Radiocarbon Dating of the Turin Shroud: New Evidence from Raw Data

March 23, 2019 16 comments

image.pngHat tip to Joe Marino for spotting this. The following was published yesterday, March 22, 2019, in Archaeometry, a Wiley publication. If you don’t have institutional access you can have access for 48 hours for $7.00, print-restricted online access for $16.50 or full PDF rights for $42.00.

Link:  Radiocarbon Dating of the Turin Shroud: New Evidence from Raw Data © Oxford University 2019

Abstract: In 1988, three laboratories performed a radiocarbon analysis of the Turin Shroud. The results, which were centralized by the British Museum and published in Nature in 1989, provided ‘conclusive evidence’ of the medieval origin of the artefact. However, the raw data were never released by the institutions. In 2017, in response to a legal request, all raw data kept by the British Museum were made accessible. A statistical analysis of the Nature article and the raw data strongly suggests that homogeneity is lacking in the data and that the procedure should be reconsidered.

Authors: T. CASABIANCA† Ajaccio 20000, France E. MARINELLI Collegamento pro Sindone, Rome, Italy G. PERNAGALLO Department of Economics and Business, University of Catania, Corso Italia 55, 95129 Catania CT, Italy and B. TORRISI Department of Economics and Business, University of Catania, Corso Italia 55, 95129 Catania CT, Italy

Fair Use Quote: A telling tidbit from page 6 of 9:

The same rationale applies to the intra-laboratory differences. We also computed the Ward and Wilson test for the raw radiocarbon dates of Arizona, and in both cases (raw 1 and raw 2), the null hypothesis was rejected. Using OxCal for Arizona Raw 2, the overall agreement index (34.6%) is below the threshold (with 12.8% for A3 and 43.0% for A6), whereas for Arizona Raw 1 the overall agreement index is lower (21.4%). Based on these results, a relevant problem emerges in the consistency between the Arizona raw radiocarbon dates and the published results from the other laboratories.

Ah, something that makes sense published in a real scientific journal.

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When colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

March 23, 2019 3 comments

Colin, please note that there is a question for you at the end of this posting.


Hugh Farey had observed:

My own view is that it is not God’s normal practice to produce miracles which tell lies.

And that got me thinking and searching for more insight around that wisdom.

“The idea of an All-Perfect Being lying involves a logical contradiction, just like the idea of a square circle,” wrote Jimmy Akin in Why God Can’t Lie (Or Sin) two years ago in the National Catholic Register.

God, we may believe is omnipotent but that does not mean he can lie and at the same time be perfect, Akin had argued, just as he cannot create a four-sided triangle or make Colorless green ideas sleep furiously,

Hugh was talking about the Resurrection and the notion from some that the miracle would have changed the radiocarbon date of the shroud. Part of this idea, it was thought, was that some forensic detritus, telltale isotopes, would have been left behind. Hugh thus said:

Hedges’ point was that unless there was some reason to suppose these indicative isotopes were there, there was no point in wasting time and effort (and money?) looking for them. The reason “a miracle might have resulted in such isotopes” is not sufficient. Nobody goes prospecting for gold in a mountain range on the basis of an irrational belief.

Of course, you (and for that matter Bob Rucker and Mark Antonacci) may be right, and the miracle of the resurrection did produce exactly the results you suggest, but until some expert in miracles can persuade the custodians of the Shroud that it’s worthwhile looking for them, they are unlikely to bother. My own view is that it is not God’s normal practice to produce miracles which tell lies, such that if the apparent medieval age of the Shroud is produced by a miracle, it is more likely to be thanks to a deceptive power than an honest one.

I recall a discussion from 2013.  Mark Antonacci was then petitioning for a chance to look for indicative isotopes.  At that time Colin Berry suggested a problem with that:

. . . All someone has to do is sneak a mixture of ordinary beryllium and americium-241 (present in domestic smoke alarms) into the cabinet housing the Shroud. That mixture then emits neutrons (half life approx.10 days) and before you know what the Shroud will then be impregnated with radioisotopes such as chlorine-36 and calcium- 41 that Antonacci and his pressure group (if invited in with their scanners) could later proclaim to the world as proof that the Christian story based on Resurrection is proven – and a lot more besides (he reckons, see below ) as to the mechanism of resurrection.

