Leonardo Da Vinci as a forger of the Shroud is by now out of the picture, the Turin’s shroud is far too complex even for a Renaissance genius like him.
Was it made in Syria or in Lebanon? No one can say for sure. Certainly it was not woven in Europe, as such fine fabrics were not available and an Asiatic origin is quite certain from a microanalysis of the pollens.
The old fire about its authenticity was rekindled on the release of a scientific paper, authored by a group of 5 Italian scientists (Di Lazzaro, Murra, Santoni, Nichelatti, Baldacchini) working for ENEA, a government owned agency located in Frascati, Italy.
After several years of research their conclusion was that there is no way that the image impressed on the Shroud (Sindone in Italian) could be replicated. Their findings are available online. The direct implication is that all the theories of a medieval forgery are, once again, rejected.
In 1978 a special commission received permission to investigate scientifically this mysterious fabric, which appeared out of nowhere in Lirey, France, in the year 1353. This commission was called STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project). It started well, but soon descended into a factional war between bickering scientists and reluctant cardinals. Being this basis, it is not surprising that the results, instead of clearing the waters, made them even murkier.
In Hong Kong we have an expert in this field. A resident since 1970, William Meacham, is an archeologist and a professor at HKU. He is an expert in ancient South China culture, who headed a 16-month survey and salvage of Chek Lap Kok island. He has many books published under his name and in particular there is one, which is often cited by sindonologists: “The Rape of the Shroud” published in 2005. It is an highly scientific and well researched work in which he details his personal Via Crucis following his study of the Shroud. He was one of the expert summoned to Italy and involved in the dating project of the Shroud, but was later sidelined by a group of people with a narrow view of what they were examining, and perhaps lacking deep testing expertise. The result of this mess was the C14 radiocarbon test carried out simultaneously in 3 laboratories: Oxford, Zurich and Tucson Arizona by the STURP team.
Their results were announced in 1988 and according to their laboratory findings the age of the tested samples was from 1260 to 1390 A.D. In a few words, a medieval fake, as some had long suspected. Case closed, or was it?
The validity of the C14 radiocarbon dating was put in doubt from the very beginning, and for a number of good reasons. We’ll limit ourselves to the most basic ones, noting only that is hard to believe how scientists could act in a so clumsily fashion.
The sample analyzed in the three different labs was coming from the same area of the Shroud, right on the edge of the fabric, a point were contamination was assured since the cloth, for centuries, had been exposed to the public holding it on by the borders by hundreds of greasy fingers. No prior study was made to ascertain the degree of its contamination. A study by Leoncio Garza-Valdes, carried out in the early 1990s on fragments of the leftover fabric used for the same tests has shown that the degree of biogenetic varnish on the fabric accounted to more than half of the weight of the fragment. But that was not all, the consensus today is that what they tested in 1988 was not actually a part of the Shroud, but a medieval patch applied to cover a hole, and at least a part of the tested sample was made up of cotton fibers rather than linen. Apart from the C14 dating the STURP findings were remarkable for other aspects, even if these were overshadowed by the claim of the C-14 medieval dating.
They found that there were no traces of pigments or colors, and the image was certainly not obtained by heating or printing. The stains were indeed made of human blood, which had left somehow a tridimensional imprint. The colouring, which forms the outline of the images, is resting on a very superficial part of the linen fibers, narrower than 1/5th of a thousand part of a mm. and this could only have been achieved through an unknown process of oxidation. Since under the bloodstains there is no image, then the conclusion was that first the blood had been deposited and later the image had appeared. The only way to replicate such image would be the use of a flash of light. The scientists of ENEA agree on the point that an excimer UV laser burst coloring the complete image is theoretically possible, but it will require a huge installed power, sort of 34.000 billion of volts which is impossible to obtain today. Even if such source of power will became available one day, not all the details would be reproducible, for instance the soft change of tones depending on the grade of yellow within the colored fibers.
The imprint is so vivid that a detailed forensic analysis of the deceased is still possible. The linen fabric is of a very high quality, brownish in color. The approx size is 430 X 110 centimeters, and the construction is a 3/1-herringbone twill. It is carrying the negative image of an adult man, naked, about 175 – 180 cm tall, with a weight of approx. 75-81 kg and an estimated age of about 30 to 45 years. He has a beard, mustaches, hairs parted in the middle, and an unbound pigtail, which is the strongest Jewish feature of this image.
