Connections: pre Columbian distribution of chocolate and sweet potatoes
- Earliest Evidence of Chocolate in North America
"Until now, the only known imports from Mesoamerica into the northern Southwest were limited quantities of parrots, copper bells, and a few other items, says Washington State University, Pullman, archaeologist William Lipe, a specialist on the Southwest. Most researchers think the cultural development of the Southwest was largely independent of Mesoamerican influences, he says, but a chocolate-drenched Southwest implies that Mesoamerica's influence on Southwestern architecture and rituals might have been greater than expected."
Sweet potatoes were domesticated in Peru 8000 years ago. The oldest sweet potato in Polynesia is dated to 1000 CE, 500 years before the Europeans arrived there. The word for sweet potato in Polynesian languages is close to the Quechua word for it. European traders brought other varieties to Polynesia later and that made it difficult to sort out the genetic history. Researchers in France have studied sweet potato samples found in herbariums brought back by the first European explorers to Polynesia. The findings show that the sweet potato was introduced into Polynesia three times. The first time was through Polynesian contact with South America, then by Spanish traders, and then by the Portuguese. The oldest variety is found in Eastern Polynesia, the others in Western Polynesia.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.