SONIA ZARRILLO presented “New Approaches to Tracing Cacao’s Dispersal from the Amazon Basin”

SONIA ZARRILLO, postdoctoral fellow at the Cotsen Institute, presented “New Approaches to Tracing Cacao’s Dispersal from the Amazon Basin” on January 23 at the first gathering of the year, and decade, of the Andean Working Group. Her presentation was co-authored with Michael Blake from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Throughout her informative presentation Zarrillo shed light on the origins and many characteristics of cacao, resulting from her years of investigation in Ecuador. While it was known that cacao trees grow within the cacao belt—about 20° on either side of the equator—more varieties of cacao appear endemic to South America than previously known. Zarrillo demonstrated that cacao likely came from the Amazonian Basin and was domesticated in present-day Equator. Only after it had been brought to Mesoamerica, however, what we now know as chocolate was invented. The Andean Working Group of the Cotsen Institute draws scholars from across Southern California to UCLA campus for meetings focused on current research in Andean archaeology, art history, anthropology, and history.

Figure 1. Graduate student Georgi Kyorlenski introduces the speaker.

Figure 2. Postdoctoral fellow Sonia Zarrillo prepares for her presentation on the dispersal of cacao.

Figure 3. Members and visitors of the Andean Working Group enjoy refreshments served before the beginning of the presentation.