Laura Viñas Caron

TALENT-COFUND Fellow

Biography

Laura obtained a BA in Archaeology and a MSc in Biological Anthropology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. After that, she joined the BioArCh research laboratory at the University of York as an Erasmus trainee. Her investigation explored Chalcolithic and Bronze Age subsistence strategies in the Iberian Peninsula through peptide mass fingerprinting (ZooMS) and stable isotope analysis of human, animal and plant remains.

Since then, she has developed a particular interest in the application of biomolecular methods to enhance our understanding of human-animal relationships and address current conservation challenges. At the Laboratory of Archaeozoology (UAB), Laura has continued to apply isotopic techniques in collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA). Her research examined the degree of human interference in the diet of the first domestic animals and characterized the diversity of animal management strategies in the Iberian Peninsula during the Neolithic.

Research: PRiSM

Parchment manuscripts as a biomolecular archive: a novel approach for understanding the origin of Spanish Merino

Wool industry is one of the most important worldwide, the majority of which is merino wool. Coveted for its fineness and strength, merino wool has been a high valued commodity since its development in medieval Spain. But, despite its importance in historic and contemporary global trade, the origin and history of the Merino breed is frustratingly vague. With limited historic textile evidence to analyse, a new avenue of study has emerged through the analysis of parchment. Parchment manuscripts (often well dated and located) contain biological information about the animals from which the parchment was derived.

The purpose of PRiSM is to explore how the DNA and proteins trapped in parchment manuscripts can inform about animal husbandry practices, in combination with animal remains, and apply this novel approach to understand the story of the emergence and evolution of the Spanish Merino. The project will apply genomic and proteomic analysis to parchment manuscripts and sheep remains to explore biological diversity and identify genetic Merino markers. In addition, we will analyse the follicles patterns observed in the parchment to directly link the genetic evidence with wool production.

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