Ancient tradition claims the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. This claim is supported by the full-size front and dorsal (back) images on the Shroud of a man that was crucified exactly as the New Testament says Jesus was crucified. In 1978, experiments on the Shroud by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) indicated the images are not due to pigment, any liquid, a scorch, or photography. The three main mysteries of the Shroud of Turin are: 1) how the images were formed, 2) how to explain the carbon dating of the Shroud, and 3) why the blood that would have dried on the body is now on the Shroud. The vertically collimated radiation burst (VCRB) hypothesis proposes that:
1) the images were formed when charged particles in the radiation burst caused a static discharge from the top fibers facing the body, which caused electrical heating and/or ozone to discolor the fibers that form the front and dorsal images, 2) neutrons in the radiation burst were absorbed in the trace amount of N-14 in the Shroud to produce new C-14 in the fibers that shifted the carbon date forward from its true date, and 3) if the vertically collimated radiation burst were sufficiently brief and intense, it could have thrust the dried blood vertically off the body onto the Shroud. This video is made by Bob Rucker. He has an MS degree in nuclear engineering and worked in the nuclear industry for 38 years. He has been studying the Shroud since 2014 and has written 32 papers on the Shroud, as of April 2022, that are available on the research page of his website http://www.shroudresearch.net.
Gerard Verschuuren is a Catholic biologist and philosopher who works at the junction of science and religion. His wide-ranging background includes genetics, biological anthropology and statistics, but he was also awarded a doctorate in the philosophy of science, and has taught everything from the philosophy of biology to human genetics to computer programming at universities in America and Europe. He now lives in New Hampshire and is using his retirement to write books about the faith and science, among them Aquinas and Modern Science, The Myth of an Anti-Science Church, In the Beginning: How God Made Earth Our Home and, most recently, A Catholic Scientist Champions the Shroud of Turin (Sophia Institute Press, 192 pages, $17.95). In this book, Verschuuren considers the evidence for and against the authenticity of the shroud from the twin perspective of science and faith. One of his reasons for reconsidering the evidence at this time was the availability of the raw data of the carbon-14 tests first reported in 1988. Withheld for decades by the British Museum, the raw data was only released in 2017, following a freedom-of-information request by French researcher Tristan Casabianca. Subsequent analysis of this data and comparison with the original report led Casabianca’s team to conclude that “homogeneity is lacking in the data and that the procedure should be reconsidered,” casting doubt in the results of the carbon-14 date. Register correspondent Thomas L. McDonald discussed these issues with Verschuuren.
What drew you to Shroud of Turin research?
I was always interested in the shroud. The big bummer came in 1988, when so-called scientists claimed that the shroud could not be older than the 1260s. I could not believe that because I knew that carbon dating has a number of pitfalls, and the group that was in favor of the shroud, most of them scientists, could not believe it either. They had so many indications that the thing was much older. So, finally, they sued the people who came up with that analysis and said, “You haven’t given us all the data. You’re hiding something.” And finally, 30 years later, they won that battle. The data were released, and that gave me the energy to start my research all over again to show that the carbon dating cannot be true. We have many other indications that the shroud is much older than they have claimed. So that’s where my journey began.
Why shouldn’t we trust the carbon dating?
There are many reasons, and I discuss them in the book, but I want to be brief here. One of the problems with the carbon dating is that the samples were taken from the worst spot on the shroud. I cannot completely blame the scientists for that because the Vatican is very careful with the shroud. It’s the document that they have, and that document cannot be damaged. That’s why they finally put it in a bulletproof case controlled for temperature and other things that could damage it. Another reason was that there was supposed to be testing by seven laboratories, and they ended up with only three of them, and that makes it already more difficult to claim they have scientific information because scientific information has to be reproducible.
It was taken from the side strip, which is the place that was handled in the past to show the shroud. We have drawings and pictures showing bishops and priests holding the shroud horizontally from the top. So that strip has a lot of contamination from their fingers and bacteria, and all of those influence the reading of your carbon dating. And besides, we have so much very convincing evidence that the shroud is much older. We have historical records that the shroud was only moved to Turin in 1578. Before that, it was in France. We also know that the shroud was in Constantinople in 1204, which is already before the dating of the carbon tests. We have records that it came to Constantinople from Edessa, so we know that it was already there in 544. So we get farther and farther away from this carbon dating.
It’s my conviction that it came from Jerusalem. How do we know that? Because there is also pollen analysis. We have found pollens on the shroud that are not only from France, where it was for many centuries, but pollens from Jerusalem. So I consider that a very strong indication that the shroud is much older than the carbon-dating test could ever tell us.
If you’re trying to make the case for authenticity to a skeptic, what would you mention first? Is there one piece of information that you find powerfully conclusive?
I would point to the textile analysis. I know skeptics are going to doubt all of that too, because that’s their attitude, but the material that the shroud was made of is very high-quality linen. We know from the Gospels that Joseph of Aramithea was a rich man and bought the linens that Jesus was laid in. It is woven in a pattern that we only find in old linens. We don’t find them after the first century. A textile analyst from Switzerland analyzed the way it was woven and concluded it was very particular for Jewish linens. She only found that same pattern in linens from Masada, a settlement that was used at the time of the Roman occupation. So it’s very telling that Masada linens have the same pattern. The linens were also studied by chemists, who looked for the presence of vanillin, which is also found in flax used for that kind of linen. That vanillin will decay and break down over time, and they found hardly any vanillin left, [but they did find vanillin in the fabric,] which means it’s much, much older than carbon texts suggests.
Is there anything about the evidence that troubled you?
The DNA found on the shroud is very defragmented. That means when you study the DNA, it’s unreliable, but a lot of people think they can do much more with DNA analysis, that we can say this is really from Jesus. I don’t think we can ever say that because we have nothing to compare it to. He had no brothers or sisters, so when people say we can prove it’s Jesus by comparison of DNA, I ask, “Compare it with whom?” What we do know is that the DNA they could analyze was partially of a gene found on the Y-chromosome, so it means he was a man. So what? We knew that. So I don’t put much confidence in the DNA research, but I go into it in my book. We know the blood type is AB. So what does that tell us about the shroud’s authenticity? Nothing, other than to satisfy our curiosity.
I maintain, after all I have studied, that it is the Shroud of Jesus. It is not just an icon: It is a relic. It would be an icon if it was painted. I give many reasons — more than 10 in my book — why it cannot be a painted picture. If it’s not a painting, then it’s from a real person. I consider it a real relic. So when we see the shroud, we are really seeing the face of Jesus, the body of Jesus, with all the torture he went through, all the blood spots we find on that shroud.
Why does the Shroud of Turin matter?
It wouldn’t change my faith if it were not real. Does it really matter? In a way, it does, because it’s the only remnant we have Jesus. We don’t have a grave. We were not there to see what he looked like. And the shroud comes closest to showing us what he looked like, and for many people that is important when they pray. They may want a picture of the face in the shroud in front of them, because we are praying to a real person, who came as a human being, who suffered for us. And we see all that suffering in the shroud. If we didn’t have that shroud, would it mean he didn’t suffer? Of course he did! But as human beings we always like concrete things, so that’s why I think it’s important that it’s real. I must say that the last three popes have always been very careful, and I think their fear was those demolishing carbon datings. John Paul II was a very cautious man, and he learned from the Galileo case that the Church must always be very careful. Is our faith dependent upon the shroud? No, but it would be very nice if we can go by it, and I think we can.
Thomas L. McDonald Thomas L. McDonald has been a writer and editor for the past 25 years, covering technology, history, archaeology, games and religion. He has degrees in English, Film and Theology with a concentration in Church History. He’s been a certified catechist for 12 years, and taught Church History for eight. His other writing can be found at Weird Catholic.
The Turin Shroud is traditionally considered to be the burial cloth in which the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death approximately 2000 years ago. Here, we report the main findings from the analysis of genomic DNA extracted from dust particles vacuumed from parts of the body image and the lateral edge used for radiocarbon dating. Several plant taxa native to the Mediterranean area were identified as well as species with a primary center of origin in Asia, the Middle East or the Americas but introduced in a historical interval later than the Medieval period. Regarding human mitogenome lineages, our analyses detected sequences from multiple subjects of different ethnic origins, which clustered into a number of Western Eurasian haplogroups, including some known to be typical of Western Europe, the Near East, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian sub-continent. Such diversity does not exclude a Medieval origin in Europe but it would be also compatible with the historic path followed by the Turin Shroud during its presumed journey from the Near East. Furthermore, the results raise the possibility of an Indian manufacture of the linen cloth.
The Turin Shroud (TS) is a linen cloth, 4.4 m long and 1.1 m wide, bearing the double image of a man who suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion after being beaten, scourged and crowned with thorns1,2. TS is the most important relic of Christianity because the Catholic tradition identifies this burial cloth as that in which the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped before being placed in a Palestine tomb approximately 2000 years ago. Such a scenario is supported by numerous scholars who believe that the journey of TS began in Jerusalem in the year 30 or 33 AD3. After concealment for years, TS would have been first moved to Edessa (now Şanliurfa in Turkey) and then to Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey) in 944 AD. A burial cloth, which some historians consider the Shroud, was owned by the Byzantine emperors but disappeared during the Sack of Constantinople in 12044. After this event, TS would have been taken by the crusaders and transferred to Athens (Greece), where it remained until 1225. Official documents attest that it was in France at Lirey around the years 1353 to 1357 and then was kept at Chambéry from 1502 to 1578, where passed into the hands of the Dukes of Savoy3,4,5. From 1578, apart from some brief displacements in an effort to hide it during war periods, TS was kept in Turin (Italy) and later placed in the royal chapel of the city Cathedral inside a specially designed shrine where it has been permanently conserved from 1694 to the present.
