Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

DNA Testing May Unlock Secrets Of Medieval Manuscripts

Date:
January 17, 2009
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Scholars have long struggled with questions about when and where the majority of the thousands of painstakingly handwritten books produced in medieval Europe originated. Now a researcher is using modern advances in genetics to develop techniques that will shed light on the origins of these important cultural artifacts.

Greek Gospel (c. 10th century). Researchers are using modern advances in genetics to develop techniques that will shed light on the origins of medieval manuscripts.
Credit: iStockphoto/Arpad Benedek

Thousands of painstakingly handwritten books produced in medieval Europe still exist today, but scholars have long struggled with questions about when and where the majority of these works originated. Now a researcher from North Carolina State University is using modern advances in genetics to develop techniques that will shed light on the origins of these important cultural artifacts.

Related Articles


Many medieval manuscripts were written on parchment made from animal skin, and NC State Assistant Professor of English Timothy Stinson is working to perfect techniques for extracting and analyzing the DNA contained in these skins with the long-term goal of creating a genetic database that can be used to determine when and where a manuscript was written. "Dating and localizing manuscripts have historically presented persistent problems," Stinson says, "because they have largely been based on the handwriting and dialect of the scribes who created the manuscripts – techniques that have proven unreliable for a number of reasons."

Stinson says genetic testing could resolve these issues by creating a baseline using the DNA of parchment found in the relatively small number of manuscripts that can be reliably dated and localized. Each manuscript can provide a wealth of genetic data, Stinson explains, because a typical medieval parchment book includes the skins of more than 100 animals.

Once Stinson has created a baseline of DNA markers with known dates and localities, he can take samples from manuscripts of unknown origin. Stinson can then determine what degree of relationship there is between the animals whose skins were used in manuscripts of unknown origin and those used in the baseline manuscripts. Stinson hopes this DNA comparison will enable him to identify genetic similarities that would indicate the general time and locale where a book was written.

On a larger scale, Stinson says, this research "will also allow us to trace the trade route of parchments" throughout the medieval world – a scholarly achievement that would provide a wealth of data on the evolution of the book industry during the Middle Ages.

Stinson will be presenting the findings of his early research in this area at the annual meeting of the Bibliographical Society of America in New York City on Jan. 23. Stinson is one of three researchers asked to participate in the society's New Scholars Program for 2009. The work that Stinson will be presenting was funded by grants from the Digital Research and Curation Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Council on Library and Information Resources.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "DNA Testing May Unlock Secrets Of Medieval Manuscripts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112093328.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2009, January 17). DNA Testing May Unlock Secrets Of Medieval Manuscripts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112093328.htm
North Carolina State University. "DNA Testing May Unlock Secrets Of Medieval Manuscripts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112093328.htm (accessed March 4, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Who Was The Wealthy Woman Buried Near King Richard III?

Who Was The Wealthy Woman Buried Near King Richard III?

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) A woman thought to have been an important person in Grey Friars monastery was found in a coffin near King Richard III. Her identity is unknown. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death

Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death

Newsy (Feb. 24, 2015) The "black death" that killed tens of millions of people has been blamed on rats for years, but now researchers say they may have gotten a bad rap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Timbuktu Manuscripts Face an Uncertain Future

Timbuktu Manuscripts Face an Uncertain Future

AFP (Feb. 23, 2015) Two years ago a large number of manuscripts were taken from Timbuktu for safe keeping. Now the question is whether to return them. Duration: 02:50 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?

How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?

Newsy (Feb. 23, 2015) A CT scan has revealed a mummified Chinese monk inside a Buddha statue. The remains date back about 1,000 years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins