Tom Chivers has an opportunity to do some real investigative journalism

imageMartin Ames writes:

I am puzzled by David Rolfe’s comment:

What we all have to live with is the fact that the one person who should know, Ms Flury Lemburg, refuses to countenance it. Professor Ramsey can hardly be expected to contradict the only person who has had the opportunity to examine the shroud as a textile at close quarters.

I’m sure Ms Flury Lemburg [pictured] does not see it. I take her at her word. Recall, however, that she once said that you could see invisible reweaving from the reverse side. It turns out that is so only for certain types of reweaving. French reweaving of the highest quality cannot be easily discerned from either side, even with a low magnification device like at 10X Lupe.

For those who are interested, there is a book on The Frenway System of French Reweaving at

David tells us that Professor Ramsey can “hardly be expected to contradict the only person who has had the opportunity to examine the shroud as a textile at close quarters.”

I would think Professor Ramsey is more objective than that. He should know about numerous sightings of cotton or suspicious bits of thread or fiber in the area used for the radiocarbon dating by people like Edward Hall, Peter South, Giovanni Riggi, Giorgio Tessiore and Gilbert Raes. Raymond Rogers found a splice along with dyestuff that is not found elsewhere on the shroud. John Brown found microscopic evidence of repair. Robert Villarreal and his team found cotton fibers that confirmed Rogers’ findings. Sue Benford and Joseph Marino had three textile experts offer opinions favoring reweaving after viewing documenting photographs of the radiocarbon samples.

At least three statistical studies have found that the samples are not homogeneous. That fact is consistent with reweaving or some sort of repair.

I imagine Professor Ramsey has his reasons for saying what he did to Tom Chivers. I very much doubt it is because Ms. Flury Lemburg refuses to countenance it. I suspect that it has a lot more to do with what Robert Villarreal said in August of 2008:

The age-dating process failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case.  — Robert Villarreal, Los Alamos National Laboratory 

And it has a lot more to do with what Stephen Jones wrote:

But to admit that what the three labs tested was actually a “medieval repair,” not the Shroud itelf, would not be an honourable way out because it would make the labs look like fools, i.e. they did not even realise, or consider, that they were dating a mediaeval patch.

Actually, I wouldn’t have used the word honorable (U.S. spelling), but we know what Stephen means. The honorable thing is to fall on your sword and admit to problems. Short of that, Tom Chivers has an opportunity to do some real investigative journalism that would get world attention.

Thanks to Dan for agreeing to format this email for his blog.

Basis: What did Christopher Ramsey Know « Shroud of Turin Blog

20 thoughts on “Tom Chivers has an opportunity to do some real investigative journalism”

  1. I’ve only recently become acquainted with the more recent objections to the carbon dating, so may be ignorant of some crucial details. But a quick scan, so to speak, of the current debate leaves me with profound misgivings about there being credible grounds for dismissing the 14th century origin.

    Firstly, on reads that the sample was taken from a corner of the shroud (now that is credible, given the Vatican’s long refusal to have any of the cloth removed), and that highly peripheral location alone was used to cast doubt on the age. “A corner would have been have been handled by lots of people over the centuries, contaminating with progressively more modern carbon, making the fabric seem progressively younger”. OK, I’ll buy into that, albeit with some reluctance, and might have been content to wait for non-destructive techniques to come on stream for examining more central areas of fabric.

    But now we are told that the sample was not the original fabric at all, that it was rewoven in that corner, and what’s more done so cleverly by French artisans that it is undetectable to the naked eye. Now that I find very difficult to swallow, and for two reasons. Firstly, why bother to invisibly repair any part of the shroud, given that there is major fire damage, and that initial repairs were crude, using triangular patches (since removed I gather)? Secondly, why go to the trouble of invisibly repairing a corner of the cloth, leaving those major holes elsewhere?

    Sorry, but there seems an element of fancy footwork here, first to say that a somewhat inconsequential and atypical corner of the fabric was used that had maybe become contaminated, and then to suggest that the same remote corner of the shroud was the site for the most meticulous repair damage, while making no attempt to restore the major damaged areas.

    What I consider extraordinary is that it is the application of 20th/21st century science – pushed to its limits of reliability using minute fabrics of cloth that the Vatican has grudgingly allowed to be taken – that is being used to promulgate the idea that the shroud is 1st century, indeed that of Christ’s, when the Vatican itself makes no such claim, and indeed has never done so in the entire period since its 14th century coming to notice.

