Event

Sep 12, 2019
Proteins & Fibers Inquiry IV

Reading the Book by Ignoring the Words

Abstract

If you dig an archaeological midden, skin and fiber would seem to be in short supply. Instead, you find bones: fragmented bones, the last stages of the processing of animal carcasses. On a typical archaeological site zooarchaeologist are hard-pressed to accurately estimate the number of animals, so intensively are they processed after death.
Leather, typically from cattle or goat, covers the majority of books bound in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whilst parchment is the dominant medium for writing in medieval Europe. Within the legal system of Britain, sheep-skin parchment remained the primary medium for legal documents until the advent of the typewriter at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Look more closely at the leather book binding or a parchment leaf and you typically see hair follicles. Looking at examples from certain periods in the past with poor production standards, or even good parchment, you will even see fibers around the edge of flay-cuts. How useful are these fibers and follicles as a source of evidence to understand the production of wool textiles in the past?  I will discuss the opportunities for textile fiber analysis from parchment and leather. What are the challenges in the selective preservation of fibers, to what extent does the seasonality of slaughter impact on fiber quality, and does parchment reveal anything about the husbandry of flocks of sheep?

Biography

Professor Matthew Collins holds a Niels Bohr Chair at the Statens Naturhistoriske Museum, Copenhagen and the McDonald Chair in Palaeoproteomics at the University of Cambridge.  His research explores the processes by which proteins undergo decay and how we can exploit new palaeoproteomics methods in the service of palaeontology, archaeology and cultural heritage. His work extends from the use of amino acid racemization to date Quaternary sediments, to the biomolecular records held in archives. Beginning as a Marine Zoologist hoping to work on fossil sharks, he stumbled through a career with the unwavering focus of a drunken goldfish, a summer internship in the Palaeontology Department at the Natural History Museum, then a PhD in Geology, followed by times in the Biochemistry and Chemistry Departments at Leiden, he picked up some microbiology and organic geochemistry in Bristol before landing the only job he was good for: a lectureship in Biogeochemistry at the University of Newcastle. There he became more and more interested in Archaeology so left after a decade to set up BioArCh, an interdisciplinary research centre in Biology, Archaeology and Chemistry at the University of York (BioArCh, geddit?).

Two years ago he joined Tom Gilberts Evogenomics Group at the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen where with Erico Cappellini he is trying to establish a research group developing the new field of Palaeoproteomics. He has now taken a 40% McDonald Chair in this eponymous subject at the University of Cambridge, commuting between there and Copenhagen. He spends a lot of time in airports, where (fittingly) this biography was written. 

Address

Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany

Room
Room 265
Contact and Registration

To register and access the pre-circulated readings and papers that will be discussed in this micro-workshop, please email event_dept3@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de. Please include your name and affiliation in your email.

2019-09-12T10:00:00SAVE IN I-CAL 2019-09-12 10:00:00 2019-09-12 15:30:00 Proteins & Fibers Inquiry IV “Reading the Book by Ignoring the Words” Abstract If you dig an archaeological midden, skin and fiber would seem to be in short supply. Instead, you find bones: fragmented bones, the last stages of the processing of animal carcasses. On a typical archaeological site zooarchaeologist are hard-pressed to accurately estimate the number of animals, so intensively are they processed after death. Leather, typically from cattle or goat, covers the majority of books bound in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whilst parchment is the dominant medium for writing in medieval Europe. Within the legal system of Britain, sheep-skin parchment remained the primary medium for legal documents until the advent of the typewriter at the beginning of the twentieth century. Look more closely at the leather book binding or a parchment leaf and you typically see hair follicles. Looking at examples from certain periods in the past with poor production standards, or even good parchment, you will even see fibers around the edge of flay-cuts. How useful are these fibers and follicles as a source of evidence to understand the production of wool textiles in the past?  I will discuss the opportunities for textile fiber analysis from parchment and leather. What are the challenges in the selective preservation of fibers, to what extent does the seasonality of slaughter impact on fiber quality, and does parchment reveal anything about the husbandry of flocks of sheep? Biography Professor Matthew Collins holds a Niels Bohr Chair at the Statens Naturhistoriske Museum, Copenhagen and the McDonald Chair in Palaeoproteomics at the University of Cambridge.  His research explores the processes by which proteins undergo decay and how we can exploit new palaeoproteomics methods in the service of palaeontology, archaeology and cultural heritage. His work extends from the use of amino acid racemization to date Quaternary sediments, to the biomolecular records held in archives. Beginning as a Marine Zoologist hoping to work on fossil sharks, he stumbled through a career with the unwavering focus of a drunken goldfish, a summer internship in the Palaeontology Department at the Natural History Museum, then a PhD in Geology, followed by times in the Biochemistry and Chemistry Departments at Leiden, he picked up some microbiology and organic geochemistry in Bristol before landing the only job he was good for: a lectureship in Biogeochemistry at the University of Newcastle. There he became more and more interested in Archaeology so left after a decade to set up BioArCh, an interdisciplinary research centre in Biology, Archaeology and Chemistry at the University of York (BioArCh, geddit?). Two years ago he joined Tom Gilberts Evogenomics Group at the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen where with Erico Cappellini he is trying to establish a research group developing the new field of Palaeoproteomics. He has now taken a 40% McDonald Chair in this eponymous subject at the University of Cambridge, commuting between there and Copenhagen. He spends a lot of time in airports, where (fittingly) this biography was written.  MPIWG Lisa Onaga admin@example.com Europe/Berlin public