What was the “and a lot more besides”?  Scarey stuff! Mark Antonacci had written:

A leading hypothesis published in Scientific Research and Essays in 2012 asserts that partic

le radiation was emitted from the length and width of Jesus’ dead body while he was wrapped in the Shroud, and it was this “event” which caused the unique images on the cloth. Molecular and atomic testing could prove that hypothesis to be true. ……

…..If unfakable and independent evidence was obtained to confirm this hypothesis however, it could actually be used to analyze the central premises of various religions throughout history and in our world today. (emphasis is mine)


The paper Mark was citing was, Particle radiation from the body could explain the Shroud’s images and its carbon dating.  It was by non-other than Mark himself. Scientific Research and Essays is one of many “open access” journals from Academic Journals, a Nigerian online-only journal publisher “solely financed by the handling fees received from authors (currently $550). See Open Access: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

David Goulet was quick to comment on Colin Berry’s problem back in 2013:

Would the sabotage you are mentioning lead to ‘unfakable’ evidence? If there is a way to skew the evidence then doesn’t this demonstrate the evidence is indeed fakable? And now that skeptics like yourself are aware of the possibility of sabotage, this would undermine authenticity claims based on said testing.

For myself, I share your fear. There is a segment of Christianity that pushes a Christian triumphalism and the Shroud could be be exploited by them. The thought that Christians would use the Shroud to proselytize turns my stomach. It has been called the Silent Witness…that is exactly how it should be seen. If God wanted it to preach he would have added audio to it.

Hmmm, that makes me wonder… could there be audio properties encoded in it? Who needs flowers and coins when you could have music and soundbites. :)

This whole nuttiness of trying to prove the resurrection is troubling.  Paulette had commented:

Suppose Antonacci’s tests show what he expects. Suddenly it will be the skeptics who will scream about contamination and conspiracies. And I might need to agree with them. But not to worry. It is not going to happen.

And Louis wrote:

As commented more than once on this blog:

a) If the TS is ever “proved” to be a fake it will not demolish Christianity

b) If it can be “proved” in some way or the other that it demonstrates the Resurrection, there will still be many more questions to answer.

One more thing, and since I am not a scientist I may not be asking this in the right way: Colin, are chlorine-36 and calcium- 41 the isotopes created by resurrection events?  Don’t we want to make sure that what isotopes might be found on the shroud are not the result it being stored near a source of naturally occurring radiation?

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No, really, why is there an image on the cloth?

March 18, 2019 43 comments

image.pngPerhaps it is all in how we ask the question. Is it, who moved the stone? Or, is it, why was the stone moved? Was it necessary to move the stone so that Christ could exit the tomb — the One who could be where He wanted to be when He wanted to be — the One who could suddenly appear behind locked doors or out somewhere on the road to Emmaus or Damascus? 

Or was the stone moved so Peter and the Beloved Disciple could see in, see that the tomb was empty and see the burial cloths lying there?  Was that necessary?  Were the post-resurrection appearances not enough?

And the burial cloth, now in Turin, that many of us believe is or might be a burial cloth mentioned in the Gospels, has a faint image of a man on it.  Why?  Consider, too, maybe it was a cloth used instead beneath the cross or used to transport the body to the tomb. Nonetheless, why an image? 

Without the image, there would have been no history of a cloth with Christ’s image upon it during the first twelve-hundred years leading up to the Fourth Crusades, no Lirey story worth telling, no startled Secundo Pia, no VP-8 epiphany moment, no STURP and no endless discussion now. Is that why?

Is it why as much as how in the sense that we wonder if the image was caused by an accidental energetic consequence of a miracle? Is that why?

Or a natural phenomenon? Is that why?

Is it why in that a forger at some time in history felt he needed an image in addition to ample signs of brutality? Is that why?

No, really, why is there an image on the cloth?

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Microsoft 3D Builder

March 15, 2019 10 comments

3D Builder

I’ve been playing with Microsoft 3D Builder for Windows 10. It recalculates heightmap projections so quickly you can jiggle your mouse or your finger on a touch screen and jiggle the image. That helps with spotting features.

The software is free and apparently only runs on Windows 10.  It took less than two minutes to install and only a few minutes to figure out.  It is designed for preparing images for 3D printing but it works well as a quick visualization program. You can rotate views and change viewing angles by simply dragging the object on the screen.



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How the image came to be on the shroud.

