Pulque production from fermented agave sap as a dietary supplement in Prehispanic Mesoamerica

M Correa-Ascencio, IG Robertson, 0 Cabrera-Cortes , rR Cabrera-Castro , Richard Evershed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Although in modern societies fermented beverages are associated with socializing, celebration, and ritual, in ancient times they were also important sources of essential nutrients and potable water. In Mesoamerica, pulque, an alcoholic beverage produced from the fermented sap of several species of maguey plants (Agavaceae; Fig. 1) is hypothesized to have been used as a dietary supplement and risk-buffering food in ancient Teotihuacan (150 B.C. to A.D. 650). Although direct archaeological evidence of pulque production is lacking, organic residue analysis of pottery vessels offers a new avenue of investigation. However, the chemical components of alcoholic beverages are water-soluble, greatly limiting their survival over archaeological timescales compared with hydrophobic lipids widely preserved in food residues. Hence, we apply a novel lipid biomarker approach that considers detection of bacteriohopanoids derived from the ethanol-producing bacterium Zymomonas mobilis for identifying pulque production/consumption in pottery vessels. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry selected ion monitoring (m/z 191) of lipid extracts of >300 potsherds revealed characteristic bacteriohopanoid distributions in a subset of 14 potsherds. This hopanoid biomarker approach offers a new means of identifying commonly occurring bacterially fermented alcoholic beverages worldwide, including palm wine, beer, cider, perry, and other plant sap-or fruit-derived beverages
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14223-14228
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2014


  • Mexico
  • Pine Resins
  • hopanes


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