Project (2018-2021)

Thinking with Fibers: Molecular Signatures and Historical Reconstructions

The use of DNA analysis for the study of human migration, kinship and more has attracted much public attention. Next to DNA analysis but attracting less attention the study of (animal and plant) protein fibers offers multiple and intriguing insights into the historical entanglements of humans and animals. Ever finer methods to analyze and date minute traces of protein fibers (for instances in the interstices of ancient human teeth or in archeological pottery finds) provides insight into diets, clothing and ways of subsistence up to the reconstruction of whole historical ecosystems. These new research approaches in the study of material artifacts and biomaterials offer historians of science ample terrain for investigations around questions of methods, expertise, evidence and trust, and the formation of new research fields. At the same time, there may be scope for a multifaceted analysis of the history of biomaterials, their methods of analysis and their role in multiple knowledge domains. These are some of the possibilities we plan to explore by joining our respective historical expertise in protein research, molecular analytical methods, visualization techniques, animal-human intersections and biomaterials.

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