March 14, 2019 13 comments

In the following posting, I borrow some wording from my own The Resurrection is Just Too Mysterious to Be Described. I apologize for that but it was the best way, So, please bear with me as I bare my thoughts.

image.pngMany of us who believe in the Resurrection believe it was physical.  Many others do not. A fairly recent survey reported that only 68% of American Catholics strongly agreed with the statement, “Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead.” The percentage of Mainline Protestants was statistically the same at 67%. Evangelical Christians scored higher in this regard at 84%. The survey, Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) was conducted in 2006 by Michael O. Emerson of Rice University and David H. Sikkink of the University of Notre Dame with funding from their respective schools and the Lilly Endowment Fund.

Count me among those who strongly agree with the statement. For many Christians, a spiritual resurrection that is not physical or bodily makes more sense, a belief which to me, is perfectly acceptable. (See The Resurrection is Just Too Mysterious to Be Described). I might change my mind, as I have before. But for now and the foreseeable future, I’m a physical resurrection fan and believer.

But how so? Do I mean that what “happened” behind closed doors was physical?  Do I mean the empty tomb was a physical reality?  Do I mean that the post-resurrection appearances were physical?   Was Jesus somehow transformed physically so that he could pass through locked doors and still be able to eat fish?

What if the Resurrection was simply an instantaneous change of state not just to the body but to the surroundings, as well. Air would NOT rush in to fill the space left by the disappeared body. It would just suddenly be there. Burial cloths would NOT fall to the surface on which the body lay. They would in that instant just be there. Think of something “occurring” in zero time.

We are all familiar, at least in principle, with the way a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. That is a process. We can make a time-lapsed movie of it and see each and every step. Some will say they see a miracle unfolding. Others will say it is nothing of the kind; it is a perfectly explainable biological process.

If you were to take the first frame and the last frame from the movie of the process, splice them together and pretend that nothing happened in between then you could demonstrate with a very short, two-frame movie a miraculous transformation without a process.

The Resurrection, if we are to believe it was in some way physical, was, by definition, a miracle. If we are to take our knowledge from scripture alone, there was a before and an after, a first frame, so to speak, and a last frame. There was nothing in between that we know about. So, why do we think there was a process? Why do we think, for instance, the body became mechanically transparent or dematerialized such that a cloth might fall through it or that that the body might release some form of energetic byproduct during the Resurrection? Why do we think, as Mark Antonacci, a well-known Shroud researcher, suggests that Jesus might have passed through a traversable Lorentzian wormhole in space-time or as Tulane professor Frank Tipler suggests that the process of resurrection might have been a form of electroweak quantum tunneling?

I’m left to wonder. Is it because of too much imagination or not enough?

image.pngThomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica tried to explain that angels in going from one place to another did not pass through the place in between. Nor did they consume time doing so.

By this sort of local movement an angel may, at will, be present successively in several places and thus may be said to pass through the space between the first and the last place of the series. Or an angel may cease to apply its powers in the first place and begin to apply them in the last, not passing through the space between.

Since there is succession, that is, before-and-after, in the application of an angel’s powers, now here and now there, it must be said that an angel’s local movement occurs in time, and is not instantaneous. This time, however, is not measurable in our minutes or seconds; these units of time are applicable only to bodily movement.

Humor me. I’m just trying to make a point. For angels, at least for Thomas Aquinas’ angels, in how they traveled, there is only a first frame and a last frame, so to speak.  Thomas Aquinas was much into angels and was brilliant at logical speculation. This notion of his provides a useful metaphor for pondering any and all supernatural “action.” There is in his imaginings a change of state and no measure of time. There is nothing like that in classical physics and perhaps nothing like that in quantum mechanics, as well.

And to be clear, we are talking about miracles in a classic sense of the word.  We are not talking about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. We are talking, here, about:

  • “The highest degree in miracles comprises those works wherein something is done by God, that nature can never do.” — The Summa Contra Gentiles by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • “A miracle is a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.” —  “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume

Might miracles be like Thomas Aquinas’ angels, who avoid the in-between and use no time?” Not concerning ourselves, here, with questions about Biblical literalism, when Jesus healed the blind man was there a moment in time when the man’s eyesight was partially restored? When Jesus turned water into wine was there a moment in time, no matter how brief, when the wine was still mostly water and when, perhaps picoseconds later, the water was mostly wine? Or was it that the man’s eyesight was suddenly restored? Was it that the water was suddenly wine?

