News of the WeekArchaeology

How Aztecs Played Their Rubber Matches

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Science  18 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5422, pp. 1898-1899
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5422.1898b

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On page 1988, researchers describe how the Olmec, Maya, and other ancient Mexican and Central American cultures turned raw latex into rubber. According to documents, the native Americans made latex by collecting sap from lowland trees and mixing in juice from pulverized morning glory vines. This feat of chemistry, which converts the slippery polymers in raw latex to a resilient structure, was not duplicated until the mid-19th century.