208 pages, 8 1/2 x 9
132 color photographs, 10 illustrations, 2 maps, 60-minute DVD
Mixed media product
Release Date:15 Oct 2008


Pathway to the Gods

The University of Arizona Press
Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods takes readers on a journey through 3,000 years of the history of chocolate. It is a trip filled with surprises. And it is a beautifully illustrated tour, featuring 132 vibrant color photographs and a captivating sixty-minute DVD documentary. Along the way, readers learn about the mystical allure of chocolate for the peoples of Mesoamerica, who were the first to make it and who still incorporate it into their lives and ceremonies today.

Although it didn’t receive its Western scientific name, Theobroma cacao—“food of the gods”—until the eighteenth century, the cacao tree has been at the center of Mesoamerican mythology for thousands of years. Not only did this “chocolate tree” produce the actual seeds from which chocolate was extracted but it was also symbolically endowed with cosmic powers that enabled a dialogue between humans and their gods. From the pre-Columbian images included in this sumptuous book, we are able to see for ourselves the importance of chocolate to the Maya, Aztecs, Olmecs, Mixtecs, and Zapotecs who grew, produced, traded, and fought over the prized substance.

Through archaeological and other ethnohistoric research, the authors of this fascinating book document the significance of chocolate—to gods, kings, and everyday people—over several millennia. The illustrations allow us to envision the many ancient uses of this magical elixir: in divination ceremonies, in human sacrifices, and even in ball games. And as mythological connections between cacao trees, primordial rainforests, and biodiversity are unveiled, our own quest for ecological balance is reignited. In demonstrating the extraordinary value of chocolate in Mesoamerica, the authors provide new reasons—if any are needed—to celebrate this wondrous concoction.
“To read Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods is to delve into a rich narration of one of the most marvelous gifts Meso-American cultures have given to the world: the very special delights of chocolate.”— Bloomsbury Review

'You can't beat this delectable book.'—Northwest Explorer
Meredith L. Dreiss is a research fellow at the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. Her company, ArcheoProductions, Inc., develops and produces anthropology-related educational and entertainment projects. She is also president of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, an organization focused on issues of global sustainability. Sharon Edgar Greenhill has more than twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, museum design, and historic preservation in the United States and Mexico. She is a long-time consultant to ArcheoProductions, Inc.
Preface and Acknowledgments

1 Chocolate and the Supernatural Realm: Food of the Gods
2 Chocolate and Ritual in Mesoamerica: F ertility, Life Cycles, and the Soul’s Journey
3 Power, Wealth, and Greed: T he Seduction of Cacao
4 Serve Up the Chocolate: D rinks, Vessels, and Glyphs
5 The Healing Powers of Chocolate: F olk Medicine, Nutrition, and Pharmacology
6 Balancing the Cosmos: C hocolate’s Role in Rainforest Ecology

Illustration Credits
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