imageTom Chivers of The Telegraph reported that Professor Christopher Ramsey (pictured) of Oxford said:

[T]he radiocarbon dating results putting it at 1260 – 1390AD were reliable, and that the suggestions of contamination or medieval repair were unlikely.

This caused a bit of a reaction. I got emails wondering if Ramsey didn’t actually know about the possibility of a medieval repair back in 1987.  Hadn’t Teddy Hall, under whom Ramsey worked, noticed fibers that looked out of place? Consider this from the December 1988 issue of Textile Horizons (pg. 13), "Rogue fibres found in the Shroud.”

Staff at a Derbyshire laboratory have been working on one of their most unusual and fascinating problems ever to help unravel a second mystery concerning the world-famous Turin Shroud. The true age of the Shroud was announced recently following exhaustive tests by laboratories in Britain, Switzerland, and the USA.

Precision Processes (Textiles) Ltd. in Ambergate, Derbyshire, earned the distinction of being the only lab in the UK to assist Oxford University with the prestigious assignment, their task being identify "foreign" bodies found in the cloth. Managing director Peter South explains, "It was while the sample was undergoing tests at the radiocarbon acceleration unit in Oxford that Professor Edward Hall noticed two or three fibres which looked out of place. He mentioned this to his friend Sir James Spooner, chairman of Coats Viyella, to which our firm belongs. Consequently, after several telephone calls, the minute samples, which looked like human hair, were sent to us."

The strange fibres were magnified 200 times under a microscope and were immediately identified as cotton. "The cotton is a fine, dark yellow strand, possibly of Egyptian origin and quite old. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say how it ended up in the Shroud, which is basically made from linen," said Mr. South. "It may have been used for repairs at some time in the past, or simply became bound in when the linen fabric was woven. It may not have taken us long to identify the strange material, but it was unique amongst the many and varied jobs we undertake."

Also, hadn’t Giovanni Riggi, who actually cut the carbon 14 sample from the Shroud stated,

I was authorized to cut approximately 8 square centimetres of cloth from the Shroud…This was then reduced to about 7 cm because fibres of other origins had become mixed up with the original fabric . . .

Didn’t Giorgio Tessiore, who documented the sampling, write:

. . . 1 cm of the new sample had to be discarded because of the presence of different color threads.

Didn’t Gilbert Raes, when later he examined some of the carbon 14 samples, notice that cotton fibers were contained inside the threads, which perhaps helped explain differences in fiber diameter. This may also have explained why the carbon 14 samples apparently weighed much more than was as expected.

Hadn’t Alan Adler at Western Connecticut State University found large amounts of aluminum in yarn segments from the radiocarbon sample, up to 2%, by energy-dispersive x-ray analysis. Aluminum, found only in the area if the shroud from which the samples were cut was a mordant that might have been used for dying repair threads.

Hasn’t there now been a great deal more work done. Can Ramsey really say that repairs are unlikely considering what he might have known then or should have known then or what he should know now given the work of Ray Rogers and Joe Marino and Sue Benford as documented in science journals:

  1. Chemistry Today (vol 26 n4/Jul-Aug 2008), "Discrepancies in the radiocarbon dating area of the Turin shroud,"

  2. Thermochimica Acta (vol 425 2005)

  3. Perhaps he is not aware of any of this.