Is the blood on the Shroud real?

Despite claims by Joe Nickell, a paranormal investigator for the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, that no blood has been found (a bold, unsubstantiated assertion sometimes repeated in the press), blood has been found. The claim is often accompanied by the erroneous statement that all old blood turns black.

All of the material cited below and their publishing journals are peer reviewed scientific journals.

It is human blood:

  • S. F. Pellicori analyzed the spectral properties of the Shroud’s image, the bloodstains, and non-image areas using ultraviolet-visible reflectance and fluorescence spectra.  These are highly reliable quantitative measurements based on reflectance and not visual interpretation. This is documented in Applied Optics (1980). pages 1913-1920.
  • Alan Adler, an expert on porphyrins, the types of colored compounds seen in blood, chlorophyll, and many other natural products concluded that the blood is real. In collaboration with John Heller, the conclusions that the blood is real was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Applied Optics (also 1980). The heme was converted into its parent porphyrin, and this was confirmed with spectral analysis.
  • Baima Bollone also found both the heme porphyrin ring of blood and the globulin in flakes of blood from Shroud samples, independently confirming the work of Adler.
  • X-ray-fluorescence spectra showed excess iron in blood areas, as expected for blood.
  • Qualitative microchemical tests for proteins were positive in blood areas but not in any other parts of the Shroud. Definition of Qualitative microchemical tests.

Various chemical tests by E. J. Jumper, A. D. Adler, J. P. Jackson, S. F. Pellicori, J. H. Heller, and J. R. Druzik are documented in a peer-reviewed scientific papter “A comprehensive examination of the various stains and images on the Shroud of Turin,” ACS Advances in Chemistry, Archaeological Chemistry (1984)

Other analysis by J. H. Heller and A. D. Adler in “A Chemical Investigation of the Shroud of Turin,” Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal and by L. A. Schwalbe and R. N. Rogers, Analytica Chimica Acta (1982)

Skeptics will sometimes claim that the blood cannot be real because old blood is black. Actually, old blood often just turns brown. That all old blood turns black is overstated.

Old blood is not always black. Two factors will keep bloodstains from losing all or most of their red color:

  • The blood on the Shroud contains significant amounts of bilirubin, a bile pigment produced by severe trauma. Bilirubin is bright red and will cause bloodstains to remain red in color.
  • Ancient cloth, after weaving was, was often washed in natural soap such as that derived from the Soapwort plant.
  • Ingredients of this natural soap are hemolytic, which keeps the blood from turning black or brown. S. F. Pellicori also discovered that that the fibers inside the thread were brown while the fibers on the outside were red. Why is this signifcant?

The argument, however, is pointless. The bloodstains are known to be from real blood.

Did the blood go on the Shroud before the images?

There is no image beneath bloodstains; the blood interrupting the formation of an image. As reported in two peer-reviewed scientific journals, (Heller, J. H., Adler, A. D., Applied Optics, 19, 1980, pp 2742-4 and Heller, J. H., and Adler, A. D., Canadian Forensic Society Science Journal 14, 1981, pp 81-103) when blood within a part of an image (containing porphyrin, bilirubin, albumin and protein) was dissolved, there was no image beneath the blood. However the images were formed, bloodstains blocked the process immediately beneath the blood.

If a faker of relics had created the Shroud, either by painting the images or by some medieval proto photographic technique, he would have needed to apply the bloodstains first and then carefully create the images around them. This would be particularly difficult if the image was formed by some proto-photograph method.

If image formation was a natural chemical reaction, as is now widely believed among serious Shroud researchers, bloodstains would have blocked the process. While this doesn’t particularly add credence to such a hypothesis, it is consistent with it.

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