A new taint on the Shroud of Turin?

October 6, 2009


(Photo: An archive negative image of the Shroud of Turin (L) next to one created by Luigi Garlaschelli and released in Pavia, Italy, on 5 Oct 2009/Turin Diocese (L) and Luigi Garlaschelli (R)/Turin Diocese (L) and Luigi Garlaschelli)

Italian scientist Luigi Garlaschelli tells me he has been getting lots of hate mail as well as emails of support since our Oct 5 story that he had reproduced the Shroud of Turin with material available in the Middle Ages, a feat that he says proves definitively that the linen some Christians revere as Jesus Christ’s burial cloth is a medieval fake.

Given the controversy that has surrounded the Shroud, particularly since the 1988 carbon dating tests, this was hardly a surprise. One of Christianity’s most disputed relics, it is locked away at Turin Cathedral in Italy and rarely exhibited. It was last on display in 2000 and is due to be shown again next year. The Catholic Church does not claim the Shroud is authentic nor that it is a matter of faith, but says it should be a powerful reminder of Christ’s passion.

Until now, scientists have been at a loss to explain how the eery image like a photographic negative of a crucified man was left on the cloth.  Garlaschelli, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, will present his findings at a conference in northern Italy this weekend.


(Photo: An archive negative image of the Shroud of Turin (L) in full length next to one created by Luigi Garlaschelli and released in Pavia, Italy, on 5 Oct 2009/Turin Diocese (L) and Luigi Garlaschelli (R)

No one expects this to be the last we hear of the Shroud. As Garlaschelli told me in our telephone interview, those who fervently believe the Shroud is real will continue to do so. Our main news website,, gave a rough gauge of international interest in the Shroud in its “Most Popular” rankings. Over 24 hours after we ran the news, it was still the third most popular story out there, ahead of a host of important economic stories and the latest twists in the David Letterman sex scandal. That says something about how the Shroud still arouses passions — whether it is 2,000 years old or only 700.

What is your feeling on the Shroud and the controversy that has surrounded it. Does it make a difference to one’s faith if it is real or not?

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58 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Noah – your posting is full of completely inaccurate information. Let’s dissect this.”No scientist has any issue with the carbon dating. And according to this, the shroud was a fake.” Correct on the first part. However, all the dating tells us is that date of the samples. From that we have to decide if we can infer anything about the shroud proper. Sampling has long been an issue with C14 dating, and the shroud is far from the only antiquity to be incorrectly dated as a result.”People have argued various reasons for why the dating was flawed, but none of these arguments are scientific or have been disproven.” Totally false. Ray Rogers published his findings regarding that invalid sampling in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. His results were validated by other scientists independently. It’s important to note as well that Dr. Rogers was totally expecting to prove the carbon dating was valid, and had debunked earlier attempts to discredit the C14 dating. His results were a surprise to him and he made quite certain to validate them fully before publishing.”Multiple samples were tested, using different science teams, at several different times over the decade.” Also not accurate. The samples were all taken from the same area on the edge of the shroud, so essentially the same sample. Here is the quote from the original paper on the radiocarbon dating that clearly states this:”The strip came from a single site on the main body of the shroud away from any patches or charred areas.”It was very, very poor sampling and has little validity for proving the age of the entire shroud, unless we can prove definitely that the sample is exactly representative of the shroud proper. All the evidence indicates this is not the case.”There is no actual evidence that the tested samples were any different to the rest of the shroud.” There is CONSIDERABLE evidence. There is cotton present in the sample (not present in the shroud). There is vanillin present (not present in the shroud). There is a dye-gum mixture on the sample (not present in the shroud). The area even appears darker to the naked eye than other areas of the shroud (the result of the dyed cotton aging differently than other areas). The scientists that did the C14 testing even commented on “fibres of other origins” found prior to testing the samples. The evidence is overwhelming that this was not a valid sample and the testing simply cannot be considered accurate. No matter how much you would like it to be.”But just because we have not figured out how to make it yet, doesn’t negate the carbon evidence. As far as science is concerned, the shroud is fake.”I agree, negating the C14 results has nothing to do with whether or not we know how the image is made. Nor can we say that because we don’t know how the image was made, that it had to be of supernatural origin. Many of us, Dr. Rogers included, feel there was a natural phenomenon at work that caused the image formation (the amine vapors from a decomposing body causing a Mailliard reaction that formed the image is the leading theory currently). The word “fake” implying that someone purposely created the image is highly improbable given what we know about it. Nor has science come even remotely close to proving that it was a “fake” in that respect. You cannot just pick and choose what science you want to believe just because it fits what you want to be true. However, there’s nothing that we’ve learned about the shroud that would force anyone to believe something of a religious nature either. Even should the shroud actually match the historical person of Jesus, that need not lead one to assume that it had to be of supernatural origin. One could postulate just as easily that the natural formation of this unusual image was what gave rise to the “story” of resurrection.

