With all the ENEA hoopla, Tom Chivers at the Telegraph has a different take. “The Turin Shroud is fake. Get over it,” he proclaims with a title. There are over 1000 online reader comments on the story, mostly, it seems, siding with Chivers and echoing his sentiment. Chivers depends almost completely on his interview with Christopher Ramsey (which to some extent seems to contradict other things that Ramsey has said).
However it was made, if – as many have claimed – the Shroud was made in the 13th century, then it isn’t a relic of Christ, for obvious reasons. Radiocarbon dating has repeatedly placed the Shroud as medieval in origin – specifically, between 1260AD and 1390AD. There have been suggestions that the radiocarbon process got it wrong – but this is unlikely, according to Professor Christopher Ramsey of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, one of three labs which carried out the research. "We’re pretty confident in the radiocarbon dates," he told me. "There are various hypotheses as to why the dates might not be correct, but none of them stack up.
"One is that the samples were contaminated. But that doesn’t work, because to make an 2,000-year-old object appear just 800 years old, about half the material would have to be contaminant, and that’s if it was all modern. If it was older, it would have to be even more. Various tests done at the time of the original measurements also suggested that the material was fairly pure. It’s also been hypothesised that the patch we tested was a modern repair, but most of us agree that’s implausible, because the weave is very unusual and matches the rest of the shroud perfectly. Then there are more complicated notions, like contamination with carbon monoxide, but tests have shown that carbon monoxide doesn’t react with the fabric under the circumstances that you might expect."
Regarding the ENEA findings, he is similarly sceptical. "Just because you can create similar results using an ultraviolet laser, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way it could have been made in the first place," he says. "There are several possibilities, and it could just be a chance effect due to a number of different phenomena. But in archaeological science, being able to reproduce something, doesn’t imply that that’s the technique used; it may simply show that you’ve got a new technique you want to try out." He adds that the confidence in the medieval result is such that, were it not suggested to be a relic, there would be no more discussion over its age.
Ramsey has completely misunderstood or mischaracterized Benford/Marino, which is extraordinary. It has been six years.