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16th century guinea pig remains found in Belgium

The remains of guinea pigs have been found in Belgium, suggesting that the furry little creatures may have become fashionable pets after the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1532.

The third-ever guinea pig skeleton found in a European archaeological dig confirms that these little squeakers voyaged to the Old World very shortly after Spain conquered Peru in 1532. While the guinea pigs, also known as cavies, served as food in South America, they seem to have been treated as pets in Europe. They may have even been a privilege reserved for the relatively well-off, at least at first.

That was lucky news for at least one guinea pig whose skeleton was newly unearthed in Mons, Belgium, before the construction of a parking garage in the city. Excavations revealed the current city is built on top of an older village established in medieval times. The spot where the parking garage was to be built was once a sort of medieval suburb โ€” a residential district right outside the town center.

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Story: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience | Photo: Miroslav Hlavko, Shutterstock

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