The Shroud May be a Burial Cloak, but It Ain't Dead Yet
For those of you unfamiliar with the Shroud of Turin, here is a brief description from "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin":
The Shroud of Turin , which many people believe was used to wrap Christ's body, bears detailed front and back images of a man who appears to have suffered whipping and crucifixion. It was first displayed at Lirey in France in the 1350s and subsequently passed into the hands of the Dukes of Savoy. After many journeys the shroud was finally brought to Turin in 1578 where, in 1694, it was placed in the royal chapel of Turin Cathedral in a specially designed shrine.(Footnotes omitted.)
Photography of the shroud by Secondo Pia in 1898 indicated that the image resembled a photographic 'negative' and represents the first modern study. Subsequently the shroud was made available for scientific examination, first in 1969 and 1973 by a committee appointed by Cardinal Michele Pellegrino and then again in 1978 by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP).
In 1986, scientists conducted a radio carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin and determined that it originated in the middle ages. Again, from the "Radiocarbon dating" article:
The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of AD 1260 - 1390 (rounded down/up to nearest 10 yr). These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval.
To all but the most faithful to the Shroud, the issue of its authenticity appeared dead. It was a relic of the Middle Ages--a fake, if you will. Of course, most of the Shroud faithful continued to ask how the Shroud could have been made since it does not appear to have been made by any type of process that could have been known to people living in the Middle Ages. (And when I say "Shroud faithful", I am not talking about strickly Christians. One of the best Shroud sites on the Internet is shroud.com which is run by a Jewish man.) Consider the following from 2005 News on the Shroud of Turin from shroudstory.com:
The Shroud of Turin images may not the direct result of a miracle, at least not in a traditional sense of the word. But they are not manmade either. These seem to be the contradictory conclusions from a article in the completely secular, peer-reviewed, scientific Journal of Optics (April 14, 2004) of the Institute of Physics in London: Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo, researchers at the University of Padua, Italy, discovered a faint image of a second face on the back of the Shroud of Turin.
This supports a hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin's images are the result of a very natural, complex chemical reaction between amines (ammonia derivatives) emerging from a body and saccharides within a carbohydrate residue that covers the fibers of the Shroud of Turin. The color producing chemical process is called a Maillard reaction. This is fully discussed in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Melanoidins, a journal of the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities (EU, Volume 4, 2003).
The proposal, by chemist Raymond E. Rogers, a Science Fellow of the Los Alamos Laboratory, and Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan, is hypothetical. But the chemical and physical nature of the Shroud of Turin's images is pure scientific fact.
Imagine slicing a human hair lengthwise, from end to end, into 100 long thin slices, each slice one-tenth the width of a single red blood cell. The images on the Shroud of Turin, at their thickest, are this thin. In selective places, an otherwise clear layer of starch fractions and saccharides, a mere 200 to 600 nanometers thick, as thin as the wall of a soap bubble, has undergone a chemical change into a caramel colored substance. Spectral and chemical analysis reveal that the chromophores of the Shroud of Turin's images are complex, conjugated carbon bonds.
Consider what the Skeptical Inquirer (no friend to religion) says about the possibility that it is a painted image in "The skeptical inquirer and the Shroud of Turin":
The notion that such super-thin images were painted is preposterous. Yes, it is true that one scientist did peer through a microscope and find components of what might have been paint. And because of this he concluded that the Shroud was painted. Walter McCrone was a world renowned microscopist, deservedly so. He was a true scientist and he knew his craft well. We should not doubt that he found iron-oxide and mercury-sulfide, both constituents of paint. But there are many reasons why such chemical particles might be found on the Shroud: water used for retting flax and centuries of dust; particularly dust in churches with frescoed ceiling and walls. All other scientists who examined the image fibers -- many of them as renowned and every bit as qualified -- have disagreed with McCrone. There is, simply, an insufficient amount of paint constituents to form a visible image. Spectral analysis proves that. So does the now certain knowledge of the image bearing super-thin film. Ironically, McCrone identified the super-thin starch substance that ultimately became part of the proof that his conclusions were wrong.
So what are we to make of a 14th century bishop, Pierre d'Arcis, who wrote in a memorandum of a painter confessing to painting the Shroud's images? In isolation his document is damning. But the skeptical inquirer, being true to his ways, must challenge such a claim with the full conspectus of what was being written at the time. Pierre's peers doubted is veracity and questioned his motives. It was all about money. Pierre was the bishop of Troyes. The Shroud was being exhibited at nearby Lirey and it was to that town that pilgrims with bags of coin were flocking. The d'Arcis memorandum is pointless. The skeptical inquirer is fully justified in his skepticism for no painter painted on a caramel substance and a surrounding clear substance that was a hundred times thinner than a single brush hair.
Now, however, late news arrives which raises serious doubts about the radiocarbon dating of the shroud. According to "Prominent Los Alamos Scientist Proves 1988 Carbon-14 Dating of the Shroud Used Invalid Rewoven Sample" on shroud.com:
A new, peer reviewed scientific paper by Raymond N. Rogers, retired Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was published on January 20, 2005, in the latest issue of the journal Thermochimica Acta, Volume 425, Issues 1-2, Pages 189-194. Titled "Studies on the radiocarbon sample from the Shroud of Turin," the paper concludes:"As unlikely as it seems, the sample used to test the age of the Shroud of Turin in 1988 was taken from a rewoven area of the Shroud. Pyrolysis-mass spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the Shroud."
In a press release earlier this week, Rogers stated, "The radiocarbon sample has completely different chemical properties than the main part of the Shroud relic. The sample tested was dyed using technology that began to appear in Italy about the time the Crusaders' last bastion fell to the Turks in AD 1291. The radiocarbon sample cannot be older than about AD 1290, agreeing with the age determined (for the sample) in 1988. However, the Shroud itself is actually much older."
As a result of his own research and chemical tests, Rogers concluded that the radiocarbon sample is totally different in composition from the main part of the Shroud of Turin and was cut from a medieval reweaving of the cloth. Rogers was also the leader of the chemistry group for the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), the scientific team that performed the first in-depth scientific examination of the Shroud in 1978.
A similar article about the news can be found on the MirrorUK website in an article entitled "Shroud of Turin Might be real After All".
This does not mean that the Shroud is authentic and can be dated to the time of Jesus, but it does mean that the number one obstacle in the way of such a dating has now been removed.