Two years ago, Michael Drout over at his Wormtalk and Slugspeak blog got all excited with the idea to extract DNA from old parchment. Nicknamed the “Crazy Sheep DNA Guy” at this time, his dream has now come true, at least to a certain extent.

ParchmakerParchment is made of animal skin, mostly from goat and sheep, which has been dried and scraped under tension. It was the preferred writing support material for manuscripts and maps from around 200 BC until the 16th century, when it was replaced by paper. In the late Middle Ages, town parchment makers (“parchmenters”) had shops in the vicinity of artisans and trade groups. The picture to the left shows a German parchmenter around 1568 [1].

Parchment was much more expensive than paper, and as such still used later on for high-grade books and prints, notably by etchers in th 17th century (and here we have the link to Oldprints).