A reader writes:

The Urfa mosaic (Paper Chase: Face of the God-man) is interesting. I think some people would say it looks like Jesus. If it is ca. 1st or 2nd century, that would be truly amazing. But I suspect that if it is from Edessa, it is no earlier than middle to late 3rd century when Christianity first came to the city-state.  It could be much later, even as late as the 13th century if sourced from the shroud.  There is a real possibility that this thing is a forgery; think unsophisticated museum, Urfa, an untraceable claim. Too bad the IAA wouldn’t be welcome in Urfa.  And there is the possibility that this is not Jesus. No, really!

Partial opaque overlays on a computer are not a good way to compare images. It fools us because it is so suggestive. If you think the method is useful then you need control experiments to show this. I don’t think you will find many experts who will accept this method.

Transparent film is better but that is hard to duplicate with graphics software. Points of congruence is a bit dubious, as well. It is useful for finger prints where precise rules are pre-defined. It could perhaps be useful for comparing faces with the rules that have been developed for facial recognition software. But the method in this paper will probably not be accepted by image analysts.

One good method is to use outlining as was done with the lead codex (another fake) and the Zippori Venus. See Jesus’ Mona Lisa Smile at http://deorientation.blogspot.com/2011/04/jesus-mona-lisa-smile-update-better.html

Maybe Dayvalt is onto something. But he must first establish the mosaic’s provenance. Then he must find a solid method of comparing images that everyone can agree on. Even then, I have doubts that this mosaic was a source for other images. For one thing it is too coarse. For another it is in a city that was often ruled by a puppet king or caliph, quite outside Byzantine control for most of the 1st millennium.

I suspect that there were a lot of portable images in circulation, perhaps derived from the shroud. Many were probably lost to iconoclasm or disaster or are yet to be found. I suspect that the Urfa mosaic is just another really cool image of Jesus (or maybe somebody else). I congratulate Dayvalt for bringing it to the world’s attention. I hope he will continue to study it and engage other experts to work with him to help us all learn more about it.