Tim Stinson isn’t a scientist. But that hasn’t stopped him from working with DNA.
The English literature professor at N.C. State University is hoping to use the nucleic acid to better trace the history of ancient manuscripts. So far, he has tested the DNA on five ancient pages, each made more than 500 years ago on animal skin parchment.
The project started as Stinson was tracking the history of an ancient poem. In medieval times, scribes frequently changed the work they were copying, translating it in to their own dialect, improving the meter or just removing sections they didn’t like. The result is that many modern versions are not exactly as they were originally written. “There are 85 manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales. None are by Chaucer. None are identical. Which is correct?” says Stinson.
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