10 Foods Introduced to Us by the Ancient Maya

 PHOTOGRAPH BY ALDO PAVAN, GRAND TOUR/CORBIS

PHOTOGRAPH BY ALDO PAVAN, GRAND TOUR/CORBIS

The Maya civilization was one of the most dominant indigenous societies of Mesoamerica, its population spanning modern-day Guatemala, the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, western Honduras and El Salvador, and parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas.

Reaching their cultural peak around the sixth century A.D., the ancient Maya are remembered as a powerful civilization who excelled in agriculture, mathematics, calendar-making, pottery, and architecture. But their lofty accomplishments often eclipse a much humbler legacy that lives on in kitchens around the world today—food.

That guacamole you love to add to every burger, burrito, and bowl originated centuries ago in the Maya cities of southern Mexico and Guatemala. Savoury, steamed tamales were enjoyed by the Maya long before the Spanish invasion as a staple of holiday celebrations and festivals. Even chocolate—probably one of the most universally-loved foods of all time—was invented by the Maya, who were the first to take the seeds of the cacao fruit and roast them to make hot chocolate.

Check out National Geographic’s article on the Top 10 Foods of the Maya World to discover what other culinary delights were introduced to us by this ancient culture.