Archive for November, 2013

It may not suit the scientific mind-set

November 30, 2013 37 comments

Experts may carp and niggle over particular aspects
exclusive to their particular specialty.

clip_image001[4]By way of a comment, DaveB writes:

I would concede a point of interpretation from the Methchild Flury-Lemburg quotation at the heading of Ian Wilson’s Chapter 6 ‘The Cloth’s Own Tale’. Effectively that nothing in the weaving or sewing techniques speaks against a high-quality product of textile workers of the first century AD. It might equally be said that it is within the capability of 20th century textile workers, although the process of extracting the linen from the flax is clearly quite different. The important point she makes however is that the cloth cannot be rejected as not being of 1st century provenance simply on the grounds of the weaving or sewing techniques used.

However, elsewhere she rejects it as being of medieval provenance because of the width of the cloth. She refers for example to bed-sheets which commonly had a seam running down their middle, as medieval looms lacked the width of ancient types.

I think it a serious error of logic in focusing on only one property at a time and then making a judgment simply on that. It may not suit the scientific mind-set, but it is how evidence works in our law-courts. The TOTAL evidence must be weighed to arrive at a successful conclusion. I prefer to think in terms of Venn diagrams. Thus evidence might satisfy Propositions A, B, C and D but not satisfy Propositions E and F. It may be that E and F are so critical as to negate the conclusion, or it may be that they are can be considered as not so relevant. However if all propositions A through to F are in fact satisfied then there is clearly a strong case.

In the case of the TS, there are several points of evidence that point to its authenticity. Some of these are very strong, others less so. The question of weaving and sewing tends perhaps to be the type of evidence that allows the admissibility of authenticity without it being necessarily corroborative. The forensic evidence is particularly strong and tends to be coroborative. The question of halophyte pollens demonstrates that the TS was certainly at some time in Palestine, other pollens that it was there during the months of March or April. The arogonite limestone is persuasive but needs further independent confirmation.

It is important not to lose sight of the whole picture. Experts may carp and niggle over particular aspects exclusive to their particular specialty. But experts never get to sit on juries, their role is advisory only. The judge’s direction is always couched in terms of what the evidence leads a reasonable person to conclude.

New Book Recommendation on STERA’s Facebook Page

November 30, 2013 Comments off

This was just posted:

As the Christmas holiday approaches, I wanted to recommend a great book that would make a wonderful gift for those on your shopping list. "Witnesses to Mystery" is a beautiful, English language hard bound book filled with beautiful color photographs and detailed information on many important relics. The entire first chapter is dedicated to the Shroud of Turin.

imageWitnesses to Mystery: Investigations Into Christ’s Relics Hardcover

In this lavishly illustrated large coffee-table volume, writer Gorny and photographer Rosikon embarked on a two year investigative journey to seek the truth behind all the relics associated with the passion of Christ. The authors investigated a rich body of documentary evidence found in various museums, archives and churches surrounding sacred objects believed to have been preserved since Jesus’ lifetime, exploring and collaborating with historians and scientists in their attempt to verify the relics’ authenticity. They reach their conclusions not so much on the basis of faith as on the evidence supplied by historical sources and expert scientific opinion.

The relics associated with the Passion – the suffering, death and burial of Christ – have long proved something of an enigma for the scientific community. Relics investigated, and photographed, for this glorious volume include: the Cross, nails, crown of thorns, pillar of scourging, Christ’s tunic, the Veil of Manoppello, the Sudarium of Oviedo, the famous Shroud of Turin burial cloth and more.

For more information see these recent posting:

Categories: Books, Other Blogs

Shroud of Turin Presentation by David Rolfe on May 16th 2014 at the University of Kent, Canterbury

November 29, 2013 1 comment
Categories: Event

A Point of View

November 29, 2013 5 comments

imageStephen Jones in his latest posting wants to make sure we understand his point of view. 

Because of the Vatican’s duplicity (in the sense of "double dealing," "deception by pretending to entertain one set of intentions while acting under the influence of another"):

"duplicity … a. Deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech. b. An instance of deliberate deceptiveness; double-dealing. 2. The quality or state of being twofold or double. … [Middle English duplicite, from Old French, from Late Latin duplicits, doubleness, from Latin duplex, duplic-, twofold … acting in bad faith; deception by pretending to entertain one set of intentions while acting under the influence of another, double-dealing" The Free Dictionary, 15 November 2013).

in refusing to confirm or deny that any of its relics (in particular the Shroud of Turin), are authentic or not, it would not be surprising if the secular media assumes this is merely a stunt to win converts to, or prevent Catholics leaving, Catholicism. It seems two-faced for the Pope and his bishops to mount a huge ceremony featuring these bones and yet refuse to confirm or deny that they really believe them to be authentic.

