Fascinating Account of a 2800 Year-old Cloth

imageAlex Knapp writes in Forbes, Ancient Burial Cloth Provides Clues To Bronze Age Trade:

Previous archaeological research has established that there was a thriving trade in metal objects throughout Europe. Indeed, the urn that the remains were found in was also from Central Europe. Until now, however, there wasn’t any evidence of textile trade.

The origin of the goods is determined by measuring the levels of strontium isotopes in the material. Different geographic regions have different levels of strontium, so by examining those isotopes, archaeologists are able to figure out where materials originated.The age of the cloth was determined by Carbon-14 dating.

What’s particularly interesting about this cloth is that its weaved from nettle, rather than the flax and hemp that were more commonly produced. This suggests that that the cloth was a luxury item – the Bronze Age equivalent of silk. What’s unclear, though, is how the textiles got to Denmark. It may be that there was a trade in nettle cloth – something that further research might be able to determine if more samples of the textile are found in other sites. Alternatively, it’s possible that the person who died did so in Austria, and his remains were then returned to Denmark.

Six Months Ago Today: The Dawkins Challenge

imageHas there been any news? Here is the challenge letter dated March 29, 2012:

An open letter to Richard Dawkins

29th March 2012

Dear Richard Dawkins

It is really not sufficient to dismiss the Shroud, as you do, on the basis of a C14 test from a single and badly selected sample area. Are you really saying that C14 has never made a mistake? Archaeologists frequently go back to retest something when other data conflicts. That has been impossible with the Shroud.

In your Shroud blog you argue, rightly in my view, that it is not enough for Christian apologists to weigh faith heavier than facts. After all, Christianity is based on a historical figure. The Shroud of Turin is a much-studied tangible object and it is a very significant fact that its unique image – so far – remains unfathomable. But that could be about to change if you, with the weight of your formidable foundation behind you, choose to accept this challenge.

When Professor Hall, Head of the Oxford Radio Carbon Unit announced the C14 result he was asked for his explanation for the Shroud. He said: “Someone just got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it”. This sounded a bit glib at the time and now, over twenty years on, it is beginning to sound a little hollow. No one has yet been able to show how it might have been “faked up”.

Accepting this challenge would appear to be consistent with your foundation’s mission. Does it not represent a wonderful educational opportunity to investigate what some have suggested could only have been the work of a Leonardo Da Vinci? To make the decision easier for you we will donate the £20,000 to your foundation if you simply accept the challenge and follow it through to some kind of conclusion. The public can make up their own minds about the result.*

The challenge then, if you choose to accept it, is to explain how the Shroud and its image might have come into existence. You will find a list of the most significant image characteristics here. If you cannot pin it down then, in all conscience, you should, at least, give it the appropriate respect as an enigma. If you can explain it then this site’s title becomes a misnomer and you will have solved a great mystery. Everyone would like to see this matter resolved. Could you be the one to do it?

With all good wishes

David Rolfe

* This £20,000 donation is not made possible because championing the possible authenticity of the Shroud is well funded or lucrative operation – far from it – but because your acceptance would trigger a commission for a documentary along the lines of our 2008 BBC2 film with Rageh Omaar. If you wish, you could nominate an executive producer.

Blogger: Please don’t get upset if you are Catholic

clip_image001Iceangel71 writes in her blog:

In 2000, fragments of a burial shroud from the 1st century were discovered in a tomb near Jerusalem, believed to have belonged to a Jewish high priest or member of the aristocracy. The shroud was composed of a simple two-way weave, unlike the complex herringbone twill of the Turin Shroud. Based on this discovery, the researchers stated that the Turin Shroud did not originate from Jesus-era Jerusalem. Now with that being said why are catholic so eager to visit this encased piece of cloth? . . . [I]t’s like somebody finding a pair of shoes or sandal that date back as far as 1260AD and 1390AD and taking long trips to see these sacred shoes and praying over them ! I have nothing but respect for all religions but this cloth thing is way too much!@

Ohhh and finding JESUS’s face imprinted on this shroud now that’s crazy ! If you have all of that then you have DNA a blood or hair sample intertwined in it , skin cells or something why go that far ? please don’t get upset if your catholic im just venting!

imageHi Ice Angel. I don’t think we Catholics (I’m Episcopalian, but that’s close) or any of the many Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Non-Denominational Evangelical and Jewish people I know who think the shroud is real are upset. Really we’re not.

