Home > Carbon 14 Dating > An email from Professor Christopher Ramsey

An email from Professor Christopher Ramsey

May 7, 2013

imageHugh Farey reports in a comment on an email from Prof. Ramsey (pictured):

As far as I am aware the whole material was used for the dating here – that is what the weighed components suggest – and we don’t have any remaining sample in our archives with these sample numbers. I think the position taken here was that we only had permission for dating and not other research – and at that time, the measurements needed as much material as possible. It is true that it is normal practice to retain some material for further checks in routine dating and we do normally do this – so I can see that other labs may have made different decisions.

Apparently Oxford needed at least 16mg to produce reliable results (they cut their 50mg sample into three). Strange that Tucson needed only 7mg.

Categories: Carbon 14 Dating
  1. Cazab
    May 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    what a scientific mess…

    • May 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Why? It’s a ratio one is measuring – C14 relative to C12 – not an absolute amount. That’s why one can get two, possibly more readings off the same graphite residue, and why a less-than-optimal sample size may still allow one to get a reasonably accurate/precise answer – certainly one that discriminates between a 1st and 13th/14th century provenance.

  2. Yannick Clément
    May 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    The real mess was the decision to take only a unique sample in a damaged and most probably repaired corner of the cloth (without doing an in-deep microscopic and chemical analyses before dating it) and, sincerely, the scientific adviser of Turin at the time, Luigi Gonella, is one person (probably not the only one) to blame for this unscientific decision that was driven by a mad desire to maintain the visual integrity of the relic at the expense of the good scientific method. Read “The Rape of the Turin Shroud” by William Meacham and you’ll see that I’m right about that.

    In sum, Gonella, in my book, is the one to blame the most and we must also blame the member of the pontifical academy (Chagas) who was in charge of supervising the building of the protocol and also the C14 labs for having say “yes” to this kind of bad protocol. They should have said “no way” if at least 3 different samples could have been used. But, on the other hand, it’s very easy to understand why they all decided to proceed anyway… It’s because they knew they would get a great publicity and fame (and probably also more contract and money) by doing this kind of mediatised dating test.

    In the end, the preservation of the relic (it’s “look”) was more important than finding the real age of that cloth and that’s a shame because it would have been certainly easy to take some threads in various places while not really affecting the look of the relic. In such a bad context, they should have kept the Shroud in his reliquary in 1988 and do nothing at all. That would have been the most intelligent move to make…

    • May 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Yes, but sampling as distinct from sample subdivision for radiocarbon assay are two entirely different issues. The issue raised by Hugh was specifically the second of those. Ought we not to be focusing on that, especially as Prof Ramsey is now involved on that issue (not what should or should not have happened in Turin)?

      • David Goulet
        May 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        Can someone, less a novice on this issue then me, explain the ramifications of this latest revelation on the carbon dating. If we already have reasonable doubt about the dating due to improper sampling, what difference does it make if the resulting samples are 7 mg or 20 – if in fact 2mg might be sufficient for dating? In football terms it almost feels like piling on at this point. The ’88 dating is essentially useless, does it make much difference to know to what degree it was useless?

    • Thibault HEIMBURGER
      May 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Just a short comment based on the Gonella private documentation I have.

      Luigi Gonella (RIP) was a perfect honnest man and scientist.

      He simply was obliged to obey the “Authorities” (the Holy See) which were under the pressure of the pontifical academy and some C14 laboratories.

      • Yannick Clément
        May 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm

        That’s not the opinion of William Meacham and, on the contrary to you Thibault, Meacham was there in Turin. Sorry but I prefer to believe an eye-witness like him than your personal opinion on that matter.

        Meacham was clear about the FACT that between the building of the protocol and the sampling of 1988, Gonella went more and more over his head on the issue of the preserving the integrity and the appearence of the Shroud AT ALL COST at the expense of the good scientific method.

        As the scientific adviser of the Turin authorities, he was the one who had the most control over the final decision concerning the C14 protocol and the way the sampling would be done and, honestly, he failed miserabily to do a good scientific job during that time.

        Look, even the additional sampling done by Riggi after the C14 sampling was done SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED BY GONELLA. This was done behind closed doors and only served the selfish purpose of one man (Riggi and maybe of Gonalle himself too) instead of being properly done under good control conditions and as part of a research protocol built by a team of scientists in the same way STURP did their job in 1978. As the scientific adviser for the Turin authorities, nobody will ever make me believe that Gonella had not the capacity to stop Riggi of doing the selfish sampling he did after the official sampling he made for the C14 labs. The truth is this : he did nothing at that moment.

        I know in the pro-Shroud world (a world full of politically correctness bullsh**), it’s not of a good tone to make hard critics against Gonella (for whatever reason), but concerning the C14 dating and the additional sampling done by Riggi later on the same day, those critics made by Meacham and others are FULLY DESERVED.

