Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pataxte, cacao, jaguar tree -
Jan 13, 2010 - Theobroma bicolor : Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize Nicholas M. Hellmuth. Pataxte and cacao in Mayan ethnobotany, iconography, and art ...
 While a student at Harvard, in the royal Tomb of the Jade Jaguar at Tikal, one of the polychrome Tepeu 2 Maya vases there had the remains of a “soup-like” material. It was dried out (as would be expected from having been in the burial for over a thousand years). But the remains of the seeds were still quite visible. Since I was only 19 years old, and at that time had never seen a cacao seed, I naively assumed the seeds had been some kind of bean. But in hindsignt I realize they were cacao beans. Fortunately I saved the entire contents of that bowl and turned it over to the University of Pennsylvania project in Tikal, but I am not familiar that this material was ever analyzed, or if so, where the results are.

But all this cacao is Theobroma cacao. The Theobroma bicolor, Pataxte, is usually ignored, or is dismissed quickly.
A typical example of ignoring pataxte is in the otherwise excellent monograph, “Trees in the Life of the Maya World.” This is an attractive 206 page, full-color, coffee-table book published by the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. This book includes most of the key trees from the Popol Vuh such as ceiba (p. 16ff), palo de pito (p. 32ff), calabash tree, cacao, etc.
But, as is typical, the authors fail to show even an awareness of the difference between pataxte (Theobroma bicolor ) and cacao (Theobroma cacao). They illustrate cacao in all their photographs but one line drawing shows what I would interpret as pataxte (p 50), but they (or the book that the illustration was borrowed from, which is not cited), claim it is Theobroma cacao.
The authors themselves do not use the word pataxte once. Yet the quote they feature from the Popol Vuh even suggests that pataxte is a different fruit than cacao: “This will be our food: maize, pepper seeds, beans, pataxte, cacao:…”
In other words, even people who are writing books about sacred Maya plants are not aware that pataxte and cacao are two completely different trees.

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