Posted by Mary Jo | Report as abusive

Many excuses vetted by creationists have been been debunked over the years.In one case, a documentary attributed a CO2 reaction theory to a Dr. Ramsey, a scientist who had never even heard the theory before. Dr. Ramsey not only dismissed the link to him as the theories creator, but went on to disprove the theory itself.Another similar theory was proposed by Dr Kouznetsov. It was later shown that he had not only never done the experiments he had claimed, but he was arrested for accepting a bribe to manufature scientific evidence as to the shroud’s legitimacy. Radiocarbon_14_dating_of_the_Shroud_of_T urin#The_1985_rift_between_S.Tu.R.P._and _the_candidate_labsThe scientific community generally accept that the radiocarbon dating was accurate.A single reference to Ray Rogers does not overturn radiocarbon dating, chemistry, pigment analysis and years of scientific inquiry.It is true that his post-death article was published, but there is serious misgivings about his findings.-The vatican has denied allowing him to do any testing on the shroud, or giving him any samples.-His ‘home experiments’ were not subject to any independent quality control, assuming that they happened at all.-He reached a conclusion on the shroud’s age which was not based on any data in his findings.-Textile and pigment experts (some admitted creationists) have since claimed that his assertions as to the different compounds in the shroud samples compared to are incorrect.-Several of his references either do not actually support his claims, or were based on the conclusions of others who were not experts in the relevent scientific fields.-There are concerns that his article was not properly peer reviewed, and was submitted into a journal it was not eligable to be included in.You are free to read: shroud/articles/rogers-ta-response.htmOt her references can certainly be found, but few consider the issue worth discussing in detail.Even if Ray Rogers research on the was somehow credible, it does not in itself validate the radiocarbon dating.For the test to be dismissed, an ‘accurate’ sample must be provided. The vatican has refused to provide this sample. And while we can only guess at the vaticans motives for failing to do so, the radiocarbon tests must be considered definitive until proven otherwise.And even if his research was credible, and a sample was provided, and the age turned out to be 2000 years, this STILL doesn’t prove anything other then it’s age.While proving the shroud is not 2000 years old certainly proves it is not legitimate.

Posted by Noah Idea | Report as abusive

“Wikipedia- Walter McCrone”In 1977, a team of scientists selected by the Holy Shroud Guild developed a program of tests that they proposed to conduct on the Shroud. The Archbishop of Turin granted permission.The STURP scientists conducted their testing over five days in 1978. McCrone, upon analyzing the samples he had, concluded that the red stains that had been pointed to as blood were actually pigment—specifically, red ochre and vermilion tempera paint.Two later additions to the STURP team, John Heller and Alan Adler, published their own peer-reviewed analysis concluding that the stains were blood. (Heller, J.H. and A.D. Adler, “Blood on the Shroud of Turin”, Applied Optics, 19:2742-4, 1980; Heller, J.H. and A.D. Adler, “A Chemical Investigation on the Shroud of Turin”, Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences Journal 81-103, 1981)According to Shroud skeptic Joe Nickell, neither Heller nor Adler was a forensic serologist or a pigment expert.Nickell adds that, “at the 1983 conference of the International Association for Identification, forensic analyst John E Fischer explained how results similar to theirs could be obtained from tempera paint.”

Posted by Ohman | Report as abusive

Yeah right you know is baloney when they say it is a cheap copy done over only a couple of weeks while at the same time they don’t disclose how much funding he had and how long he had to work on it. Not to mention it does not look that much like the showed in overall quality- which is probably why they are trying to down play their efforts. Bottom line… Not a strong copy.

Posted by boon | Report as abusive

McCrone’s conclusions have been disproved numerous times over the last 25+ years. No one has yet to publish any peer-reviewed article to collaborate his “theory” based on tiny specks taken from the shroud with tape. The Vineland Map debacle shows that he is far from a credible source for which to throw away hundreds of other published papers that speak to a different conclusion (the shroud was *not* painted). Yet skeptics continually trot him out because he’s all they really have to base this flawed theory on. One need only view some of the microscopy of the shroud to see that it clearly could not have been painted (the image is too superficial, shows no capillary action, etc) let alone other characteristics that point to some other means of image formation…most likely theory being amine reactions with the starch left by the linen preparation. The age of the shroud is another matter, separate from how the image formed, but McCrone’s conclusions have been disproved by more than just Heller and Adler. They were just the first to do it (and all their conclusions have long since been validated). rd1.pdfAs for Rogers, his conclusions as well were independently confirmed. He, and many of us that are interested in shroud science was hoping for a repeat (with proper sampling) C14 test to be done. Perhaps the Vatican in the future will agree. It’s hard to see why they would. Certainly to the religious, cutting pieces off it is tantamount to desecration. And should the shroud test to be near first century, the skeptics will all just claim the test was faked somehow, they switched samples, something along those lines. They certainly would never accept the results, just as they haven’t accepted the mountain of data that STURP has produced.

