News in Brief: Origin of Cocoa Dated to 600 B.C.

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Chocolate has been found in 2,600-year-old Mayan pottery, a UC Berkeley professor and her graduate student confirmed in a study published July 18.

The analysis of the vessels, released in Nature, showed that the vessels contained theobromine and caffeine, components of cocoa.

Up until now, the most ancient residues of cocoa were from a Mayan tomb and were dated from 460 to 480 A.D. The newly-found vessels were dated from 600 B.C. to 250 A.D. and came from Belize.

"Specialists in Mesoamerica have long accepted the argument that the word 'cacao' spread in the region around 1000 B.C., when the Gulf Coast of Mexico saw the first complex society, that of the Olmec," said UC Berkeley anthropology professor Rosemary Joyce, who was involved in the study, in a statement.

Of the fourteen vessels found, eleven were cleaned. Archeologists were unable to analyze three of the vessels because of their narrow necks. It is unknown whether the other vessels also contained cocoa.

Cocoa is made from the beans of the tropical plant Theobroma cacao. It was considered a favorite drink of both the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

Leah Jin

EPA Declares Tritium Levels Safe

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is not considered a danger to Berkeley citizens by the U.S. government, officials announced last Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced the lab is no longer a potential Superfund site.

The EPA said Thursday its analysis of air, water and soil samples indicate the lab posed no risk to the public.

The lab is closing down its tritium labeling facility. For several years, it had used tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

"The good news is that sampling continues to show people living and working in and around the lab are not being exposed to harmful levels of tritium," said EPA Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri.

Many Berkeley residents claim the lab releases a dangerous amount of tritium and rejected the government's findings.

"I think this was a political decision," said Berkeley Environmental Commissioner Lauren Moret. "The entire process is corrupt, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is corrupt."

The government found tritium levels above the federal cleanup standard in one groundwater monitoring well, but the water is not used for drinking.


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