An Autopsy on the Man of the Shroud

by
Robert Bucklin, M.D., J.D.
Las Vegas, Nevada

For over 50 years as a Forensic Pathologist, I have been actively involved with the investigation of deaths which come under the jurisdiction of a coroner of Medical Examiner. During that time, I have personally examined over 25,000 bodies by autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.

For most of that same period of time, I have had an abiding interest in the study of the Shroud of Turin from a medical view point. It seemed to be a natural decision for me to integrate my two interests and to try to record the results of what would have been done if the human body image on the Shroud of Turin were to be examined by a modern day Medical Examiner’s office.

The full body imprint, front and back, together with the individual characteristics of blood stains on the cloth, which represent specific types of injury, make it quite feasible for an experienced forensic pathologist to approach the examination of the Shroud image as would a medical examiner performing an autopsy on a person who has died under unnatural circumstances. It is the aim of this presentation to replicate such an autopsy examination using the image on the Shroud to delineate traumatic findings and to interpret the cause and the results of those injuries, as well as to present the most reasonable and probable cause for the death of the individual whose image is present on the Shroud of Turin.

The first step in such an examination is to document physical features of the victim as accurately as possible. In the case of the image on the Shroud, it can be stated that the deceased person is and adult male measuring 71 inches from crown to heel and weighing an estimated 175 pounds. The body structure is anatomically normal, representing a well-developed and well-nourished individual with clearly identifiable head, trunk, and extremities. The body appears to be in a state of rigor mortis which is evidenced by an overall stiffness as well as specific alterations in the appearance of the lower extremities from the posterior aspect. The imprint of the right calf is much more distinct than that of the left indicating that at the time of death the left leg was rotated in such a way that the sole of the left foot rested on the ventral surface of the right foot with resultant slight flexion of the left knee. That position was maintained after rigor mortis had developed.

After an overall inspection and description of the body image, the pathologist continues his examination in a sequential fashion beginning with the head and progressing to the feet. He will note that the deceased had long hair, which on the posterior image appears to be fashioned into a pigtail or braid type configuration.

There also is a short beard which is forked in the middle. In the frontal view, a ring of puncture tracks is noted to involve the scalp. One of these has the configuration of a letter “3”. Blood has issued from these punctures into the hair and onto the skin of the forehead. The dorsal view shows that the puncture wounds extend around the occipital portion of the scalp in the manner of a crown. The direction of the blood flow, both anterior and posterior, is downward. In the midline of the forehead is a square imprint giving the appearance of an object resting on the skin. There is a distinct abrasion at the tip of the nose and the right cheek is distinctly swollen as compared with the left cheek. Both eyes appear to be closed, but on very close inspection, rounded foreign objects can be noted on the imprint in the area of the right and left eyes.

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The coin in the eye of the Shroud of Turin

Bloodstain on the Shroud of Turin

Blood flecks from the Shroud of Turin

The Bloodstain on the Shroud of Turin are from Real Blood

From forensic observation we see that the stains are from real human bleeding from real wounds on a real human body that came into direct contact with the cloth. When the stains formed, the man was lying on his back with his feet near one end of the fourteen foot long, banner shaped piece of cloth.
Some have argued that the blood could not be real because old blood always turns black with age. The bloodstains on the Shroud are red. But this argument is scientifically invalid.

Old Blood Does Not Always Turn Black

* Ancient cloth, as it was manufactured in the Middle East during the first century, was starched on the loom and then washed in suds of the Soapwort plant. Ingredients of this natural soap are hemolytic, which would keep the blood red.
* The blood on the Shroud is rich in bilirubin, a bile pigment produced when a human body is under severe traumatic stress. Bilirubin is bright red and stays red and will cause old blood to remain red in color.

The argument is moot. We know the blood is real.

* Alan Adler, a professor of chemistry at Western Connecticut State University and an expert on porphyrins, the types of colored compounds seen in blood (chlorophyll and many other natural products) concluded that the blood is real.
* Alder and John Heller, Professor of Life Sciences at the New England Institute, published their conclusions that the bloodstains were genuinein the peer-reviewed scientific journal Applied Optics [1980]. They reported spectral analysis confirmed that the heme was converted into its parent porphyrin.
* Baima Bollone, working independently also found the heme porphyrin and globulin in flakes of blood from Shroud samples.
* X-ray-fluorescence spectra showed excess iron in blood areas, as expected for blood.
* Microchemical tests for proteins were positive in the  bloodstains but not in any other parts of the Shroud.

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