The TS shows many marks caused by human blood, fire, water and folding of the cloth that partially obscure the double, front and back, body image that is not yet reproducible1,2,6,7. In 1988, the age of the TS linen cloth was assessed by accelerator mass spectrometry. Results of radiocarbon measurements from distinct and independent laboratories yielded a calendar age range of 1260–1390 AD, with 95% confidence8, thus providing robust evidence for a Medieval recent origin of TS. However, two papers have highlighted some concerns about this determination9,10 and a Medieval age does not appear to be compatible with the production technology of the linen nor with the chemistry of fibers obtained directly from the main part of the cloth in 19781,11.
In 1978 and 1988, dust particles were vacuumed from the interspace between the Shroud and the Holland Cloth sewn to it as reinforcement12. The composition of the particles was later studied in great detail by optical microscopy and specimens from different filters were retained and characterized for their contents6,13. In past decades, pollen grains were classified to the genus and species levels using microscopy14,15,16 and the geographic areas where the corresponding plants originated and now inhabit proved to be compatible with the reported historic path followed by TS during the postulated 2000-year journey from the Near East3, thus supporting the authenticity of the relic.
In this study, we performed DNA analyses to define the biological sources of the dust particles (pollen grains, cell debris and other minuscule organic specimens, such as plant-derived fibers and blood-like clots) vacuum-collected in 1978 and 1988 in distinct TS filters, corresponding to the face, hands, glutei and feet of the body image6,13 and the lateral edge, which was used for radiocarbon dating8. To identify plant taxonomic entities and human genetic lineages, universal plant DNA sequences, including nuclear rDNA intergenic transcribed spacers (ITS) and chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) barcodes and human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) target regions were amplified and sequenced. This allowed the identification of DNA sources from a wide range of plant species and human mitogenomes belonging to numerous haplogroups. The overall findings were then evaluated to determine whether the geographic areas of origin and distribution of detected plant cpDNA species and human mtDNA haplogroups might provide novel clues concerning the origin of the Turin Shroud.
Detection of plant DNA from the Turin Shroud and identification of plant species
More than 100 PCR-derived amplicons were recovered from genic and intergenic target regions, 77 of which were successfully sequenced and attributed to a genus or species source (19 different plant taxa). Approximately half of the DNA sequences derived from the TS lateral edge samples (filter I) and allowed us to identify 16 plant species. In filters E-H, corresponding to various parts of the TS male body image, we assigned DNA sequences to one (glutei), two (feet), or three plant species (face and hands). Table 1 summarizes the plant species found on TS by querying databases of orthologous sequences from taxa of established identity. The land plant species include herbaceous weeds and crops, woody trees and shrubs; some are native to Mediterranean countries and are widespread in Central Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, whereas others have a center of origin in Eastern Asia and the Americas and hence they were not yet present into Europe during the Medieval period (Supplementary Table S1).Table 1 Plant DNA species found on the Turin Shroud.
Among the taxa identified, the most abundant belongs to the genus Picea, which includes a few closely related species native to Europe (P. abies (L.) H. Karst., P. obovata Ledeb. and P. omorika Purk.) and several spruce trees widespread in temperate and boreal forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere. However, other species are present, including those native to the Mediterranean basin, such as clovers (Trifolium spp.), ryegrasses (Lolium spp.) and plantains (Plantago spp.) and Eastern Asia, such as uncommon forms of pear (Pyrus kansuensis Rehder) and plum (Pyrus spinosa Forssk, syn. Pyrus amygdaliformis Vill.) of the family Rosaceae. Among the plant species of the New World, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.), a tree of the family Fabaceae native to Appalachia in the Eastern United States, is notable. In addition, we identified crop species largely grown by farmers and common in many agriculture systems of the Old World, including chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), common hop (Humulus lupulus L.), cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) and grapevine (Vitis or Parthenocissus spp.). We also uncovered tree species commonly present in forests and woodlands, such as hornbeams (Carpinus spp.), walnuts (Juglans spp.) and willows (Salix spp.); although the centers of origin of these species are located in central Asia and Eastern Europe, their current areas of distribution are extremely broad (Fig. 1).
Based on the overall data, we may assume that TS was likely displayed in, or in very close contact with, different types of natural and anthropological environments. The large variety of taxonomic entities is compatible with highly diverse geographic ranges, varying from farms of cultivated plains to riparian woodlands and mountain forests. Some species have a center of origin and have diversified in areas around the Mediterranean basin, including North Africa and the Middle East and most of these species were widely distributed throughout Europe before the age of Christ. However, other species identified on TS were not introduced to Europe before the XVI century, after the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (for instance, Robinia pseudoacacia and also nightshades of the family Solanaceae), while the two species of the genera Prunus and Pyrus, rare fruit trees originating from South-East Asia and the Middle East, were likely introduced to Mediterranean territories from the XIII century and thereafter, following the travels of Marco Polo (Supplementary Table S1).
Examination of human mtDNA haplotypes from the Turin Shroud and identification of mtDNA haplogroups
Among the 93 mtDNA amplicons generated and sequenced, a large number of different human sequences corresponding to three distinct mtDNA loci (MT-DLOOP, MT-CO1, MT-ND5) were identified. This result not only indicates that human DNA was indeed unequivocally present in the dust from TS but also that the sources of human DNA could be ascribed to numerous individuals (Table 2). In fact, the mtDNA haplotypes were found to belong to different branches of the human mtDNA tree (Supplementary Table S2), even after having excluded all the mtDNA sequences that could be theoretically attributed to operator contamination (Supplementary Table S3). Moreover, not only were the observed mtDNA haplotypes numerous, but they could also be affiliated to many distinct haplogroups. Six sub-branches of haplogroup H (H1, H2, H3, H4, H13, H33) are included, as well as representatives of haplogroups U2, U5, R0a, R7, R8, L3c, M39 and M56 (Table 2).Table 2 Human mtDNA haplogroups found on the Turin Shroud.
The number and proportion of read clusters derived from the different TS samples for each of the identified haplogroups are shown in Fig. 2, together with a schematic overview of their current geographic distributions. Some haplogroups are widespread, while others are geographically and ethnically more localized (see Supplementary Table S2 for detailed information). For instance, haplogroup H1 is very common in Western Europe, with a frequency peak among Iberians (~25%) but also among the populations of Northwestern Africa, including the Berbers. Haplogroup H4 is instead present at low and rather similar frequencies in Western (Iberia ~3%) and Eastern Europe (~1%), the Caucasus (~3%) and the Near East (~1%). Haplogroup H33 is rare and mainly found thus far among the Druze, a minority population of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Haplogroup U2 is found largely in South Asia (~5%), but one of its subsets (U2e) is present in Europe, with a frequency of ~1%. Haplogroup U5 harbors an average frequency of 7% in modern European populations and its major sub-branches, U5a and U5b, are most common in Eastern and Western Europe, respectively. Haplogroup R0a is predominantly localized in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, with the highest frequency in southeast Yemen (approximately 30%), though it is also found at low frequencies all over Western Eurasia. Haplogroup L3c is extremely rare and only found in East Africa, while haplogroups M39, M56, R7 and R8 are typical of the Indian subcontinent, with the latter essentially present only in Eastern India.
In brief, mtDNA data indicate that numerous individuals have left traces of DNA on the TS. Moreover, their mtDNA sequences belong to haplogroups that are typical of different ethnic groups and/or different geographic regions, including not only Europe where official documents verify the presence of TS since 1353 AD but also North and East Africa, the Middle East and even India.
Collection of non-plant and non-human DNA sequences
It is worth mentioning that among all generated and sequenced cpDNA and mtDNA amplicons (~200 overall), only a few non-plant and non-human sequences were detected (Supplementary Table S1). One of these sequences, although very short being 58 bp long, partially matched and produced the best alignment with the MT-CYB gene (accession no. AY827092.1) from the southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis Koenigi), a medium-sized passerine bird that is reported to be resident in Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Near East. Another of these sequences, corresponding to 694 bp of the CO1 gene, was ascribable to a marine worm (Cerebratulus longiceps Coe), rather common in the Northern Pacific Ocean, next to Canada (accession no. JQ007428-JQ007431).
DNA extracted from dust particles that were vacuumed from the Turin Shroud shows sequence profiles that identify numerous plant species and correspond to several distinct human mtDNA haplogroups. These results not only confirm that plant fibers and pollen grains are present on TS, as previously reported by optical microscopy, but also reveal that multiple human individuals touched or otherwise left traces of their DNA on the relic linen. The detection of such a variety of DNA sources is extremely valuable in assessing whether there are possible parallelisms between the areas of origin and distribution of identified land plant species and human mtDNA haplogroups and the temporal and spatial paths associated with the two alternative scenarios that have been proposed to explain the TS origin.
The radiocarbon measurements would place the origin of the TS linen in the time frame 1260–1390 AD. This not only implies a Late Middle Age origin, but a geographical path for the TS that is essentially restricted to Western Europe. In this scenario, the DNA traces that we detected could have entered in contact with the TS only rather recently, at most in the last 800 years and these biological sources (plants and human subjects) had to be present in the geographic areas (France and Italy) where the TS was located and/or displayed. The alternative scenario implies instead a much longer journey that started in Jerusalem in the year 30 or 33 AD. In this case, the time frame for the interaction with the DNA biological sources is much longer (2000 years) and the geographic areas where the TS was located include the Near East, Anatolia, Eastern and Western Europe, with a potentially much wider range of plant and human interactions.