There was, when I was growing up, a book that could be found gathering dust here and there about our house. It was sometimes in its place on the bookshelf but more often it was on the corner of a desk, a coffee table in the living room or on top of the television set where it was used to prop up the rabbit ears antenna at just the right angle for getting the best television reception from a broadcasting tower five miles away. The theory was that my grandmother, on purpose, would leave the book around the house in hopes that someone would read it. The book was Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison (real name Albert Henry Ross; Faber and Faber, 1930). Promoted by such luminaries as T. S. Elliot and  G. K. Chesterton, the book was a big success when it was first published in 1930. It is now a classic.

Now, in “thumbing” through the Kindle version I came across this thought:

In each case the women arrive to find the stone already rolled away, yet with no hint from the writers as to how this came about. It is only when we turn to St. Matthew’s Gospel that we read of a great angel descending and removing the stone.

Now the peculiar and significant thing is this. We can search the apocryphal writings through and through, and we shall nowhere find even the remotest suggestion that the Lord Himself broke the barriers of His own prison. We are told that the stone ‘rolled away of itself’, or that supernatural beings descended and moved it. But nowhere is the obvious miracle recorded that Jesus Himself threw down the physical defences of the grave.

I wondered, could it be that the angel (or a metaphorical angel), removed the stone as Thomas Aquinas might have imagined his angels doing?  Could it be that in an imperceptible, immeasurable instant, absent any sound or disturbance of any kind, the stone was found to be in a new position? It didn’t roll. It didn’t slide. The stone was moved but never was there any motion.

Might the Resurrection “moment” in the tomb have been that way: a miracle with a before and after and no in-between process? In other words, might the Resurrection have been a miracle in which Jesus neither removed his shroud nor passed through it, yet, nonetheless, it had been shed — a miracle in which he went from point A to point B without passing through the in-between — a miracle in which the stone was not rolled away but found to be in a new place  — a miracle in which an image did appear on the cloth? 

And in that sense, did Jesus suddenly appear by the Magdalen’s side? And did He just appear to the disciples on the road to Emmaus? Had they looked back down the road before the encounter, would they have seen him approaching from afar or not?  Had Jesus just suddenly appeared in the Cenacle, not passing through doors or walls at all?  Did Jesus travel to a place on the Road to Damascus for his encounter with Saul of Tarsus? Or was the Christ just there?

And was the image just there at the instant of the Resurrection?

John Jackson et al. wants us to play the game of best fit as we consider his Resurrection of the Falling Cloth scenario. It’s a best fit for many image characteristics we are told.  And by his selection, characterization and measurement criteria he is right. Fair enough. But, arguably — and by making some allowance for many years of folding, spindling, and well-intentioned mutilation — the image created as part-and-parcel of a body transformation, stone relocation, and image formation miracle is, by definition, a perfect fit.

There is still the question of why.  Why is there an image at all?  And for what constituency was that image placed on the shroud?

Dare we wonder about carbon 14 ratios? Could we even imagine altering the C14  content as part-and-parcel of the miracle?  That’s a “why” too strange, to even contemplate.

So I’m reluctant to embrace my own imagination except that compared to EVERY OTHER image forming proposal from radiation to corona discharge to  Maillard reaction to photosensitive contact printing to dust painting to rubbing and even acid etching, I prefer a two-frame, now-you-don’t-see -it-now-you-do, part and parcel with the Resurrection model. And the Resurrection is not the cause of the image.

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The O.K. Corral Shootout

March 12, 2019 16 comments


O.K. commented in my posting, The Myth of the VP8 and 3D Uniqueness?

A lot of confusion is there. It is perhaps because the common way of lecturing about the Shroud, is a historical approach, in 1898 Pia discovered negativity, in 1970s Jackson & Jumper discovered 3D with VP-8 etc.

This is actually misleading, creates a hype, and in my opinion asks the wrong questions. How to make an image that is a photographic negative, 3 D rendering, without contours, isotropic, etc. ? There is always a way to do it regarding the individual properties -but resulting images have actually nothing in common with the Shroud (besides this single selected characteristic).

In my opinion, the issue should be lectured in more modern, compact way? The problem is: what constitutes the image on the Shroud, what makes it so specific? What are its basic components? And ONLY THEN ask a question: what are derived properties (like negativity or 3D) of such an image.

O.K. may be right. It is certainly a form of discipline that might eliminate the confusion. But the problem is bigger than that.  It’s the “Wild West” nature of shroud research since STURP, a land of scientific lawlessness and tall tales where the closest things to order were the “O.K. Corral” shootouts called conferences.  What did this atmosphere produce?

