New paper from Professor Oswaldo Chinchilla: “Human Sacrifice & Divine Nourishment in Mesoamerica: The iconography of caco on the Pacific coast of Guatemala”

November 30, 2016

This article explores the sacrificial symbolism of cacao (Theobroma sp.) on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, manifest in the iconography of ceramic objects and stone sculptures from the Classic period, in textual references from the colonial period, and in contemporary ethnographic data from the southern highlands. The iconographic and textual metaphors contained in these sources linked cacao pods with dead warriors, captives, and sacrificial victims. As interpreted in this article, the harvest of cacao was equated with the acquisition of sacrificial victims, and both were conceived as precious sources of nourishment for the gods. Changes in artistic representations are discernible from Early Classic Teotihuacan-style censers to Early Postclassic Plumbate ceramic effigies. Cacao and other fruits from the Pacific coastal piedmont are still related to the symbolism of war and sacrifice in contemporary rituals from the Tz’utujil town of Santiago Atitlán. Data from southern Guatemala may be relevant to understand the sacrificial symbolism of cacao throughout Mesoamerica.”

Click here to see the article in Ancient Mesoamerica.