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Sciencebod, Do some homework on the Shroud of Turin

January 9, 2012

imageColinB/sciencebod writes:

Hello again Dan

I keep asking myself how I could have been so misinformed re the date of reweaving on which you corrected me so comprehensively with you references to Margaret of Austria. Might it be because pretty well everything I have come across in reading states that the repairs, including reweaving were indeed carried out AFTER the 1532 fire, regardless of who commissioned them, e,g, this from a Reverend gentleman:

http://ecc-c.org/TurinShroud.aspx

So my original objection still stands – why go to all the trouble of invisible mending, in a corner, when there is massive fire damage elsewhere. In fact, why would anyone even think about mending before the fire, given that an unmended cloth, showing at least some of the ravages of time, would make for a more convincing holy relic…?

Kind regards

PS Have you seen my latest theory re mummified cadavers, like the ones in that Capucin Brno monastery that missus and I gawped at just two or three years ago.

Dear ColinB: You have got to be kidding me. This is how you change your mind, on the basis of one reference on a web page? Some “Reverend gentleman,” you say?  Here is what your reverend gentleman says:

Physicist Ray Rogers, prior to his death, uncovered the reason why the Carbon14 tests were invalid. The Shroud had had invisible repairs, carried out by Poor Clare nuns, after the fire in 1532 in the chapel in Chambery, France. The samples for the Carbon14 dating had been taken from the area which was not the original Shroud. . . . Unfortunately, when the sample sites were chosen, the 1532 repairs were not known about and so it was an unfortunate and misleading coincidence that the samples that were tested came from the patch added by the Poor Clare nuns and not the original Shroud. It was therefore to be expected that the 1988 Carbon14 results pointed to a 16th century date.

imageOh, my. You have got to be kidding. Not only is this reverend gentleman wrong, not only does he not know what he is talking about, you are utterly uninformed and naïve. Now these other four reverend gentlemen are holding up the cloth long before the carbon dating. You can see the patches in what is an old painting. Bet they knew!

Rogers, who was a chemist, not a physicist, did not uncover the reason. It was Joseph Marino and Sue Benford.

The fire was on December 4, 1532 in the Sainte Chapelle, Chambéry. The shroud was protected by four locks. With the fire going on, Canon Philibert Lambert and two Franciscans summoned the help of a blacksmith to open a grille. By the time they succeeded, a reliquary made by Lievin van Latham to Marguerite of Austria’s specifications had partly melted. The shroud folded inside was scorched and severe holes were formed by molten silver. Chambéry’s Poor Clare nuns repaired the Shroud beginning on April 16, 1534 and finishing on May 2, 1534 not 1532 as the reverend gentleman says. The nuns knew. From that day forward, the repairs were the most prominent feature of the shroud, more so than the faint image. To suggest that the 1534 (let’s be accurate) repairs “were not known about and so it was an unfortunate and misleading coincidence,” at the time of the carbon dating sampling is just laughable. In fact, if anything, the carbon dating protocol discussions frequently referred to the patches sewn on by the Poor Clare sisters.

Patches applied to the shroud in 1534 were obvious; as noticeable as leather patches sewn to the elbows of an old sweater. Would earlier repairs in 1531 (a plausible date from the historical records) or at any other time, have been so expertly done that that they would have gone unnoticed when the carbon 14 samples were cut from the cloth?

Rogers was actually very skeptical. According to Philip Ball of Nature, “Rogers thought that he would be able to ‘disprove [the] theory in five minutes.’” (brackets are Ball’s). Inside the Vatican, an independent journal on Vatican affairs, reported:

Rogers, who usually viewed attempts to invalidate the 1988 study as ‘ludicrous’ . . . set out to show their [Benford and Marino] claim was wrong, but in the process, he discovered they were correct.

It was close examination of actual material from the shroud that caused Rogers to begin to change his mind. In 2002, Rogers, in collaboration with Anna Arnoldi of the University of Milan, wrote a paper arguing that the repair was a very real possibility. The material Rogers examined was from an area directly adjacent to the carbon 14 sample, an area known as the Raes corner. Rogers found a spliced thread. This was unexpected and inexplicable. During weaving of the shroud, when a new length of thread was introduced to the loom, the weavers had simply laid it in next to the previous length rather than splicing. Rogers and Arnoldi wrote:

[The thread] shows distinct encrustation and color on one end, but the other end is nearly white . . . Fibers have popped out of the central part of the thread, and the fibers from the two ends point in opposite directions. This section of yarn is obviously an end-to-end splice of two different batches of yarn. No splices of this type were observed in the main part of the Shroud.