And when Pope Francis says:

"How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love." ("Turin Shroud: full text of Pope Francis’ comments," The Telegraph, 30 Mar 2013).

Stephen thinks:

which, if it was translated correctly, means that Pope Francis thinks the Shroud of Turin is not even a relic, and is tantamount to him declaring it to be a fake!

Categories: Other Blogs

This may be the biggest mystery of all?

November 29, 2013 24 comments

clip_image001A reader, who is a computer graphics expert, writes:

Has anyone ever attempted to create a graph of measured distance between points on a three-dimensional human form (or just a head) and an abstract surface or hypothetical plane using gray-scale tones or luma to represent the data? In other words has anyone produced a heightmap? See

I contend that such a set of measurements would produce a fuzzy, ghost like representation of the body form and not the detailed and realistic image we see on the shroud. This would be true for both linear and curved gray-scales. The image on the shroud does not represent collimated body to cloth distance. The claim that it does is pure fiction. I suggest that the VP-8 Image Analyzer was not used correctly thus leading to a lot of misunderstanding.

What is interesting is that if you apply two-dimensional (xy) Gaussian filters to a digital shroud of Turin image, you create a heightmap equivalent. That gives a good plot. Given that it is mathematically impossible to go the other way, just as you cannot find the dividend and the divisor from the quotient, it would be impossible to produce the actual image on the shroud from the data derived. This may be the biggest mystery of all.

That is hard to understand. However, what follows is an edited reposting from February that may help.

What is right or wrong with the material from page 9 of The Shroud: A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses, by Robert W. Siefker and Daniel S. Spicer, which states in Table I, Item 3.0:

The luminance distribution of both front and back images can be correlated to the clearances between the three-dimensional surface of the body and a covering cloth. This is why many state that the Shroud is a 3D image. . . .

imageThe variation in the image density has been analyzed mathematically to render a high resolution 3-dimensional body image.

While a photograph can be either a positive or a negative, there is no correlation in a photograph between the density of the imprint and the distance to the object. Uniquely, the image on the shroud appears denser in the areas where the vertical distance to the body from the cloth surface would logically be shorter. This allows the use of a simple mathematical function to recover the 3-dimensional information about the body. The 3-D characteristics present on the Shroud cannot be recovered with any normal reflected light photograph or painting.

We are being forced to think of this only in terms of a cloth covering a body. While this may be the case, this is an assumption and not an image characteristic. It should be avoided.

A better way to describe this is to use accepted terminology from the world of three-dimensional graphics. The image is a height-field or height-map.

Smoke ring height fieldSmoke ring plotted as craterWith a VP8 Image Analyzer or newer computer software (POV Ray, ImageJ, etc.), the gray scale values at many xy points in the height-field to the left are plotted as elevation or terrain.

The software uses several variables including an altitude scale, a viewing angle and a virtual light source to enable us to visualize the shape.

Face as height fieldFace plottedThe same software with the same viewing angles and artificial lighting produces the apparent elevation in the face. This is true for the entire body of the man imaged on the Shroud of Turin.

It is important to note, as
Siefker and Spicer state, a normal photograph or a painting is a representation of reflected light as detected by a camera or perceived from an artists viewing position. 

There is no useful relationship between the gray scale values in a normal painting or photograph and spatial distance as found in height-fields.

imageVirtual reality and gaming software regularly uses similar height-field images (above left) to produce realistic landscapes. NASA uses them to generate 3D surface representations of the moon and planets. Those height-fields are created by radar and lasers. Google Earth software makes 3D renderings of our planet the same way. NOAA produces 3D images of hurricanes from radar data represented in height-fields. Height-fields are regularly used in new-generation 3D ultrasound sonograms.

Note: Height-field is a convenient term. Gray scale values found in such a dataset are applicable for both vertical and horizontal plots.

Here is an image I prepared using ImageJ. See: Do Your Own VP8-Like 3D Images of the Shroud of Turin

Categories: Image Theory, Science

A Quote You Won’t Want to Use

November 28, 2013 5 comments

imageStephen Jones is analyzing an article , “Pope Francis Does it Again,”  that appeared in the Las Vegas Guardian Express three days ago. In a posting, Pope Francis shows St Peter’s bones to public for first time Stephen tells us:


This is the difference between the Shroud of Turin and other Catholic relics (with the exception of the Sudarium of Oviedo). The Shroud’s authenticity has been confirmed Biblically, artistically, historically and scientifically,independent of Catholic tradition, which is why Protestants like me accept it.

You see, Paul Roy, in the Guardian Express has written:

Through the years however, as new scientific methods are developed to date artifacts and learn more about them, some of these artifacts come closer and closer to being verified as real. The Shroud of Turin for example has long been believed to be the cloth used to bury Jesus in his tomb and from where his resurrection happened. Since its discovery the shroud has been called both real and a fake, yet, each time it has been tested, it is the most tested piece of material in the world, more evidence comes to light showing it is very possible it is authentic and that Jesus, or at least a man was wrapped in it after having been crucified.

