Italian Scientist Claims to Have Reproduced the Shroud of Turin

Religious artifacts fascinate me, not because they may contain some mystical powers, but by the sheer weight of history. Even if they are not what they are espoused as being, most are still quite ancient and interesting in their own right. Then there is the possibility that they are what they claim to be.
For me the Shroud of Turin is one of these types of items. Whether the real burial cloth of Jesus with His image miraculously formed on it, or a medieval work of art, it is fascinating.
Recently, an Italian scientist claims to have reproduced it. So here is what the scientist says and also a rebuttal from the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, Inc. (STERA, Inc.), a leading authority on the shroud.

ROME — An Italian scientist says he has reproduced the Shroud of Turin, a feat that he says proves definitively that the linen some Christians revere as Jesus Christ’s burial cloth is a medieval fake.

The shroud, measuring 14 feet, 4 inches by 3 feet, 7 inches bears the image, eerily reversed like a photographic negative, of a crucified man some believers say is Christ.

“We have shown that is possible to reproduce something which has the same characteristics as the Shroud,” Luigi Garlaschelli, who is due to illustrate the results at a conference on the para-normal this weekend in northern Italy, said on Monday.

A professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, Garlaschelli made available to Reuters the paper he will deliver and the accompanying comparative photographs.

The Shroud of Turin shows the back and front of a bearded man with long hair, his arms crossed on his chest, while the entire cloth is marked by what appears to be rivulets of blood from wounds in the wrists, feet and side.

Carbon dating tests by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona in 1988 caused a sensation by dating it from between 1260 and 1390. Sceptics said it was a hoax, possibly made to attract the profitable medieval pilgrimage business.

But scientists have thus far been at a loss to explain how the image was left on the cloth.

Garlaschelli reproduced the full-sized shroud using materials and techniques that were available in the middle ages.

They placed a linen sheet flat over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid. A mask was used for the face.

The pigment was then artificially aged by heating the cloth in an oven and washing it, a process which removed it from the surface but left a fuzzy, half-tone image similar to that on the Shroud. He believes the pigment on the original Shroud faded naturally over the centuries.

They then added blood stains, burn holes, scorches and water stains to achieve the final effect.

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.

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.

Garlaschelli expects people to contest his findings.

“If they don’t want to believe carbon dating done by some of the world’s best laboratories they certainly won’t believe me,” he said.

The accuracy of the 1988 tests was challenged by some hard-core believers who said restorations of the Shroud in past centuries had contaminated the results.

The history of the Shroud is long and controversial.

After surfacing in the Middle East and France, it was brought by Italy’s former royal family, the Savoys, to their seat in Turin in 1578. In 1983 ex-King Umberto II bequeathed it to the late Pope John Paul.

The Shroud narrowly escaped destruction in 1997 when a fire ravaged the Guarini Chapel of the Turin cathedral where it is held. The cloth was saved by a fireman who risked his life.

Garlaschelli received funding for his work by an Italian association of atheists and agnostics but said it had no effect on his results.

“Money has no odor,” he said. “This was done scientifically. If the Church wants to fund me in the future, here I am.”

Link to FoxNews Article.

From the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, Inc. (STERA, Inc.) website:

I was away from my office and in Los Angeles yesterday when the story broke in the media that an Italian professor had “reproduced” the Shroud using techniques that were available in the 14th century. Although I didn’t have my computer with me, my mobile phone rang again and again with friends calling to read me the story, so I heard the news almost immediately.

Upon my return late last night, my mailbox was flooded with e-mail, my answering machine was nearly full of messages and more than 20,000 people had visited the website since Tuesday morning. I finally was able to read the story myself at around 1:00 am.

Normally, I don’t respond to this type of story, since the media rarely publishes the rebuttals anyway and the stories usually disappear by themselves after only a few days. In the end, giving it any attention at all usually only helps the author of the article and garners even more publicity for him because someone is publicly disagreeing with him. However, since so many viewers have written me, I decided to write this brief response in which I am expressing my own personal opinions on this topic. That is why I titled it an “Editorial” Response.

