The near-legendary ancient city of Chocolá in Guatemala is the subject of a new book by archaeologists Jonathan Kaplan and Federico Paredes Umaña: Water, Cacao, and the Early Maya of Chocolá. Based on extensive fieldwork by the authors, this book offers evidence that the city was innovative and influential early in the development of Maya civilization.
The photos below show the authors’ research at the site. During their excavations, Kaplan and Paredes Umaña discovered a large and extraordinarily sophisticated underground water-control system. They also found evidence to support their theory that the city’s growth was partly due to the cacao trade.
In their book, they contend that Chocolá’s wealth and power were built on its abundant supply of water and its cultivation of cacao, a food which was significant not just in cuisine and trade but also was central in Classic Maya ideology and cosmology. Confirming that Chocolá was one of the major early Maya polities, their pioneering work helps explain how and why the region in which the city developed may have played an essential role in the rise of the Maya civilization.
Photos by Jerry Rabinowitz.
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. Together, they are the authors of Water, Cacao, and the Early Maya of Chocolá.