For a non-Catholic point of view you might want to read Gary Habermas’, "The Shroud of Turin and its Significance for Biblical Studies." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 24:1 (1981): 47-54. Gary teaches at Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell, who was the famous Senior Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church). You can find the paper on Gary’s own website. He writes: “There is little question that the shroud of Turin has occasioned much recent interest in evangelical and non-evangelical circles alike.”

Oh, and all pieces of cloth from the first century were not the same just as all sandals were not. Many experts think the shroud is real and for many good reasons.

Please stop venting.

A Touch of Miracle Plus A Maillard Reaction

A reader writes:

imageI noted with interest that David Rolfe commented in your blog yesterday saying, “I hope someone will be forthcoming with a critique, additions, suggestions…indeed anything that will aid Denis Mannix in formulating a methodology to test the Maillard theory in principle. With respect to Yannick, it cannot be necessary to have a crucified body to do this. To enable skeptics like myself to give the idea some credibility all I ask is for an image with a small degree of resolution no bigger than a little finger.”

In one experiment with a heated paper mache hand, Ray Rogers noted in his book that “Convection decreased resolution … however, the thumb and one finger are clearly resolved.” Is that sufficient resolution no bigger than a little finger? Rogers shows us just such an image in his book.

Rogers, on the same page, suggested some important variables, namely, body temperature, rate of amine release, a cool and still test bed and a sufficient concentration of saccharides. I suspect there are many more variables including body chemistry, time and other ambient factors such as humidity.  These are good starting points for Denis Mannix. However, I think something else is involved. Perhaps it is a condition or a phenomenon none of us has thought of including a touch of miracle.

Here is the text the reader mentions from Rogers’ book, A Chemist’s Perspective On The Shroud of Turin:

The amine/saccharide experiments showed that the following variables are important 1) When the body" temperature is too high, convection cells are too active, diffusing amines too widely for good resolution. Resolution improves at lower temperatures. A body that had cooled for several hours but has not yet produced high concentrations or amines would give better resolution than a hot body. 2) The amines must be released slowly. Too much amine badly reduced resolution. A decaying body would give much better resolution than any object that had been painted with pure amines. Too much amine would color the entire cloth, obliterating the image. A successful image that involved a real body would require removal of the cloth before extensive decomposition. 3) The experimental assembly must be kept in a space that is cool and still. 4) An increase in the concentration of reducing saccharides (impurities) on the cloth improves resolution. 5) Modern linen that does not contain suitable impurities will not produce an image.

The picture shown is the one from Rogers’ book. It was obtained from previews in Google Books. A larger version with better resolution is available in the book.

Templecombe: It is almost too exciting to think about.

imageFrom This is Somerset yesterday:

In August we had a talk, which lived up to the promise of its title, The Knights Templar.

The speaker, Juliet Faith, began with a brief history of those armed monks, founded in 1118 on the continent, to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land. They became so powerful and rich that they were hounded out or executed in 1307. All their treasures disappeared overnight and many of the knights fled to England where their lives were spared and where they continued as before, setting up preceptories everywhere. Because of their strong links with the Holy Land, they were guardians of a huge number of sacred relics. During the Second World War, a panel painting was discovered, well hidden in the roof of a cottage in Templecombe, the most important preceptory in the South West. The panel bears an uncanny resemblance to the head on the Shroud of Turin, carbon dated to 1280. The Templars had been tried for worshipping an idol in the form of a head, so could the panel have been the lid of a box containing the shroud? It is almost too exciting to think about.

Too exciting?

Update on the St. John’s Lutheran Transfiguration Frescoes

imageDerrick Knutson is reporting in the East Minnesota Post Review:

The nearly finished frescoes that stand outside St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stacy are a sight to behold.

An image of the Transfiguration of Christ is portrayed across three towering arches that overlook a scenic section of Carlos Avery State Wildlife Refuge.

Jesus stands in the middle with the prophets Elijah and Moses at his side.

The outdoor frescoes – the first completed by anyone in over 700 years – are the works of world-renowned artist Mark Balma, who has family in the Stacy area.

The frescoes will be officially revealed to the public Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

And of particular interest to readers of this blog:

Balma’s rendering of Christ is unlike any image ever painted or sculpted of him, due to the process Balma went through to create what he seems to be the most accurate representation of Jesus ever made.