Frankly, knowing that the Shroud will go on public display again in around 6 months, I am not very surprised to see this type of story coming out, along with its resulting media coverage. This seems to happen every time the Shroud is about to go on public display. Yet whenever a serious scientific article about the Shroud is published in a peer reviewed journal, there is barely a ripple in the popular media. And now, once again, someone claims to have “reproduced” the Shroud, “proving” it is a medieval forgery. They made their claims via nothing more than a press release and got instant global media coverage. However, that is NOT the way science actually operates.

The author who made these claims states that he will make the details available “next week.” In the real world of science, a researcher must perform his experiments, compile his data, draw his conclusions, write a formal paper and submit it to a scientific journal for peer review. The work is then examined by other experts, usually of the same discipline, before it is accepted for publication (or rejected). The data must provide a sound basis for the claims and be there from the beginning. Not “next week.” And certainly not made public via a press release!

Sadly, in reviewing the article, it is apparent immediately that the author knows very little about the actual Shroud of Turin. He is not the first to suggest that the Shroud image was produced by red ochre pigment (iron oxide). In fact, he is at least the fourth to have proposed this theory in the last 30 years. Of course, this issue was anticipated by the STURP team in 1978 and a number of highly sensitive tests were performed that determined there was not enough iron oxide on the Shroud to be visible without a microscope. Iron oxide does not constitute the image on the Shroud. They also determined the image areas of the Shroud contain no more iron oxide than the non-image areas. It is more or less evenly distributed across the entire cloth.

Obviously, if the image were made in the manner detailed in the article, we would still find thousands of particles of iron oxide embedded into the image fibers of the linen and these would be clearly visible with just a good magnifying glass. Yet the microscopy done directly on the Shroud in 1978 revealed no such thing. These particles just don’t go away on their own. STURP’s instruments could detect parts per billion (a very small amount) of any substance on the Shroud and ALL known paints and pigments (including iron oxide) were excluded by the data. Interestingly, iron oxide is also a by-product of retting linen and the minute quantities found on the Shroud were pure and most likely the result of the retting process. The iron oxide used in red ochre pigment has many impurities and is rarely if ever found in its pure form.

I have stated on more than one occasion that making images on linen is relatively easy. However, making images on linen with the same chemical and physical properties as the Shroud is another story. Considering the massive amount of scientific data that now exists about the Shroud of Turin, anyone making claims such as these must submit their work for careful scrutiny and comparative analysis before drawing such dramatic conclusions. That has not been done in this case. Anyone making such claims must create an image with ALL the same chemical and physical properties as the Shroud, not just a few, if they wish to be taken seriously.

It has been demonstrated scientifically that the bloodstains on the Shroud came from direct contact with a body and are all forensically accurate. It has also been shown that the bloodstains were on the Shroud BEFORE the image was formed since the blood and serum acted to inhibit the image formation mechanism. There is NO image under the blood and serum stains on the Shroud.

However, to make this new “reproduction,” the “blood” was added (using a different pigment) AFTER the image was created. Obviously, it is much easier to add the blood to the image than to first create the blood stains and then create the forensically accurate image around them, which is exactly what a medieval forger would have had to do to duplicate the actual physical properties of the Shroud!

Many of the bloodstains on the Shroud show a surrounding halo of serum stains that are ONLY visible with UV fluorescence photography. Also, the blood has been chemically analyzed and determined to include components of actual blood, NOT pigment.

A proper, detailed scientific response to this press release is now being drafted by the online Shroud Science Group and I hope to publish an in-depth article by true Shroud experts addressing these claims in the near future.

However, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the press release also stated the researcher “received funding for his work by an Italian association of atheists and agnostics but said it had no effect on his results.” This is an interesting statement from someone representing a segment of the skeptical community that has frequently charged the STURP scientists with religious bias, implying that their data was somehow flawed because some of them happened to be Christians! Until such time that the data is made available so it can be properly examined and compared to the known data about the Shroud, I will not take these claims very seriously. And neither should you.

Read the complete article from the Shroud of Turin Education and Research Association, Inc. (STERA, Inc.) here.

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