A Mayan cooking secret discovered in latrines

Nearly 3,000 years ago, the Mayans invented a culinary process that allowed them to increase the nutritional properties of corn tenfold. This millennial tradition is analysed… thanks to latrines in Guatemala.

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Knowledge of the cultural practices of the civilizations that preceded us passes through the analysis of everyday objects, writings, artistic representations… and through the analysis, less known, not very appealing but quite rich and relevant latrines ! Archaeologists have indeed recently published a study in the Journal of Archaeological Sciences about Mayan latrines. These were discovered at the site of San Bartolo in Guatemala and date from the classical period, i.e. to the VIIIe and IXe centuries BC They are the oldest proof of the existence of Mayan toilets in the world.

Lime water for cooking and flushing

Archaeologists first discovered œeggs of tapewormindicating that the infected population must have suffered from weakened and states of weakness. They also discovered that the “flush” of the latrines was flushed with water from lime. What is even more intriguing is that this solution alkaline was already in use at the time by the Maya for the nixtamalization process, residues of which were found in the latrines. This process, which consisted of soaking and cooking grains of Corn in a solution at a basic pH probably served to weaken the hull of the seeds.

This transformation of the physical properties is still practiced today to eat the grains of Corn in a soup or to grind them into a paste, used for tortillas and tamales. This practice also increased access to calcium and at the vitamin B3 from corn and the dating of this millenary process from Central America makes it possible to understand one of the oldest culinary traditions of the pre-Hispanic civilizations of this continent.

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