Home > History, Other Blogs, Science > Was Bad Archaeology Fooled?

Was Bad Archaeology Fooled?

February 3, 2012

imageThe latest editing of the blog entry at Bad Archaeology demonstrates how profoundly careless the authors are with facts and how cavalier they are with scientific findings to the point of fooling themselves. Consider this statement:

The fact that Ray Rogers, whom The Shroud of Turin Blog quotes with evident approval, was unable to find any evidence for pigments using visible and ultraviolet spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, thermography, pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry, laser­ microprobe Raman analyses and microchemical testing are effectively meaningless.

Why is it effectively meaningless? Are we meant to guess why? Because it disagrees with McCrone?

It wasn’t just Rogers who disagreed with McCrone. Many scientists who physically examined the shroud, something McCrone never did, disagreed with McCrone. Even Mark Anderson, McCrone’s own MOLE expert analyzed McCrone’s samples. He observed that most of the red flecks on the Shroud “bubbled up and turned black" when he hit them with the laser beam. This was an entirely different response than he got from authentic hematite crystals. He said it “acted like an organic phase" (21 January 1980). Walter McCrone refused to accept those observations preferring to trust his own visual observation. “If he wanted the image to be painted with hematite,” wrote Rogers, “no conflicting observations would be allowed.”

Another thing over at Bad Archaeology is the staggering lack of understanding of the 3D characteristics. We’ll explore that and many other part of BA’s posting later. But let’s now just look at one glaring and telling example. Near the conclusion, BA writes:

Finally, there was no mention of the contemporary Bishop of Lirey’s enquiries into the origins of the shroud when it was fist exhibited c1357. He identified the artist responsible for its creation and there the matter ought to have rested. The technique of tempera painting onto cloth is fourteenth century, the first record of the shroud is fourteenth century and the radiocarbon dates show that it was manufactured in the fourteenth century.

. . . As the Shroud of Turin Blog says, “[g]ood archaeology means considering all the facts, not just those that are convenient”. When those who wish to promote the Shroud as a genuine artefact of first-century CE date, they must explain:

  • how the Bishop of Lirey was fooled in 1357 by someone who claimed to have painted the Shroud;

I guess I should have used the word accurate with the word fact. And I didn’t mention this because it had no real significance. But let’s look at it now.

First of all, it wasn’t the Bishop of Lirey. Lirey wasn’t a see. There was no bishop of Lirey. Lirey was a small rural village. It still is with a population under 100. If you look closely at the picture above you can see the small collegiate church where the shroud was once displayed.

Did Bad Archeology perhaps mean the Bishop of Troyes? But which one? Pierre d’Arcis, who in 1389, not 1357 (where did 1357 come from?), claimed in a letter to Pope Clement, that a painter has confessed to creating the Shroud of Turin? But  Pierre had merely referred to his predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers, who supposedly conducted an inquest some thirty-four years earlier in which an unidentified, unnamed painter had confessed to painting the shroud. This hearsay claim — and that is all it seems to be, for no one was ever identified and no document has been found that recounts what a then dead bishop had supposedly said — has been largely dismissed by historians. It doesn’t meet the most basic criteria for objective, verifiable history. This has all the earmarks of an even careless borrowing of material from the writings of Joe Nickell.

When Bad Archeology writes, “He identified the artist responsible for its creation and there the matter ought to have rested,” the author of the Bas Archaeology site demonstrates a careless attitude. No, he, whoever he was and he wasn’t from Lirey, did not in 1357 or any year thereabouts identify the artist, at least not in any extant documents.

Knowing that this was a time notorious for its unscrupulous market in fake relics, the bishop’s memorandum seems to have a whiff of truthfulness to it. But the relic marketplace may also be the basis for doubting the veracity of the Pierre d’Arcis memorandum.

Pilgrims were a source of revenue and they were flocking to the small town of Lirey and that very small parish church where the shroud was being exhibited. They were travelling to Lirey rather than nearby Troyes and its collection of relics. Pierre, interestingly, states that his intent was not competitive. Why did he state that? Did he realize that others were voicing suspicions about his motives?

To reiterate, Pierre claimed that his predecessor, Bishop Henri de Poitiers of Troyes conducted an inquest in which a painter had confessed to painting the Shroud. Pierre did not have first hand knowledge of this artist; the artist is unnamed. There is no evidence of such an inquest in contemporaneous documents. Pierre stated that Henri had the shroud removed from the church because it was a fake, yet other documents dispute this. It was removed from the church for safekeeping because of the war raging about the area, to keep it from being captured by English forces.