        Gonella was probably a good and honest man, but that doesn’t change a thing about the FACT that he failed to do his job properly in 1988. PERIOD.

      • Yannick Clément
        May 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

        One last thing for Thibault and anybody who will read this : Imagine that scenario… Some weeks or months before the C14 sampling, if Gonella would have step up in front of the Turin authorities and told them that, after reflection, the protocol he had help to built was too much risky concerning the level of accuracy of the dating result.

        Question: Do you really believe the Turin authorities and the Vatican would have ignored this kind of alarm signal given by their scientific adviser and would have go on nevertheless in spite of the good sense to do the dating anyway???

        Do you seriously believe that this is what would have happened if Gonella would have do his job correctly by telling the truth to the Church authorities about the high risk of failure that was existing for a C14 dating like that, which was design to be done with only one sample taken from a damaged corner??? If you say that this is what would have happened, then I have nothing else to say than : bullsh** my friend.

    • daveb of wellington nz
      May 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      From his various previous postings, Colin Berry sets such store by the 1988 C-14 results, that he should read a paper by Marinelli to see what a goddamawful mess the whole business was if he’s not already aware of it: “The setting for the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, by Emanuela Marinelli”, Valencia, April 28-30, 2012;
      http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/marinelliv.pdf

      YC’s blaming of Dr Chagas won’t wash. Chagas had proposed specific well-thought-out scientific protocols. The C-14 labs went feral; The Turin claque went feral at what they imagined to be undue interference with their proprietary attitude over the Shroud. Chagas was excluded notwithstanding that he was probably the best qualified, and was the legal owner’s official scientific advisor. It would need the Pope’s intervention to make any difference, but very likely the Pope was engaged with other major concerns.

  3. Ron
    May 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    David Goulet :Can someone, less a novice on this issue then me, explain the ramifications of this latest revelation on the carbon dating. If we already have reasonable doubt about the dating due to improper sampling, what difference does it make if the resulting samples are 7 mg or 20 – if in fact 2mg might be sufficient for dating? In football terms it almost feels like piling on at this point. The ’88 dating is essentially useless, does it make much difference to know to what degree it was useless?

    Its another technicality, which raises in question the 1988 rcd. Furhtermore 2 or 3mg of carbon may be sufficient in todays world for proper weighting, but was definately not so in 1988! Even Prof Gove co-inventor of the AMS method used, stated ‘clearly’; “5mg minimum was required”. None of the labs used sufficient material for any of the multiple tests taken, rendering the 1988 rcd essentially technically useless….Thats a Fact. Which leads to question why the labs would cut their Shroud samples down too several samples to begin with…As I’ve been preaching for many months, the 1988 rcd is trash, and no one should be considering a medieval dating of this Shroud, as that testing done in ’88 was the ONLY thing pointing to such a date.

    Case closed on the RCD.

    R

  4. May 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    David Goulet :
    Can someone, less a novice on this issue then me, explain the ramifications of this latest revelation on the carbon dating. If we already have reasonable doubt about the dating due to improper sampling, what difference does it make if the resulting samples are 7 mg or 20 – if in fact 2mg might be sufficient for dating? In football terms it almost feels like piling on at this point. The ’88 dating is essentially useless, does it make much difference to know to what degree it was useless?

    David Goulet :
    Can someone, less a novice on this issue then me, explain the ramifications of this latest revelation on the carbon dating. If we already have reasonable doubt about the dating due to improper sampling, what difference does it make if the resulting samples are 7 mg or 20 – if in fact 2mg might be sufficient for dating? In football terms it almost feels like piling on at this point. The ’88 dating is essentially useless, does it make much difference to know to what degree it was useless?

    It’s a mistake in my opinion to write off the 1988 testing on grounds of sampling deficiencies. Best to regard what we have as a ranging shot, one that gives a high degree of confidence in the analytical procedures per se, given the reasonable degree of concordance achieved between the 3 laboratories, and the different clean-up methods employed.

    When different laboratories are approached to collaborate on a particular project, I suspect that a particular kind of modus operandikicks in – the routine inter-laboratory multicentre collaborative study that generally leads to particular variants of analytical protocol being pitched against each other, and one or other being selected finally as having the edge over others chosen as “official” method, i.e. winner. What generally happens is that each lab is given the same sample to analyse (or range of samples) that have been highly homogenized to reduce sample-to-sample variation. Each lab then tries to obtain an answer that is deemed most accurate and most precise.

