Now researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Exeter and York have found that, of 477 British legal documents dating from the 16th to 20th Century, most were written on sheepskin.
The researchers also found passages of text in 12th and 17th Century documents which indicated that the high fat content of sheepskins may have enabled the detection of fraudulent changes to legal documents.
Dr Doherty said: “Removing fat during the parchment-making process can cause the layers within sheepskins to separate more easily than those of other animals.
“To make fraudulent changes to documents after signing, the original text would have to be scraped off. This could cause the layers within sheepskin parchment to separate and leave a visible mark on the document, resulting in the fraud being easily detectable.”
The higher prevalence of sheep compared to goats and calves in Britain and the resulting low cost of sheepskins compared to goat and calf skins may also have been a factor, the study, published in the journal Heritage Science, said.
Umm, yes. Simplicity would argue for the cost and prevalence first, the non-tampering being a useful but possibly even unknown addendum….