Guinea Pigs in the Spanish Colonial Andes: Culinary and Ritual Transformations


Following Spanish colonization, the food and symbolic roles of domesticated guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) changed depending on geographic setting and the ethnic composition of inhabitants. I draw on archaeology, ethnohistory, historical imagery, and historical studies to explore how Spanish social perceptions regarding edible food animals and the human body altered the culinary and ritual uses of guinea pigs after the conquest. Zooarchaeological data from Spanish colonial sites in Peru and Bolivia document differential use of guinea pigs depending on site function and who lived there. Contemporary European artistic representations show how people transformed guinea pigs into pets.

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I thank the following individuals for comments and suggestions regarding this manuscript: Jose Capriles, Sofia Chacaltana Cortez, Alan Covey, Michelle LeFebvre, and Prudence Rice. Jeremy Mumford provided information on colonial historical sources. Reviewer’s comments helped clarify the manuscript. All omissions and errors are my own.

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deFrance, S.D. Guinea Pigs in the Spanish Colonial Andes: Culinary and Ritual Transformations. Int J Histor Archaeol 25, 116–143 (2021).

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  • Diet
  • Cavia porcellus
  • Peru
  • Bolivia
  • cuisine