Water, Cacao, and the Early Maya of Chocolá

Jonathan Kaplan and Federico Paredes Umaña

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“The site of Chocolá is extremely important for the study of the rise and development of civilization in southern Mesoamerica. This book represents the first systematic description and analysis of this center and is a significant contribution to Mesoamerican archaeology.”—Takeshi Inomata, coeditor of Mesoamerican Plazas: Arenas of Community and Power  
 
“Kaplan and Paredes Umaña leave no stone unturned in the analysis of the relationships between resources, production, and power at Chocolá. Mandatory reading for anyone interested in the early Maya kingdoms of southeastern Mesoamerica.”—William R. Fowler, Jr., author of The Cultural Evolution of Ancient Nahua Civilizations: The Pipil-Nicarao of Central America  
 
This exciting book brings the often-overlooked southern Maya region of Guatemala into the spotlight by closely examining the “lost city” of Chocolá. Jonathan Kaplan and Federico Paredes Umaña prove that Chocolá was a major Maya polity and reveal exactly why it was so influential.            
 
In their fieldwork at the site, Kaplan and Paredes Umaña discovered an extraordinarily sophisticated underground water-control system. They also discovered cacao residues in ceramic vessels. Based on these and other findings, the authors believe that cacao was consumed and grown intensively at Chocolá and that the city was the center of a large cacao trade. They contend that the city’s wealth and power were built on its abundant supply of water and its command of cacao, which was significant not just to cuisine and trade but also to Maya ideology and cosmology. Moreover, Kaplan and Paredes Umaña detail the ancient city’s ceramics and add over thirty stone sculptures to the site’s inventory.
 
Because the southern Maya region was likely the origin of Maya hieroglyphic writing and the Long Count calendar, scholars have long suspected the area to be important. This pioneering field research at Chocolá helps explain how and why the region played a leading role in the rise of the Maya civilization.  
 
Jonathan Kaplan, director of the Chocolá Project, is coeditor of The Southern Maya in the Late Preclassic: The Rise and Fall of an Early Mesoamerican Civilization. Federico Paredes Umaña is professor at the Center for Anthropological Studies at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 

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