Rogers found alizarin, a dye produced from Madder root. The dye appeared to have been used to match new thread to older age-yellowed thread. In addition to the dye, Rogers found a gum substance (possibly gum Arabic) and alum, a common mordant used in medieval dying.

Several years earlier, a textile expert, Gilbert Raes (for whom the Raes corner is named), had been permitted to cut away a small fragment of the shroud. In it he found cotton fibers. Rogers confirmed the existence of embedded cotton fibers and noted that such cotton fibers are not found in other samples from anywhere else on the shroud. Cotton fibers were sometimes incorporated into linen threads during later medieval times, but not earlier, and not even as early as the carbon 14 range of dates. This, along with the dyestuff, suggested some sort of alteration or disguised mending.

In 2005, Raymond Rogers, after four years of study on this matter and months of peer review published his findings in the scientific journal, Thermochimica Acta. Go read it. Go study the real history of the shroud and shroud research. Find out how many scientists have confirmed the work Benford and Marino started and Rogers completed.  

BTW: Ray Rogers, a distinguished chemist, was a Fellow of the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Originally, the home of the Manhattan Project during World War II. It is now part of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Rogers had been a charter member of the Coalition for Excellence in Science Education in New Mexico. He campaigned vigorously for the teaching of evolution, and against teaching creationism, in the public schools.

He also served on the Department of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board as a civilian with the rank equivalency of Lieutenant General. He had published over fifty scientific papers in ethical peer-reviewed science journals. He was a member of New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR), an organization affiliated with CSI.

Kim Johnson of NMSR wrote the following in an obituary on Rogers: “He was a Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and tried to be an excellent, open minded scientist in all things. In particular, he had no pony in the ‘Shroud of Turin’ horserace, but was terribly interested in making sure that neither proponents nor skeptics let their scientific judgment be clouded by their preconceptions. He just wanted to date and analyze the thing. He died on March 8th from cancer. He was a good man, and tried his best to do honest science.”

Rogers once wrote to The Skeptical Inquirer (letter was published):

I accepted the radiocarbon results, and I believed that the "invisible reweave" claim was highly improbable. I used my samples to test it. One of the greatest embarrassments a scientist can face is to have to agree with the lunatic fringe.

Colin, you tell me you are a real scientist. Then you change your mind because you read something on the web page of a reverend gentleman without checking it out. Are you a real scientist? I’ll believe you when you admit you are wrong on the patches.

Oh, that “latest theory re mummified cadavers.” You don’t mean theory Mr. Scientist. Really. Check out the facts about the images. Really. You might want to read Giulio Fanti’s, “Hypotheses Regarding the Formation of the Body Image on the Turin Shroud. A Critical Compendium,” in The Journal of Imaging Science and Technology, (Vol. 55, No. 6 060507-1–060507-14, 2011). It is a marginal paper but it does nicely summarize what many people before you have tried with a bit more science. There is a handy list that might allow you to call your wild-ass speculation a hypothesis (not theory, though) if you can meet some of the criteria.

Do some real home work.

Categories: Other Blogs, Science
  1. Max Patrick Hamon
    January 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Dan, you first blindly follow the Margaret of Austria hypothesis, now you seem to share Ray’s. Dan, like (late) Rogers and Di Marino, you seem to totally ignored very fine repairs were ALSO made in 1863. Too bad you cannot read French. In a 2007 paper, I did explain why the invisible French reweaving JUST CANNOT HAVE BEEN MADE BEFORE 1532. I sent you the relevant extract which completly rules out the Margaret of Austria hypothesis. Should I repeat here the 1863 is the most likely?

    • Max Patrick Hamon
      January 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Typo errors: read “ignore” istead of “ignred” & “Marino” instead of “Di Marino”.

  2. Max Patrick Hamon
    January 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    The most likely = AFTER more than 8 centuries (1357-1863) of both private & public bare-handed ostensions (the Shroud being each time stretched out in the same way).

  3. Max Patrick Hamon
    January 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    CollinB wrote: “why go to all the trouble of invisible mending, in a corner, when there is massive fire damage elsewhere.”

    The fact is the relic not only badly needed a few repairs to be hold more safely on the 1863 ostension but those were made by… very pious christian hands.

  4. Max Patrick Hamon
    January 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    …and very skillful christian hands indeed.

  5. January 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    In response to Sciencebod making a comment on my blog about when was the repair done, I wrote that I hadn’t given it much thought, but on checking Benford & Marino’s online 2008 Chemistry Today paper, I provisionally accepted it was in the 16th century.