Balma worked with computer graphics artist Ray Downing of Studio Macbeth to design the image of Christ.

Those familiar with the Shroud of Turin might know of Downing.
In March of 2010, the History Channel released a two-hour documentary about the shroud, a 14-foot length of cloth believed to be the actual burial shroud of Jesus.
A face, believed to be that of Jesus, is imprinted on the shroud. Using the fabric and the aid of computer imaging, Downing produced a three-dimensional image that Balma used to create the “most historically accurate” rendering of Christ ever produced, Welty said.

Welty added most people associate Moses with Charlton Heston’s portrayal of the prophet in The Ten Commandments, so Balma’s work is similar to that image, but Elijah is “an open book.”

Welty said Balma actually modeled Elijah after a man he met in a restaurant.

Well, not the parts about Moses and Elijah. But that is interesting.

L’Osservatore Romano Weighs In on the Coptic Papyrus

The Huffington Post is reporting:

imageVATICAN CITY — The Vatican newspaper has added to the doubts surrounding Harvard University’s claim that a 4th century Coptic papyrus fragment showed that some early Christians believed that Jesus was married, declaring it a "fake."

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article Thursday by leading Coptic scholar Alberto Camplani and an accompanying editorial by the newspaper’s editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, an expert in early Christianity. They both cited concerns expressed by other scholars about the fragment’s authenticity and the fact that it was purchased on the market without a known archaeological provenance.

The Real Shroud Enigma

imageA reader writes:

It is not how the image was formed but how the image is formed.  That is the real shroud enigma. Is the image in the fiber or on the fiber? That question comes first. Then you experiment with lasers and chemicals. (emphasis mine)

Update on the upcoming meeting of the British Society for the Turin Shroud

imageWe announced the upcoming meeting of the British Society for the Turin Shroud back in July. Now seeing that the meeting notice appears in Meetup.com, it is a pleasure to announce it again. The meeting will be Sunday, October 21, 2012, 2:00 PM To 6:00 PM in Beaconfield, UK and will feature:

  • Thomas De Wesselow, author of "The Sign", will talk about the artistic problems attributing the Shroud to the Middle Ages.
  • Denis Mannix, chemist, has been revisiting the material published on the Maillard reaction theory and will reveal the results of his investigation so far.
  • David Rolfe will provide an update on the Dawkins Challenge and the Shroud-Enigma educational project.

You can RSVP online. To get the actual address you can “sort-of” join BTST online. I’m not sure what I was joining since I logged in via Facebook and provided no information whatsoever.

I’d love to attend the meeting but it is a long trip from South Carolina.

Paper Chase: Barrie Schwortz’ “The Shroud of Turin Research Project 1978 Scientific Examination of the Shroud”

If you haven’t seen it, you must. One hundred pages of great pictures and explanations.


National Post: Quality punditry from across the globe

imageThat is how the National Post describes Araminta Wordsworth’s column: “Quality punditry from across the globe.” After all, she just wrote:

Unfortunately for excitable headline writers, the papyrus looks set to join the Shroud of Turin and the James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus ossuary as troubling fakes. It should also provide entertaining opportunities for inconclusive debate.

How can physics and chemistry account for consciousness?

imageThis past Sunday, Andrew Sullivan neatly summarized what is going on in one corner of the consciousness debate – Alvin Plantinga, Thomas Nagel, Jerry Coyne and Sean Carrol. Writes Nagel:

I say this as someone who cannot imagine believing what he believes. But even those who cannot accept the theist alternative should admit that Plantinga’s criticisms of naturalism are directed at the deepest problem with that view—how it can account for the appearance, through the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry, of conscious beings like ourselves, capable of discovering those laws and understanding the universe that they govern. Defenders of naturalism have not ignored this problem, but I believe that so far, even with the aid of evolutionary theory, they have not proposed a credible solution. Perhaps theism and materialist naturalism are not the only alternatives.

When Asses Flew

imageOther than being a tad chauvinistic, and extraordinarily pre-Vatican II, we have to ask if Mundabor has a valid point to make in The Shroud And The Papyrus:

If [Harvard professor Karen King, pictured] had found a papyrus saying “asses fly”, she would probably have told us it might have been that in ancient times asses used to fly.

