It is fourteen feet long and three-and-a-half-feet wide and obviously very old. The cloth is linen, hand-woven in what is known in the textile trade as a three-to-one herringbone twill. Experts say that this technique is over two millennia old, and used by weavers even before the time of Christ. The cloth has been around since the late 14th century, that much is certain. Under any circumstances, its antiquity alone would, therefor, be of historical interest. But its age, though a matter of bitter dispute, is not what makes it unique. It is, instead, the image that seems to float on its surface—the image of a crucified man—that has intrigued the world for hundreds of years.
For centuries it has been one of Christianity’s most puzzling artifacts. In this century it has been pored over by experts of all stripes, from historians to physicists and NASA space scientists. In recent years, thanks to some dubious carbon-14-dating tests, the Shroud of Turin has been dismissed by many as a masterful fraud, created by some twisted genius in the 14th century. But new dating tests have challenged the validity of the original examinations, and Shroud experts—known as sindonologists,—continue to insist that it cannot be a forgery—that it was simply impossible for anyone to have been pulled off such a technologically sophisticated fraud in the 14th century, or even this one, for that matter.