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Can DNA help trace the origins of medieval manuscripts?

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Rowan
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Can DNA help trace the origins of medieval manuscripts?

Post by Rowan » Thu January 15th, 2009, 4:55 pm

Dunno if anyone here subscribes to the Medieval History newsletter on About.com, but I thought this was too interesting to not pass along:
In the Middle Ages, manuscripts were commonly hand written on vellum or parchment, which was made from, respectively, calfskin and sheepskin. Since this is animal matter, DNA can be recovered from it. Now NC State Assistant Professor of English Timothy Stinson is using modern advances in genetics to collect DNA from medieval manuscripts. The plan: to create a baseline of DNA markers from the manuscripts of known origin to compare to manuscripts of unknown origin and help find out where they came from, as well as when they were made. This can be no easy task, as vellum and parchment were occasionally scraped of their ink to be used again; but a combination of technological advances and patience may win out. If successfully collected and identified, Stinson's data could be extraordinarily useful in tracking manuscript production and the trade route of parchments.
A more complete article is here.

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Libby
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Post by Libby » Thu January 15th, 2009, 8:16 pm

Thanks for that link Rowan. Sounds fascinating.
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diamondlil
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Post by diamondlil » Fri January 16th, 2009, 10:24 am

The aging and location of manuscripts being identified through DNA etc is part of the story in People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.
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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

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Rowan
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Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
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Post by Rowan » Fri January 16th, 2009, 1:47 pm

Have you read that one lil?

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diamondlil
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Post by diamondlil » Fri January 16th, 2009, 9:14 pm

Yeah I have. I liked it, but enjoyed her other books more. This particular aspect of it was very interesting though.
My Blog - Reading Adventures

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton

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