What an amazing discovery, and what an academically challenged researcher.

This is very interesting. On the one hand, you see no liberal press – or feminist “researchers” – ever defending the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, which is an utterly, utterly impressive archeological find and, by the way, several metres long. On the other hand, a small piece of papyrus written several centuries after Christ is found and everyone thinks he can play Dan Brown.

Of Infrared Herrings and Mickey Mouse Science: Berry Criticizing Di Lazzaro

imageAs he promised he would, Collin Berry is responding to a posting on my site from several months ago entitled, “Colin Berry’s idea is untenable, and heat cannot produce a superficial coloration”.  He writes:

But we are not discussing infrared radiation dear chap [referring to Di Lazzaro]. I have not mentioned it, except in my very first posting on the Shroud of Turin,  back in Dec 2011, if only to point out that infrared will not scorch white linen unless a dark absorbing pigment is present, to give what I called  a thermo-stencilling effect, with non-coated linen being unscorched. What’s more, your experiments did not discuss infrared. You went straight for uv radiation –  based presumably on the flawed reasoning provided above that attempts to airbrush conduction  out of the picture, substituting secondary radiation for no good reason, except as a sleight-of-hand.  So why are you bringing in infrared? It is a complete red herring, or should that be infrared herring?

And then there is this. Did Colin just say, wherein he writes below “So there,” that because nobody agrees with him everybody else is wrong (just friendly joshing you, Colin)?

Your [meaning Di Lazzaro] “well known physics models” are phoney models, ones that would have the gullible or impressionable reader believe that the energy in conducted heat is converted to radiant heat without affecting the carbohydrates in IMMEDIATE contact with the metal. Your claimed pyrolysis of whole threads is based on entirely bogus reasoning, yet in the six months that screed of yours above has been displayed on Dan Porter’s blog, no one (apart from myself) has pointed out the spurious nature of your reasoning, or the false premises upon which your recourse to high energy radiation – laser-generated uv no less – is based . Nor has anyone supported me against the attacks you have made on my conclusions, ones that are based on a REALISTIC source of thermal energy underpinned with sound scientific theory. So there is much that is seriously wrong with your science, and much too that is wrong with the Porter site that is used as a portal for the kind of disinformation that you and others promulgate in the name of science.

imageVirtually everything you have written is what I have previously described as Mickey Mouse science. Rest assured that I shall  continue to describe it as such for as long as you continue to ignore or trash fundamental physical and chemical principles in the way that you do, purely to justify your wacky (and no doubt agenda-driven) line of research with laser beams.

PDL: Useless to say, it is all the approach of Colin Berry to find a middle age technology able to create the Shroud image that is hopeless: just consider the half tone effect.  It could not have been made by medieval forgers because they would need a modern microscope to observe and then control their micrometric-scale coloration.

That too is Mickey Mouse – albeit in a comedic sense. As mentioned earlier I have already proposed  an explanation for the curious half-tone effect. To the best of my knowledge, nobody else has done so. Maybe that’s why my hemicellulose posting has had those 800 or so hits, with new ones arriving each day, 6 months after it was posted.

And there is this:

. . . In short, he [=Di Lazzaro] is displaying a monumental blind spot to the immediate and HIGHLY LOCALISED  effects of conducted heat on the superficial fibres of linen, and indeed the superficial component of those fibres, namely the PCWs, and instead, ignoring all of that and focusing on downstream and (probably) largely inconsequential effects.

Accidental or deliberate oversight? I leave that to readers to decide…  Either way, it is MICKEY MOUSE SCIENCE. (emphasis Berry’s)

Downright Stupid Analysis in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave

imageJoe Marino writes:

I recently bought The Empty Tomb:  Jesus Beyond the Grave, edited by Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder (Amherst:  Prometheus Books, 2005).  In a chapter called "The Plausibility of Theft" by Richard Carrier, the author is talking about what Luke and John says were found in the tomb.  ("Linen strips" or "wrappings" for the former and "linen cloths" and "napkin" for the latter.)  The author says:

"Since Mark and Matthew do not mention such cloths, and their presence is clearly a dramatic element in Luke and John, it is not likely a genuine detail."

First of all, Matthew and Mark do mention a sindon.  Secondly, since Jews were traditionally interred with burial clothes, is he trying to convince us that Jesus was buried without any burial cloths in order that his interpretation carries weight?  Apparently so, which is just downright stupid.