    So it’s possible (what follows is pure conjecture) that the three labs did not see their initial role as one of dating the Shroud, but of producing an accurate and precise answer for whatever fragment – or fragments – of the Shroud that were given to them. That does not seem unreasonable as a first step – with a conservative single sampling site having finally after much wrangling been decided upon (on whose final authority I am still not clear about). After all, anyone with a grain of common sense would know that an artefact like the Shroud cannot be randomly sampled at multiple sites if it leaves it disfigured. Even if more than one sampling site had been permitted, it might seem overkill to have 3 or more labs of (then) uncertain pedigree all tackling the task, needing three times the material that a single lab would have needed. So why not compare the three labs’ performance first on a single inconspicuous sampling site, then select the lab whose data inspires the greatest confidence to tackle the big question – the age of the Shroud from multiple sampling sites?

    On paper, one would have expected one of the labs to have been invited back for that Phase 2 analysis (or even draw lots if all were deemed equal to the task). Why did it not happen? Shell shock maybe? The Vatican and Turin authorities had been so seduced by the “wealth of historical and other evidence” adduced on sites such as this one in favour of Shroud authenticity that they had largely discounted any possibility of three labs all dating the artefact to the 13th/14th century.

  5. Yannick Clément
    May 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Here’s an interesting story reported by William Meacham in his book « The Rape of the Turin Shroud that said a lot about Gonella’s responsibility in the fiasco of the C14 dating » :

    Shortly before the C14 dating of the Shroud in 1988, Meacham wrote a letter to Steve Lukasik of the STURP team (the team was still on the line to do a new series of direct tests on the Shroud AFTER the C14 sampling) and to Luigi Gonella. In this letter, Meacham gave them 2 very important suggestions in order to make sure that the 3 sub-samples used for the dating were truly representative of the main body of the Shroud. Here’s the 2 suggestions :

    1- That a micro-sample (3 to 5%) be removed from each lifted sample before they are dispatched to the C14 labs, and these tiny pieces be either sent to STURP, or held in Turin, for detailed testing by STURP for contaminants.

    2- That STURP run a specific set of examinations (for example : micro-Raman spectroscopy, an analytical spectrometer, UV fluorescence, etc.) at the points where C14 samples were lifted in order to find if there were any alien organic or inorganic compounds.

    After reporting these 2 suggestions that would have make all the difference in the world, here’s what Meacham wrote : “There was no response from either Lukasik or Gonella. Looking back and knowing what we know now, it was a huge pity that these two suggestions were not taken up. THE FAULT LIES SQUARELY WITH GONELLA, SINCE, AS HIS POWER CONSOLIDATED, HE RAN (AND SEEMINGLY REVELED IN) A ONE-MAN SHOW FOR THE DECISION-MAKING ON ALL ASPECTS OF THE CARBON DATING ENTERPRISE SAVE THE LABORATORY’S OWN INTERNAL PROCEDURES. STURP was clearly in disarray, and Gonella probably had to leave them on the sidelines.”

    Now, unless Meacham is an idiot or a very naive man (which I really don’t think he is), I think the story he told us here show with great evidence the very bad job done by Gonella in 1988 as the scientific adviser for the C14 dating.

    And in the very next page of his book, Meacham wrote also this, which speaks very loud too : “(the day of the sampling), Gonella and Riggi finally decided to cut a single strip approximately 1 cm wide by 8 cm long, weighing 300 mg, right next to the small cut that had been made in 1963 at the corner of the cloth to provide the textile expert Raes with a sample. THE REASON, AS GONELLA TOLD AL ADLER, WAS THAT “THE SHROUD WAS ALREADY CUT THERE”. Adler called this the worst possible reason.”

    The simple fact that Gonella told this to Adler prove what I wrote on the blog yesterday concerning the fact that he was much more interested to preserved the visual integrity and “good look” of the Shroud than to learn the true age of that cloth. And coming from the scientific adviser of the Church for the C14 dating, that’s a real shame.

    Last question to conclude : If Gonella was so innocent than some want us to believe, then why did he stayed on board of that sad project all the way? If he was so competent as a scientist and if the decision to go ahead with a so risky protocol was not is own decision (meaning that he would have been forced by the Church to shut his mouth and keep on defending this project), then is only duty would have been to drop out of that sad project before the sampling was done. The truth is : HE DID NOT!

    • May 8, 2013 at 9:09 am

      There was no fiasco. What we have at present is a provisional answer based on one corner specimen from the Shroud. If there are any doubts as to the representativeness of the sample taken, then the answer is simple.

      Of course, new objections will then be raised if the same wrong answer is again obtained – like the “impossibility” of being certain one has removed all contamination. But certainty in rarely part of the vocabulary of science. Those who seek or need absolute certainty should not look to science for the answers.

