The Origin of the Shroud of Turin from the Near East as Evidenced by Plant Images and by Pollen Grains

Hundreds of images of plant parts, such as flowers, flowering buds, fruits, stems, and leaves were found on high-grade photographs made from negatives by Enrie of 1931. These photographs were enlarged to life size and many were photographically enhanced to show these faint images more clearly. These images are mainly clustered around the head area but also extend down the sides of the upper body and onto the abdomen. They were observed initially by Dr. A. and Mrs. M. Whanger, and were confirmed more recently by me. While the images are of slightly wilted flowers rather tightly clustered together, many of them are quite identifiable even though they are faint, partial, and of low contrast. Experimental studies with corona discharge by physicist O. Scheuermann produced images from flowers similar to the images found on the Shroud. Nearly thirty species have been identified visually from the Shroud images. This correlates significantly with the studies by forensic microscopist Dr. Max Frei, who took sticky tape samples from the Shroud in 1973 and 1978. He found many pollen grains on these tapes, and tentatively identified some fifty-eight genera or species, mostly from plants growing in the Near East.

Gundelia tournefortii

Gundelia tournefortii L., a thorn, is one of the plants whose images I identified near the anatomical right side of the head image. Dr. Uri Baruch, palynologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority who made his M.SC. and Ph.D. dissertations on the flora of Israel, analyzed most of Frei’s 1973 sticky tape pollen specimens and ten of the twenty-five 1978 sticky tapes. He examined 165 pollen grains, of which 45 (27.3%) were Gundelia tournefortii. On some of the tapes, he found more than ten grains in an area less than 5×1 cm. When Baruch was collecting “pollen rain” at various sites in the Judean Mountains and Judean Desert, he never found at any site more than 1 or 2 grains of this plant. The images of the plant and the presence of so many of its pollen grains on the Shroud prove that blooming plants were placed on the Shroud, as the pollen grains could not have been deposited by wind. G. tournefortii blooms in Israel from February (in the semi-desert warm parts) to May (in Jerusalem), hence testifying the time these plants could have been placed on the Shroud. G. tournefortii grows only in the Near East; therefore, the Shroud could have come only from the Near East.

Zygophyllum dumosum

Images of Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss, an endemic plant of Israel, Jordan, and Sinai, do not need any verification of pollen grains, although they are present in Frei’s list. Two kinds of leaf images as well as flower images of this plant were identified on the Shroud. The unique leaf pattern development, visible on the Shroud, will be illustrated. Other species of Zygophyllum do not have this morphology. These plant images are observed on both the Enrie (1931), Miller (1978), Pia (1898) photographs, and I saw the large leaf with my own eyes armed with binoculars when visiting Turin June 5, 1998. All these indicate that the Zygophyllum images are not photographic artifacts. The northernmost place on earth where this plant could have been collected fresh is 15-30 km between the Sea Level sign on the road to Jericho and the Jordan River.

The authenticity of the Near East as the source of the Shroud of Turin is completely verified to me as a botanist through the images and pollen grains of Gundelia tournefortii and the images of Zygophyllum dumosum leaves. Other important botanical findings, such as the images of some 200 fruits of two-three species of Pistacia and the reed Arundo donax, will be described and illustrated by photographs.

Arundo donax

Using my data base of more than 90,000 sites of plant distribution, the place that best fits the assemblage of the plant species whose images and often pollen grains have been identified on the Shroud is 10-20 km east and west of Jerusalem. The common blooming time of most of these species is spring = March and April.

Dr. Avinoam Danin,
Professor of Botany, Department of Evolution,
Systematics, and Ecology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Pollen Grains and Plant images on the Shroud of Turin

During a 1999 conference of the prestigious Missouri Botanical Society in St Louis, Missouri, Avinoam Danin, a botany professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a leading authority on the flora of Israel, along with Uri Baruch, a pollen specialist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, reported that the combination of pollen spores lodged in the Shroud’s surface, as well as floral images mysteriously “imprinted” on the face of the cloth, could only have come from plants growing in a restricted area around Jerusalem. How floral images came to be on the cloth is as big a mystery as are the body images.

Central Anatolian

Pollen identification is a common method used in criminal forensics to determine where an object has been geographically. Max Frei, a Zurich criminologist, had previously identified a total of 58 different pollens on the Shroud.  These pollens are native to areas around  1) the Dead Sea and the Negev, 2) the Anatolian Steppe of central and western Turkey, 3) the immediate environs of Constantinople, and 4) Western Europe. Danin and Baruch confirmed much of Frei’s work. They also confirmed some previous floral image identifications by Oswald Sheuermann, a German physicist, and Alan Whanger, a professor at Duke University.

Cautionary Note: Some of the pollen identification has been challenged because of inaccurate chain of evidence record keeping. And image identification of the flowers is highly subjective. We must keep in mind that image identification is made from photographs of the Shroud. The cloth has stains, dirt, bloodstains and wrinkles that introduces visual anomalies. Photographic film, due to grain limitations, may not perfectly capture subtle details. Enhancement of contrast and brightness of the photographs, which is necessary, also may distort the picture.Even so, the evidence is compelling and warrants important consideration when weighed with other evidence.

Significant Identification:

The most important plants that Danin and Baruch identified and reported on are:

Chrysanthemum coronarium:

This is one of the most prominent plant images on the Shroud. This image is clearly visible. It is not a very strong geographical indicator in that it is a widespread Mediterranean species. It is, however, a good temporal indicator since it blooms between March and May. This suggests that the image was formed at that time of year.

Zygophyllum dunosum: This is the second most prominent floral image on the Shroud. The phonologic stage of bloom, as seen on the Shroud, indicates that it was cut or picked sometime between December and April. This plant grows only in the Sinai, a small area of Jordan adjacent to Israel, Jerusalem, and an area of Israel south of Jerusalem.

Gundelia tournefortii: In addition to faint imagery, there are also a very significant number of pollen spores for this species on the Shroud. Such large quantities of pollen grains, of this otherwise insect-pollinated plant, can only be explained by physical contact with the Shroud.  Gundelia blooms in Israel between March and May. This plant also grows throughout Turkey, Syria, northern Iran, northern Iraq, and in northern Israel. The southernmost edge of its growing region is Jerusalem.

Cistus creticus: Numerous pollen grains tend to confirm a fuzzy image of this plant on the Shroud’s surface. This is considered a very high geographic indicator since it only grows in Israel along the Mediterranean coast areas and the higher elevations east of the coast, but only as far in that direction as the old city of Jerusalem.

Capparis aegyptia:

This plant grows only in Israel, Jordan, and the Sinai. According to Danin and Buruch, “Flowering buds of this species begin to open about midday, opening gradually until fully opened about sunset. Flowers of this species, seen as images on the Shroud, correspond to opening buds at three to four o’clock in the afternoon.”

The last four plants on the Shroud are significant because, as Danin and Baruch report, “[the assemblage] occurs in only one rather small spot on earth, this being the Judean mountains and the Judean Desert of Israel, in the vicinity of Jerusalem.”

Explore posts in the same categories: The Shroud of Turin

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