vessels. That discovery marked the first known use of cacao drinks north of the Mexican border, evidence of long-distance trading. The expensive beans were fermented, roasted, ground and then mixed with water and whipped into a froth. The Pueblo peoples, like the Mayans, may have sipped the chocolate drinks from the geometrically painted jars as part of an elite ritual.