      • Yannick Clément
        May 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

        There would probably not have been a fiasco if Gonella would have step up to do his job of scientific supervisor properly. Making sure that Meacham’s suggestions would have been included into the dating protocol would have been a very good start. But he didn’t even gave any response to Meacham’s letter! That speaks very loud… And if Gonella was locked-up by the Church (reading Meacham’s book, this hypothesis doesn’t appear to be realistic at all) and wasn’t able to do his job properly, then he should have step out of this bad project well before the day of the sampling. That’s how he should have acted. But instead, he kept silent to Meacham’s critics and very wise suggestions, and in the end, he stayed on board with the very poorly planed protocol he had in hand… In my mind, that’s not a great sign of profesionalism.

        There are only 2 ways to conclude on Gonella’s case : 1- Gonella was an opportunist and wanted to stay on board of that very publicized project. Or 2- He was totally incompetent to do this kind of supervision job for a C14 dating (remember that Gonella was not even close to have been an expert in C14 dating).

        If we believe Meacham, the answer #2 is the right one… In my mind, all this fiasco start right there : the Church authorities made a very big mistake by choosing someone like Gonella to do the supervision of an important dating project like that. That’s exactly where the fiasco of 1988 started. So, we can say that Gonella is the one to blame the most but, in reality, that’s not fair. The ones to blame the most are the Church authorities for having given this important task of supervision to someone as incompetent as Gonella in the field of radiocarbon dating.

  6. Louis
    May 8, 2013 at 11:35 am

    From a number of sources it can be deduced that:
    1. Professor Carlos Chagas did not believe in the authenticity of the Shroud
    2. It is also probable that Professor Luigi Gonella had his own doubts
    3. Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero was sceptical in the beginning, that is, in the period before the CD test
    4. The three laboratories wanted the limelight
    5. Cardinal Ballestrero was under pressure, in fact he admitted that in an interview published shortly before he died, and stressed by CIELT
    6. There is confirmation that Cardinal Ballestrero was right in his statements.

    • Yannick Clément
      May 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      One thing for sure (and that thing had a huge influence on the final protocol) : The Church and Gonella himself were obsessed by the preservation of the integrity of the relic (it’s look) much more than finding the real age of the cloth. For these people, preserving the relic at all cost was much more important than the scientific knowledge about it and that’s a shame.

      • May 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm

        Some might think that the “Church and Gonella himself” got it right – and were understandably “obsessed by the preservation of the integrity of the relic”. Who wants to be remembered as a science-obsessed vandal?

        Good, well-planned science should cause minimal damage to irreplaceable historical artefacts (whether 1st or 13th/14th century provenance). That’s why the 1988 dating was not a fiasco – just the first step in a gentle probing with the then state-of-the-art technology designed to cause minimal damage – while providing a provisional ranging shot answer. Even if medieval – how was the image produced? The Shroud is a marvel, whether seen as a religious relic or not… It’s taken up millions of hours of 20th/21st century minds, after all!

      • Yannick Clément
        May 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

        It would have been easy to take some tiny samples from at least 3 different locations on the cloth without causing any visible damage and this would have given a result that could have had some chances of being accurate. Taking 3 small samples from various location doesn’t mean you destroy the integrity of the relic… But Gonella and the Church leaders seem to have thought that way, which is a total joke.

        If they were so obsessed by the integrity of the cloth, why giving permission for a C14 dating anyway? With their line of thinking, it would have been much better if they would have choose to do nothing at all instead of the fiasco of 1988.

  7. May 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    One location? 3 locations? One lab? Three labs? One dating technology? Two different dating technologies? Why get hung up on numbers? Relax. Just take things one step at a time. There’s no need to rush. The important thing is to preserve the integrity of what you are studying – aesthetic as well as physical. “Taking tiny samples”? The human eye is very adept at detecting blemishes and other imperfections. What if it were finally dated to the 1st century (improbable but just possible)? Future generations would not forgive you for leaving it looking like a pin cushion.

    • Yannick Clément
      May 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Now, you start to sound just like an Italian Christian ultra-religious guy… Or like Gonella himself.

      If you really think that way, why doing a C14 dating anyway? One single sample will never give you any guarantee of accuracy and you know it.

      By the way, most of the samples could have been taken under the patches that were there at the time without affecting at all the integrity of the relic.

      • May 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

        Frankly, I’m blissfully unconcerned as to who I remind you of.

        One single sample, carefully handled, is in fact sufficient to provide an accurate answer. It’s precision that would be in doubt if there were no repeated determinations. Accuracy and precision are two entirely different things. One astronomer with a single point measurement could determine the Earth-Moon distance as 240,000 miles with high accuracy, but with no indication of precision. Another with multiple points could determine it as 380,000 +/- 10,000 miles (SD) with high precision but low accuracy.

