Jesus' Shroud? Recent Findings Renew Authenticity Debate

April 9, 2004

The Shroud of Turin—believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus and one of the most venerated relics of the Christian church—was declared a fake in 1988 by three independent scientific institutions. Yet interest in the cloth has remained intense, and new science suggests the shroud deserves another look.

Raymond Rogers is a retired physical chemist and former leader of the explosives research and development group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He proposes that the samples used to date the shroud in 1988 were flawed and the experiment should be repeated. His conclusion is based on a recent chemical analysis of the shroud and previous observations made during a 1978 examination.

Rogers was one of two dozen American scientists who participated in the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP)—an intense five-day scientific investigation of the shroud in Turin, Italy.

In 1988 the Vatican allowed postage stamp-size pieces to be snipped from one corner of the shroud and distributed to three laboratories—at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Oxford University in England, and the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich—for a sensitive form of carbon dating. The results, published in 1989 in the journal Nature, revealed that the fabric was produced between 1260 and 1390.

Dyed and Repaired

In December 2003 Rogers received a sample of the shroud from a physicist colleague who had collaborated on STURP. The sample was taken from the same strip of cloth distributed for carbon dating in 1988.

Using chemical and microscopic analysis, Rogers revealed that a madder dye and mordant and gum mixture had been wiped onto yarn used on that particular corner of the shroud—indicating that the cloth had been repaired. (The mordant gum would have been used to bind the dye to the fibers. Madder dye is derived from the root of the madder plant.)

What's more, these ruby colored madder dye-mordant mixtures did not reach France or England until the 16th century.

"The cotton fibers look like they have been wiped with fuzzy cherry Jell-O, and the linen fibers a little less so," Rogers said. "The area is certainly dyed to match the sepia color of the old [original] cloth. There is ample chemical and microscopic proof of that."

Rogers also found evidence of a "splice site," suggesting that this patch of the cloth had not only been dyed but also repaired and rewoven. He suspects that the dye and repair job was probably done in the Near East during the Middle Ages, coinciding with the carbon dating results.

"The 1988 date was undoubtedly accurate for the sample supplied. However, there is no question that the radiocarbon sampling area has a completely different chemical composition than the main part of the shroud," Rogers said. "The published date for the sample was not the time at which the cloth was produced."

This reinforces the earlier finding of STURP scientists who, using ultraviolet fluorescence, also revealed that the sampled corner was unlike any other region of the shroud and had been excessively handled over the years.

Continued on Next Page >>


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