This review from Publishers Weekly helps us understand:

This uneven and sometimes obscure collection of essays takes up the gauntlets thrown by contemporary Christian apologists like Craig Blomberg, Peter Kreeft and William Lane Craig and argues that a physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is so unlikely as to be impossible. (As Price puts it, there is "implicit absurdity" in the "notion that Jesus is still alive, after two thousand years, in the personal, individual-consciousness mode intended by evangelical apologists.") The essayists, all of whom are male, previously published these articles in academic journals (most notably the Journal of Higher Criticism), mostly within the past five years. The fact that these essays originated in academic niche periodicals and seem largely unchanged means that these are often inaccessible works that demand prior knowledge of specialized philosophical debates. Michael Martin’s essay on the improbability of resurrection, for example, jumps right into proving his case by applying Bayes’s Theorem without even bothering to explain what that theorem is, and Evan Fales’s piece on "Reformed Epistemology and Biblical Hermeneutics" is clearly directed at the Ivory Tower, not the person in the pew. Price’s own contributions (the introduction and two essays) are more accessible than his peers’, but can also be polemical and mean-spirited, as when he calls Blomberg "a PR man for Bill Bright and his various agendas." However, several essays make excellent points about holes in Christian apologists’ arguments; Richard Carrier’s discussion of the "spiritual body of Christ," for instance, challenges Christians’ tendency to imagine a monolithic worldview among first-century Jews.

Robert M. Price is the editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism and Jeffrey Jay Lowder is a cofounder of Internet Infidels. The publisher is Prometheus. No surprises.

Laugh for Today: Beery Colin’s Latest


He does have a sense of humor. Thank God for that:

Needed urgently – scorch scanner (gd wkg cond)

Must be in tip-top condition – needed for important modelling exercise at the cutting edge of science.

Must be capable of handling images of 250nm thickness +/- 500nm (best estimate available for target icon, based on  1980s vintage state-of-the-art sticky tape technology).

Must be capable of handling horse-brass size images – especially faint ones at the limits of visibility (see second from left above prior to 3D-image processing). Ability to upgrade to 4.4 x 1.1 metres an advantage, coupled with ease of portability and ability to fit through cathedral doorways.

imageMust also be capable of handling ancient scorches, including flaking specimens, up to 800 years old.

Stephen Jones is up with Part 10 of his critique of Charles Freeman

imageJones is up with part 10 of his “critique of Charles Freeman’s "The Turin Shroud and the Image of Edessa: A Misguided Journey," part 10: "The Image of Edessa"

Nicely Done!

I now agree that the much mentioned topless square between the eyebrows that we see on the shroud is probably the result of vertical banding. As Jones describes it in the caption for this picture:

Closeup of face of the Man on the Shroud, showing that the `topless square’ is part of a flaw or change in the Shroud’s weave which runs all the way down the face (and in fact appears to run down the entire length) of the Shroud: ShroudScope "Durante 2002 Vertical"

But I don’t necessarily agree with Wilson, as quoted below by Jones. I don’t think that the open box is necessarily a tell-tale clue: 

However, it features one highly important extra detail: on the forehead between the eyebrows there is a starkly geometrical shape resembling a topless square. Artistically it does not seem to make much sense. If it was intended to be a furrowed brow, it is depicted most unnaturally in comparison with the rest of the face. But if we look at the equivalent point on the Shroud face … we find exactly the same feature, equally as geometric and equally as unnatural, probably just a flaw in the weave. The only possible deduction is that fourteen centuries ago an artist saw this feature on the cloth that he knew as the Image of Edessa and applied it to his Christ Pantocrator portrait of Jesus. In so doing he provided a tell-tale clue that the likeness of Jesus from which he was working was that on the cloth we today know as the Shroud.

The following is from a posting I wrote back in February of this year:

imageStephen Jones continues his postings on the Vignon markings:

[A]s can be seen above, the Ravenna Pantocrator mosaic has at least thirteen of the fifteen Vignon markings on the Shroud [see part #2 (1)] namely: "(2) three-sided `square’ between brows, (3) V shape at bridge of nose, (4) second V within marking 2, (5) raised right eyebrow, (6) accentuated left cheek, (7) accentuated right cheek, (8) enlarged left nostril, (9) accentuated line between nose and upper lip, (10) heavy line under lower lip, (11) hairless area between lower lip and beard, … (13) transverse line across throat, (14) heavily accentuated owlish eyes, (15) two strands of hair" [3]

I do find the Vignon markings very telling, when considered collectively, in large numbers. But we must be careful when considering them independently or just a few at a time. Jones is sensitive to that.