With regard to the land plant species identified, some are native to Mediterranean countries and widespread throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and are thus compatible with both a rather recent Medieval origin in Europe and a more ancient Near Eastern origin. However, others have a center of origin in Eastern Asia and the Americas and were introduced to Europe only after the Medieval period. Clearly, the latter species cannot help in discriminating between alternative scenarios.
The quantitatively most abundant species found on TS dust is spruce: the vast majority of DNA sequences assigned to the genus Picea are likely attributable to the species Picea abies (L.) H. Karst., a forest tree that typically occupies highland areas of the Carpathians and Alps. Among the NCBI sequences most similar to those obtained from TS, one belongs to a spruce tree sampled in the Swiss Alps (accession number AF327585); this discovery is in accord with the transport of TS through the French-Italian Alps in 1578 when the relic was moved from Chambéry to Turin. Of note, our trnL-intron sequences shared the haplotype with most of those of P. abies accessions deposited in public databases, supported by specimen vouchers and annotated with a Southern European origin (e.g., Serbia) and an Eastern Asian origin (e.g., China), revealing not only common SNPs but also many private polymorphisms (accession numbers JQ007384-JQ007406 and Supplementary Figure S1).
Most of the plant species identified based on cpDNA and ITS sequences (e.g., clovers, ryegrasses, plantains and chicories) have an origin and are now widespread in regions around the Mediterranean basin, from the Iberian Peninsula to Palestine. The presence of some alien tree species introduced from Eastern USA (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) and Northern or Southern China (Salix suchowensis W.C. Cheng, Pyrus spinosa Forssk and Prunus kansuensis Rehder) is not negligible, with the former species that currently has a distribution area centered in Europe and the Mediterranean basin and the latter that are more widespread in temperate Asia, Southern Europe and Northern Africa. Overall, the various plant species and numerous taxonomic families identified on TS (Supplementary Table S1) suggest that contamination may have occurred during the past centuries and are compatible with the scenario that the linen cloth was exposed to different locations across the Mediterranean area.
With regard to the sources of human DNA, the detected haplotypes do not cluster randomly on the entire human mtDNA tree, but only on a specific subset of its branches, corresponding to numerous haplogroups from Western Eurasia and surrounding areas (Supplementary Table S2). This finding not only indicates that many individuals have left traces of their DNA on the TS, but also that they most likely belonged to different ethnic groups and were from far away geographic regions, including Europe, North and East Africa, the Middle East and India. Thus, the sources of these sequences fit well the geographic path of the postulated long journey from the Near East, even if they are also fully compatible with the scenario that among the perhaps thousands of worshippers who came into contact with the relic in France and Italy throughout the centuries, there were many coming from the far away geographic areas where these mtDNA haplogroups are common. Moreover, it should be taken into account that filters E, F, G and H correspond to the internal parts of the linen cloth that enveloped the body of the TS man; in contrast, filter I derives from the lateral edge of the cloth. Because the cloth was folded, the lateral edges were not only in contact with the external environment much more than the internal and more protected body image but are also the TS regions that were handled the most. Thus, filters E, F, G and H might provide more reliable clues than filter I with regard to the TS earliest contacts and contamination and, therefore, its hypothesized historical path. There are six haplogroups (H4, L3c, M39, R7, U2 and U5) that were detected only in the dust particles from filter I. If these are excluded, four partially overlapping geographic regions are generally outlined by the remaining haplogroups: (i) the Middle East with haplogroups H13, H33 and R0a; (ii) Southeast Europe and Turkey with haplogroups H1a, H2a and H13; (iii) Western Europe, including France and Italy, with haplogroups H1j and H3; and (iv) India with haplogroups M56 and R8.
In conclusion, our results on human mtDNA traces detected on the TS are compatible with both alternative scenarios that i) the cloth had a Medieval origin in Western Europe where people from different geographic regions and ethnic affiliations came in contact with it, possibly moved by the worship for the Christian relic; ii) the linen cloth had a Middle Eastern origin and was moved itself across the Mediterranean area, consequently coming across a wide range of local folks and devotes in a longer time span. Even in the latter case (i.e., Jerusalem in Israel until approximately 500 A.D., Şanliurfa in Turkey until 944, Constantinople in Turkey until 1204, Lirey and Chambery in France from 1353 until 1578, Turin in Italy to date)3, the detection of mtDNA haplogroups that are typically from India is somehow unexpected. One obvious possibility is that during the course of centuries, individuals of Indian ancestry came into contact with TS. Taking into account the rate of DNA degradation and PCR-biases toward undamaged DNA, the recent contamination scenario is extremely likely. However, one alternative and intriguing possibility is that the linen cloth was weaved in India, as supported perhaps by the original name of TS – Sindon – which appears to derive from Sindia or Sindien, a fabric coming from India.
Collection of TS Samples for DNA analyses
The samples used in this study for DNA investigations are sub-sets of the dust particles vacuumed from the back of the Turin Shroud (TS), which were kindly provided in 2010 by Giulio Fanti (Dept. of Industrial Engineering, University of Padua, Italy), who in turn received them personally from Giovanni Riggi di Numana in 200612,18 (see also Supplementary Document S1). In particular, four samples were originally collected on filters in 1978 from four distinct areas of the back of TS, corresponding to the hands (filter E), face (filter F), feet (filter G) and glutei (filter H) of the TS male image12. An additional sample was collected in 1988, deriving specifically from the corner area (filter I) of TS, which was used for radiocarbon dating8,12 (for details, see Supplementary Figure S2, panels A–C).
The dust samples collected on these filters were immobilized on adhesive tapes as previously described6,13 and consisted of a variety of particles. In fact, optical microscope observations of filters E-I had previously revealed the presence of pollen grains, cell debris and other minuscule organic specimens, such as plant-derived fibers and blood-like clots6,7,13.
The five pieces of adhesive tape containing TS dust particles collected on filters E, F, G, H and I were supplied as portions of the original samples (ranging in size from 5 × 10 mm to 10 × 30 mm, see the schematic representation in Supplementary Figure S2, panel D), each attached to a sterile microscope slide. Each piece of adhesive tape was manually cut using a scalpel and tweezers under a stereomicroscope into tiny sub-portions of dimensions on the order of a few square millimeters (~5 × 5 mm each); the pieces were then individually transferred into 1.5-ml sterile microtubes. A total of 2 to 12 square portioned specimens of the pieces of adhesive tape were used for independent genomic DNA extractions; the DNA samples from the individual specimens were kept separate for PCR amplifications.
PCR amplicons obtained from each of the cpDNA regions were sub-cloned and used individually for DNA sequencing, whereas PCR amplicons obtained from each of the mtDNA regions were pooled for 454 sequencing reactions. In particular, the DNA amplicons from each of the 2, 4 or 6 specimens associated with internal filters E, F, G and H were pooled together into single samples, whereas the DNA amplicons from external filter I were divided into two samples of 6 specimens each (named I and IR and taken as independent biological replications; Supplementary Figure S2). This pooling strategy was imposed by the different sizes of the pieces of adhesive tape to be analyzed for each of the five TS filters and by the fact that dust particles were demonstrated to be much more abundant on the tape representing the external filter than on those for the internal filters6,13.
All manipulation steps were performed aseptically under laminar flow hood conditions using autoclaved disposables and buffers that were filter-sterilized. In particular, we used sterile materials and all standard procedures with internal negative controls to avoid, or eventually discover, contaminations from the operators and the environment. The entire mitochondrial genomes of the three operators who came in contact with the Shroud samples were completely sequenced and all mtDNA sequences that we obtained from the TS samples and could be theoretically attributed to operator contamination (Supplementary Table S3) were excluded from our final results. As for possible environmental contaminations, none of the large varieties of plant sources detected in the Shroud (Supplementary Table S1) through the analysis of nuclear ITS, chloroplast genes or cpDNA sequences are grown or studied in our facilities.
Genomic DNA extraction
Specimens from the pieces of adhesive tape with the TS dust particles were used individually for genomic DNA extraction to avoid any loss of TS material and to perform replicate experiments for each TS filter.
All genomic DNA extractions were performed with the QIAamp®DNA Investigator commercial kit (Qiagen) by applying the protocol originally developed for laser-microdissected specimens, with some modifications. All manipulation steps were performed under laminar flow hood conditions using DNA- and DNase-free, disposable autoclaved materials and filter-sterilized buffers. Immediately after collection, sub-samples were transferred to a 1.5-ml tube containing a pre-warmed mixture composed of 40 μl of ATL buffer and 20 μl proteinase K. Each sample was then mixed by pulse-vortexing and incubated at 56 °C for 16 hours under constant agitation. After this step, 100 μl of the AL buffer, containing 2 μg of carrier RNA, was added and the solution was mixed by pulse-vortexing for 15 sec. Then, 100 μl absolute ethanol was added and the solution was mixed thoroughly by pulse-vortexing for 15 sec and then incubated for 5 min at room temperature. The next steps, which consisted of DNA immobilization to a silica membrane and wash steps to clean the isolated DNA from salts and impurities, were conducted by following the manufacturer’s suggestions. Elution of the DNA immobilized by the silica membrane was performed in two steps by using 15 μl ATE buffer at each elution step and by extending the incubation step to 10 min at room temperature.
To identify human genetic lineages and plant taxonomic entities, specific plant DNA and human mitochondrial DNA regions were designated for PCR amplification and sequencing.
