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

Published version
Peer-reviewed

Type

Article

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Authors

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

Abstract

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.

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Keywords

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

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Publisher

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Sponsorship
European Research Council (787282)