It produced the “I think I see” world of imagined images of ancient coins along with all manner of bric-a-brac, of plants from ancient Israel, of teeth and ponytails and of written messages in Greek, Latin or Hebrew — all these being wishful misperceptions or pareidolia. There were the dubious pollen charts and the radiocarbon dating fiasco. There were the tall tales: NASA analyzed the shroud, Ray Rogers was a general in the Air Force, America’s greatest scientists studied the shroud, and so-and-so was a Nobel prize-winning physicist. And it produced a lot of good science, too. Often that was overshadowed by the sensational.

There were short declarative decrees. They’re still sitting out there at

This spatial data encoded into the image actually eliminates photography and painting as the possible mechanism for its creation and allows us to conclude that the image was formed while the cloth was draped over an actual human body.

We can examine this in three parts:

spatial data encoded into the image:   Is calling the data spatial not begging the question? Would it not be better to say relative greyscale values of the image that when plotted as relative distances from a planar surface suggest three-dimensionality, suggest spatiality. 

eliminates photography and painting as the possible mechanism for its creation:  That is simply not true, as has been shown on on this blog. One might argue about how difficult or unlikely it would be. But a blanket denial that it is possible is misleading, at best.

allows us to conclude that the image was formed while the cloth was draped over an actual human body: Conclude? How so? Not so if the cloth was draped over a statue or if the image was formed by some unusual photographic or artistic method that produces the right kind of relative greyscale values.

Being precise makes it more difficult to read. But compact imprecision leads to misunderstanding and to the dogmatism.

backscratcherAnd then there is the Wild West’s Colorado Springs, once a place to soak in curative waters, and then a place to pan for gold, and now the home of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado. Here is a brief statement from a document, The Shroud of Turin – A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses on the TSC website. I call this the Rube Goldberg miracle; you know, where a miracle happens, that causes a body to become mechanically transparent allowing a cloth to fall through it and get a controlled dose of radiation.

Consistent: [= in context The Fall-through hypothesis is consistent with the 3 Dimension attribute of the image.] The initial draping configuration of the Shroud over a body establishes the initial cloth-body distances. If, then, the Shroud overlying the body falls into the body region, different points on the cloth will intersect the body surface at different times depending upon how far that point was originally away from the body. Thus, each cloth point will receive a radiation dose in proportion to the time that the point is inside the emitting body region. Since that time is inversely proportional to the initial cloth-body distance, it follows that the radiation dose, and hence image intensity, is likewise inversely proportional to the initial cloth-body distance. Correlation of image intensity with cloth-body distance is consistent with the Shroud VP-8 3-dimensional effect.

I was just wondering:  what is the body like at this stage of the miracle?  Is it a liquid that holds it’s once-solid shape or a gas or something specifically miraculous? Does the part of the cloth under the body fall upwards?  What type of radiation works best for resurrection miracles?  What happens after the cloth has finished its fall?  Is a mechanically transparent body able to pass through locked doors yet walk on the road to Emmaus and eat fish?

Those are the questions that come to mind. Silly, perhaps, but they do come to mind. Let me put it this way: I cannot begin to imagine that I will ever believe this.  I believe in the Resurrection and I may believe the shroud is real but I cannot believe one word of Fall-Through hypothesis.

If you haven’t read The Resurrection is Just Too Mysterious to Be Described & A Response to Dr. Colin Berry, you can’t understand where I’m coming from.

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The Myth of the VP8 and 3D Uniqueness?

March 10, 2019 40 comments

clip_image001.pngAntero de Frias Moreira of the Centro Português de Sindonologia wrote in a comment:

I ask whomever to show me an example of any image (OBVIOUSLY LEAVING ASIDE THE DEATH MASK PHOTOGRAPHS OBTAINED WITH MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES which in my opinion do not show similarities with the image on linen of the Shroud…) from medieval age or even 19 th century that has such encoded information to produce the same 3D results as the Shroud image / Shroud photographs.

here iis the challenge

And Lee Jone replied (for everyone’s convenience I have inserted the images where Lee provided links):

Here you go Antero mate, these image’s should match your criteria. These show similarities to the image on the Turin shroud. They have the same 3D “response” that the shroud does due to varying tone intensities of the monochromatic sepia color. Here is the original image with no 3D rendering


Here is a 3D rendering of the positive image


And here is the negative (tone inversion) 3D response


So as you can see, there a many way’s to create image’s that give a 3D response with such thing’s as a VP8 analyser, or any software which emulate’s a VP8, such as ImageJ.

John Adams once said:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

But what do you do when the facts – 3D uniqueness – have for so long been wrong?

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