PCR amplification and sequencing of plant and human DNA sequences
PCR amplifications of plant DNA sequences were performed with primer combinations designed using nuclear (rDNA intergenic transcribed spacers, ITS) and chloroplast targets (cpDNA barcodes RuBisCO or rbcL, trnH-psbA and trnL-intron) (Supplementary Table S4), following already available protocols19,20. Briefly, the reactions were performed in a total volume of 20 μl that included 2 μl of 10X reaction buffer, 1 mM MgSO4, 0.3 mM dNTPs, 0.25 U of Platinum®Pfx DNA Polymerase (Life Technologies), 0.3 μM of primer mix and 2.5 μl of eluted DNA solution. The reactions were performed in a 9700 Thermal Cycler (Applied Biosystems) using a temperature profile that consisted of an initial denaturation step of 10 min at 95 °C followed by 50 cycles of 1 min at 95 °C, 30 sec at 55 °C, 1 min at 68 °C and a final step of 10 min at 68 °C.
The same conditions were adopted for PCR amplifications of human sequences corresponding to three distinct mtDNA loci (MT-DLOOP with the hypervariable segments MT-HV1 and MT-HV2, MT-CO1 and MT-ND5) using specific primer pairs (Supplementary Table S4).
The amplicons were sub-cloned by ligation into the TOPO-blunt cloning vector (Life Technologies) and transformed into chemically competent one-shot TOP10 bacterial cells (Life Technologies). Clones were plated on LB plates (1.5% agar, 50 μg/mL ampicillin, 40 μg/ml X-Gal) and transformed colonies were selected by Colony-PCR. Amplification reactions were performed in a total volume of 20 μl including 2 μl of 10X reaction buffer, 1.5 mM MgCl2, 300 μM dNTPs, 1.5 U of BIOTaq DNA polymerase (BIOLINE), 0.2 μM of M13For (5′-GTAAAACGACGGCCAG-3′) and M13Rev (5′-CAGGAAACAGCTATGAC-3′) primers. Positive colonies were sequenced using an ABI3100 automated sequencer (Applied Biosystems).
Both nuclear ITS sequences and DNA barcodes were used to identify plant and fungal species21,22, querying the Barcode of Life Data BOLD Systems v. 3 (http://www.boldsystems.org/index.php/IDS_OpenIdEngine). Sequence similarity searches in nucleotide collections (nt) and with non-redundant protein sequences (nr) were also performed with blastn/x programs of the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool BLAST v. 2.2.30+ (http://blast.st-va.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Blast.cgi) using default parameters. All plant cpDNA and ITS sequences deriving from PCR amplicons were verified through replicated sequencing of both strands and deposited in GenBank with accession numbers JQ007354-JQ007431 and JQ082521-JQ082524. The human mtDNA sequences, as clusters deriving from the assembly of reads generated by 454 sequencing, were deposited in GenBank with accession numbers KP126143-KP126230.
For each plant sequence, we collected information regarding: i) the TS location source; ii) the GenBank accession number of the most similar sequence; iii) the Linnaean name of the species, including the botanical family and its common name; iv) the name and length of the target DNA sequence; v) the center of origin and geographical distribution of the species, along with information on plant type and/or common use (for details, see Supplementary Table S1). From an experimental point of view, it should be noted that some species were identified in biological replicates by using different specimens of the same filter as well as different filters but were also assessed by technical replicates according to amplicons from different genetic targets. In addition, other species were identified by performing independent experiments, meaning that the PCR analyses were conducted at different times using DNA samples isolated at different times from the same filters/dust samples. All these cases are pivotal experimental validations and demonstrate the robust assignments of plant species (or genus).
PCR amplification of human mtDNA and preparation of libraries for pyrosequencing
Amplifications of target mtDNA sequences prior to pyrosequencing were performed as described in the previous paragraph using specific primer sets (Supplementary Table S4). It is worth mentioning that the successful amplification of human mtDNA fragments ranging in size from 419 to 576 bp (as well as plant nuclear and chloroplast DNAs from 229 to 622 bp) such as the ones that we amplified, would be mostly possible from undamaged or slightly damaged DNA templates, which is unexpected when dealing with very ancient DNA specimens. However, the size of ancient DNA fragments, in addition to age, is influenced by many additional factors such as environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, moisture and pH) and mode of preservation (e.g., museum specimens vs. freshly excavated remains). In brief, DNA degradation becomes more effective only over long intervals, but is de facto unpredictable over shorter time spans such as those postulated for the DNA traces on the TS and when considering the numerous copies of extra-nuclear DNA molecules23,24,25,26.
PCR products originating from the amplification of multiple samples were pooled (Supplementary Table S4) and purified with QIAquick PCR Purification Kit (QIAGEN) by following the recommendations of the supplier. Next, the amplicons of the three different mtDNA target regions were pooled together, as reported in Supplementary Table S5 and purified with the Agencourt AMPure XP procedure (Beckman Coulter) by following the recommendations of the supplier. Quantification of the pooled amplicons was performed with a Nanodrop fluorometer ND 3300 (Thermo Scientific).
Libraries were prepared starting from 100 ng of purified PCR products using Rapid Library Preparation Method (Series GS FLX+; Roche 454 sequencing), starting from step 3.2: Fragment End Repair (thus avoiding the step 3.1, DNA Fragmentation by Nebulization). Single libraries were tagged with univocal MIDs (Supplementary Table S6). Emulsion PCR and 454 sequencing were carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the Roche 454 FLX Titanium platform. Library sequencing was carried out using a Roche 454 GS Junior System.
Analysis of sequence reads, variant calling and cluster assembly
Sequence reads were de-multiplexed based on their MID sequence with the Roche 454 software SFFfile. The number of sequenced and aligned reads referring to the single libraries are reported in Supplementary Table S7.
Mapping of the sequence reads to the H. sapiens mitochondrial genome (gb|NC_012920.1) was performed with the software CLC Genomics Workbench version 5.05 with defaults parameters. Mapping of the sequence reads originating from each library was used to estimate the average coverage for each target region. Background noise in the sequences was filtered with a program developed ad hoc that analyzes the composition in words (k-mer) of the produced sequences and masks the words having a frequency lower than the value set as the cutoff. For this step, the length of the k-mers was set to 7 and the minimum frequency parameter was set to 5. After the masking of rare variants, the sequences were clustered with the software CD HIT v.4.5.427 by setting a threshold of percent identity equal to 99%. The average coverage of the mtDNA target regions for each single pool and target region is summarized in Supplementary Table S7.
Sequence clusters with a length greater than 200 bp were aligned to the H. sapiens mitochondrial genome (gb|NC_012920.1) using the program “bwa”28 with default parameters. In this step, each pool of sequences was independently aligned against the reference sequence17. The alignment files were saved as standard SAM files. Variant calling was performed on alignments of sequences representative of each cluster with the software PASS29. For each cluster, the haplotype was defined as the collection of substitutions (either transversions or transitions) that emerged in the variant calling process. Insertions and deletions were not taken into account.
A pre-filtering step for estimation of the mtDNA haplogroups represented in our cluster sequences was performed with the software HaploGrep30, which allows the automatic assignment of haplogroups according to Phylotree31. Preliminary assignments of haplogroups to sequence clusters displaying the highest sequence coverage were manually verified. The frequency of each haplogroup was estimated by the number of sequences contained in each cluster assigned to that specific haplogroup. The distribution of haplogroups in the different samples was estimated as above, but by counting the sequences according to the library information. The assembled human mtDNA sequences were deposited in GenBank with accession numbers KM655881-KM655934 (for details, see Supplementary Table S8).
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The authors wish to thank Giulio Fanti, Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Padua, Italy, for providing all the samples used in this study for DNA investigations as sub-sets of the dust particles vacuumed from the back of the Turin Shroud. We also wish to thank Michela Verna, Laboratory of Plant Genetics, University of Padova, for her technical support in the laboratory analyses. This research was supported by the University of Padua: Progetto di Ateneo 2009 (CPDA099244) “Multidisciplinary analysis applied to the Shroud of Turin: A study of body image, of possible environmental pollution and of microparticles characterizing the linen fabric” (Giulio Fanti) and Progetto di Ateneo 2008 (CPDA087818) “Development of tools for the monitoring of biodiversity and the molecular identification of species and varieties in plants of agricultural and forest interest” (Margherita Lucchin and Gianni Barcaccia), by the University of Pavia: strategic theme “Towards a governance model for international migration: an interdisciplinary and diachronic perspective” (MIGRAT-IN-G) and by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research: Progetti Futuro in Ricerca 2012 (RBFR126B8I) (Alessandro Achilli and Anna Olivieri) and Progetti Ricerca Interesse Nazionale 2012 (Alessandro Achilli and Antonio Torroni).
Laboratorio di Genomica, DAFNAE – Università di Padova, Via Università 16, Legnaro, 35020, ItalyGianni Barcaccia & Giulio Galla
Dipartimento di Chimica, Biologia e Biotecnologie, Università di Perugia, Via Elce di Sotto 8, Perugia, 06123, ItalyAlessandro Achilli
Dipartimento di Biologia e Biotecnologie “L. Spallanzani”, Università di Pavia, Via Ferrata 9, Pavia, 27100, ItalyAnna Olivieri & Antonio Torroni
G.B. and G.G. conceived and designed the research. G.G., A.O., A.A., A.T. and G.B. analysed and interpreted the data. All the authors wrote and approved the manuscript.
The history of the Shroud can be divided into three phases.
The period from 1901 AD to the present day has been an era in which our knowledge of the Shroud has been massively increased through the efforts of researchers worldwide who are keen to unlock the mysteries surrounding this enigmatic cloth.
There is a widely accepted, continous historical record that traces the existance of the Shroud back to 1355 AD, when it was first exhibited in Europe by a French nobleman named Geoffroi de Charny. However, no one knows how de Charny came to possess the Shroud and so the trail ends here.