        Yes, samples could have been taken from under the patches, i.e. with from scorched or semi-scorched areas. That is essentially what Raymond Rogers once proposed, i.e to date the carbonized regions. Good science (maybe) but poor PR. Sceptics/denialists would have had a field day with that, claiming that the agents that produced scorching, notably the Chambery fire,1532, had introduced contemporaneous carbon-14.

      • Yannick Clément
        May 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm

        Precision… That’s what I meant. Thank you for the correction. Adler talked about that in a presentation he did at a Shroud conference in 1998. With only one sample, you will never be certain if this piece of cloth you take to be dated is representative of the main cloth. Gonella should have known that basic thing and he should have recommanded the Church authorities to not go ahead with the dating if the protocol remained unchanged to date at least 3 samples from 3 different spots.

        And concerning the material that could have been taken under the patches, since these were not fitting very well with the burn holes, I’m sure it would have been possible to find enough undamaged threads under these patches that were not burned or scorched by the fire of 1532. These kind of unaltered threads would have been the most logical choice for a proper carbon dating.

  8. Ron
    May 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    colinsberry :Some might think that the “Church and Gonella himself” got it right – and were understandably “obsessed by the preservation of the integrity of the relic”. Who wants to be remembered as a science-obsessed vandal?
    Good, well-planned science should cause minimal damage to irreplaceable historical artefacts (whether 1st or 13th/14th century provenance). That’s why the 1988 dating was not a fiasco – just the first step in a gentle probing with the then state-of-the-art technology designed to cause minimal damage – while providing a provisional ranging shot answer. Even if medieval – how was the image produced? The Shroud is a marvel, whether seen as a religious relic or not… It’s taken up millions of hours of 20th/21st century minds, after all!

    State-of-the-art? Your kidding right? The technology was relatively new, actually still in it’s infancy and having growing pains. Preliminary tests were done prior to the carbon-dating of the Shroud and the results were for a kindly term, ‘lackluster”,-Skewed dates, far surpassing any reasonable tolerance and with absolutely no answers as to why. Then we have the serious issue of contamination with the cloth, which they(all labs) did not properly address or take seriously enough. Still today there are big issues/problems with removing all contamination from materials such as linen/cloth etc., Finally the killer; All labs (as far as I’m aware) used underweight samples! Even after they had been schooled in the importance of the minimal weight threshold of 5mg, at the time…Thats MINIMUM, meaning anything lower and all bets are off and any dates would be suspect….State of the art.? LOL

    R

    • May 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Methinks someone needs to look up the meaning of “state of the art”. There’s a whole wiki page waiting to be explored… Look out for the term “particular time”.

      • Ron
        May 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

        I don”t need to be schooled, but maybe you do. AMS was not the state of the art method in 1988, (that was my point), and you would know this if you were schooled.

    • Hugh Farey
      May 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      If 5mg was indeed the minimum weight required, then only Zurich, out of its five tests, used one underweight sample (4.8mg). The others were bigger. The smallest Arizona sample was just over 6mg, and the smallest Oxford sample was about 16mg, assuming they cut their piece into three equally. And I don’t think the issue of contamination was treated lightly either. A variety of different methods were used for getting rid of general dirt (e.g. Ultrasound) and organic contamination (e.g. Acid/Alkali/Acid and Detergents). The uniformity of each labs results after different cleaning regimes suggests that they were effective. Of course, the possibility of interwoven threads was not considered, and so not catered for, but I don’t think the labs can be blamed for that – it didn’t occur to anyone else either.

      • David Goulet
        May 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm

        Is the interwoven threads/patch hypothesis accepted by the majority of Shroud experts? If it is then I again have to question why anyone would accept the carbon dating as evidence at all – whether it was done rigorously or not is immaterial if the sample was ‘compromised’. At best the dating proved a useful trial run and exposed pitfalls to account for in future tests.

      • Ron
        May 9, 2013 at 1:33 am

        Hugh, one must understand that the ‘conversion factor’ between the weight of the cloth and it’s carbon weight is 24%. The weight of the cloth samples must therefore be a minimum of 20.83 mg to achieve the minimum threshold weight of 5mg carbon…NONE of the labs samples were 20.83mg, when divided. They were all much smaller, some less then 2mg after conversion, hense the issue.

        R

      • Hugh Farey
        May 9, 2013 at 3:09 am

        Thanks Ron. It was my understanding – I don’t know how – that only 1.5mg or so of carbon was needed on each ‘pellet’ actually placed in the AMS machine, and that the size of the sample was related not so much to the proportion of carbon in linen as to the amount lost in the process of preparing the pellet. If the true situation was as you say, then I agree that the whole process was farcical, but I would like to know a bit more about it first.

