Chocolate melts in The Bahamas

In January 2017 I got a phone call from Pete, who had been leading most of the excavations I have participated in. He said “Andy we can’t go this year, I am not able to lead the expedition”. This was a big deal for me because it was the middle of my PhD and I still needed to excavate more of the Palmetto Junction site to enable an even comparison of artifacts between the Dominican Republic sites and The Bahamas site. I secured some funding for a brief excavation that year where I was able to act as the primary investigator. As we excavated an ancient midden (trash heap), we found the typical fish and mollusk remains but also some aesthetically pleasing pottery that was locally made. The pottery vessel fragment shown below had at least two different weaving marks pressed into the soft clay before it was hardened and then fired.

Fragment of container that held a fermented chocolate beverage spiced with chili and sweetened with maize.

Indeed, this pottery was special. The amount of work to create the pottery and the intensity and ability to create a non-normal beverage possibly with liquid cacao (chocolate), the hours it took to ferment to the desired alcoholic or foamy consistency is nothing but extraordinary. This archaeological find was one of 43 clay artifacts analyzed for food remains and presented at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, in a paper, Cookware and crockery: A form and functional view from the Southern Bahamas. This was authored by myself and Devon Graves .

If this work interests you please read the full report here.

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