There are no undisputed historical records that cover the period from 33 AD to the fourteenth century but there are several manuscripts and accounts that date from these years which allude to a miraculous image of Christ that was “not made by hands”. By piecing together these references, it is possible to complete a historical jigsaw which traces the Shroud back to first century Judea.
The most notable details of the Shroud’s two thousand year history are shown below. Use the tab labels shown to see details of the most significant historical events from each of the three phases of its history.
The Shroud is first mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all of which describe how the body of Jesus was wrapped in a linen cloth and laid in a tomb following His crucifixion.
“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.”
Gospel of Matthew, 27: 57-60
The bible doesn’t mention what happened to this cloth but it seems reasonable to assume that the followers of Jesus would have carried it away and hidden it during the periods of Christian persecution. There is however a bible passage that suggests that the Shroud was used to help spread the message of Christianity. In a letter from St. Paul to followers in the Roman province of Galatia, where some of the new converts were having their faith tested by heretics, he writes:
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”
Galatians, 3: 1
He cannot have been referring to them having been eye-witnesses of the crucifixion as it had taken place several years earlier and hundreds of miles away in Jerusalem. Instead, it seems likely that they could have witnessed the markings of the crucifixion that can be seen on the Shroud.
c. 33 – 50 AD
According to the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, following the crucifixion, the apostle Thomas sent a disciple of Jesus known as Thaddeus to Edessa to heal King Abgar V. Edessa is known today as Urfa, or in Arabic, Şanliurfa, and is the capital city of the Şanliurfa province in south eastern Turkey. Thaddeus had brought a cloth containing a miraculous image of Jesus and after seeing the image, the king was cured. Abgar converted to Christianity and allowed Thaddeus to preach the Christian message throughout his kingdom. He also replaced a pagan image that was mounted above the city gate with the miraculous image.
After the death of Abgar, his son came to the throne and reverted to paganism. He ordered the image of the pagan god to be displayed once again in its former position and commanded that the image of Christ be destroyed. However, a bishop saved the sacred image by sealing it in a wall of the city gate, where it remained for nearly five hundred years.
The city of Edessa miraculously survives an attack by the powerful Persian Army in 544 AD. A contemporary account by a Syrian scholar named Evagrius Scholasticus describes how the Persians laid siege to the city during which they constructed a large mound of timber to help them scale the city walls. The Edessans tried to set the timber mound on fire but without success. On the brink of defeat, they brought out the image of Jesus ‘not made by hands’, washed it with water and sprinkled the water over the timber. It immediately caught fire and quickly reduced to ash and cinders, causing the Persians to abandon the siege.
c. 550 AD
Following this miraculous defence of the city, copies of the Image of Edessa, which became known as the Mandylion, begin to adorn churches throughout the Byzantine Empire. This leads to a stylised representation of Christ and the oldest surviving example is the Christ Pantocrator icon of St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, which dates from approximately 550AD. The facial features of Christ on this and other Byzantine icons painted during this period appear to have been copied from the image seen on the Shroud today.
The Image of Edessa, or Mandylion, remained in the city until 944 when it is taken to Constantinople by the Byzantine emperor Romanos Lecapenos. Its arrival is officially celebrated on August 16th that year, a date that became established as a permanent feast day for the image and is still observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The presence of an image of Jesus ‘not made by human hands’ in Constantinople is documented in several manuscripts dating from the tenth to the thirteenth century.
1203 – 1204 AD
A thirteenth century book called ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’ written by a French knight named Robert de Clari provides more evidence of the Shroud’s presence in Constantinople. He was part of the Fourth Crusade, which had stopped in Constantinople to restore the rightful Emperor to the throne. After this had been achieved the crusaders camped outside the city for several months awaiting their reward. During this time, de Clari explored the city and witnessed the display of a Shroud-like cloth in one of Constantinople’s churches. He wrote:
“And among those other there was another church which was called My Lady Saint Mary of Blachernae, where there was the sheet in which Our Lord had been wrapped, which every Friday, raised itself upright, so that one could see the form of our Lord upon it and no one, either Greek or French, ever knew what became of this sheet when the city was taken.”
Robert de Clari, ‘The Conquest of Constantinople’
After losing patience waiting for their reward, the crusaders attack the city, ransacking palaces, houses and churches for their treasures and prized relics. Their murderous assault of one of the most sacred Christian cities leaves a trail of death and destruction which horrifies Pope Innocent III, who excommunicates the Crusaders.
1204 – 1355 AD
According to de Clari, no one knew what had happened to the Shroud following the sack of Constantinople. Whoever came to possess the Shroud may well have chosen to keep it hidden until this horrendous crime became a distant memory. There are traces of evidence which suggest that it had been in the possession of the Order of Knights Templar, which was eventually purged and disbanded by King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V. In 1314, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Templars, is burned at the stake alongside the Order’s Master of Normandy, a man named Geoffroi de Charny. Intriguingly, the man who will come into possession of the Shroud some forty-one years is also named Geoffroi de Charny.
1353 to 1900 AD
The first known expositions of the Shroud are held in Lirey at a church built by Geoffroi de Charny. He never disclosed how he came to be in possession of the Shroud but some believe that it had come to him from Constantinople. Large crowds of pilgrims are attracted and special souvenir medallions are struck, one of which still survives and can be found today at the Cluny Museum in Paris.
Geoffroi de Charny is killed by the English at the Battle of Poitiers, during a last stand in which he valiantly defends his king. The Shroud remains in the de Charny family’s possession.
The d’Arcis Memorandum
Bishop Pierre d’Arcis of Troyes complains to anti-pope Clement VII at Avignon about the exhibiting of the Shroud at Lirey. He describes the cloth as bearing the double imprint of a crucified man and that it is being claimed as the true Shroud in which Jesus’ body was wrapped, attracting crowds of pilgrims. A draft copy of his letter to the pope, known as the dArcis memorandum, survives to this day.
The following year, Clement VII wrote to Bishop d’Arcis, ordering him to keep silent on the Shroud, under threat of excommunication. On the same date Clement writes a letter to Geoffroi II de Charny (son of Geoffroi de Charny) stating the conditions under which expositions could be allowed.
Margaret de Charny, daughter of Geoffroi II de Charny, receives from Duke Louis I of Savoy the castle of Varambon and revenues of the estate of Miribel near Lyon in return for ‘valuable services’ which are thought to have been the bequest of the Shroud. This is an extraordinary exchange which indicates that Duke Louis could have been in no doubt whatsoever about the authenticity of this sacred relic.
After spending several years moving around with the Savoys during their travels, the Shroud is given a permanent home in the Royal Chapel of Chambéry Castle. The Shroud is displayed on the Chapel’s high altar, then entrusted to the care of archdeacon and the canons of the Chapel, who place it in its case and deposit it behind the high altar, in a special cavity hollowed out of the wall. Access to the cavity is secured by an iron grille with four locks, each opened by separate keys, two of which are held by the Duke of Savoy. Pope Sixtus IV confers on the Chambéry chapel the title Sainte Chapelle.
Fire breaks out in the Sainte Chapelle, seriously damaging all its furnishings and fittings. Canon Philibert Lambert summons the help of a blacksmith to prise open the grille to rescue the case containing the Shroud. The relic is left with a series of burns, as well as water stains resulting from efforts to extinguish the fire. Fortunately, the burns barely touch those areas of the linen cloth that are marked with the image of Christ. Two years after the fire, Poor Clare nuns repair the Shroud by sewing patches over the fire-damaged areas of the Shroud and a large support sheet to the back of the Shroud
The Shroud is moved to a new permanent home in the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista in Turin. In the years that follow, the House of Savoy grows increasingly powerful and eventually becomes the ruler of Italy.
Secondo Pia with a photographic negative of the Shroud
Following a public exposition, Secondo Pia, an Italian amateur photographer, makes the first photograph of the Shroud of Turin. The astonishing discovery that the photographic negative reveals a clear, lifelike image of Christ ushers in a new era in the Shroud’s history: the era of science.
The publication of Secondo Pia’s photographs at the turn of the century causes waves within scientific circles. Professor Yves Delage, who had been agnostic, presents a paper on the Shroud to the Academy of Sciences, Paris, in which he argues for the Shroud’s medical and general scientific convincingness. He concludes by stating that in his opinion, the Shroud had wrapped the body of Christ.
This proves to be a controversial presentation. Marcelin Berthelot, the Secretary for the physics section of the Academy and a resolute atheist, immediately orders Delage to rewrite his paper prior to publication so that it makes no reference to the Shroud or to Christ.
Giuseppe Enrie photographs the Shroud, the first person to do so since Secondo Pia in 1898. The photographs are taken in the presence of the now seventy-six year old Secondo Pia and scientists of the French Academy. Pia had been publicly accused of having manipulated the photographic negatives of the Shroud and so his reputation is finally restored when those taken by Enrie show the same remarkable characteristics.
That year, Dr. Pierre Barbet begins experiments with cadavers to reconstruct the Passion of Jesus as exhibited in the Shroud’s bloodstains and wound marks. His research confirms that the crucifixion nails to the hands had to penetrate the wrists rather than the palms, otherwise they would tear through the skin between the fingers under the weight of the body.
Italy becomes a republic and King Umberto II of Savoy goes into exile in Portugal, never to return.
Turin’s Cardinal Michele Pellegrino gives approval for the Shroud to be secretly taken out of its casket to allow a team of experts to study its state of preservation. They examine and photograph the Shroud over the course of three days but do not perform any direct tests. During this same period, Giovanni Battista Judica-Cordiglia takes the first ever colour photo of the Shroud.
