More on the Dirt of the Shroud of Turin

J. N. from Scarsdale tipped me off to a posting by Stephen E. Jones*, which quotes extensively from multiple sources including the wonderful book, “The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence” by Ian Wilson and Barrie Schwortz. Here is most of that posting. It is clarifying:

[Left: The feet images on the Shroud. The top left is the heel of the right foot, which registered the strongest dirt signal (Wilson & Schwortz, 2000, pp.92-93)]

As historian Ian Wilson explains, the "1978 STURP [Shroud of Turin Research Project] examination discovered, "the Shroud is significantly dirtier at the soles of the feet than anywhere else on the cloth" and "analysis of particles of limestone … adhering to the Shroud" shows that it "that spectrally has a `signature’ strikingly similar to limestone samples from ancient Jerusalem tombs" which is more "evidence that rather than being a `cunning painting’ … the Shroud really was used somewhere in the environs of Jerusalem to wrap the dirty and bloody corpse of a man who had just been crucified" (my emphasis):

image"Perhaps the most tantalizing glimpse of all, however, came from reflectance spectroscopy work carried out by the husband-and-wife team Roger and Marty Gilbert in the course of the 1978 STURP examination. As they ran their equipment up and down the man of the Shroud’s image the spectra they obtained proved relatively regular except when they reached the sole of the foot imprint on the back-of-the-body half of the cloth. Suddenly the spectra changed dramatically. Something in the foot area, and particularly around the heel, was giving a markedly stronger signal than elsewhere, but what? When optical physicist Sam Pellicori was summoned to view the area under the portable microscope the answer proved as chilling as it was obvious. Dead-pan, Pellicori pronounced, `It’s dirt!’ As might have been expected in an individual who had had even his sandals taken away from him, the man of the Shroud had dirty feet. During the March 2000 Turin sacristy viewing I and others, even with the unaided eye, could see the Shroud is significantly dirtier at the soles of the feet than anywhere else on the cloth, this dirt very visible underlying the serum-haloed bloodstains that otherwise coat the same soles. So had the Gilberts stumbled upon the very dirt from the streets of Jerusalem that had blackened the feet of Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago? In fact analysis of particles of limestone also found adhering to the Shroud have been identified by optical crystallographer Dr Joseph Kohlbeck as travertine aragonite that spectrally has a `signature’ strikingly similar to limestone samples from ancient Jerusalem tombs, taken by archaeologist Dr Eugenia Nitowski. [Kohlbeck, J.A. & Nitowski, E.L., "New Evidence May Explain Image on Shroud of Turin," Biblical Archaeology Review, July-August 1986, pp.18-29] From such a variety of different directions, there is therefore the most striking evidence that rather than being a `cunning painting’, some time in its history the Shroud really was used somewhere in the environs of Jerusalem to wrap the dirty and bloody corpse of a man who had just been crucified." (Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O’Mara Books: London, 2000, p.92)

In particular, not only did "a sample of calcium taken from the Shroud in the very same foot area" turn "out to be of the rarer aragonite variety, exactly as in the case of the samples taken from the Jerusalem tombs" but both "also exhibited small amounts of strontium and iron, again suggesting a close match" indeed "an unusually close match, the only disparity being a slight organic variation readily explicable as due to minute pieces of flax that could not be separated from the Shroud’s calcium" (my emphasis):

