In late November, Professor Olivier Deparis and the Pergamenum21 team organized a conference on the Physics of parchment. Numerous participants had expressed their interest in more thoroughly carrying on their multidisciplinary interactions about the identification of animal skins used as writing support. It is now happening with this parchment-making workshop, which will take place at Haugimont from 7 to 11 September, in the framework of the Pergamenum21 and Beasts To Craft (B2C) projects.
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Before paper, animal skins
Skins of animals define the frontier between Western European history and prehistory. Turned into parchment they became the primary writing support for knowledge in pre-modern Western European culture. They were the most extensively used and best-preserved writing material in Europe before the piecemeal adoption of paper in the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Era. Digitization campaigns are making more and more of manuscripts available as high quality digital renders. However, the digital revolution, like earlier facsimiles, distances us from these objects.
Beasts to Craft: (B2C) project, coordinated by Prof. Matthew Collins (Cambridge) will exploit biomolecular and imaging methods, allied to craft knowledge, to document the first two stages in the story of the manuscript: (i) the livestock; (ii) the craft that turned skins into a writing medium.
Biocodicology as a new approach to the study of parchment manuscripts
With the object in hand, Ji?í VNOU’EK craftsman’s eye, supported by new imaging tools, can recognize the skill of the skinner and parchmenier, and can virtually reassemble the hide to estimate the size (age) of the animal. The distribution of hair follicles suggests fleece type and breed, whilst medullation of the fibres or the wounds from parasites can both give clues to the season of slaughter. The biomolecules (DNA and proteins) in skins inform on species, type/breed, and sex of the animals used.
Adding to some of the international researchers associated to the project, members of the UNamur will be present. They will once again be united around the involved disciplines and techniques - analytical methods, bio-archeology, conservation, history, physical optics and restoration - showing the importance of the synergies between the different approaches.
This workshop addresses a skilled public, only upon invitation.