The Shroud is secretly examined by a new Commission of experts, brought together by Cardinal Pellegrino. Professor Gilbert Raes removes samples from the Shroud: a 40 x 13 mm sample from the end edge of the Shroud and a 40 x 10 mm portion from the side-strip, together with one 13 mm warp thread and one 12 mm weft thread. Dr. Max Frei, a Swiss criminalist who had made some notable contributions to forensic science during his career, is also present. He is allowed to take twelve samples of surface dust from the Shroud’s extreme frontal end by pressing adhesive tape onto the surface of the fabric.
In 1976, a group of scientists who are using a VP-8 Image Analyzer to evaluate x-rays, put a 1931 Enrie photograph of the Shroud of Turin into the device. This is an instrument that had been designed in the 1970s which converts the light and dark shading of an image into vertical relief. When applied to normal photographs, the result is a distorted and inaccurate representation of the original image. However, when it is applied to the Shroud, the result is an accurate, ‘three-dimensional’ image showing the correct, natural relief characteristics of a human form. Two of these scientists, Dr. Eric Jumper and Dr. John Jackson, are so intrigued by this extraordinary and unexpected result that they decide to form a research team, the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) to investigate the image on the cloth.
John Jackson and Eric Jumper with the VP-8 Image Analyzer
People queuing to watch ‘The Silent Witness’
The scientific discoveries that had been made during previous studies of the Shroud had caught the attention of author Ian Wilson and film producer David Rolfe. Ian Wilson’s 1978 book, The Turin Shroud, becomes an international best seller and David Rolfe’s film, The Silent Witness released at Easter that year, smashes box office records and wins a British Academy Award. The result is an upsurge in interest in the Shroud, particularly in the English-speaking world and by the late 1970s, this ancient relic in now an object of intense twentieth century media curiosity.
At the end of a public exposition in Turin, the Shroud is removed from public display and taken into the Hall of Visiting Princes within Turin’s Royal Palace to be examined, photographed and sampled over a period of five days. The scientists involved included the STURP team from the USA plus specialists from Europe including Max Frei, Giovanni Riggi di Numana and Professor Pierluigi Baima-Bollone. The Shroud is examined and photographed using photographic floodlighting, low-power X-rays and narrow band ultraviolet light. Dozens of samples are removed from the fabric surface using sticky tape and apparatus is inserted between the Shroud and its backing cloth to examine the underside, which has not been seen in over 400 years. The bottom edge (at the foot of the frontal image) is also unstitched and examined. Baima Bollone obtains samples of a Shroud bloodstain by mechanically disentangling warp and weft threads in the area of the ‘small of the back’ bloodstain on the Shroud’s dorsal image.
Preparing the Shroud for the 1978 STURP Examination
STURP continues its examinations around the clock performing dozens of tests, taking thousands of photographs, photomicrographs, x-rays and spectra. A total of 120 hours of continuous testing is carried out, with team members working on different parts of the Shroud simultaneously. This is the most in-depth series of tests ever performed on the Shroud of Turin.
After three years of exhaustive study and evaluation of the data collected in the 1978 Shroud examination, STURP issues its Final Report. This concludes that:
“The answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery.
We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”
King Umberto II of Savoy dies in into exile in Portugal. He bequeaths the Shroud to the Pope and his successors.
Removal of the Shroud C-14 dating sample
In April, under the supervision of Dr. Michael Tite of the British Museum, a 7 cm by 1 cm strip of cloth is removed from a corner of the Shroud. Postage-stamp sized samples are cut from the strip and given to representatives of three radiocarbon laboratories based in Arizona, Oxford and Zurich. These are taken back to the laboratories to be dated along with three control samples.
The tests are conducted by the laboratories over the summer and results are reported to Michael Tite for analysis by his team of British Museum Statisticians. The result is eventually announced on October 13th at two press conferences, one held in Italy by the Cardinal Ballestrero, Archbshop of Turin and one in the UK held by Michael Tite, along with Edward Hall and Robert Hedges from the Oxford laboratory. They announce that the Shroud is medieval in origin, dating to the period 1260-1390 AD.
The radiocarbon test report is eventually published four months after the result announcement and immediately causes concern within scientific circles for what appear to be errors in the reporting and analysis of the results. After failing to obtain any satisfactory explanation for these errors, several scientists request to see the laboratory test data but these requests are repeatedly refused. The test data will remain hidden for another twenty eight years.
Fire breaks out in Turin’s Guarini Chapel, quickly threatening the Shroud’s bulletproof display case. Fireman Mario Trematore uses a sledgehammer to break open this case and the Shroud, in its traditional casket, is taken temporarily to Cardinal Saldarini’s residence. Signs of arson are found in the Royal Chapel, the walls of which are very badly damaged. Also damaged are the whole High Altar end of the cathedral and the part of the Royal Palace directly adjoining the Chapel
We are grateful to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, Department of Fire Corps, Public Rescue and Civil Defense, Command of the Turin Fire and Rescue Service for the inclusion of the film of the fire in the Guarini Chapel.
A small group of textile experts, headed by Mechthild Flury-Lemberg of Switzerland perform a radical restoration of the Shroud under the auspices of the Archbishop of Turin and his advisors and with the full permission of the Vatican. They remove the thirty patches sewn into the cloth by Poor Clare Nuns in 1534 to repair burn holes from the 1532 fire and replace the backing cloth (frequently referred to as the “Holland Cloth”) that was sewn onto the back of the Shroud in 1534 to strengthen the fire damaged relic. The Shroud is handled without gloves and is exposed to bright light and airborne pollution for the thirty-two day duration of this work.
This restoration is carried out in secret, without consulting any of the world’s Shroud experts that could have helped ensure that no valuable scientific or historical data was lost or damaged during the restoration. The way the restoration is handled attracts considerable criticism from within the Shroud research community.
Former STURP member Ray Rogers publishes a peer-reviewed scientific paper in the Thermochimica Acta journal. Amongst the findings reported in this paper is the result of chemical tests of Shroud threads that indicate that it is much older than the date given by the radiocarbon test. His tests had detected the presence of vanillin, a substance found in linen which slowly decays over time but which can be detected in medieval samples of linen. In contrast, vanillin could not be found in threads from the Shroud. Rogers concludes that the Shroud must be at least 1300 years old.
A group of Italian scientists led by Professor Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua develop three new and innovative ways of dating minute samples of linen. These involve measurements of spectroscopic and mechanical properties of flax. After calibrating their equipment by testing samples of known age dating back to 3500 BC, they use these techniques to date samples of Shroud material. All three tests give results that are close to the first century, with a mean value of 33 BC.
The extraordinary image seen on the Shroud continues to defy science. During the past century, several scientists have had the opportunity to examine the image in detail in an attempt to understand how it was formed. However, no-one has yet been able to explain how the image was created and despite many attempts, no-one has been able to produce an image with the characteristics of the image of the Man of the Shroud.
The Faint Image
Those people who are fortunate enough to have closely examined the Shroud agree that whilst the faint image of the Man of the Shroud is visible from a distance, the markings cannot be seen when viewed at close quarters. In the words of author Ian Wilson, “The closer one tries to examine them, the more they seem to melt like the mist.”.
A microscopic examination of threads from the image areas of the Shroud reveals a number of fascinating characteristics.
The markings are caused by extremely superficial yellowing of the surface of the fabric.
There are no colour changes in the threads other than in topmost two or three fibres and the discolouration only affects the external cell wall of these fibres.
The hue of the discoloured fibres doesn’t change: it is the same in both the light and dark shaded areas. The variation in shade intensity is instead caused by differences in the number of yellowed fibres present in a given area.
No discoloured fibres have been found beneath the bloodstains on the Shroud, which indicates that the bloodstains must have been present when the image was formed.
The image is formed by discolouration of the surface fibres in the fabric
The Photographic Negative
Ever since the Shroud was photographed for the first time in 1898, people have been fascinated by the photographic negative image. The light and dark areas are reversed, revealing an unusually realistic perfection which has so far proved impossible for artists to replicate. Indeed, a British artist and agnostic named John Weston became convinced of the Shroud’s authenticity after attempting to produce, tone by tone, a duplicate Shroud for the film The Silent Witness.
The 3-D Effect
Another unique feature of the Shroud image was discovered in 1976 when it was scanned by Dr. John Jackson and Dr. Eric Jumper using a VP-8 Image Analyzer. This is an instrument which is able to convert a two-dimensional black and white image into a three-dimensional representation, by generating a vertical relief profile based upon the intensity of shading on the image. When this device was used with photographs or paintings, the result was a distorted and inaccurate representation of the original image. However, the Shroud image produced an accurate three-dimensional representation of the Man of the Shroud, with facial features, arms, legs and chest all contoured correctly. The two scientists later demonstrated this to Peter Schumacher, the inventor of the device. He later recalled his astonishment:
I had never heard of the Shroud of Turin before that moment. I had no idea what I was looking at. However, the results are unlike anything I have processed through the VP-8 Analyzer, before or since. Only the Shroud of Turin has produced these results from a VP-8 Image Analyzer isometric projection study.
The VP-8 image of the Shroud Face
STURP Image Investigations
Moving the Shroud to the STURP Examination Table
The primary purpose of the 1978 STURP examination was to determine the scientific properties of the image on the Shroud of Turin, and what might have caused it. They were able to examine the Shroud for five days, during which they also took numerous X-Ray, Ultraviolet and natural light photographs and obtained surface samples by pressing adhesive tape onto the surface of the Shroud. After three years of studying all the data which they had collected, they published their report conclusions.