    Then in response to Sciencebod’s pointing out the unlikelihood of bothering to invisibly mend a small part of the Shroud after the 1532 fire, I further checked and then wrote:

    ———————————————————————
    Reading Shroud.com’s “Shroud History: 1500s” I would have thought between 1502 and 1509 when Marguerite of Austria took control of the Shroud and installed it at Chambéry Castle:

    “June 11, 1502: At the behest of Duchess of Savoy Marguerite of Austria, the Shroud is no longer moved around with the Savoys during their travels, but given a permanent home in the Royal Chapel of Chambéry Castle. ….

    1509: New casket/reliquary for the Shroud is created in silver by Flemish artist Lievin van Latham, having been commissioned by Marguerite of Austria at a cost of more than 12,000 gold ecus. …”

    would be a likely time that invisble repairs were made to the Shroud.

    But I have ordered Joe Marino’s new book, “Wrapped Up in the Shroud” and will wait and see what he says in it.
    ———————————————————————

  6. January 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    OK, I’ll have to reply to you here, despite having said adieu to a site with some very pompous, patronising, know-all contributors. But seeing as how you mention me by name, but refused to take a second comment from me on your own site,stating that you blog “to express your own view” and “not to invite debate” then I shall make one quick observation here, and then depart.

    Let’s suppose that Margaret of Austria commissioned repair work on the Shroud, and that it was carried out before the fire (bearing in mind she died just two years before the fire), i.e. before being extensively damaged. What proportion of the shroud would have required highly demanding, time-consuming invisible mending? Probably not more than1 part in a 1000 at the most, would you agree- if iit was not to take an eternity?

    Given that the shroud is 4.4 x 1.1 metres, that is 48,400 sq cm, so repairs were needed on just 48 sq cm. Yet the sample taken was a strip 7cm x 1 cm, i.e. 7sq cm. The chances of a strip of just 7sq cm having major repairs (especially at a corner) sufficent to throw carbon-dating, when there are just 48sq cm of repaired areas scattered around a total area of fabric some 1000 times as great are minuscule. I shan’t try doing the probability calculation this time of night, and in any case I am rusty in that department. The very idea that the sample taken for C dating happened to have Margaret of Austria’s invisible repairs is so improbable, statistically speaking, as to be for all intents and purposes a non-starter.

  7. January 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    PS: And that’s still true when one realises, belatedly, that only half the area was sampled, ie the half that covered the forward-facing, ie. ventral, aspect of the image.

  8. January 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    As I and others, especially Dan, have pointed out: 1. the Pray Codex (1192-95), 2. the Vignon markings unique to the Shroud on coins and art from the 6th century, 3. the exact match of bloodstains on the Sudarium of Oviedo (which has been in Spain since at least AD 840) and the Shroud, and now 4. the ENEA report showing that the Shroud’s image is only “one fifth of a thousandth of a millimeter” and therefore it could not possibly have been created by a medieval or earlier forger.

    Because of any one of the above, let alone all four, lines of conclusive evdience that the Shroud is not medieval, the AD 1260-1390 medieval radiocarbon date of the Shroud simply has to be wrong. The only question now is: how did the three radiocarbon laboratories get it so wrong?

    The ball is now in the Shroud anti-authenticist court to try to find a face-saving answer. The pro-authenticity side no longer have to provide an answer since it no longer is (if it ever was) their problem.

    The 16th century invisible reweave theory is a possible explanation, among many, of how the radiocarbon labs got it wrong. If Sciencebod and his Shroud anti-authenticist ilk don’t like that explanation, then let him/them find another. It’s now his/their problem, not ours!

    • January 10, 2012 at 4:20 am

      Someone who considers that all four lines he cites as constituting “conclusive”
      evidence clearly has no idea about scientific as distinct from anecdotal evidence. Exact matches re blood? What, when someone claims it wastype AB, and someone else scoffs at that evidence. Or elevated levels of bilirubin, despite the fact that bilirubin is light-sensitive and prone to photoxidation? I could tell you quite a lot about the latter, having spent two years researching the phototherapy of neonatal jaundice (my first published paper in 1972 as it happens).

      As for “three radiocarbon labs getting it wrong”, that is wilful misrepresentation of the facts. The three labs each returned a medieval date for the contiguous samples they were provided, so in what way were they wrong?

      What was wrong was that the single sample site was chosen at the last minute by one
      Professor L. Gonella (Department of Physics, Turin Polytechnic) described as the Archbishop’s scientific adviser. But while there were 21 names on the carbon-dating paper, his was not one of them. (There’s an expression about power without responsibility that springs to mind, involving a prerogative …). Suffice it to say that no blame can be attached to the radiocarbon dating labs if they were fobbed off with a sample that was unrepresentative of the Shroud in general. If you want to ask a meaningful question, ask this one: were the labs deliberately given a sample known to be compromised, such that the carbon-dating could be rubbished if it returned the “wrong” answer.

