In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chocolate Wine in the Book of Mormon?

Wicked King Noah the wine bibber
I think that some of my fascination in regards to the Book of Mormon began upon realizing there were numerous things that I read through multiple times that technically wouldn’t make sense happening in a Mesoamerican setting and somehow never seemed to set off any alarms to me.  Once I started hearing of a few of these and seeing how they actually do fit in with a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon I became “addicted” to this type of research, which I think is a perfect description in regards to this blog post

The Book of Mormon speaks of the use of wine in many instances, including in Mosiah when wicked King Noah built wine-presses to make wine in abundance and became a wine bibber and also his people (Mosiah 11:5).  Or in his son Limhi’s escape from the Lamanites when they paid their taxed tribute of wine in order for the Lamanite guards to become drunk allowing the people of Limhi to escape through a back route according to the plan of Gideon.  This use of paying tribute with wine was attempted many times including from the Lamanites to the Nephites without success according to Alma 55:30.

Now I have read the Book of Mormon more times than I have fingers and probably toes as well but for some reason it never struck me that it would be hard to produce wine in Mesoamerica due to the challenge of growing grapes or olives, but apparently this is the case and has been a key issue with the anti-Mormon crowd.  Dr. Michael Coe the famous Mesoamerican archeologist and anthropologist noted that in the Book of Mormon there was no mention of cacao or chocolate which raised a flag because of its known heavy use in ancient Mesoamerica.  At a first glance Dr. Coe would be right but when we actually take the time dig into the text we can see that this isn’t actually the case. 

Ripe cacao tree
In a somewhat recent study done by Cornell professor of anthropology John Henderson and his colleagues they found traces of caffeine and theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine but specific to cacao, in 11 shards dated to 1100 B.C.  According to Patrick McGovern Scientific Director of Biomolecular Archeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia:
“We, and by we I’m also including fellow-scientist Jeff Hurst at Hershey Chocolate, analyzed pottery sherds belonging to long-necked jars. Such vessels from Honduras are among some of the earliest pottery yet found anywhere in Mesoamerica, dating back to around 1400 B.C. They preceded the first urban communities of the Olmecs, centered on the Gulf Coast of what are now Mexico’s Veracruz and Tabasco provinces.

Vessels of the long-necked jar type from Puerto Escondido tested positive for theobromine, which is the fingerprint compound for cacao since the compound only occurs in chocolate fruit and beans in Mesoamerica. The style of the vessel was another give-away or advertisement of its contents–it had the shape and characteristic ridges and indentations of the cacao fruit. What we propose, based on the chemical and archaeological evidence, is that the jar was once filled with a fermented chocolate beverage made from ripe chocolate fruit.”

drawing of ancient  cacao-wine
vessel used to add froth
The use of this cacao based chocolate wine was common in the Olmec and Mayan times and continued even to the Aztecs who knew this formula as the drink of the Gods.  As pointed out by Jeff Lindsay the Friar Diego de Landa when writing about his time in Mesoamerica during the conquest stated:

“The Indians are very dissolute in drinking and becoming intoxicated, and many ills follow their excesses this way. . . . Their wine they make of honey and water and the root of a certain tree they grow for the purpose. . . .”

Later McGovern noted:
“In later Mesoamerica, the Mayans and then the Aztecs increasingly turned to the beans, rather than the fruit, to make their cacao beverage. They also mixed in lots of additives–honey, chilis of all kinds, variously scented flowers, and achiote or annatto (Bixa orellana) which colors the beverage an intense red in keeping with its association with human sacrifice. If a victim atop one of the pyramids faltered, he was given a gourd of chocolate, mixed with blood which had been caked on the obsidian blades of earlier sacrifices.”

So as we can see wine was found in abundance throughout the history of Mesoamerica including during the same time periods mentioned during the Book of Mormon so the mentioning of it would make complete sense and also alleviate the question why chocolate or cacao was not mentioned.  So once again another criticism about the Book of Mormon only stands to solidify it’s authenticity.


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  2. Wow. Fantastic. I just had my first Chocovine this past weekend. I liked it a lot, and so did about 4 of 5 others at the dinner. It had more of a alcohol bite than I expected, but not to an unpleasant level. Our bottle was 14% alcohol. You could just tell it had a bit of a kick.
    Wine Gift Membership

  3. A bit of a stretch. You might look into the heartland model of BoM lands.

    1. Sorry but the Heartland is geographically impossible and as far as evidence is concerned I feel it lacks enormously. I feel that Meldrum and May are jumping to huge conclusions about an ancient people that we really don't know hardly anything about. Sorry but the populations just wouldn't work. Not to mention most of May's evidence (especially the Michigan Relics)have already been proven fraudulent...but he keeps saying it "needs more testing"...if I had a magazine (and Meldrum has tours) that would be obsolete if the truth was revealed than I can see why he keeps misleading people.

  4. This is long after you wrote this post (Dec 2016) but last night on PBS watched the Globe Trekker episode on 'The Story of Chocolate'. Your thoughts in this post combined with the Quetzalcoatl references by British chocolate expert Sara Jayne Stanes quote of "Quetzalcoatl--coming down on a beam of light from the East-- with a cacao plant in his hand" taken together with your information in this post are fascinating as related to the Book of Mormon. Thanks.