    As for the Italian scientists who have taken time off from their day jobs recently to fuel further speculation in the mass media with their tendentious claims of ultraviolet light as a proxy for some even more miraculous process, words fail me. Well, they don’t, quite, as my latest post, unashamedly downmarket though it is, will demonstrate… ;-)

  2. Sciencebod, please first get the facts. The French Reweaving (a method known by that name, not artisans of a particular nationality — think French fries) was for a repair that was made before the fire. The repair was likely commissioned by Margaret of Austria, Hapsburg princess, Regent of the Netherlands, wife to Philibert II of Savoy and legal custodian of the shroud and the House of Savoy collection of tapestries.

    The repairs after the fire, which are crude patches, are unrelated to the reweaving.

    I do blame the labs, the British Museum and church authorities (not the Vatican actually but the Archdiocese of Turin and its Cardinal who was the official custodian for the shroud in 1987). The original protocol called for samples from multiple locations. Church authorities had agreed to this. When it was decided at the last minute to allow only one sample the labs should have walked away. Moreover, the labs didn’t consult with experts about the sampling site and they didn’t do a proper chemical characterization of the sample.

    I don’t know anyone who is trying to promulgate a first century date without adequate evidence. I happen to believe it, but I don’t know it. I would rather know the truth no matter what the result tells me. Right now, I can’t imagine that it is a medieval fake. As for the 1987 carbon dating, there is enough reasonable doubt to set it aside, to invalidate the results.

    As for the ENEA report, I have my reservations. It has nothing to do with this subject.

    1. Actually the repair MIGHT AS WELL have occurred in the XIXth century (in 1863) depending which of the two respective contamination rates (Jackson, 66%-33% vs Evin 50%-50%) is retained as most likely.

      1. It does make sense. In 2008 I wrote a paper in French on the Carbon dating fisco. I wrote:

        “[…]Pour les trois laboratoires universitaires de datation radiocarbone d’Oxford, de Zurich et de Tucson (Arizona), chargés de procéder conjointement à l’expérience, seules deux dates, exclusives l’une de l’autre, pouvaient historiquement être envisagées : le Ier ou le XIVe siècle.[…]”

        “[..]On aurait, bien tort de perdre de vue ici que toute la valeur réelle de la datation C14 de 1988, ne repose que sur trois sous-échantillons ne s’avérant, en moyenne, pas plus grands qu’un timbre-poste de 1,69 x 1,32 cm et pesant chacun, toujours en moyenne, 52,83 mg. Le poids unitaire du Linceul étant estimé à 0,023 g/cm2 ± 10%, au sein de l’échantillon parent C14 pesant 158,5 mg ± 0,3mg, il suffirait au pire d’un remplacement soit d’à peine 106 millièmes de gramme ± 10% de fibres textiles originelles du Ier siècle par une quantité égale de fibres beaucoup plus récentes issues de réparations invisibles effectuées entre 1858 et 1988 (estimation haute selon Jackson), soit de seulement 79 millièmes de gramme ± 10% (estimation basse selon Évin) pour que la relique présumée de « 1260-1390 » soit définitivement enlevée au Moyen Age et se retrouve placée à l’époque coloniale romaine. Autant dire qu’à l’échelle de la réalité matérielle de l’objet archéologique analysé, il suffirait de presque rien[..]”.

      2. Actually Dan, I should have written: “It is most likely the repair have occurred in the XIXth century (in 1863) whatever the two respective estimates of contamination rates are (Jackson, 66%-33% vs Evin 50%-50%).”

      3. Typo error: read “I wrote a paper in French on the Carbon dating FIASCO” (instead of “fisco)

      4. My research paper was entitled:


        and subtitled: (Contre-enquête sur un fiasco scientifique)

  3. “I’ve only recently become aquainted with the most recent objections to the carbon dating, so may be ignorant of some details.BUT A QUICK SCAN,…” ~ There in lies the problem, with most all you’ve posted on this blog so far.
    Sciencebod, you seem like a very intelligent person, yet you will comment and experiment with very little ‘actual’ knowledge on the subject, the subject being the Shroud and it’s intricacies. As Dan has so eloguently stated; more study on your part is warranted.