The memorandum must be understood and assessed in the light of several documents of the same period and in the context of the political situation in the region. At least eight documents challenge the veracity of the d’Arcis Memorandum. There are other problems as well. All existing copies of the memorandum are unsigned and undated drafts. The copy at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris includes a heading stating that it is a letter that Pierre intends to write. It is definitely a draft with Latin annotations in the margins. It is unlikely that it was ever sent to Clement as no properly signed or sealed copies of the document can be found in the Vatican or Avignon archives. And no document of Clement refers to it, suggesting it was never received. Numerous classicist and historians find the document questionable. To a historian (or an archaeologist) reasonable doubt must prevail in a case like this.

imageDan Scavone, renowned medieval historian, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Southern Indiana, has studied the matter carefully. He writes:

When the D’Arcis [draft] document was discovered in the Vatican Archives in 1895, it caused a sensation. Science has ever since looked for paint on the Shroud; but for Dr. McCrone, science has found none in sufficient quantities to explain the image. This alone would seem to refute D’Arcis’ claim. That claim is even less credible when one notes his actual words:

About thirty-four years ago [about 1355] an inquest was held into the Shroud. Expert theologians [NB: not artists] concluded the Shroud was false because no image is mentioned in the Gospels. Also, the artist came forward.

The Bishop’s words, "about thirty-four years ago," suggest that he had no dated document before him and had no first-hand knowledge about the artist. Nor do any of the Pope’s responses to D’Arcis refer to an artist. The bishop says later that he has been accused of desiring the Shroud for himself and has become a "laughing stock." In fact, the collapse of the nave of his cathedral of Troyes in that very year, 1389, had resulted in the loss of its most precious relics, magnets for pilgrims and their contributions. This creates a presumption of self-serving in his memorandum to the Pope.

One might add that if an artist had produced the Turin Shroud in the fourteenth century, he would have been an original, creative genius of the first magnitude for his realistic rendering of anatomy and bloodflows, beyond anything known in Gothic art. He would have created the first nude Christ. His idea of a double image on a cloth would be unique in the history of Christian art. The Shroud does not, in fact, fit in the context of any artistic style or genre. For its realism, if it were art, it would claim a place on page one of every book on the art of the Renaissance.

So when Bad Archaeology writes, “When those who wish to promote the Shroud as a genuine artefact of first-century CE date, they must explain [:] how the Bishop of Lirey was fooled in 1357 by someone who claimed to have painted the Shroud,” we must say that is rather the silly. No bishop of Lirey or bishop of anywhere was fooled in 1357 or anytime thereabouts. So who was fooled? Bad Archaeology?

The other things on  Bad Archaeology’s list, things that they feel we must explain, include:

  • how the alleged contaminants in the fibres submitted for radiocarbon dating have produced dates that match so well the date of the Bishop’s alleged artist;
  • why there are traces of vermillion and madder on the cloth in sufficient concentrations to produce an image using the medieval technique of grisaille;
  • how the image on the cloth is anatomically impossible (the neck is too long, the legs are too long, the arms have not flopped to the side – which would have the unfortunate effect of exposing the body’s genitalia);
  • how the cloth has not draped itself around the sides of the body but remained miraculously on a single plane for the imprint of the image;
  • why the weave of the cloth is one common in the European Middle Ages but not found on the only definite burial cloth of first century CE date to have been identified;
  • why the Gospels refer not to a single cloth but to ὀθόνια, ‘small strips of linen’ (Luke XXIV.12 and John XX.5).
    The posting (constantly changing, so maybe not) closes out by saying, “These issues need be addressed if the Shroud is to be demonstrated anything other than a medieval fake.”
    Actually, these things don’t need to be addressed. They have all been addressed many times before. But maybe for the fun of it we will do so. There are so many errors and misunderstandings at Bad Archaeology.
Categories: History, Other Blogs, Science
  1. Ron
    February 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

    “why are there traces of vermillion and madder on the cloth in sufficient concentrations to produce an image using medieval technique of grisaille”…

    Where does he get this information from? …This statement is a complete misintepretation of facts and has been completely ‘made-up’ to mislead, as no such thing has been found.

    Your right Dan, those statements do not need addressing, instead for mention of most all being in complete error.

    It’s a shame such misinformation permeates the internet.

    R

  2. February 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I have just this minute posted the following to the Bad Archaeology site:

    Re the image being “anatomically impossible”, for example “the neck is too long”.

    There is a simple explanation for that in my sand bed model. When the heated metal effigy (bronze statue or whatever) is pushed into the linen/sand, the cloth is first pressed against the “square on” features of the face, and then turns a right angle at the end of the chin, when it is then pressed lightly against the underside of the chin before it hits the next square-on surface, i.e. the neck. But here’s the crucial point: when the linen is then removed and laid flat, the scorch imprint of neck will look too long because the top portion represents the underside of the chin, which can be a considerable length (it is about 10 cm on both me and the missus!

    Colin Berry

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