“No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found on the fibrils. X-ray, fluorescence and microchemistry on the fibrils preclude the possibility of paint being used as a method for creating the image. Ultra Violet and infrared evaluation confirm these studies. Computer image enhancement and analysis by a device known as a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it. Microchemical evaluation has indicated no evidence of any spices, oils, or any biochemicals known to be produced by the body in life or in death. It is clear that there has been a direct contact of the Shroud with a body, which explains certain features such as scourge marks, as well as the blood. However, while this type of contact might explain some of the features of the torso, it is totally incapable of explaining the image of the face with the high resolution that has been amply demonstrated by photography.
The basic problem from a scientific point of view is that some explanations which might be tenable from a chemical point of view, are precluded by physics. Contrariwise, certain physical explanations which may be attractive are completely precluded by the chemistry. For an adequate explanation for the image of the Shroud, one must have an explanation which is scientifically sound, from a physical, chemical, biological and medical viewpoint. At the present, this type of solution does not appear to be obtainable by the best efforts of the members of the Shroud Team. Furthermore, experiments in physics and chemistry with old linen have failed to reproduce adequately the phenomenon presented by the Shroud of Turin. The scientific concensus is that the image was produced by something which resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself. Such changes can be duplicated in the laboratory by certain chemical and physical processes. A similar type of change in linen can be obtained by sulfuric acid or heat. However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately.
Thus, the answer to the question of how the image was produced or what produced the image remains, now, as it has in the past, a mystery.
We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved.”
The investigation had achieved a notable success as it had confirmed that the image on the Shroud wasn’t the work of an artist. Unfortunately however, it failed to unlock the mystery of how the image had been formed.
Reproducing the Image Characteristics
One group of scientists have attempted to reproduce one of the unusual characteristics of the Shroud image. A team of Italian scientists led by physicist Paolo di Lazzaro succeeded in producing the same highly-superficial discolouration of linen fibres using Excimer Lasers. This was achieved by directing short, high-energy pulses of ultraviolet light at a small, one square centimetre sized sample of linen fabric. They calculated that to scale this up to a Shroud-sized linen cloth would require pulse durations of less than one forty-billionth of a second and intensities of the order of several billion watts!
Paolo di Lazzaro and colleagues
Forensic science is an important tool used by justice systems all over the world to help analyse evidence found at a crime scene. A bloodstained cloth found at a murder scene can reveal a great deal about the crime and the cause of death, which often helps to establish the guilt or innocence of a suspect. Although the death of Jesus Christ took place two thousand years ago, the same techniques can be applied to study the Shroud. These studies have produced some remarkable findings which tell us a great deal about the cloth and the body that had been wrapped inside it.
Forensic Analysis of the Cloth
There are several textile-related characteristics of the Shroud that are entirely consistent with it having a first century, middle eastern origin.
The dimensions of the cloth are 4.4 metres by 1.1 metres, which corresponds to 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits, the unit of measure that was used in that region during the time of Christ.
Most Egyptian linen yarn at that time was spun anti-clockwise which produces a ‘S’ twist but the Shroud yarn was spun clockwise, producing a ‘Z’ twist, which was typical of textiles from the Syro-Palestinian region during the first century.
According to textile expert Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, the seam stitching used to attach a side-strip to the main body of the Shroud is unusual and closely resembles Jewish textiles found at Masada, the Jewish fortress which was overthrown by the Romans in 73 AD.
Some cotton fibres have been found in the linen yarn of the Shroud. The small quantities suggests that they are stray fibres from earlier work with cotton by the weaver who produced the Shroud. The cotton fibres have been identified as Gossypium Herbaceum, a type of cotton native to the Middle East. However, no wool fibres have been found, which is to be expected if the textile workers were observing the Mosaic law of the Jews, which prohibits the mixing of linen and wool.
From a forensic viewpoint, all the blood marks depicted were in agreement with the historic descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion:
The presence of flog marks.
The blood flow on the arms indicates they were elevated and in an extended position.
The presence of what appears to be a lance wound.
Marks on the head that could be attributed to a crown of thorns.
Wounds on the wrists and feet consistent with being nailed to the cross.
The nail wounds on the wrist have been shown to be forensically correct. Pierre Barbet’s experiments with cadavers showed that nails driven through the palms as shown in most artistic renditions of a crucifixion will not support the weight of a suspended human body.
Blood images also appear thickened on the edges which is consistent with them being formed from clotted blood rather than fresh flowing blood. There are also visible serum rings, which would be expected due to serum being exuded from the blood as scabs are formed. The shape of the stain on the wrist and the direction of flows of blood on the forearms indicates that the arms were approximately 65 degrees above the horizontal at the time of the blood flow. The divergence of the streams suggests that two positions were adopted with an angle difference of about 10 degrees. This indicates that the victim elevated his body by pushing up from the feet to relieve the pressure on the chest and then changing position to take the full body weight on the wrists.
Over the years, several highly qualified medical scientists have performed detailed examinations of the Shroud including:
Dr. Yves Delage, Professor of Comparative Anatomy, Paris
Dr. Paul Vignon, Professor of Biology, Paris
Dr. Pierre Barbet, Professor of Anatomy, Paris
Dr. Robert Bucklin, MD, Forensic Examiner, Los Angeles
Dr. Frederick Zugibe, Chief Medical Examiner, New York
Dr. Pierluigi Baima-Bollone, Chief of Forensic Medicine, Turin
They all reached a common conclusion: the Shroud had wrapped the body of a crucified man and the bloodstains and other markings are consistent with the Gospel descriptions of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Chemical Analysis of the Blood
A chemical analysis of the blood deposits on the Shroud confirmed the presence of typical blood constituents such as protein, hemin, bilirubin, and albumin. In contrast, no mercury compounds or iron oxides were found which would typically be expected had these marks been made by an artist. The blood also contained both type A and type B antigens, characteristic of blood group AB.
Although blood stains usually darken over time, traumatic shock of the type experienced after flogging and crucifixion causes red blood cells to rupture. The released haemoglobin is degraded by the liver to form bilirubin, which causes the blood stains to retain a reddish-orange hue, matching the appearance of the blood stains on the Shroud. The chemical evidence of the Shroud blood indicates that not only was it human blood, but that it was shed by someone who suffered a traumatic death.
How the Shroud was wrapped around the body
The imprint on the burial cloth represents the body of an adult male, approximate 5 feet eleven inches in height (1.8 metres) and weighing between 160 to 170 pounds (72.5 to 77.1 kilograms). The general appearance of the body indicates stiffness suggesting that rigor mortis is present.
There is a three inch (eight centimetre) wide, full length linen strip sewn onto the side of the Shroud with a clearly visible seam. When this is photographed with the Shroud lit from behind, it reveals banding caused by inconsistencies in the yarn used to weave the Shroud. The banding marks on both sides of the seam match exactly, which indicates that the so-called side strip had been part of the cloth when it was woven but had been cut out and later stitched back into its original position.
Photograph showing the banding which is continuous across the seam
John Jackson demonstrating how the side strip was used to wrap the Shroud
Dr. John Jackson has experimented with a life-sized model of the body and a replica of the Shroud to see whether the bloodstains on the cloth align with the wounds around the head, hands, side and feet. He believes that after the body had been placed in the Shroud, one end of the strip was tied tightly around the feet, before wrapping the strip around the knees to keep the legs together, then around the torso and finally around the head before tying the other end of the strip beneath the chin.
When the body is wrapped this way, the bloodstains on the cloth are perfectly aligned with the wounds and the image aligns with the body’s shape and position. This use of the side strip also explains a passage in the Gospel of John which describes what he and the apostle Peter found when they entered the empty tomb following the resurrection:
Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Gospel of John, 20: 6-7
The reference to linen clothes, rather than a linen cloth, has caused some bible scholars to question whether John was referring to the Shroud. However, if Dr. Jackson’s side strip explanation is correct, it accounts for why the apostle referred to the linen clothes when he saw the Shroud lying with the side strip.
Forensic Analysis of Dust Deposits
Max Frei, a criminalist who specialised in forensic analysis, examined the Shroud on two occasions, in 1973 and 1978, during which he pressed adhesive tapes against the surface of the Shroud to extract surface dust and other deposits. He found pollen grains when he analysed the dust deposits under a microscope and was subsequently able to identify the species of plant that these were from. Some of these species were plants native to France or Italy but approximately half of them were not found in Europe. There were pollen grains from species that were specific to areas of Palestine, including the Dead Sea area, as well as from plants that are only found in the Anatolia region of Turkey, which is where the city of Urfa, formerly Edessa, is located. He also found pollen from species found only in the area of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople.
The pollen evidence supports the claims of some historians that prior to its arrival in Europe, the Shroud had spent periods of time in Judea, Edessa and Constantinople.
Some of the surface dust samples that had been collected using sticky tape were analysed by Joseph Kohlbeck, an optical crystallographer. After discovering some limestone particles amongst the Shroud’s fibres, he visited Jerusalem in order to obtain samples from the limestone of the ancient rock-cut tombs to see if there might be any kind of match between the characteristics of the Jerusalem limestone and the particles found on the Shroud. Both had a crystalline structure that indicated an uncommon form of limestone known as Travertine Aragonite and they both contained small quantities of iron and strontium, but not lead, which was another unusual similarity.
Dr. Ricardo Levi-Setti of the University of Chicago took this analysis a step further by putting both Shroud and Jerusalem dust samples through his high-resolution scanning ion microprobe. This confirmed that the samples were an unusually close match.
There were high concentrations of this dust found around the foot area of the Shroud but some was also found in the areas corresponding to the tip of the nose and the left knee. This is consistent with the Christian tradition of Jesus walking barefoot carrying a cross and falling under its weight.
The Shroud has also been shown to contain traces of aloe and myrrh, which are substances associated with traditional Jewish burial practice during the first century.
