Palm-Leaf Manuscripts: Characteristics and Properties
Before the use of paper, palm leaves were one of the main supports used for writing and painting, particularly in South and Southeast Asian countries. The project will analyse the characteristics and properties of palm-leaf manuscripts in detail. Depending on availability, we will compare manuscripts from palmyra, talipot, nypah and gebang palms and their wooden covers by using various microscopic and chemical methods. We will take a close look at deterioration and preservation treatment, as well as at the mechanical properties of the manuscripts. Relevant methods include light microscopy, which will characterize the anatomical structure of a leaf blade and will show differences between palm species as well as the structural organisation of various cell types within leaves, and electron microscopy for studying leaf surfaces (SEM) and cell contents (TEM). The latter can answer, for example, whether differences in leaf surface might be the reason for differences in writing techniques. Chemical analysis (ICP, EDXA), furthermore, will provide information on treatment of leaf blades with preservatives while radiocarbon dating can help to determine the age of manuscripts and wooden covers. Eventually, elasto-mechanical properties of manuscripts will be determined by microcomputed tomography (SRµCT) in order to reveal differences relevant for manuscript production.