Posted by Mary Jo | Report as abusive

From 4 BCE to 30 AD no historical contemporary evidence that Jesus ever existed. No writings, no eye witness accounts on parchment or tablets, no wall carvings, no works of carpentry, no physical description, no generational hand me down information whatsoever, no coins depicting him. To christians jesus is suppose to be the greatest man that ever lived and thousands were suppose to have witnessed his many miracles including his family and the 12 apostles yet at the time they didn’t think he was important enough to write things down about him as was very common back then. Lots of information written at the time about King Herod yet nothing about him slaughtering an entire city of male infants under 2. Libraries full of information about Pontius Pilate personal writings and offical governor documents of Judea yet not one word about a divine man named jesus who was crucified.According to christians The persecution of jesus in jersusalem was such a big deal that Pontius Pilate and the hig priest joseph caiaphas not only knew about it but were part of it according to the scriptures. Matt 21:15-23, 26:3 Luke 19:47 23:13 yet nothing in any history documents indicate that this event ever happened.The 4 gospels never once give a description of this man Jesus yet the catholic church still gives the OK to make millions $$ from statues and pictures showing a man that looks like a man from western cultures even though he was suppose to be from the middle east. Catholics don’t want jesus to look jewish or midle eastern even though thats what he would have been if he existed.Mystery around the shroud will carry on for centuries by those still clinging to this belief. To me this mytical jesus is BUSTED!


Charts- You are incorrect in your posting. Although many atheists state that Jesus never lived, He is mentioned by many contemporary, non-Christian historians. There is ample historical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth walked the Earth.

Flavius Josephus, a first century Jewish historian wrote of Jesus and the Christians: “So he (Ananus, son of the high priest) assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before him the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others and when he had formed an accusation against them, he delivered them to be stoned.”

Other Jewish rabbinical writings, including Rabbi Eliezer and writers of the Talmud, talk about Jesus and his miracles. They never denied that miracles took place, but attempted to explain them as a result of evil.

Cornelius Tacitus wrote about Jesus and the first century Christians in his Annals (a history of the Roman empire): “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.”

Thallus, a Samaritan historian, wrote ca. 52 A.D. attempting to give a natural explanation for the earthquake and darkness which occurred at the crucifixion of Jesus. Mara Bar-Seraphon wrote a letter to his son in 73 A.D. which tells of the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and of Jesus, “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king?…Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.” Jesus is also mentioned by Phlegon, a first-century historian, Lucian of Samosata (in The Passing Peregrinus), and Plinius Secundus, (Pliny the Younger).

Scholars have made statements such as, “no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus .”

Encyclopedia Britannica says in its discussion of the multiple extra-biblical witnesses: “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18, during the 19, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.”

Even well known atheist H.G. Wells mentions the fact that it’s foolish to claim Jesus never lived. He stated, “Here was a man. This part of the tale could not have been invented.”

Posted by JimmyR | Report as abusive

Garlaschelli’s simulation is very interesting, but not for what he would like it to be.

Detractors sometimes say that the Shroud is fake because the hair is in an unnatural straight position and the hands could not be there, covering the genitals. But Garlaschelli’s simulation actually shows that it is anatomically correct to have the hair and hands in that position.

Also the Garlaschelli’s result is not also more crude and rough than the original (just compare the faces in the top picture), but it very different at a microscopical level. Starting with the fact that the the blood was placed after the painting of the human figure (and not before as the Shroud of Turin does) and is not
real blood (the Shroud of Turin has real human blood).

So on the contrary of what he intended, his demostration can actually be used by believers to support the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.

Personally I don’t know if the Shroud is fake, but if that’s the case, it’s the best falsification ever. A masterpiece work of art. And what drives me crazy is the fact that there’s no other similar object on Earth. When an artist creates a masterpiece in any art, you can see a tradition of masters and students improving their art for centuries before they can master the art. But to make such a work ex novo, out from scratch: the only single existing piece of this art (and we still are not sure how the forger did it), is just amazing.

Posted by duran3d | Report as abusive

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