Spectra produced by limestone found in Jerusalem and limestone dust extracted from the Shroud
In 1988, three radiocarbon laboratories dated samples of the Shroud of Turin and boldly announced that it was a medieval forgery, dating to the period 1260-1390AD. This conclusion was completely incompatible with the findings from the previous ninety years of Shroud studies, but as far as the radiocarbon scientists were concerned, and most of the world’s media, this was now the only evidence that mattered.
This dating result and the conclusion that the Shroud was a medieval forgery made headlines worldwide and was devastating news for the millions who had believed the Shroud to be a sacred relic. However, it wasn’t long before details emerged revealing how this test had fallen short of acceptable scientific practice, with several breaches of agreed test protocols and a controversial statistical interpretation of the dating measurements. Sadly, these revelations failed to generate a fraction of the publicity given to the controversial C-14 dating result.
Fortunately, there are other ways of determining the age of historical objects. There are a number of very distinctive markings on the cloth, such as the body and facial images, wounds, bloodstains and scorched areas. Various historical artefacts have been discovered which have an extraordinarily close match to some of these features, including iconography created by artists who appear to have copied from the Shroud. We know the age of many of these artefacts and these effectively provide date-stamped snapshots tracing the Shroud’s history. Scientists have also developed new and innovative ways of measuring the age of ancient linen fabric which have been used to date small samples of material from the Shroud.
You can access details of this dating evidence from the timeline below. As you will see, there is overwhelming evidence that the Shroud of Turin is much older than the C-14 test indicated.
Dating Evidence Timeline
Coins over the Eyes?
In 1980, Professor Francis Filas of Loyola University in Chicago and Michael Marx, an expert in classical coins, detected patterns on coins which had been placed over the eyes. The coin on the right eye appeared to be a lepton, a coin minted between 29 and 36AD by Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor of Judea which depicts a staff circled by the words TIBERIOU KAISAROS. When viewing photographs of the Shroud at high magnification, Filas identified the staff and the letters UCAI. This almost matched the lepton coin but curiously the letter C was found where he expected to see a letter K. This initially undermined his findings until two lepton coins with exactly the same misspelling came to light.
This was regarded by many as a particularly important discovery as it appeared to confirm the presence of the Shroud at both the time and place of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, several scholars have doubts that it was the custom in first century Jewish burials to place coins over the eyes of the deceased, particularly pagan coins celebrating a Roman Emperor. Shroud scientists who specialise in photography and image processing have also questioned the photographic processing that was used to reveal the alleged lepton markings. Filas had made progressively enlarged, high-contrast copies of an original 1931 photograph taken by Giuseppe Enrie, a process which produces clumps in the grain structure of the film that can alter the image. In addition, some of the markings appear to correspond to threads in the weave of the Shroud.
The reliability of the coin evidence discovered by Professor Filas has clearly been undermined by the opinion of these experts. However, until it is proven that there aren’t any discoloured fibres which correspond to the alleged lepton markings, the possibility that coins were placed over the eyes of the Man of the Shroud cannot be dismissed.
A forensic analysis of the markings and bloodstains found on the Shroud of Turin reveals a remarkable amount of detail about the brutal injuries sustained by the Man of the Shroud. These injuries are entirely consistent with the gospel accounts of the trial, torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Shroud therefore provides a visual record that corroborates those accounts but unlike the gospels which were written several years after the crucifixion, this record of events was created at the time that they occurred. This sacred cloth can be considered to be a Fifth Gospel which provides us with a powerful, visual account of the vicious brutality which Jesus Christ endured in the hours before his death on the cross.
“And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?”
There is evidence of a swelling on the right cheek, just below the eye and indications of other blows to the face, to the nose and above the eyes.
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.”
The back of the Man of the Shroud is covered with distinct marks from the shoulders down to the backs of the calves. There are a smaller number of similar wounds found on the front of the body. The shape of these markings is consistent with the wounds produced by a violent flogging with a Roman flagrum. There are at least 120 such markings over the body and their position indicates that the scourging was carried out by two men, one on each side of the body.
“And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe.”
There are bloodstains all around the head showing that sharp objects, such as thorns, had pierced the scalp in several places. The position of these bloodstains suggests that the crown of thorns was not a circlet as often depicted, but a cap which circled the head and covered the crown. It seems quite likely that the Roman soldiers, who were intent on mocking Jesus as ‘King of the Jews’, would have loosely plaited a cap-shaped crown of thorns from a clump of thorny branches, rather than taking the trouble to replicate the traditional shape of a crown.
Traces of pollen from a species of thorny thistle called Gundelia Tournefortii have been found around in the head area of the Shroud. This finding provides further endorsement of the gospel accounts.
“Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.”
Although the scourge marks are quite clear and distinct, the marks around the shoulders and shoulder blades appear to be smudged. After examining the Shroud, forensic pathologist Robert Bucklin noted that these appeared to be abrasions of the skin surfaces. These abrasions were consistent with a heavy object, such as a beam, being carried on the shoulders and rubbing against the skin. We do not know whether the Man of the Shroud was forced to carry a full cross or just the cross beam.
“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”
There are bloodstains on the arms of the Man of the Shroud which emanate from nail-sized wounds in the wrist. The pattern of the blood flow from the wounds and down the arms conforms with the angle of outstretched arms in crucifixion. Although artists down the centuries have consistently depicted the nail wounds as being in the palms of the hands rather than the wrists, a French surgeon named Pierre Barbet has demonstrated that nails in this position would tear through the fingers under the weight of the body. He also suggested that a nail through the wrist would damage the median nerve, causing the thumb to retract. This explains why the thumbs cannot be seen on the Shroud.
“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”
There is a flow of blood from the heel area of the Man of the Shroud and a pool of blood around the ball of the foot. It is possible that two nails could have been used to hold the feet but a recent discovery of the skeleton of a crucifixion victim revealed that a nail had been driven through the area near the heel and ankle. This nail position would be capable of supporting the weight of a man and could have produced the blood stains seen around the foot area of the Shroud.
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.”
John 19: 31-33
Breaking the legs of a crucified person was a way to ensure that they died quickly. With legs broken, the victim cannot push themselves up to breathe, causing death by suffocation. The image of the Man of the Shroud shows that his legs were unbroken.
“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”
John 19: 34
There is a large wound on the right which appears to penetrate the body between the fifth and sixth ribs. The shape of this wound matches the leaf shaped blade of the Roman Lancea and the stains around the wound appear to be a mixture of blood and a clear, plasma-like fluid. Some physicians have suggested that the clear fluid would have emanated from the pericardium, which is membrane surrounding the heart which would have been pierced by the spear. Others believe it to be a plural effusion caused by trauma to the chest from the severe flogging. Both camps do however agree that it is entirely plausible that blood and water would have flowed from the spear wound.
Ancient tradition claims the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. This claim is supported by the full-size front and dorsal (back) images on the Shroud of a man that was crucified exactly as the New Testament says Jesus was crucified. In 1978, experiments on the Shroud by the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) indicated the images are not due to pigment, any liquid, a scorch, or photography. The three main mysteries of the Shroud of Turin are: 1) how the images were formed, 2) how to explain the carbon dating of the Shroud, and 3) why the blood that would have dried on the body is now on the Shroud. The vertically collimated radiation burst (VCRB) hypothesis proposes that: 1) the images were formed when charged particles in the radiation burst caused a static discharge from the top fibers facing the body, which caused electrical heating and/or ozone to discolor the fibers that form the front and dorsal images, 2) neutrons in the radiation burst were absorbed in the trace amount of N-14 in the Shroud to produce new C-14 in the fibers that shifted the carbon date forward from its true date, and 3) if the vertically collimated radiation burst were sufficiently brief and intense, it could have thrust the dried blood vertically off the body onto the Shroud. This video is made by Bob Rucker. He has an MS degree in nuclear engineering and worked in the nuclear industry for 38 years. He has been studying the Shroud since 2014 and has written 32 papers on the Shroud, as of April 2022, that are available on the research page of his website http://www.shroudresearch.net.
What does historical research reveal about the Shroud of Turin? What have been the results of scientific testing? Is the Shroud a fraud, or could it possibly be the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth? We’ll explore these questions and more with Shroud researcher John Long on today’s episode of Digging for Truth.
The Shroud of Turin is secured in a vault in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, the Shroud is believed by millions to be the burial cloth of Jesus. It is a fine linen cloth, measuring 14.5 feet by 3.5 feet, and mysteriously displays a finely detailed negative photographic image — front and back, head to toe, of an anatomically correct man who appears to have been tortured, beaten, and crucified. Note that, in their accounts of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, all four Gospels mention a “fine linen cloth.”
The Shroud of Turin is among the most studied, controversial and enigmatic of all archaeological objects. The Turin Shroud is an old linen fabric imprinted with the image of a man who lies prone with his hands crossed before him. The big effort spent in studying the Turin Shroud has produced a huge amount of observations and features describing it. Unfortunately this knowledge is not well classified and structured, and it is frequently presented as ordered lists or tables of properties of the archaeological object. This paper proposes a modeling approach borrowed from systems engineering and computer science, to be applied to the structuring of the Turin Shroud knowledge representation. The scope of the research modeling presented in the paper includes those features related to the image, but includes, although incompletely, other features as well.
The author of the Fourth Gospel spends ten verses telling the opening story about what the disciples first discovered on the morning of the Resurrection. Much of that narrative focuses on the funeral linens left behind in the empty tomb. Concerning those linens, we are told that the apostle John “saw and believed.” This paper will analyze this passage and strive to discern what exactly the writer intended for his readers to understand. Since this author believes the scientific 2 and historical 3 evidence for the Shroud of Turin is more than enough to conclude it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus, he will explore the possibility of this text being a veiled reference to that Shroud.