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Reconsidering the archaeological rarity of guinea pig bones in the Central Andes

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archaeological sites, excavations, diet

Abstract (summary)

In his Peru Before the Incas, E. P. Lanning suggested that guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) might have been one of the most important food animals in the ancient central Andes (1967:18): "If we had any way of estimating the number of guinea pigs eaten in ancient times, we might find that they ranked with seafood as the most important sources of protein in the ancient diet, well ahead of the camelids and the Andean deer." Lanning was convinced that these small rodents, often kept in the kitchen and usually fed table scraps, were seriously underrepresented in the archaeological record and thus the quantity of their bones uncovered during excavation was not a true reflection of what might have been eaten in the past. Since Lanning's observation, excavations have been carried out at many central Andean archaeological sites, and they have yielded guinea pig bones only occasionally. Compared with the quantity of bones of the South American camelids, the quantity of guinea pig bones is insignificant.

Publication Information

Valdez, Lidio M. and J. Ernesto Valdez. "Reconsidering the Archaeological Rarity of Guinea Pig Bones in the Central Andes," Current Anthropology 38, no. 5 (December 1997): 896-897. doi:10.1086/204679.


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