Montezuma was a ’50 a day man’

Throughout the week I have been preparing some beautiful examples of Mayan stonework for the museum’s Chocolate Big Saturday tomorrow.

Ball court marker, Classic Maya, Pichiquil, Guatemala, AD 200-900. The Manchester Museum Living Cultures collection, 2010.

The Mayans established the first cocoa plantations in the lowlands of Yucatan, Central America, around 600 AD. The Aztecs were also great lovers of the cocoa pod, the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés claimed that the Aztec ruler Montezuma drank 50 cups of a cocoa based beverage called chocolatl every day. Mayan people still produce a similar cocoa drink today as you can see in the video below.

The event is an opportunity for our visitors to explore the history and science of chocolate. Not only will there be objects for handling from the Living Cultures collection but Botany too, such as cocoa pods, and there’ll be plenty of activities including a chocolate fountain!

Stephen Terence Welsh

Curator of Living Cultures


4 thoughts on “Montezuma was a ’50 a day man’

  1. It was quite a surprise for me to see the Pichiquil sculpture. I am an archaeologist, working at the Popol Vuh Museum and the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. One of my research interests is the history of archaeology and early archaeological collections in Guatemala. I believe the Pichiquil sculpture was originally from the collection of Manuel García Elgueta, a pioneer archaeologista in nineteenth-century Guatemala. His collection was exhibited in the Guatemalan pavillion at the Chicago World Fair in 1893, after which, it dispersed among several museums. Years ago, I wrote a paper about García Elgueta, but until now, I didn’t know that some of his objects went to the Manchester Museum.

    I would appreciate any additional information that you might provide. Am I right in my supposition that the sculpture belonged to the García Elgueta collection? Does the museum have other objects from the same collection?

    The reference for my paper is:
    Chinchilla Mazariegos, Oswaldo, Historiografía de los Mayas de Guatemala: El Pensamiento de Manuel García Elgueta. Published in the journal Mesoamerica 38: 55-75 (1999).

    Thanks for your attention.

    • Hi Oswaldo,

      Thanks for your very interesting and insightful post.

      The object in question came to the Manchester Museum in December 1981 with a much larger collection of material donated by the Wellcome Collection.

      The information associated with the object does state that it could be number V in the Elgueta catalogue.


      Curator of Living Cultures

      • Dear Stephen,

        Thank you for the information. Did the Wellcome Collection had any other objects that were originally part of Elgueta’s collections? If possible, I would be very interested in obtaining photographs, as well as any additional information that you may have about their origin.


  2. Dear Oswaldo,

    There are indeed more pieces from Elgueta’s collection here in the Manchester Museum as donated by the Wellcome Collection. If you contact me directly at I’ll be able to forward you all the relevant information!



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