  4. To study the subject deeply, here’s an advice : Start with

    Go to the scientific papers and articles page and then, read and reflect. It’s a hard task because the subject is so vast and complicated, but it’s also fascinating…

  5. Thanks Dan for correcting my misinderstanding re the time of the re-weaving. Yes, Ron, I have said already I am a relative newcomer to this topic. As for YC, he is so far up his own fundament that I shall endeavour to steer well clear of him, both now and in the future.

    Any future comments will be on my own blog (sorry Dan, I don’t care for some of your regulars). Tomorrow, I will report an interesting result with my thermo-stencilling technique on impregnated cotton with a view to obtaining surface-only effects.


    1. If you’re a relative new commer to this topic, then my advice to you is good. This topic is so complex that if you really want to go deep into it, you don’t have choice : you got to read alot of scientific papers on the subject. That’s all I say. I don’t know why you react so bad. It’s just an evidence I point out.

  6. #Sciencebod. Bless your heart. You’re good little scientist, making that cute face out of charcoal and heat and calling it a mini-Shroud of Turin. And your light experiment puts the folks at cern just to shame.

    To the grown-ups and critical thinkers who know the subject and the parade of hucksters who’ve “replicated” the shroud, I can waltz into a museum and pick up a Declaration of Independence that looks and feels just like the original, with the artsy script and fauthentic aging. I could put it in frame and tell the uninitiated that it is the real deal.

    Nice try.

    Whose next? I’m making one using old coffee grounds.

  7. I want to report one important comment I’ve read this summer in a French book published about the Shroud and who came from one of the best expert in ancient textile in the world today, Christophe Moulherat, from the Museum of Fabric in Lyon, France. Here’s what M. Moulherat had to say about the possibility that a repair can be invisible : “No, it’s always visible, because WE HAVE THE MEANS TO SEE IT. All is needed is to do an in-deep analysis. But to do that, you got to have access to the cloth and don’t observe it with the naked eye, because then, WE DON’T SEE NOTHING, OR ALMOST NOTHING. It needs microscopes.”

    Then Perrier, the author of the book, state rightly : “This is the kind of exam that was planned by the STURP.” Note : well before the C14 dating of 88, STURP asked the Turin authorities to do a second round of direct tests on the Shroud, along with a well plan C14 dating, but they were sadly taken out of the whole process ! Perrier continue : “This is not what was done by Gabriel Vial and Franco Testore (note : the 2 textile experts that were present in 88 when they took the sample to be dated), who discovered the Shroud only the exact morning when the sampling procedure was done. This is quite incredible, but, even if the dating project took years to be put in place, they waited until the last day to choose the place were the sample was taken, WITHOUT USING A MICROSCOPE.”

    Then, Moulherat said : “If we have non representative yarns with a will to hide the thing, we first have to think about it and BE EQUIP IN ORDER TO SEE THIS. If it’s not the case, and if the repair is well done, WE CAN PASS BY. IT REALLY NEEDS A FINE ANALYSIS.”

    Perrier conclude the point by saying : “So, you have to avoid to make it in a hurry with a simple magnifying glass, like it was done in 1988 in Turin.”

    I think this part of Perrier’s book says it all !!! Except that I would add this : In the STURP C14 procedure, there was a CHEMICAL ANALYSIS planned before the dating but none of the 3 C14 labs involved in the 88 dating did that. And what is the result of this kind of amateur procedure ? The medieval date given to the press in 88 with an exclamation mark at the end !!! So, when you understand the point of view of Moulherat, and when you’re aware of the findings of Rogers published in January 2005, then, how a person with a brain can still think that the C14 result is reliable ??? It’s a joke really…

