imageA guest posting by Kelly P. Kearse.

A Veritable Giant
with Unusual Storklike Proportions: Really?

At the end of the The Inquisitor’s Key by Jefferson Bass, there is a section titled "Author’s Note: On Fact And Fiction", which devotes several pages describing the fact vs. fictional basis of various characters, settings, & storylines in the novel.  Regarding the Shroud, four main reasons are presented to dismiss its possible authenticity: C-14 dating results, faithful replication by dust-transfer technique, above average height, and unusual storklike body characteristics.  Portions from the book are quoted below-personal comments to provide context for clarification are included in [brackets].  

Many books and blogs have been written about the Shroud of Turin, Christianity’s most revered relic.  I won’t attempt to summarize those here; suffice it to say that ever since it’s appearance in Lirey, France, in the middle of the fourteenth century, the Shroud has inspired both devotion and controversy.

[A paragraph then follows regarding the C-14 results and various objections to the results by believers in the Shroud’s authenticity, including a possible bioplastic coating, a burst of radiation at the moment of the resurrection, and an] invisible patch woven into the Shroud. 

In a similar vein [as those who doubt the validity of the C-14 dating results], other believers [in the Shroud’s authenticity] have claimed, countless times, that there is no technique known to artists in medieval times or even modern times-that can produce an image with all the properties of the ghostly image on the Shroud of Turin.  That assertion is simply not true, as Dr. Emily Craig demonstrated nearly two decades ago."…"That article explained and demonstrated how a simple dust-transfer technique-using materials and techniques artists have used for thousands of years-could easily have been used by an artist to produce the image during the Middle Ages, the heyday of religious relics.

One other note on the Shroud of Turin: The passages in this book that discuss the Shroud figure’s stature and proportions are, like, Emily Craig, lifted from life.   [She has a cameo in the novel].  If the Shroud really were a direct, life-size imprint of Jesus’ body, Christ-more than six feet tall-would have been a veritable giant back in the first century, when people were far shorter than they are today.  If Jesus had been a head taller than his followers and his foes, it seems odd that none of the Gospel writers bothered to mention that detail.  Also factual are the unusual storklike proportions-the long legs and short, narrow trunk-that Dr. Brockton observes in the figure on the Shroud.

Various height estimates for the man on the Shroud have been suggested, ranging from approximately 5′ 8" to 5′ 9" (Fanti, Marinelli, and Cagnazzo), 6′ (Piczek), and 6′ 8" to 6′ 10" (Picknett & Prince).  The estimated height of (adult male) skeletons excavated from a 1st-century cemetery near Jerusalem was reported to be approximately 5′ 8" (Haas, 1970).  In his 1983 Current Anthropology article, Meacham mentions that one interpretation of the Talmud (Kraus 1910-1911) places the ideal male height at 176 cm (approximately 5′ 8"). 

Any other comments/data regarding the average height of Jewish males in the first century?  Have additional skeletons been examined since the earlier reports? 

Also, are there particular considerations when making height estimations of skeletons versus an imprint on a cloth (elasticity of the fabric, body position, etc.)   

"Unusual storklike proportions"?  A highly talented medieval artist who gets everything right except for the relative proportions of the legs and the trunk?  Is this a consensus opinion among those that are qualified to evaluate the anatomical correctness of the body imprint?