"And there is one further supportive finding which has come to light, which still concerns the pollen, but which also takes us into yet another variety of extraneous material on the Shroud’s surface: mineral deposits. The now familiar Turin microanalyst Giovanni Riggi, during his analysis of the materials that he had vacuumed from the Shroud’s underside, reported coming across pollens … among which he noticed an approximately fifty per cent proportion that … bore a thick, calcium-rich mineral covering, coating all their otherwise distinctive features. … Since … Riggi had vacuumed his pollens from its underside, i.e. the side which had theoretically lain in contact with the tomb, then the strong implication had to be that the Shroud’s underside had been affected by once having lain on some calcium-coated surface in a way that the body- image side had not, raising the question, could this mineral coating have been from the rock of a tomb in Jerusalem? In this regard it so happens that back in 1982 STURP’s Ray Rogers took some of the Shroud sticky-tape samples to his old friend optical crystallographer Dr Joseph Kohlbeck, Resident Scientist at Hercules Aerospace in Utah. … Kohlbeck began to take a lively interest in some of the particles of calcium carbonate (or limestone) that he immediately spotted among all the other debris on the tapes. … these raised in his mind the interesting question of whether the chemical `signature’ of these might in any way match that of the stone of the tomb in which Jesus was laid in Jerusalem. As … the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the central shrine of which has a surprisingly good claim to being where Jesus was once buried. … is at present so well protected against any further hacking about, that Kohlbeck rightly adjudged the chances of obtaining any samples very slim. But he reasoned that limestone rock inside other tombs in the Jerusalem vicinity ought to have roughly the same characteristics. He found a most useful and knowledgeable local research colleague in the person of archaeologist Dr Eugenia Nitowski who, for her doctorate, had made a specialist study of ancient Jewish tombs in Israel. She had excavated the first rolling-stone-type tomb east of the Jordan and, as a result of the contacts she had made, was able to obtain for Kohlbeck the Jerusalem tomb limestone samples that he needed. He subjected them to microscopic analysis, quickly finding them to have precisely the sort of distinctive characteristics that he had hoped for. As he has explained: `This particular limestone was primarily travertine aragonite deposited from springs, rather than the more common calcite. … Aragonite is formed under a much narrower range of conditions than calcite. In addition to the aragonite, our Jerusalem samples also contained small quantities of iron and strontium, but no lead.’ [Kohlbeck & Nitowski, Ibid., p.23] With Nitowski now highly intrigued at what he might find next, Kohlbeck proceeded to examine a sample of calcium taken from the Shroud in the very same foot area in which Roger and Mary Gilbert had come across the now famous `dirt’. This was chosen because it showed a larger and therefore potentially more significant concentration of calcium carbonate than other areas. To Kohlbeck’s considerable satisfaction, the sample turned out to be of the rarer aragonite variety, exactly as in the case of the samples taken from the Jerusalem tombs. Not only this, but it also exhibited small amounts of strontium and iron, again suggesting a close match. But even these parallels were not enough to `prove’ the needed signature, as a result of which Kohlbeck took both the Shroud samples and the Jerusalem tomb samples to Dr Ricardo Levi-Setti of the famous Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago. Here, Levi- Setti put both sets of samples through his high-resolution scanning ion microprobe, and as he and Kohlbeck studied the pattern of spectra produced by each … it became quite obvious that they were indeed an unusually close match, the only disparity being a slight organic variation readily explicable as due to minute pieces of flax that could not be separated from the Shroud’s calcium. As Kohlbeck readily acknowledged, this cannot of course be taken as proof that the Shroud aragonite can only have come from a Jerusalem limestone tomb. It may well be possible to find another area of the world in which the aragonite might prove similar to that on the Shroud and only future research more refined than anything so far conducted might one day be able to make a match that could be considered absolutely conclusive." (Wilson, I., "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World’s Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1998, pp.104-106).

imageIn the Biblical Archaeology Review article "Kohlbeck observed that those who believe that the Shroud is a forgery need to explain how the very rare aragonite found its way to the surface of the Shroud" (my emphasis):

"Scientists found other interesting features connected with the Shroud. Joseph Kohlbeck, an optical crystallographer … found particles of aragonite with small amounts of strontium and iron on the Shroud’s fibers on the image of the foot. With the help of archaeologist Eugenia Nitowski, he obtained samples of limestone from inside ancient tombs in and near Jerusalem and subjected them also to microscopic analysis. He found the same substance. The aragonite on the Shroud and in the tombs was an uncommon variety, deposited from springs, typically found in limestone caves in Palestine, but not in Europe. The samples from the Shroud and the tombs provided `an usually close match,’ suggesting to him and to Nitowski that the Shroud had once been in one of the `rolling-stone tombs’ that were common in Palestine around the time of Christ and for several centuries before. Kohlbeck observed that those who believe that the Shroud is a forgery need to explain how the very rare aragonite found its way to the surface of the Shroud. [Kohlbeck & Nitowski, Ibid., pp.23-24] (Ruffin, C.B., "The Shroud of Turin: The Most Up-To-Date Analysis of All the Facts Regarding the Church’s Controversial Relic," Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington IN, 1999, p.103).

The bottom line is that, like the pollen, "no forger" back in the 14th century "would ever think of including such details which would" not have been known "until this present age with its microscopic possibilities" as limestone on the Shroud image’s feet being "a rare form of calcite also found near the Damascus Gate (i.e. the one closest to Golgotha) in Jerusalem" (my emphasis):

"I wrote to the Rev A Dreisbach of the AICCSST (Atlanta International Centre for Continuing Study and Exhibit of the Shroud of Turin) to see if he knew anything about the carbon dating of the sudarium in Arizona. Unfortunately, his answer was negative … However, he did make some other very interesting points. In relation to the dust particles on the nasal area of the Shroud, he mentions an analysis carried out on particles from the foot area. He says: `microscopic dirt particles taken from the foot area during the 1978 examination were eventually analysed by Joseph Kohlbek … and found to be travertine aragonite – a rare form of calcite also found near the Damascus Gate (i.e. the one closest to Golgotha) in Jerusalem. That finding was later confirmed by Dr Levi Setti … This interesting information is further proof that the Shroud is that of Jesus, because no forger, either pious or impious, nobody who made a portrait of Christ, for whatever reason, would ever think of including such details, which would have been ignored anyway until this present age with its microscopic possibilities." (Guscin, M., "The Oviedo Cloth," Lutterworth Press: Cambridge UK, 1998, pp.78-79. Emphasis original)

where Jesus would have passed on the way to His crucifixion!

image*Stephen is one of the most comprehensive detailers of Shroud of Turin information. Here he writes in his blog: CreationEvolutionDesign: Bogus: Shroud of Turin? #7: Dirt on the feet of the man on the Shroud matches Jerusalem’s tombs

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