Study Says Ancient North American Civilizations Shared Our Devotion To Caffeine

If this were a celebrity weekly the above headline would read, “Ancient Civilizations — They’re Just Like Us!” But it’s not, so let’s just say that maybe getting out of bed wasn’t so easy without beverages that pack a caffeinated kick even thousands of years ago.

Caffeine was popular with ancient civilizations in what we call Mexico today as well as the South and Southwest U.S., says a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (via the Associated Press), so much so that different societies traded holly and cacao-based chocolate drinks among each other for around 700 years.

The holly could be used to make a caffeinated tea, and researchers from the University of New Mexico believe the cacoa beverages were also part of the bustling beverage trade, as the beans contain small amounts of caffeine.

Other studies had found traces of cacao drinks in parts of the U.S., but lead researcher Patricia Crown says this new study confirms they were popular, and that the holly drink wasn’t associated with people in the Southwest before now.

Researchers believe the drinks were traded between groups living in different areas, as caffeine was found on shards of pottery at sites throughout New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Neither holly nor cacao grow in those regions.

“The fact we have found traces of caffeine that are 1,000 years old is exciting,” Crown said. “As new technology develops, we can discover things about the past like this using objects we already have in museums.”

She believes the caffeine was used in rituals and political events. The drinks are believed to have been something mostly enjoyed by an elite or noble class, because of the tricky trade route involved to get their hands on it.

“For people who had a diet consisting of corn, beans and squash, the drinks provided a kick,” Crown said.

Study: Caffeine trade thrived in ancient America [Associated Press]