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New Research Suggests The Cacao Tree Spread From The Amazon To Other Regions Via Migration And Trading Roots 5,000 Years Ago, Helping Experts Trace The Cultivation Of Chocolate And Fight Threats Facing The Important Plant

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A new study has found that around 5,000 years ago, the cacao tree began to spread from the Amazon to other regions of the world through human migration and trading routes.

The discovery has helped archaeologists trace the origins of chocolate and possibly lead to efforts that can combat threats to the cacao tree.

“Humans have a long history of transporting and trading plants, contributing to the evolution of domesticated plants,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

They added that the cacao tree, which grows cocoa beans and is also known as Theobroma cacao, originated in the Neotropics of South America, but very little was known about its use in those regions.

The researchers examined the residue from 352 ceramic pots dating back from 5,900 to 400 years ago. The pots were unearthed in places ranging from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Belize, and Panama. They tested the residue for ancient cacao DNA and found three strains. It appeared that the cocoa bean was shared among more cultures than scientists initially believed.

Chocolate is a treat that is widely consumed across the globe, and the cacao tree remains one of the most important plants in the world. Not only are the plant’s cocoa beans used to make chocolate, but they also can produce chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa solids.

Clearly, the tree and its seeds are revered and highly sought after. Even the cacao tree’s scientific name, Theobroma cacao, translates to “food of the gods,” which was a title established by the Maya. The Maya were one of the first people to cultivate the cacao tree. They prepared a cocoa drink with hot water that was usually flavored with cinnamon and pepper.

As you can see, chocolate has been enjoyed for a long time. Today, however, the cacao tree is at risk due to disease and climate change. The new findings from the study about its genetic history can help scientists combat the threats that the plant currently faces.

Evidence indicates that the cacao tree quickly spread along the Pacific coast after it was domesticated in the Amazon 5,000 years ago.

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