Guinea Pigs Were Widespread as Elizabethan Pets
South American rodents raised by several social classes, study suggests.
The evidence comes from a guinea pig skeleton discovered in 2007 in the backyard cellar of a former middle-class house in Mons, Belgium, once part of the Spanish Empire.
Radiocarbon dating of the bones revealed that this guinea pig lived between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries—very soon after the Spanish arrived in South America, said study leader Fabienne Pigière, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.
Guinea pig bones are rare in the European archaeological record, which left scientists wondering what purpose the animals originally served when they arrived on the continent, according to the study.
For instance, the remains of North