Of Mummies and Guinea Pigs: An Analysis of Burial Contexts at Chiribaya Alta

Author(s): Arman Gurule; Emily Schach; Jane Buikstra

Year: 2017


In the Pre-Incan site of Chiribaya Alta, animals were often included in the graves of the deceased. Cuy, or Guinea pig, are amongst the most common type of animal found in these contexts, signaling the significance of these animals for the Chiribaya peoples in life and in death. Among traditional peoples in the Andes documented ethnohistorically and ethnographically, guinea pigs are consumed as food and are also used for divination and other religious practices. At Chiribaya Alta, a site in southern Peru near the city of Ilo, cuy have frequently been recovered from graves. This project explores the relationship between cuy and the Chiribaya beyond diet,as the frequent inclusion of cuy in graves at Chiribaya Alta suggest these animals possessed significant spiritual importance for Chiribaya peoples. Here, we use statistical analyses of burial goods to explore the significance of cuy to the Chiribaya people. These data allow us to infer the meaning of animal sacrifices to the Chiribaya and related views about death and identity. Thus, we use cuy to infer aspects of Chiribaya belief systems.

Cite this Record

Of Mummies and Guinea Pigs: An Analysis of Burial Contexts at Chiribaya Alta. Arman Gurule, Emily Schach, Jane Buikstra. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430444)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16718