Ancient Mayans May Have Had Molé Chocolate was used like a spice, new research suggests By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted Aug 3, 2012 1:13 PM CDT 16 comments Comments For the Mayans, this was more ingredient than dessert. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – Archaeologists say they have found traces of 2,500-year-old chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, the first time they have found ancient chocolate residue on a plate rather than a cup, suggesting it may have been used as a condiment or sauce with solid food. Experts have long thought cacao was mainly used in pre-Hispanic cultures as a beverage for the elite, made either by crushing cacao beans and mixing them with liquids or fermenting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod. But the discovery announced this week by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History expands the envelope of how chocolate may have been used in ancient Mexico. It would also suggest that there may be ancient roots for traditional dishes eaten in today's Mexico, such as molé, the chocolate-based sauce often served with meats. "This indicates that the pre-Hispanic Maya may have eaten foods with cacao sauce, similar to molé," the anthropology institute said in a statement.