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Leather is usually tanned – chemically preserved – animal skin from cattle, horses, buffalo, pigs, etc. Depending on the tanning process, the proportion of skin is between approx. 30 and 70 %. There are both vegetable and mineral tanning agents, some of which are incorporated into the leather. In the past, leather was used for clothing, bags, huts and tents, and also as book/text covers. Thus, it appears in many different ways in cultural history. Leather is very well suited for radiocarbon dating.

Sample properties

Leather is much more resistant than skin and withstands archaeological periods much better. However, since leather is also attacked by the chemicals used during processing, a single larger sample that can withstand the pre-treatment procedures (removal of fingerprints and greasy deposits with organic solvents) is advantageous. Labelled parts should be avoided, as the ink can falsify the respective measurements.


A size corresponding to the area of half a fingernail is sufficient. This corresponds to approx. 30 – 50 mg sample weight. Please contact the laboratory if the sample quantities are considerably smaller.

Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses

Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses are possible for leather samples from a material quantity of less than 10 mg. However, for multiple determinations and especially for preparation, a larger initial quantity is required, so we recommend sending in at least 30 – 50 mg of material.