The body of this tortured man should have remained in contact with the fabric from a minimum of a few hours, to a maximum of a couple of days. Sign of crucifixion tally almost exactly the description given in the Christian Gospels. The mark of flogging is consistent with the shape of metal pellets used at that time by Romans, the memory of which was lost during the Middle Age. Even more impressive is the fact that the long nails went through the wrists, not through the palms, another unknown point after the fall of the Roman empire and certainly unknown to medieval and renaissance painters and sculptors, as it can be seen from their surviving works. It is even possible to identify the kind of spear used to penetrate his chest and where it struck: not right in front as we see in all the old paintings but from under the armpit sub alas which was the correct spearing point. The spear shape, as we know from archeological finds, is the right type issued to the militia. It was a lancea, not the hasta, or pilum or hasta veliaris used by Roman infantry. Another remarkable finding by the 31 strong STURP team was the faint shadow of two roman coins put on the eyes of the deceased.
An analysis of the pollens found on its surface confirms the Asiatic origin of the fabric, perhaps Lebanon or Syria, and if we accept the point that is 2000 years old then we may think that came back via Turkey and Constantinople, perhaps hidden inside the bag of an unknown Crusader. It remained a property of the royal house of Italy until 1983, when it was finally bequeathed to the Vatican by the last king of Italy, Umberto II, in his testament.
Curiously this donation had been challenged, because what did belong to the last king should have been taken over by the republican government of Italy in 1946. This matter is still taking dust in the Italian Parliament and it is highly unlikely that it will be review any time soon, as more pressing matters concerning the economy are at hand.
There were strong hopes that with the election of pope Benedict XVI a new round of scientific evidence through non-destructive analysis would have been allowed. These hopes were soon dashed due to the stiff resistance within the Church, as well as within part of the scientific community. In the meantime theories of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ type have flourished and several novels having this subject as a starting point have been published, with few more in the pipeline.
Here is the latest update, from The Guardian:
A Caveat first…how can Sarah Knapoton write: Last year scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy dated it to between 300BC and AD400 – still hundreds of years after Christ, who is believed to have died between 30-36 A.D. ? Is she not familiar with Carbon dating results, or is it just a slip?
Turin Shroud may have been created by earthquake from time of Jesus
An earthquake in Jerusalem in AD 33 may have caused an atomic reaction which created the Turin Shroud and skewed radiocarbon dating results, scientists believe
Many Catholics believe that the 14ft-long linen cloth was used to cover Christ’s body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified Photo: EPA
By Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent
The Turin Shroud may not be a medieval forgery after all, after scientists discovered it could date from the time of Christ.
The shroud, which is purported to be the burial cloth of Jesus – showing his face and body after the crucifixion – has intrigued scholars and Christians alike.
But radiocarbon dating carried out by Oxford University in 1988 found it was only 728 years old.
However a new study claims than an earthquake in Jerusalem in 33AD may have not only created the image but may also have skewed the dating results.
The Italian team believes the powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake would have been strong enough to release neutron particles from crushed rock.
This flood of neutrons may have imprinted an X-ray-like image onto the linen burial cloth, say the researches.
In addition, the radiation emissions would have increased the level of carbon-14 isotopes in the Shroud, which would make it appear younger.
“We believe it is possible that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on the Shroud’s linen fibres, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating,” said Professor Alberto Carpinteri, from the Politecnico di Torino.
The Shroud has attracted widespread interest ever since Secondo Pia took the first photograph of it in 1898 which showed details which could not be seen by the naked eye.
Last year scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy dated it to between 300BC and AD400 – still hundreds of years after Christ, who is believed to have died between 30-36AD.
Other scientists have previously suggested that neutron radiation may have been responsible for the ghostly image of a crucified man with his arms crossed.
However, no plausible explanation has been offered for the source of the radiation.
Now Carpinteri’s team have hypothesized that high-frequency pressure waves generated in the Earth’s crust during earthquakes are the source of such neutron emissions.
The scientists base the idea on research into piezonuclear fission reactions which occur when brittle rock is crushed under enormous pressure.
Neutron radiation is usually generated by nuclear fusion or fission, and may be produced by nuclear reactors or particle accelerators.
During the process, neutron particles are released from atoms.
A powerful earthquake could achieve the same effect, generating neutron radiation from stresses in the Earth, it is claimed.
