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Of Similarities: The Tunic of Argenteuil and the Shroud of Turin

clip_image001By email, Joe Marino sends along some very interesting quotations from the new book, Witnesses to Mystery: Investigations into Christ’s Relics by Grzegorz Gorny (Author) and Janusz Rosikon (Illustrator). They are from a chapter “on the little-known ‘Tunic of Argenteuil,’” Joe writes, “believed to be the robe mentioned in Mt 27:31 and the tunic mentioned in Jn19:23-24.”:

1) of many similarities as discussed on pp. 190 and 191:

     In 1998 scientists at the Optics Institute in Orsay decided to compare the bloodstain patterns on the Tunic of Argenteuil and on the Turin Shroud  They created realistic and rotational computerized geometric models of what the tunic would look like if worn by a man of the same physical stature and morphology as the man depicted on the shroud.  The result was absolutely bewildering:  it turned out that the bloodstains on the tunic were aligned exactly with the imprinted wounds visible on the shroud.  Overlaying both images drove the scientists to the conclusion that both clothes were stained by the same bleeding man.

     Could that man have been Jesus of Nazareth?  It was confirmed that the tunic was produced using horizontal looms, whose width matched the proportions of those looms used in Christ’s time.  The weave, made using a so-called Z twist, indicates that the robe was probably made in the Near or Middle East.  The fabric’s dye was made of dyer’s madder (Rubia tinctorum), which was in widespread use in ancient times around the Mediterranean Basin.  The dyeing took place before the fabric was woven, and alum was used alongside the dye to dress the cloth.  Both of these practices were common in the first century.

     Because of these results, interest in the tunic steadily grew throughout the scientific community.  In 2004, the Institute of Genetic Molecular Anthropology in Paris commenced tests on the relic.  During restoration work one year earlier, the tunic was cleaned with a special vacuum cleaner.  Scientists therefore decided to analyze the vacuumed particles.  With the use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM), they discovered 115 pollen grains belonged (sic) to 18 plant species.  The most frequently occurring types of pollen were from:  nettle (Urtica fragilis), with 41 grains, and Syrian mesquite (Prosopis farcta), with 13 grains.  Most of the pollen grains belonged to species that had already been discovered on the Turin Shroud (six species) and the Sudarium of Oviedo (seven species)  Among them were Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani) and spreading pellitory (Parietaria judaica).  The most significant discovery, however, was of two species endemic to Palestine:  the terebinth (Pistacia palaestina) and the tamarisk (Tamarix hampeana).  Their pollen grains have likewise been discovered on the Turin and Oviedo cloths.

2) on the limitations of carbon dating as discussed in pp. 192-193:

     From all the tests conducted on the Holy Tunic of Argenteuil, only one result challenges its ancient origins.  This was achieved using carbon dating tests, which took place in 2004 and 2005 under the initiative of the subprefect of Argenteuil, Jean-Pierre Maurice.  A sample of the relic’s fabric was tested twice using C14 radiocarbon particles.  The first test, in 2004, concluded that the tunic dated back to between A.D. 530 and 650, and the second test, in 2005, placed the date between 670 and 880.  Already, the variation in results points to the unreliable nature of carbon testing, as has been discussed with regard to the Turin Shroud.

     Lucotte says he following with regard to the limitations of carbon dating:  "There are many factors that can alter the results of tests using radiocarbon particles.  Even scientists who carry out the tests admit that this method of dating only works properly when the test sample is actually representative of the material whose age one wishes to determine.  In other words, the C14 particles in the test sample must come from the same era as the fabric as a whole.  If at some point over the years the fabric became suffused with either older or younger carbon particles, then the tests would obviously be rendered inconclusive.  In the case where older carbon particles are present, the fabric is dated as being older than it is, and the opposite is true if the fabric contains younger carbon particles."

     Carbon dating can be particularly unreliable with fabrics, since they easily absorb fluids containing substances in which one can find traces of carbon, such as calcium carbonate (which occurs naturally as chalk, limestone, and marble) or organic materials.  The presence of these carbon particles, which can be deeply embedded within the fabric, can have a great effect on test results.  In the case of the Tunic of Argenteuil this is highly likely:  in an attempt to protect it from insects and mold, the relic was treated in the last century with the insecticide DDT, which contains a large amount of carbon.

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