For instance, what are we to make of the “three-sided `square’ between brows,” sometimes referred to as a squared off U or a topless box? Too much, sometimes. It could be a defect in the cloth that was seen by an artist as a facial feature. It could be that it really was a feature of Jesus’ face. Or it could be, as some have suggested, an object resting on the face, a phylactery perhaps.

I recall a discussion when someone said it must be a defect of the cloth because Jesus was too young to have such an old-man wrinkle. I have a three-sided square in exactly the same place, but I’m old. So I asked my young thirtyish Jewish neighbor to furl his brow, just as I showed him I could do, to see if a young Jesus could have this feature. It didn’t work. However, another neighbor who is half Welsh and half Italian and is only twenty-seven years old can make a perfect topless box above his nose by squinting just slightly in bright sunlight. If I trust only some of the Vignon markings, then since Leonardo da Vinci was at least half Italian, I must conclude that the shroud is a medieval photograph of him taken in bright sunlight.

imageI did try to find a picture of Leonardo da Vinci with the feature. There weren’t all that many pictures of the old man. But I did find pictures of another Leonardo with a topless box above his nose. And he is a young fellow. And Italian. (This should cause Picknett and Prince to rethink their theory.) It cannot have been the great medieval photographer, Leonardo; no topless box on him.

I do think the Vignon markings may tell us something. We must exercise care, however.

Really? We must come to God by faith, not by sight?

imageA guest author (“Fr. Dunn is down for the count with the flu”) writes in Internet Monk:

My feeling about this find? Who knows? Who cares? If this scrap of papyrus could be proven to be true, what difference does it make? It is obviously not taken from a book of accepted Scripture. I doubt Jesus was married—that would have been a pretty big detail to leave out of the entire New Testament! If he was, that did not affect him being both the Son of Man and the Son of God at once. This seems to me to be another Shroud of Turin. Is that really the burial cloth used to cover Jesus? Who cares? We know that some cloth did—it very well could have been the Turin one. What is more important to me is that Jesus shed his shroud and rose again. For that there is no proof. We must come to God by faith, not by sight.

At times, I like to think this is true. But then again, it isn’t that simple. Don’t we constantly study apologetics, history of Christianity, non-canonical literature, archeology of the Holy Land, religion and science, theology, etc.

An Open Thread for Rich Savage Questions

imageRich writes:

I have all sorts of questions that I’d like to pose to you and your audience. Could you possibly publish those for me as they come up?

I think that I’ve already posed something similar to the following question, but for instance: What peer-reviewed articles (pro and con) regarding the carbon dating have been published since the originalNature article in 88?

I’m not sure of the appropriate terminology, but some "papers" have been "peer-reviewed" for a conference rather than a journal; and also, some papers have been peer-reviewed but apparently never published (e.g. M. Sue Benford and Joseph Marino. New Historical Evidence Explaining the “Invisible Patch” in the 1988 C-14 Sample Area of the Turin Shroud (2005)). I’d like to know about these as well.

By way of an email from Rich to Yannick I learn . . .

I’ve been on the Randi forum (http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=226761&page=80) since 3/6/12 (little over 6 months). At that point, the thread I joined (about the Shroud) had garnered just 16 posts in the 2 ½ months since opening. It now has 3,192 posts, and 109,000 hits, and I’m the only one on the thread arguing for authenticity – the other 60 souls (approximately) on the thread are arguing against authenticity.

Mostly, these other guys are making foolish and insulting claims. But, some of their claims have seemed to me reasonable, and for which, I don’t have very good answers (mostly, I think, because I don’t have nearly enough time to do the necessary research)…

I’m willing to try making this an open thread where Rich can ask questions as comments and we can perhaps provide answers. Let’s see what happens. But I don’t want this thread or this blog to become a dumping ground of “foolish and insulting claims” from the Randi Forum crowd. We have a good thing going on this blog, good and well thought out discussions for the most part. I want to keep it that way.

