Girding the loins? Direct evidence of the use of a medieval English parchment birthing girdle from biomolecular analysis.
In this paper, we describe palaeoproteomic evidence obtained from a stained medieval birth girdle using a previously developed dry non-invasive sampling technique. The parchment birth girdle studied (Wellcome Collection Western MS. 632) was made in England in the late fifteenth century and was thought to be used by pregnant women while giving birth. We were able to extract both human and non-human peptides from the manuscript, 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, to our knowledge, the first to extract and analyse non-collagenous peptides from a birth girdle using this sampling method and demonstrates the potential of this type of analysis for stained manuscripts, providing direct biomolecular evidence for active use.