Thursday, October 08, 2009

Abstract: A Brief Examination of Chillies in Pre-Columbian Societies

I intend to explore the cultural history of capsicum before 1492. Much of my preliminary research has involved secondary sources from a wide range of disciplines. Most of these sources deal with the dissemination of capsicum after 1492. Certainly this makes for a fascinating story but ignores thousands of years of pre-Columbian history and culture. Pre-Columbian societies used capsicum not only as victual or condiment but also as; a medicine with a wide range of curative properties, a monetary unit, a punishment for children, an integral part of religious ceremonies, and in some cases part of their creation myths. My primary focus will be centered upon pre-Columbian uses of capsicum not only in mythos and religious practices but the plant’s influence on customs and superstitions as well. Like maize, capsicum played a major role in many aspects of pre-Columbian life, from fertility practices to ritualized cannibalism.

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