Add a measure of enthusiasm or whatever and you get Stephen’s conclusion. I dare say that isn’t representative of the thinking of Protestants I know.

Unraveling Unusual Stitches in the Turin Shroud

November 28, 2013 18 comments

it would seem that the stitch on the Shroud is the basic standard one
which one would use then and now to join two pieces of cloth.

imageCharles Freeman, by way of a (44th) comment to The Shroud is 8 x 2 Assyrian Whatchamacallits, writes:

Selvedges and stitches. I am now quite used to following up a source quoted in Wilson and finding something very different from what he suggests (the classic remains the discrepancy between Wilson’s depiction of della Rovere’s actual portrayal of Christ in the Shroud and his own version, p. 28 of my 2010 edition of Wilson’s The Shroud in which Wilson even reverses the position of the arms!).

So while I was having a research day in the Cambridge University Library, I called in the Masada Report to check out the source references given above. In my edition of Wilson the discussion is on p. 109-110.

P. 169, fig. sixteen does exist. It does show a selvedge on a goat hair cloth. The excavators appear to have illustrated it because it is woven on a tubular or two beamed loom. No other example of the use of this kind of loom or selvedge has been found this early in the Mediterranean . However, earlier examples are known in northern Europe from earlier so the suggestion is that either the cloth originated in northern Europe –more likely – see further below- – or is evidence for the first use of this kind of selvedge in the Mediterranean. Wilson then gives a reference to Gabriel Vial’s 1989 report on the Shroud in which Vial talks of the construction of the Shroud’s selvedge as ’tout a fait inhabituelle’. He does not give the page number in my edition of The Shroud, but it is p. 15 with an illustration on p.16 of the Shroud’s selvedge. (The article is in the CIETA Bulletin for 1989, Dave B quotes a reference for pages 27-9 from his edition of Wilson but this is a completely different article!) The problem is that the selvedge on the Shroud does not appear the same as the selvedge shown in the Masada report. So all we can do is agree with Vial –the article is his own report of his examination of the Shroud while they were choosing the sample for radiocarbon dating on 21st April, 1988, so is interesting and perhaps even important in its own right- that the selvedge on the Shroud is ‘very unusual’.

We next go on to the reference to figs. 111-113 on pages 201-11 of the Masada report. Yes these figs. do exist and on these pages. They all refer to the same fragment of wool. It is picked out and illustrated as it is wool, 2:2, Z twist spin, balanced diamond twill. So except for the Z spin being similar to that of the Shroud , I can’t see why this is relevant- it is not herringbone, linen or 3:1. In the discussion on the origins of the textiles found at Masada (p. 239), this cloth is placed in their group iv. The excavators’ conclusion is that these textiles probably came from northern Europe as this kind of twist (Z) and this kind of pattern is known from examples there. They suggest it may have come in with Roman soldiers who were involved in the crushing of the Masada revolt. I simply cannot see why Wilson provides a reference to a piece of cloth that has absolutely nothing in common with the Shroud except that its thread is Z spun (and thus as the excavators suggest probably spun in northern Europe).

So far nothing about stitching at all so I had to find my own reference to the stitching in the Masada report and it is found on pp 170-1 where they discuss the 45 textiles that have stitching on them. They illustrate six of these stitches on figs. 20-25 but they do not describe any of them as exceptional. So I was surprised to find that Wilson reproduces Masada fig. 23 (as his fig. 8)- which is a counter-hemming stitch- as one which the excavators ‘adjudged to be a very unusual seam’. I can’t find any reference to such a judgement but as Wilson has provided no references it may have been somewhere outside the accompanying text in this section.

Luckily I had access to a higher authority- my wife who designed and sewed theatre costumes for her degree and then went on to work in the textiles department of the Victoria and Albert Museum. She took one look at Wilson’s ‘unusual seam’ and said in fact that this was the standard stitch for joining two pieces of cloth together when one wanted to make sure the ends did not fray. Nothing unusual about it at all!

Wilson does mention that Mechthild Flury-Lemberg is on record as saying that this stitch is similar to the one on the Shroud but he gives no reference for her opinion. In fact, it would seem that the stitch on the Shroud is the basic standard one which one would use then and now to join two pieces of cloth.

And so how much more time does one waste with Wilson? I have certainly better things to do but at least I can warn Shroud researchers to take anything that Wilson says with a large pinch of salt. I had only to read into the next page to find other issues that I could have dealt with in the same way as here but life is too short and I have far more interesting and accurate historians to work with. Hugh seems the man for the job of taking a critique of Wilson further – sorry Hugh but so long as people are going on quoting Wilson in their support it needs to be done.

Categories: Books, History, News & Views
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