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Cacao (chocolate) originated in the Amazon Basin! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cacao and pineapples were grown near Savannah!

Cacao (chocolate) originated in the Amazon Basin!  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cacao and pineapples were grown near Savannah!



An international team of scientists have just announced the results of a comprehensive genetic analysis of the cacao tree from which chocolate is made.  A wild species of cacao tree, growing in the Amazon Basin was domesticated about 3,600 years ago.  Perhaps a century or so after this event,  immigrants showed up in southern Mexico with domesticated cacao trees.  They were primary progenitors of the Olmec* Civilization.  * The Olmecs had nothing to do with the Olmec Civilization.  They arrived in southern Mexico about 1500 years after the “Olmec” Civilization had waned.  

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Gourmet chocolates from Savannah anyone?

Did you know that the Uchee living near Savannah grew pineapples and cacao?  They cultivated varieties of these two crops, which had been specifically adapted to the colder winters of the region around Savannah.   You won’t find that information in most history books or anthropology texts, but it is a fact.   German artist, George Von Reck, immigrated to Savannah shortly after its founding.  He immediately became fascinated by the Uchee and Creek Indians living immediately adjacent to the new town.  His beautiful water colors and ink sketches include renderings of cacao,  pineapple and a tropical variety of a sweet Caribbean squash, which were being successfully cultivated by the Uchee.  

It is not known why Georgia colonists didn’t immediately jump on the idea of cultivating these plants commercially for export back to England.  A horrific smallpox epidemic in the early 1750s decimated the friendly Native population living near Savannah.  Most of the survivors either moved upstream on the Savannah River to near Augusta or relocated to the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers.  Apparently, these new locales were too cold in the winter to successfully continue cultivation of cacao and pineapple.  Below are some of Von Reck’s drawings.




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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

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