Pictured:  Headquarters of the “militant cotton-contamination
wing of the pro-authenticity tendency”

But seriously, clip_image001[5]Colin Berry wonders:

Cotton is now the fashionable marker for modern(ish) C-14 contamination, it would seem, but if I’m not mistaken the attention being focused on one tiny area of interest – the 1988 radiocarbon sample – vastly exceeds that for any other comparable area. Yet we read that cotton contamination is peculiar to the radiocarbon sample, that it’s not feature of the Shroud per se. How can we be so sure? Has anyone looked as hard and critically at a range of randomly-selected control samples?

It would be ironic, would it not, if the upshot of all this sudden interest in cotton were to lead to the discovery that the Shroud is only approximately linen, that it’s really a blend of a lot of linen with a little cotton, the precise amounts of which remain to be discovered?

Could there be a rationale for linen having a significant cotton fibre component by design rather than accident? One has only to look at the wiki entry on linen to see that there could be.

One reason for linen being a lot more expensive than cotton is the difficulty of working with flax fibres – they tend to break easily, being less elastic we are told than cotton. Might it be possible to admix enough cotton fibre with flax to get something that behaves better on the loom, but which still looks and feels like linen (cool on the skin in hot weather etc). If so, when and where might that knowledge of using lightly ‘cottonised’ thread for linen manufacture have been adopted – 1st century Palestine or medieval Europe? Is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Does the militant cotton-contamination wing of the pro-authenticity tendency need to be careful about what it wishes for?