Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Turin Shroud

I have been using iPlayer to catch up with various TV programmes I missed over Easter. One was a new BBC documentary about the Shroud of Turin, the cloth impregnated with markings indicating it was the burial cloth of a crucified man, and long believed to be the burial cloth of Christ. It was pretty interesting, so I thought I'd share the programme's findings.

You may know that back in the 1980s radio carbon dating seemed to identify the Shroud as a medieval fake, dating the fabric to the early fourteenth century. This programme pursued mainly historical rather than scientific evidence, which convincingly dates the Shroud much earlier. Here is the gist of the evidence ...

  • Documentary evidence shows that there was a Shroud believed to be the Shroud of Jesus in Constantinople in the twelfth century. It disappeared during the sack of Constinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Shroud of Turin is known to have appeared in the mid fourteenth century in a French village. The knight who owned the Shroud was the descendent of a crusader who took part in the Fourth Crusade.
  • The Shroud of Turin can be shown to have fold marks consistent with being kept in a display mechanism that would tally with the way in which the Constantinople Shroud was displayed.
  • Scientific evidence shows that the Shroud bears real blood stains, of blood shed in both life and death. These blood stains are Group AB, the rarest of the main blood types.
  • There is another relic believed to have covered the face of Christ after the Crucifixion: the Sudarium of Oviedo. The blood stains on this cloth are also Group AB, and when placed alongside the Shroud, the stains in the head area can be matched up. The evidence strongly indicates that the two cloths were used to wrap the same body. (There is an article on this here.) The Sudarium is definitely known to have been brought to Spain from the Holy Land in the 600s.
  • The markings on the Shroud indicate that the nails used during the crucifixion where placed in the man's wrists and heels. Archaeological evidence shows this was the method used by the Romans. However, medieval art always shows the nails in palms and feet. A forger would presumably have followed the convention of his time, and would have had no means of knowing that this was inaccurate.
Why does the historical evidence and the radio carbon dating clash? Nobody knows, but the suspicion is now that there must be some error in the scientific dating. The scientists who carried out the test are now reviewing their methods to see if they are flawed.

Interesting stuff!


Theresa said...

Oh, man, I wish I could see that! I have always been fascinated by the shroud and was so disappointed to read of the evidence it was a fake. This gives me hope!

Layla said...

There's a discussion at this url about radiocarbon dating and the Shroud:

Exposure to fire essentially resets the radiocarbon "clock" of an item. As that article explains, a fire in 1532 caused charring on the Shroud that is likely the cause of the medieval dating. So-called "evidence" that the Shroud is a fake is questionable at best.