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The Bible and Archaeology

In ancient times, how was parchment made?

Making parchment was a lengthy, detailed process that required the skills of a professional. Parchment was made from the skin of a goat, calf, or sheep. The skin was washed carefully and soaked in water. To loosen the hair from the skin, the skin was soaked in a solution of lime and water. The skin stayed in this solution for one to two weeks. While in the solution, the skin had to be stirred several times a day. Then the skin was removed from the solution, and draped over a log or other hard, narrow surface. The hair was scraped off using a blunt, curved knife. After all the hair was removed, the skin was soaked in water for a couple of days to remove the traces of lime. After this soak, the skin was stretched with cords across a wooden frame. The skin was attached to the frame with adjustable pegs. The pegs were turned occasionally to pull the skin taut. While the skin was still wet, it was scraped on both sides to remove any remaining hair, bumps, or other things that made the skin less than perfectly smooth. The skin dried (and shrunk) in the sun. When it was dry, the skin was scraped again until it was the desired thickness. In the final step before it was ready for use, the skin was buffed with pumice stone to whiten the surface. Now the skin was parchment, and ready for use. A parchment maker was called a percamenarius. The making and use of parchment was popular into the eighteenth century.


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