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Girding the loins? Direct evidence of the use of a medieval parchment birthing girdle from biomolecular analysis

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Goodison, Natalie 
Brenner, Elma 
Signorello, Stefania 
Price, Kierri 


In this paper we describe a dry non-invasive extraction method to detect palaeoproteomic evidence from stained manuscripts. The manuscript analysed in this study is a medieval parchment birth girdle (Wellcome Collection Western MS. 632) made in England and thought to be used by pregnant women while giving birth. Using a dry non-invasive sampling method we were able to extract both human and non-human peptides from the stains, including evidence for the use of honey, cereals, ovicaprine milk and legumes. In addition, a large number of human peptides were detected on the birth roll, many of which are found in cervico-vaginal fluid. This suggests that the birth roll was actively used during childbirth. This study is the first to extract and analyse non-collagenous peptides from a parchment document using a dry non-invasive sampling method and demonstrates the potential of this type of analysis for stained manuscripts, providing direct biomolecular evidence for active use.



3215 Reproductive Medicine, 32 Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
European Research Council (787282)