  9. Gabriel
    May 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I think that the C14 test was carried out properly but now in 2013 we know that radiocarbon dating is just not appropiate for an object like the Shroud. That is all. I can live with that.
    I have commented extensively here about this but by now the scientific literature has already provided solid evidences in this line. Additionally, perhaps the threads from the sample included some medieval reweaving.
    I am more interested in the point raised by Thibault in comment #6. How was it or under whose pressure happened that what it was initially intended as a comprehensive analysis of the Shroud came down to a single test.(C14)?

    • Yannick Clément
      May 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Read Meacham’s book and you’ll find the truth about this whole mess.

  10. Louis
    May 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Regarding the pressure, the relic is not an article of faith, the creed does not say “and was buried wrapped in the Turin Shroud”, so Pope John Paul II simply gave the green signal after what Turin told him. If the Pontifical Academy had exerted pressure Professor Chagas would have had his way, the original protocol he drafted would be respected, and things would have taken a different turn.

  11. daveb of wellington nz
    May 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    The idea that the the 1988 C-14 project would serve only as a “ranging shot” won’t wash. There was only ever going to be one opportunity and proper sampling protocols such as those proposed by Chagas ought to have been followed. Chagas was the official pontifical scientific advisor, eminently more qualified than Gonella, but was ignored and set aside by the Turin and laboratory cabal, irrespective of anyone’s personal views on authenticity.

    I have previously mentioned Emmanuella Marinelli’s paper which cites a number of faulty C-14 datings including a few as pre-test runs on the various laboratories involved in the 1988 testing, see pp 2-3 of Marinelli’s paper. These cast doubts on the suitability of C-14 for dating of textiles.

    – Egyptian linen sample, actual 3000 BC; Zurich’s new pre-treatment method shifted date by 1000 years;
    – Peruvian cotton sample, actual 1200 AD; All C-14 tests showed 1400-1668 AD; Replacement sample showed C-14 as 1000-1400 AD;
    – Manchester Museum mummy 1770: C14 tests showed bones were 800-1000 years older than bandages; Subsequent tests reduced difference to 340 years;
    – Lindow Man tested in 1983: Harwell dated to 5th century AD, Oxford 1st c. AD, British museum 3rd c. BC;
    – Lindow Woman, believed by Police and facial reconstruction expert to have been a murder victim in 1960s, Oxford dated to 400 AD.

    Extract cited by Marinelli from 1986 paper by Johnson, Stipp, Tamers et al:
    “The existence of significant undetermined errors cannot be excluded from any age determination. No method is immune to processing grossly incorrect dates when unknown problems may exist with the sample at
    the collection site. Our results illustrate that this situation can occur frequently. A combination of at least two independent dating techniques is indispensable for the highest level of confidence”

    “The setting for the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud”, by Emanuela Marinelli, Valencia, April 28-30, 2012;
    http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/marinelliv.pdf

  12. May 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Understand this folks, and understand it well. Had the radiocarbon dating produced the right answer, it would have proved that the Shroud historiography was correct. But since it produced the wrong answer it instead proved that it was the dating methodology that was incorrect. The latter simply doesn’t work on ancient linen that is 2000 years old. It consistently returns an answer that is 1300 years younger. No one knows why it doesn’t work on ancient linen. The systematic error seems greatest when the linen constitutes a holy relic, especially one owned by the Vatican, but since Vatican holy relics can only be tested once, at least when the first result is wrong, we’ll probably never get to understand why holy relics give the wrong answer when carbon-dated. ;-)

  13. May 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    “Lindow Man tested in 1983: Harwell dated to 5th century AD, Oxford 1st c. AD, British museum 3rd c. BC;
    – Lindow Woman, believed by Police and facial reconstruction expert to have been a murder victim in 1960s, Oxford dated to 400 AD.”

    Priceless! (my italics)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindow_Woman

    • daveb of wellington nz
      May 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Egyptian linen, Peruvian cotton, mummy 1770 were not “holy relics”. Lindow Man not known to be a Druid priest, yet lab results varied by 800 years, an error not less than 20% (400 / 2000).
      Thanks for the tip on Lindow woman. Woman’s husband thought he had been detected, and so confessed to her murder and was convicted.

      On Dan’s posting of May 6, ‘History Channel – Face of Jesus’, Hugh Farey and yourself referred to Marvin Rowe’s method of dating using eleactrically charged gas – method is claimed to be NDT and so samples not required. I checked it out and Rowe gives a few visual examples, has built three labs, currently building one in Australia. It still sounds a bit scary to use it on the Shroud as it involves oxidation. Don’t know if method is sensitive enough to work on small samples as another possible option, or whether there would still be a C-14 textile dating problem. As technology develops, less relic-threatening options may become available. Future will tell.

