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Ritual Rodents: The Guinea Pigs of Chincha, Peru
Daniel H. Sandweiss and Elizabeth S. Wing
Journal of Field Archaeology
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), pp. 47-58
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/530560
Page Count: 12
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Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are small rodents that function as food, diagnostic medical devices, divinatory agents, and sacrifices in the Andes today. The ethnohistorical record for the region records similar uses of guinea pigs during the Colonial Period. Most archaeologists have assumed that they fulfilled the same functions in prehispanic time, but rigorous support for this assumption has not been presented. After reviewing the archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic record for guinea pig use in the Central Andes, we describe the naturally mummified specimens of guinea pigs and other animals from Lo Demás, a late site in the Chincha Valley of Peru. These data allow us to bridge the interpretive gap between the ethnohistoric/ethnographic "present" and the more remote prehispanic past concerning the ritual uses of guinea pigs, and to comment more generally on animal sacrifice in the Andes.
Journal of Field Archaeology © 1997 Taylor & Francis, Ltd.