US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Journal of Archaeological Science 1985,12,121-137


Cacao was one of the most important crops of the lowland Maya. Ethnohistoric sources document that the Postclassic-Colonial Period Maya settlement of Tipu in western Belize was an important cacao-growing center, yet evidence of where the cacao was grown is not apparent. We analysed the suitability of floodplain, terrace, and bedrock soils for cacao cultivation. Our results indicate that the soils most likely to have been used for cacao growth were those on the modem floodplain of the Macal River, based on their suitable physical and chemical properties. In addition, buried stone walls of Late Classic or Postclassic age that may have been used for field demarcation were found on the floodplain, suggesting that this geomorphic surface was also utilized well before the time of Spanish contact, possibly for intensive agriculture.