  14. jesterof
    May 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    foodie, the besserwisser :LOL:

  15. Louis
    May 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    The case of “Lindow Woman”, something to do with the Reyn-Bardt murder, is stale news, having been reported in a BSTS newsletter more than ten years ago. As for Lindow Man, fresh carbon dating reported to have been conducted on this item produced the results: 2 BC to AD 119. The new dating, accompanied by a photograph, can be seen in “The Quest for Jesus in Shroud research” on the HSG website.

    • daveb of wellington nz
      May 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Louis, Reason for referring to these peat bog people cases was because they were quoted in Marinelli’s paper to demonstrate the vagaries that can occur in C14 testing. The Lindow Peat Bog acts as an effective preservative and it is understandable that the police authorities and also the killer himself were misled. Note the 800 year spread of dates from three laboratories in the case of Lindow Man as at 1983. Oxford dated the woman to 400 AD, but apparently a more reliable figure is 250 AD. The two cases apparently led to a resurgence of archaeological interest in peat bog remains, which had been somewhat neglected in England. These cases and others mentioned demonstrate that significant errors can occur in ANY C-14 testing as expressed in the Johnson, Stipp, Tamer paper cited by Marinelli. It is not such an infallible method as many ascribe to. Caution and care in carrying out the method is obviously required.

      • Ron
        May 9, 2013 at 1:54 am

        All of Merinelli’s c14 references were of artifacts which had been buried for centuries. It must be understood clearly that the Shroud does not compare to all those samples, in that it has never been buried. It has been subceptible to unimaginable contamination. Everything from centuries of oil burning lamps, to fires, to countless human contact, and who knows what else. Radiocarbon labs even today have no idea how to deal with that kind of contamination, let alone the three labs way back in 1988. Because of this contamination issue, RCD is basically rendered useless in dating the Shroud.

        R

      • Louis
        May 11, 2013 at 6:46 pm

        That’s alright, David I got your point. It is not difficult to agree that CD is not as infallible as some scientists claim. There is even a funny side to the story of the Lindow peat bog acting as as a preservative. The peat from there has for years been used to make cosmetics and one scientist studying the area joked that one could be sure that since vegetables are also grown there God knows what went into making tomato sauce.

  16. May 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Ron :
    I don”t need to be schooled, but maybe you do. AMS was not the state of the art method in 1988, (that was my point), and you would know this if you were schooled.

    Of course AMS was the state-of-the-art method in 1988, at least for precious artefacts where it was imperative to restrict sample size to the smallest then possible, while not compromising accuracy.

    Why else do you think AMS was chosen in preference to the proportional counter method? (Here’s a clue: the latter required gram quantities of linen).

    Maybe you are still not au fait with the meaning of ‘state-of-the-art’? ;-)

  17. Ron
    May 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Colinferry; “Of course AMS was the state-of-the-art method in 1988, at least for precious artefacts where it was imperative to restrict sample size to the smallest then possible, while not compromising accuracy.”

    “While not compromising accuracy”! That was exactly my point Colin. AMS at that point in time (1988) had not proven accurate, not by a long shot. The PC method was by far, more accurate, hense NOT making the AMS system state-of -the-art….get it? Just because a system requires smaller samples does not make it better. As I mentioned earlier they should have not ignored all the issues with the AMS system, especially since many of the issues they found, they no answers too. So again, state-of-the-art?…..NOT.

    R

    • May 13, 2013 at 11:40 am

      AMS less accurate than radioactivity? Whatever gave you that idea?

      “Radiocarbon dating using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) differs from the
      decay counting methods in that the amount of 14C in the sample is measured directly, rather than by waiting for the individual radioactive decay events to occur. This makes the technique 1,000 to 10,000 times more sensitive than decay counting. The enhanced sensitivity is achieved by accelerating sample atoms as ions to high energies using
      a particle accelerator and using nuclear particle detection techniques. Additionally because of the increased sensitivity, counting times are greatly reduced (minutes to hours, instead of days) and sub-milligram sample sizes can be routinely measured. Because of this, a greatly increased range of sample types and sizes can now be measured that previously gas-proportional or LSC counting techniques could not.”

      http://www.radiocarbon.com/PDF/Beta-AMS-Methodology.pdf

      How can you possibly make claims for the superior accuracy of radioactivity if the amounts needed are too large to be practical? Are you perhaps importing data from totally unrelated situations where sample size is not a problem? If so, who’s to say that AMS would not be as accurate, if not more so, using those same larger samples (while not requiring them, and in fact having no use for them anyway, given the inherently greater sensitivity achieved through counting isotopes by their mass than by their radioactive decay)?

      • Ron
        May 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm

        You are obviously not understanding the point, again, maybe intentionally? At the time of the Shroud testing AMS was very new and none of the labs had much experience with the method, whereas the other method was fully understood and used for many years. Also prior to the 1988 c14 AMS only dating of the Shroud, a series of tests were performed to compare the different methods and reliability, the results; the AMS system proved less reliable and with a miriad of phantom dates, and as mentioned before ‘unexplained’ errors. Errors and dicrepancies never resolved before the Shroud testing. How do you explain this, if the AMS system is sooo much more accurate?