Mount Everest is only 29,000 feet high

imageA reader writes:

. . . You have a very nice site that you’ve clearly invested much in.  I’m just honestly stumped at why?  I haven’t dug deep on your site so I may be wrong but it seems aimed at basically just that?  Substantiating the validity of the shroud being that of Christ’s?  Again – if so … why would it mean so much to you?  Please understand, if I held a cloth I knew to have been soaked in the blood of Christ, it would mean the world to me on so many levels – but proving it was such would honestly mean little to nothing to me, unless I believed God wanted me to invest in such efforts – which, I can’t imagine him doing and cannot think of any real instance in which he has ever done that.

If every test imaginable pin-pointed the date of the cloth to what would widely be accepted as the most probable date of Christ’s death.  If it was beyond any argument that the image on the cloth was printed in blood.  What would that tell you?  If hundreds gathered and fasted and prayed for weeks with all believing God confirmed in their spirits that it was Christ’s burial cloth … what then?  If … & I am not being facetious … Christ appeared to you one day & simply said, “seems important to you so I just wanted you to know for sure … yea … it was my burial cloth” – what then?  I mean this as honest curiosity so if you’re busy or have no real appetite to reply, that’s cool.  I’m always moved by peoples passion to pursue and dig into all truth pertaining to God so I’m just curious why you would be so given to things related to the shroud.  I can’t say given to proving it was Christ’s as there ultimately can be no way to prove such.  His signature & video testimony would not do so.  So then … why?  What’cha gunnin for here Mr. P?  Blessings – just curious.

My wife calls it a hobby. When I was a child my father tried to get me into stamp collecting. This is a bit more fun. Someone else described it as my Mount Everest. Not exactly; Mount Everest is only 29,000 feet high.

Speaking of the the Mannix proposal to test the Maillard Reaction

imageBy way of a comment Yannick Clement writes:

We can speculate ad noseam on the question of whether Rogers hypothesis for image formation can be totally right, partially right or totally wrong… The real question is not this one. No. The real question is the question of what is the chromophore of the image. I have already written about that often on this blog and I truly think that’s the main aspect science must determine BEFORE proposing any image formation process. That’s exactly what was the method used by Rogers : First, he took EVERY solid data, observations and facts regarding the Shroud and came up with a good hypothesis regarding the chromophore of the image. And it’s only after he was convinced that a thin layer of carbohydrate impurities was the real chromophore of the image that he start looking for a natural mechanism that could account for it.

Since the day he proposed his hypothesis, some members of the SSG (Fanti, Di Lazzaro et al.) have proposed another hypothesis for the chromophore of the image (the primary cell wall of the linen fiber) and right now, because new direct testing could be performed on the cloth itself, this question of the chromophore cannot be settled definitively. It’s only once science will be sure of the chromophore that we will have a better idea of at least the probable nature (chemical, energetic, etc.) of the body image and that we will be able to better judge any hypothesis of image formation that have been proposed over the years.

As I said many times here, if Rogers hypothesis is correct regarding the chromophore, any image formation hypothesis that involved any kind of energetic radiation would have to be considered highly unlikely while it would be a very strong argument in favor of a natural occurring image. But we’re not there yet, even though the hypothesis of Rogers concerning the chromophore SHOULD be considered in the moment as the most probable that exists because of many particular data like the pectine and the starch deposits that were find on the fibers, the presence of a banding effects on the Shroud indicating a possible uneven presence of impurities on each threads (with some threads that might even have almost no impurities on them), the ghosts of color (and also the diimide reagent) leaving a clean and undamaged fiber behind, etc. Also, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, there’s one more aspect that strongly favored Rogers hypothesis over the primary cell wall hypothesis of Fanti et al.: it is the fact that the image is very superficial and that this superficiality is the same no matter if the body was in direct contact with the cloth or if it was at a short distance of it (less than 4 cm). Effectively, Rogers hypothesis concerning the thin layer of impurities offered a very good rational and scientific explanation for this very strange particularity of the image while the hypothesis of Fanti CANNOT. Note that it is also true concerning the possible superficial image of the hair on the reverse side of the cloth. This is, for me, the most important argument in favor of Rogers hypothesis over the other ones that proposed a coloration of the linen fiber itself and I think this has been truly neglected in the recent past (the best example of this truth is the first draft of the fact list of Rolfe that was signed by almost everyone present at the conference of Valencia). Sorry but linen fibers (and the primary cell wall too) are scattered everywhere inside the cloth (not restricted to the surface) while the impurities that Rogers propose are only concentrated in a thin layer on the top surface of the cloth (on both sides), which is totally consistent with the superficiality of the image on the Shroud and totally consistent too with the fact that the image possess the same exact superficiality no matter if the body was in direct contact with the cloth or if it was located at a short distance of it. The primary cell wall hypothesis CANNOT offered a rational and scientific explanation for this particularity of the Shroud image and so, no matter what kind of image formation process could have been active to produce the image…

