Ancient Maya and the Enduring Taste of Pumpkin Soup

We at AntiquityNOW love our food! Whether an ancient recipe or using ancient ingredients, these dishes continue to delight the palate and bring ancient times to life.  Here’s one example of how we at AntiquityNOW indulge.

Ancient Maya Pumpkin Soup

Mayan-pumpkin-soupStretching from the Yucatán Peninsula southward into Central America in a series of city-states (c 2500-1900 BCE to BCE-900 CE), the Maya civilization had a profound influence on civilization and its advancement.  The Maya were known for creating one of the world’s first written languages, independently conceiving of the number zero, building elaborate architectural structures without knowledge of metal production or the wheel, and having a complex understanding of the cosmos, even developing two calendars accurate today that calibrated agricultural cycles and rituals.  And while many believe that rubber was discovered in the 19th century by Charles Goodyear, the Maya were actually using rubber 3,000 years earlier.

Chichén Itzá in Mexico is a striking example of Maya technology, architecture and astronomy.  Positioned to capture the sun’s rays during the spring and fall equinoxes, the pyramid at sunset aligns a head carving of the Maya serpent god with a shadow that seems to slither down the pyramid steps as the sun drops.  It appears the Maya also recognized the power of the visual image, just as in today’s media-driven world.

Because they practiced such advanced agricultural technologies, the Maya enjoyed a varied diet, particularly for their time.  Below is a pumpkin soup that was—and still is—a perennial favorite.


  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons palm or other neutral oil, like peanut or safflower
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • salt to taste
  • thinly sliced wild onions or scallions


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place pumpkin in a baking dish and roast until easily pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
  3. Allow pumpkin to cool, slice off top, and scoop out seeds.
  4. Remove pumpkin fibers from seeds, toss seeds with oil, and salt to taste. Spread out on a baking sheet and return to oven 15 to 20 minutes until crisp and golden. Reserve for garnish.
  5. Scrape the pumpkin flesh from shell and mash, or puree if a smoother mixture is desired.
  6. Place the pumpkin in a large saucepan and season with salt, honey, and allspice.
  7. Gradually stir in enough broth to make soup with thin or thick consistency, as desired.
  8. Simmer over medium heat about 5 minutes, until hot.
  9. If desired, serve soup in small pumpkin or squash shells.
  10. Garnish with onions and pumpkin seeds.

* Recipe:  Legacy Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Archaeological Research, via



4 responses to “Ancient Maya and the Enduring Taste of Pumpkin Soup

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