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Her Cup for Sweet Cacao

Her Cup for Sweet Cacao
Food in Ancient Maya Society

Presenting new data from leading scholars in the field, this collection uses evidence from archaeology, hieroglyphic texts, chemical analyses, and art to explore the many ways food was integral to Classic Maya society.

December 2020
Not yet published

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This book will be available in January 2021.
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312 pages | 6 x 9 | 2 b&w photos, 6 b&w illus. |

For the ancient Maya, food was both sustenance and a tool for building a complex society. This collection, the first to focus exclusively on the social uses of food in Classic Maya culture, deploys a variety of theoretical approaches to examine the meaning of food beyond diet—ritual offerings and restrictions, medicinal preparations, and the role of nostalgia around food, among other topics. For instance, how did Maya feasts build community while also reinforcing social hierarchy? What psychoactive substances were the elite Maya drinking in their caves, and why? Which dogs were good for eating, and which breeds became companions? Why did even some non-elite Maya enjoy cacao, but rarely meat? Why was meat more available for urban Maya than those closer to hunting grounds on the fringes of cities? How did the molcajete become a vital tool and symbol in Maya gastronomy?

These chapters, written by some of the leading scholars in the field, showcase a variety of approaches and present new evidence from faunal remains, hieroglyphic texts, chemical analyses, and art. Thoughtful and revealing, Her Cup for Sweet Cacao unlocks a more comprehensive understanding of how food was instrumental to the development of ancient Maya culture.


Traci Ardren is a professor of anthropology at the University of Miami. She is the author of Social Identities in the Classic Maya Lowlands, and her research has appeared in the journals Food and Foodways and Ancient Mesoamerica, among others.