  8. I also wrote:

    “[…]L’enduit de gomme arabique étant soluble dans l’eau et présent dans cette zone du coin supérieur gauche, il ne pouvait avoir été appliqué sur les fils superficiels des échantillons Raës et C14 qu’après l’incendie de la Sainte Chapelle de Chambéry de 1532. La teinture l’eût-elle été avant, celle-ci n’aurait pas dissimulé l’extrémité du bord supérieur de la grande auréole dentelée car l’eau de l’incendie eût entraîné les produits de la pyrolyse locale au cœur des fils. Ce revêtement coloré ajouté tardivement explique l’absence de fluorescence aux UV observée dans cette aire particulière du drap. L’histoire de la conservation du Linceul après 1532 permet donc de dater, d’une manière très précise, au moins une sinon les deux interventions. Seules, en effet, les quatre sœurs
    clarisses, en 1534, et la princesse Clothilde de Savoie-Bonaparte, en 1863, qui intervinrent de façon étendue sur la relique, auraient pu effectuer ce type de réparations invisibles de mains aussi expertes. Les sœurs clarisses s’étant vues confiée la tache bien spécifique de réparer et de consolider la pièce d’étoffe endommagée lors de l’incendie de 1532, la princesse de Savoie-Bonaparte s’avère donc être, pour ces travaux délicats de restauration, la candidate la plus hautement probable (aidée ou non en cela du maître tapissier de la cour royale d’alors). Ce d’autant qu’en 1863, cela faisait déjà plus de cinq siècles qu’à chaque ostension à mains nues, la relique se retrouvait être tendue à l’horizontale[…]”

    Actually a XIXth century repair is the most likely.

  9. I also wrote there might well be two different types of different repairs in the sample corner area:

    “[..]La technique dont il s’agit ici [invisible French reweaving] s’avère plus précisément celle d’un « retissage par épissures », sans coutures ni nœuds, effectuée, semble-t-il, sous un éclairage rasant et sous une loupe à fort grossissement. Elle demande beaucoup de patience et une grande dextérité des doigts. Elle consiste à mettre, tout d’abord, en place les fondations de base et la chaîne. Pour ce faire, soit le tisserand commence par identifier la matière des fibres constituant les fils de chaîne puis se les procure soit il utilise systématiquement des fibres de coton. Ensuite ces fibres sont filées afin d’obtenir l’épaisseur des fils originels puis entortillées avec précaution sur elles-mêmes et sur place aux fibres des fils de chaîne extraites de la partie cachée du tissu à réparer. Des fils de remplacement de la trame sont alors placés par-dessus et par-dessous les fils de chaîne reconstitués puis les fibres sont entortillées sur elles-mêmes, là encore avec précaution, aux fibres des fils de trame originels de façon à reproduire très exactement la texture ou le motif du tissu et refermer ainsi, sans faire de nœuds, le trou ou la zone sévèrement cisaillée. Pour finir de rendre cette restauration fil à fil tout à fait invisible et consolider les épissures, une teinture à base de gomme résineuse est appliquée localement sur la trame ainsi reconstruite pour que celle-ci, d’où provient l’effet de texture ou de motif, se fonde dans l’original (en l’occurrence la toile jaunie par la patine ivoire des siècles). Cette intervention sous un éclairage rasant et sous une loupe, si elle est bien réalisée et bien dissimulée, peut réellement être invisible sur les deux faces d’une pièce d’étoffe au point d’échapper parfois même à la main et à l’œil exercés d’une personne du métier qui, à l’œil nu et sous une lumière inadéquate, a tendance à confondre cette reconstruction avec des irrégularités apparues au cours du tissage. De fait, la structure artisanale du lin originel du Linceul, son calibre assez fort ainsi que son tissage serré en chevron sont de nature à parfaitement intégrer ce type d’intervention.
    Quant à l’échantillon de Zurich (et partant « l’échantillon 1 d’Arizona ») tiré de la partie claire de la bande C14 officielle du Linceul, celui-ci bien que ne présentant apparemment pas ou très peu de trace de contamination par une quelconque teinture14, n’en devait pas moins être recouvert d’une patine de microorganismes. De par l’aspect anormale de la zone où il fut prélevé, il suggère fortement, en tout cas, un second type d’intervention indétectable à l’œil nu car effectuée, elle aussi semble-t-il, sous un éclairage rasant et sous une loupe à fort grossissement : « un raccommodage à perte ». Cette technique consiste très précisément à insérer, entre les fils de trame et de chaîne, des fils (ici de coton) qui, à chaque fois, sont coupés à leurs deux extrémités sans faire de nœuds, les laissant ainsi littéralement se perdre dans le tissu de lin existant.
    Ces deux types spécifiques d’intervention (l’une dans le sens d’un remplacement de matière carbonée, l’autre dans celui à la fois d’un remplacement et d’un léger apport) permettraient de rendre compte de la grande dispersion des résultats observée (1238-1407) sur une si petite distance (à peine quatre centimètres de tissu). […]

    1. first line: “ici” = in the most rigid and darkest area of the C14 sample.

    2. Correction: read “C14 corner sample” (instead of “sample corner area”)

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