        The whole testing was a mess, from the selection of just one unreliable method, to the choice of just one sample from one area of the Shroud. Worse though was the labs accepting to the samples which would not be representaive of the whole, then cutting the samples to pieces much smaller then protocol suggested, then taking the contamination issue with no seriousness, and fianlly fudgung with the numbers to make all labs dates seem in comparison…It was a sham and a shame.

        R

  18. May 14, 2013 at 2:14 am

    Ron :
    You are obviously not understanding the point, again, maybe intentionally? At the time of the Shroud testing AMS was very new and none of the labs had much experience with the method, whereas the other method was fully understood and used for many years. Also prior to the 1988 c14 AMS only dating of the Shroud, a series of tests were performed to compare the different methods and reliability, the results; the AMS system proved less reliable and with a miriad of phantom dates, and as mentioned before ‘unexplained’ errors. Errors and dicrepancies never resolved before the Shroud testing. How do you explain this, if the AMS system is sooo much more accurate?
    The whole testing was a mess, from the selection of just one unreliable method, to the choice of just one sample from one area of the Shroud. Worse though was the labs accepting to the samples which would not be representaive of the whole, then cutting the samples to pieces much smaller then protocol suggested, then taking the contamination issue with no seriousness, and fianlly fudgung with the numbers to make all labs dates seem in comparison…It was a sham and a shame.
    R

    I’m reminded of a time-honoured principle from nutrition, namely that food that is not eaten is not nutritious. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many nutrients are in the skin of a potato (say). If folk eat most of their potatoes without their skins, then those (potential) nutrients are not nutritious.

    Applying the same principle, measuring the age of the Shroud by its radioactivity is not accurate if no one can use the procedure on account of its low sensitivity requiring gram quantities of linen. To invoke radioactivity as the gold standard when just one carbon atom in a trillion is C-14 is simply to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It’s got to be AMS of nothing (unless a third method were to be discovered)/ Yes, of course AMS data have to be handled with circumspection, and of course they may not be as accurate as one would wish, but all of that and more is implied in the term ‘state-of-the-art’, the one with which you took issue, seeming to assume it meant superior in all respects. It doesn’t mean that at all – it simply means a refinement of existing technology, or, in this case, a break with it, providing a new approach that may overcome one or more insuperable drawbacks with what preceded it. In this instance, it is sensitivity that is the crucial factor, but when 3 labs each produce a medieval dating for the Shroud there is little scope for attacking the methodology per se, and claiming it to be less “accurate” than another method that is too insensitive for its accuracy to be assessed, at least with the Shroud.

    As for the reams of knocking copy on the AMS Shroud dating in general, you do realize, don’t you, that the contamination/reweaving hypothesis is a totally separate issue from how the C-14 was measured, since reweaving (had it occurred) would have given an elevated value for C-14 no matter how measured? Personally, I don’t think it did occur, and I consider Rogers’ Thermochimica Acta paper with the ‘donated’ threads of dubious provenance, with alleged end-to-end splicing, re-dying etc etc to be one of the more bizarre offerings I have encountered in the Shroudology literature. It’s hard to imagine any other mainstream journal accepting that paper (which he submitted to what was essentially his own in-house journal, having helped establish it, while employed inconspicuously as a thermochemist working for the US Government on safety aspects of chemical explosives, and who served for many years on its editorial board). Nobody goes to the trouble of invisible, highly painstaking mending of an inconspicuous corner of the Shroud when there is major fire damage elsewhere that has been crudely patched. Rogers’ attempted demolition job on the C-14 dating offended common sense more than anything else…

    • Thibault HEIMBURGER
      May 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      I agree with Colin’s general point of view about C14 dating.

      But I completely disagree about the following statements:

      “Personally, I don’t think it did occur, and I consider Rogers’ Thermochimica Acta paper with the ‘donated’ threads of dubious provenance, with alleged end-to-end splicing, re-dying etc etc to be one of the more bizarre offerings I have encountered in the Shroudology literature.”

      I will answer tomorrow but what does CB know exactly about the “dubious provenance” of the threads, the “alleged” end-to-end splicing, re-dying, “etc” (vanillin ?).

      In addition, CB wrote: “And: ” Nobody goes to the trouble of invisible, highly painstaking mending of an inconspicuous corner of the Shroud when there is major fire damage elsewhere that has been crudely patched. Rogers’ attempted demolition job on the C-14 dating offended common sense more than anything else…”

      This sentence makes sense but only if the repair occured after the 1532 fire.

  1. May 16, 2013 at 7:04 am
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