Parchment DNA testing

The Scottish Land Charter that details the granting of land from Duncan, Earl of Fife, to Robert de Erskine was made—like most charters of the time—with the use of ink on parchment. Parchment was a sort of writing material made from the untanned skins of animals. Through a proposed interdisciplinary study, a piece of the charter will be sampled and examined in a laboratory to gather information on the DNA within the parchment. Through an analysis of the findings, researchers can gather biological and historical information about the document. This study can facilitate an academic understanding of a variety of subjects: for example, differences between the DNA of animals during the mid-fourteenth century and those of today, or the impact of the Black Death on the use of specific animal species during the height of the Plague years in Scotland. Moreover, this study can shed light on potential DNA changes over time if the DNA samples are compared to other testings of charters from years before or after the 1340s. This study may also demonstrate a correlation between the movement of animals around Europe and historical events and contexts during the fourteenth century.
A collaboration between the Department of History and the Department of Animal Biosciences of the Ontario Agricultural College will conduct this interdisciplinary study. Those involved include undergraduate student Keegan McNaught, graduate student Brenna Clark, Dr. Susannah Ferreira, Dr. Ángela Cánovas, and Dr. Christine Baes.
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