Photograph by Kenneth Garrett, National Geographic
3000 years before we started using rubber, Ancient civilizations in Mexico and Central America were making it. This included the Aztec, Olmec and Maya civilizations. They used a natural latex found in some plants.
Ancient rubber makers harvested latex from rubber trees and mixed it with juice from morning glory vines, which contains a chemical that makes the solidified latex less brittle.
The Mesoamerican-rubber paper will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Latin American Antiquity.