That’s the situation right now and anybody who think that the Shroud image is the product of a supernatural kind of event should pray hard that science will never prove that Rogers was right about the chromophore !!! ;-) And I even strongly suspect that this was the real motivation of Fanti when he wrote his paper that proposed another hypothesis (the PCW) than the one of Rogers for the chromophore of the image… Effectively, it’s evident for me that he is fully aware of the fact that his corona discharge hypothesis would have to be set aside if Rogers hypothesis concerning the impurities is right. So, to conclude, I would say that the sindonologists interested by the question of the image on the Shroud SHOULD really focus their attention on the question of the chromophore before even thinking of a possible explanation for this image.

Then as a follow up he writes:

I would add one more little comment to complete my previous long comment. I just want to say that beside focussing on the question of the chromophore of the image in order to have a better idea of the nature of the process that has been active inside the Shroud to formed the image, I also think Shroud scientist should try hard to confirmed the conclusion of Fanti concerning the possible presence of another superficial image of the hair (and maybe some other body parts like the beard and mustache) in the reverse side of the cloth because if it would be scientifically confirmed, this would also be another very important piece of evidence in favor of a chemical process for image formation (that could very well include totally or partially the Maillard reaction proposed by Rogers) and, at the same time, it would be another very important argument AGAINST any form of image formation hypothesis involving an energetic radiation. Effectively, here’s what Rogers specifically said about that in his book: “Heat and radiation of sufficient intensity all the way through the thickness of the cloth WOULD NOT BE LIMITED to producing a color on the back of the cloth in the area of the hair.” He also wrote: “We would expect to see a color in the center of the cloth. We do not.”

So I am completely convinced that this is one very important aspect of the Shroud (the possible presence of a superficial image on the backside of the cloth) that should be analyzed more deeply by Shroud scientist well before they proposed any other hypothesis for image formation. Getting access to the very high quality photographs of the reverse side of the Shroud that were done in 2000 and 2002 would be a very good step for this kind of research but I’m convinced that only a direct chemical and microscopic examination of a sample taken from this area will be enough to really settle this debate concerning the possible presence of a superficial image on the backside of the Shroud. So, along with the question of the chromophore of the image, I think scientist MUST focus their attention on this question of the possible superficial image on the backside. Getting finally a definitive and scientific answer to these 2 questions would greatly improve our understanding of the real nature of the image-formation process and would help to eliminate many image-formation hypothesis, because, as Rogers wrote in his book: “…the appearance of some specific parts of the image on the back of the cloth can contribute critical information toward the understanding of the image-formation mechanism.”

Agenda Driven Shroud Science? What a pity.

imageA reader writes:

The proposal to test the Maillard reaction hypothesis was requested and promoted by David Rolfe, the man behind the the “List”, (more appropriately the Valencia Dogma) who wrote, “It is, frankly, unthinkable that a process that has only ever been known to brown toast and meat could form the Shroud image. . . .One of the major achievements of the "List" is to put this idea away for good and allow proper considerations to continue unfettered by it. . . .The fondness that everyone, me included, has for Ray’s memory is the only thing that has kept the theory alive for as long as it has” 

Rolfe now doubles down. He writes that, “One of the reasons for the theory’s attractiveness to some researchers is that, if correct, it provides a "natural" explanation for the creation of the image.”

So what? The real reason for the theory’s attractiveness could be/should be/must be that any hypothesis might be right. A Maillard reaction might in fact be right. It might be the answer or at least part of the answer. This kind of transparency from Rolfe makes all shroud science appear suspect and agenda driven. What a pity.

BTW the Mannix proposal should be presented as nothing more than an opening suggestion designed to start some fruitful discussion. As written, this proposal is hardly adequate to even begin testing what Rogers was talking about.