How old is cacao? New research pushes back date

FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2012 file photo, a worker shows the inside of a cacao pod at a cacao plantation in Cano Rico, Venezuela. A paper published Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 says tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from a South American archeologic site estimated to be 5,400 years old. That makes about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
FILE - In this April 16, 2015 file photo, a cacao pod hangs from a tree at the Agropampatar chocolate farm co-op in El Clavo, Venezuela. A paper published Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 says tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from a South American archeologic site estimated to be 5,400 years old. That makes about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2012 file photo, a worker holds dried cacao seeds at a plantation in Cano Rico, Venezuela. A paper published Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 says tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from a South American archeologic site estimated to be 5,400 years old. That makes about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

NEW YORK — New research is providing fresh clues about the history of cacao, a key ingredient in chocolate.

A study published Monday says tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from an archaeologic site in South America estimated to be 5,400 years old. That's about 1,500 years older than cacao's known domestication in Central America.

Cameron McNeil of Lehman College in New York says that makes it the earliest known site with domesticated cacao.

Researchers say the ancient civilization likely didn't use cacao to make chocolate, but that the seed was likely used for food and drinks.

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