      The correct response of those like yourself who still believe the Shroud to be authentic is not to attack the science and the scientists, but to confront the Turin stewards of the Shroud and their so-called scientific advisor, and INSIST that the work be repeated with proper randomised sampling sites. The argument that the Shroud must not be damaged in prominent areas should be kicked into the long grass, not just because of the major damage already sustained as a result of the fire, but because of the shabby way that three scientific laboratories have been treated – simply for doing analyses on the samples provided, And shame on you too for continuing to badmouth the science when the real target for criticism should be reserved for those guardians of the Shroud, and their so-called science advisor at Turin Poly.

  9. January 10, 2012 at 12:37 am

    Nevertheless, I will respond to Sciencebod’s comment!

    >Let’s suppose that Margaret of Austria commissioned repair work on the Shroud, and that it was carried out before the fire (bearing in mind she died just two years before the fire), i.e. before being extensively damaged.

    Agreed. Between 1502 and 1509 seems to be the most likely dates.

    >What proportion of the shroud would have required highly demanding, time-consuming invisible mending? Probably not more than 1 part in a 1000 at the most, would you agree- if iit was not to take an eternity?

    No. Medieval invisible reweavers repaired whole tapestries, so the comparatively tiny area of the Shroud it is proposed was patched would not take long.

    >Given that the shroud is 4.4 x 1.1 metres, that is 48,400 sq cm, so repairs were needed on just 48 sq cm.

    No. Sciencebod’s “not more than 1 part in a 1000 at the most” is just a figure plucked out of the air.

    I have read somewhere that Margaret may have been motivated to invisibly repair only a particular patch of the Shroud that was removed since it came into the possession of her Savoy family.

    >Yet the sample taken was a strip 7cm x 1 cm, i.e. 7sq cm. The chances of a strip of just 7sq cm having major repairs (especially at a corner) sufficent to throw carbon-dating,

    Chance has nothing to do with it. The corners are the most damaged areas of the Shroud, because they are structurally the weakest, and from time immemorial the Shroud was held up during expositions by its corners.

    Also, relic pieces were taken from the corners, no doubt on the principle that since it was already damaged, with pieces missing, a little bit more taken would be less noticed.

    If Sciencebod had actually taken the trouble to study his topic, i.e. buying and reading books on it, not just `cruising the web’, he would know that was in fact why it was decided that the sample cut from the Shroud and given to the three labs, would be from the same already damaged and patched bottom left-hand corner of the Shroud. So that it would cause minimal visual impact to the Shroud:

    “Nor is this the only cause for disquiet. The 1986 protocol laid stress on the care which Mme Flury-Lemberg should exercise when choosing the location from which the samples for the radiocarbon dating should be taken. Yet despite all the years of apparent planning for the taking of the carbon-dating samples it was not until the very moment itself that Gonella and Riggi chose this location – after a very public, heated and protracted argument witnessed and attested by the entire contingent of bemused radiocarbon-dating scientists. They could hardly have chosen anywhere much more unsuitable than they did … But now we come to the decision that Gonella and Riggi arrived at after their argument: to take the sample in the form of one single sliver from the frontal image bottom corner closest to the side-strip. This must be regarded as misguided in the extreme. For yet another major cause of possible contamination of a radiocarbon-dating sample arises from any excessive handling to which it may have been subjected at times distant from when it originated. And when we study the hundreds of depictions of the Shroud being held up before the crowds during past centuries, what do we see? In example after example a cleric’s hand can be seen holding up the Shroud at, yes, the frontal image bottom corner closest to the side-strip. …. Also, while their wisest decision would have been to take several tiny samples from scattered areas, by opting for just this single site they ensured that any contamination error, however large or small, would be bound to be repeated by all three laboratories.” (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.190-192).

    >I shan’t try doing the probability calculation this time of night, and in any case I am rusty in that department.

    I will help Sciencebod with his “probability calculation.” Probability ranges from 0 (impossible) to 1 (certain). Since the corners were the most damaged, and relics had already been taken from there, the probability is almost certain, close to 1, say 0.95, that a 6th century invisible repair to a piece that was taken for a relic, would be in the area where the radiocarbon dating sample was taken.

    >The very idea that the sample taken for C dating happened to have Margaret of Austria’s invisible repairs is so improbable, statistically speaking, as to be for all intents and purposes a non-starter.

    No. Far from being, “so improbable” that “the sample taken for C dating happened to have Margaret of Austria’s invisible repairs” it is highly probable that it was from the same area, given that both were for the same underlying reason: 1) to repair the most badly damaged corner, from which relics had been taken; and 2) to take the sample from the most badly damaged corner, from which relics had been taken!

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