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Paper Chase: Max Patrick Hamon on the Coin-on-Eye Issue


As a comment, Max Patrick Hamon has offered the first page of a paper he presented at the Toruń Acheiropoietos Conference 2011 in Toruń, Poland:

A Full Reappraisal of Intriguing Tiny Bloodstain Patterns

By Max Patrick HAMON

Resume: The present paper assumes that its readers have an elementary acquaintance with the Turin Shroud. It begins by defining the coin-on-eye issue and determining the real problem. In a preliminary approach to evaluate the quality of both arch-sceptics and arch-advocates’ main opinions and reasoning, it demonstrates the need to apply to the suspected eye areas, the strict methodology of an eidomatico-numismatic reading grid based on the bloodstain pattern analytical technique. It then proceeds to a full reappraisal of possible coin impressions left on the said areas. Finally, in the light of the new observations and findings, it considers the necessity to integrate the new data within a more coherent archaeological framework.

Through mere repetition from one author to the other and via a couple of successful websites, many an interpretation, biased result, received idea, pseudo-theory and half truth have become quasi-facts and even at times quasi-dogmas in Shroud literature of all persuasions.

In connection with the famous linen cloth, the coin-on-eye issue is no exception to this general state of things. For over three decades, arch-advocates adamantly have been thinking they see coin images on the eye areas while arch-sceptics, just as adamantly, have been thinking they do not. Even among “pro-coin-on-eye” researchers, interpretative discrepancies are observed for each eye area. As an archaeocryptologist i.e. as an ancient enigmatic image, inscription and artefact analyst and cryptanalyst, the issue did pique my curiosity. Are the coin images just mere “figures in clouds” or are they real? Could the problem objectively be ever solved?

In this light, both proponents and opponents must be reminded that there may be a very fine line between “I think I see coin images” and “I think I don’t see coin images”, depending on five crucial parameters: first and foremost, quality of material (is it biased or unbiased?); secondly conditions for observations (are the tools and technique appropriate?); thirdly observer’s particular field or fields of expertise (is s/he the right or the wrong expert/is s/he speaking inside or outside her/his own field or fields of expertise?); fourthly and fifthly observer’s personal approach and vulnerability (is s/he making use or non-use of inductive reasoning/is s/he the victim of intersubjectivity, unconscious and/or ideological biases in the recording, analysis and/or cryptanalysis of data?).

In order to get out of the research dead-end, I think it is essential now to go beyond the “pro-and anti-coin-on-eye” dichotomy. One must be fully aware that those who claim the ability to identify the presence or the absence of coin impressions left on the Shroud (a theologian, a psychiatrist, a medical doctor, an amateur scholar of numismatics or coin collector, a technical photographer, a church historian, a mathematician, a linguist, a lawyer, a laser physicist or engineer for instance) are definitely not the best qualified Shroud researchers to analyze and/or cryptanalyze ancient images and inscriptions. How can anyone of them turn into a professional numismatist, an archaeological analyst or cryptanalyst overnight? It does take extensive data-analysis and/or -cryptanalysis before you acquire the proper eye-and-brain. Without such a trained eye-and-brain for forms, how can a non-specialist, credibly discriminate between misspelling, misreading and non univocal forms; between mere “figures in clouds” and genuine palaeographic information embedded in visual background noise and random shapes?

From an archaeocryptologist’s perspective, the present paper aims therefore at making a full reappraisal of intriguing patterns on the eye areas in an attempt to surface more real facts and reach an illuminating synthesis no matter which side of the Shroud authenticity the coin-on-eye issue may fall.

Without reading the full paper, I don’t know what to say. I am not even “a theologian, a psychiatrist, a medical doctor, an amateur scholar of numismatics or coin collector, a technical photographer, a church historian, a mathematician, a linguist, a lawyer, a laser physicist or engineer.”  Even so, (and absent this paper) I have been able weigh the evidence put before me. I have seen what I understand might be fragmentary identification of certain coins but I also understand why much of what I see is possibly, if not probably, visual noise. I am open to being convinced that sufficiently identifiable parts of coin images exist that are not possibly visual noise. In the meantime, however, I am sufficiently convinced that the coin images are not there to “believe” that they are not there.

The eyes shown here are from a Vern Miller photograph as it appeared in National Geographic (June 1980, page 753). Fr. Frank Filas claimed he saw a coin in the right eye. To my knowledge no one else has identified a coin image in this or any other photograph other than the non-digitally enhanced version of a 1931 photograph by Enrie.

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