Mark Antonacci, a leading expert on the Shroud and president of the Resurrection of the Shroud Foundation, is currently petitioning Pope Francis to allow molecular analysis of the cloth using the latest technology. It is hoped that such an investigation will be able to confirm or rule out the radiation theory.
The Vatican has never said whether it believes the shroud to be authentic, although Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering.
The first, hotly debated, documented reference to the Shroud of Turin dates back to the 14th century when a French knight was said to have had possession of the cloth in the city of Lirey.
Records suggest the Shroud changed hands many times until 1578, when it ended up in its current home, the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy.
The 14-foot long herringbone woven cloth appears to show the faint imprint of a man bearing wounds consistent with crucifixion.
Some have proposed that it came from the body itself, or was generated by an event inside the tomb, pointing to a divine origin linked to the resurrection.
The new theory is published in the journal Meccanica.
This is an article from the previous year, always on the The Guardian
Turin Shroud ‘is not a medieval forgery’
The Turin Shroud is not a medieval forgery, as has long been claimed, but could in fact date from the time of Christ’s death, a new book claims.
By Nick Squires, Rome correspondent
28 Mar 2013
Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy have dated the shroud to ancient times, a few centuries before and after the life of Christ.
Many Catholics believe that the 14ft-long linen cloth, which bears the imprint of the face and body of a bearded man, was used to bury Christ’s body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified 2,000 years ago.
The analysis is published in a new book, “Il Mistero della Sindone” or The Mystery of the Shroud, by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist.
The tests will revive the debate about the true origins of one of Christianity’s most prized but mysterious relics and are likely to be hotly contested by sceptics.
Scientists, including Prof Fanti, used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud, which is kept in a special climate-controlled case in Turin.
The tests dated the age of the shroud to between 300 BC and 400AD.
The experiments were carried out on fibres taken from the Shroud during a previous study, in 1988, when they were subjected to carbon-14 dating.
Those tests, conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, appeared to back up the theory that the shroud was a clever medieval fake, suggesting that it dated from 1260 to 1390.
But those results were in turn disputed on the basis that they may have been skewed by contamination by fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages.
Mr Fanti, a Catholic, said his results were the fruit of 15 years of research.
He said the carbon-14 dating tests carried out in 1988 were “false” because of laboratory contamination.
The mystery of the shroud has baffled people for centuries and has spawned not only religious devotion but also books, documentaries and conspiracy theories.
The linen cloth appears to show the imprint of a man with long hair and a beard whose body bears wounds consistent with having been crucified.
Each year it lures hundreds of thousands of faithful to Turin Cathedral, where it is kept in a specially designed, climate-controlled case.
Scientists have never been able to explain how the image of a man’s body, complete with nail wounds to his wrists and feet, pinpricks from thorns around his forehead and a spear wound to his chest, could have formed on the cloth. Mr Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of “exceptional radiation”, although he stopped short of describing it as a miracle.
He said his tests backed up earlier results which claimed to have found on the shroud traces of dust and pollen which could only have come from the Holy Land.
Mr Gaeta is also a committed Catholic – he worked for L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, and now works for Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic weekly.
The Vatican has never said whether it believes the shroud to be authentic or not, although Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the enigmatic image imprinted on the cloth “reminds us always” of Christ’s suffering.
His newly-elected successor, Pope Francis, will provide an introduction when images of the shroud appear on television on Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection.
The Pope has recorded a voice-over introduction for the broadcast on RAI, the state television channel.
“It will be a message of intense spiritual scope, charged with positivity, which will help (people) never to lose hope,” said Cesare Nosiglia, the Archbishop of Turin, who also has the title “pontifical custodian of the shroud”.
“The display of the shroud on a day as special as Holy Saturday means that it represents a very important testimony to the Passion and the resurrection of the Lord,” he said.
For the first time, an app has been created to enable people to explore the holy relic in detail on their smart phones and tablets.
The app, sanctioned by the Catholic Church and called “Shroud 2.0”, features high definition photographs of the cloth and enables users to see details that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.
“For the first time in history the most detailed image of the shroud ever achieved becomes available to the whole world, thanks to a streaming system which allows a close-up view of the cloth. Each detail of the cloth can be magnified and visualised in a way which would otherwise not be possible,” Haltadefinizione, the makers of the app, said.