A reader, a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D. C. writes:

Stephen Jones bases much of his argument on the belief that the TSM [=Turin Shroud Man] is in rigor mortis. That may not be true. Michael M. Baden, a board-certified forensic pathologist who was at one time the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City, examined the shroud and found no evidence of rigor.

According to Bernard Ruffin in his 1999 book The Shroud of Turin, Baden didn’t say it exactly that way:

Although Baden insisted that he could not tell from his examination of the Shroud photographs whether rigor mortis was present, other medical experts who had looked at the image were able to discern this stiffening of the limbs which is a result of postmortem chemical changes.

It is subtle, but there is a distinct difference in implied meaning between “found no evidence” and “could not tell . . . whether rigor mortis was present”

Joe Nickell, quotes Baden directly, "If I had to go into a courtroom, I could not say there was rigor.”  That seems to me to carry more uncertainty than the phrase “found no evidence.”

So, no; as I see it Baden did not rule out rigor mortis. That may be a moot point, however. The fact of the matter is that many highly qualified people see good evidence of rigor in the photographs of the shroud. Even so, because this is a matter of opinion, there is a good question in what the Georgetown student writes: How certain are we that the man on the shroud is in a state of rigor mortis?

Let’s look at what others have said starting with William Meacham:

. . . Under the direction of Yves Delage, professor of comparative anatomy, a study was undertaken of the physiology and pathology of the apparent body imprint and of the possible manner of its formation. The image was found to be anatomically flawless down to minor details: the characteristic features of rigor mortis, wounds, and blood flows provided conclusive evidence to the anatomists that the image was formed by direct or indirect contact with a corpse, not painted onto the cloth or scorched thereon by a hot statue (two of the current theories). On this point all medical opinion since the time of Delage has been unanimous (notably Hynek 1936; Vignon 1939; Moedder 1949; Caselli 1950; La Cava 1953; Sava 1957; Judica-Cordiglia 1961; Barbet 1963 ; Bucklin 1970; Willis, in Wilson 1978; Cameron 1978; Zugibe, in Murphy 1981). This line of evidence is of great importance in the question of authenticity and is briefly reviewed below.

Rigor mortis is seen in the stiffness of the extremities, the retraction of the thumbs (discussed below), and the distention of the feet. It has frozen an attitude of death while hanging by the arms; the rib cage is abnormally expanded, the large pectoral muscles are in an attitude of extreme inspiration (enlarged and drawn up toward the collarbone and arms), the lower abdomen is distended, and the epigastric hollow is drawn in sharply. The protrusion of the femoral quadriceps and hip muscles is consistent with slow death by hanging, during which the victim must raise his body by exertion of the legs in order to exhale.

Fred Zugibe wrote:

Moreover, most forensic experts agree that the Man of the Shroud shows evidence of rigor mortis because of the bent knees and absence of a neck, therefore indicating that the crucified was dead for some time before being taken down from the cross.

Robert Bucklin wrote:

The body appears to be in a state of rigor mortis which is evidenced by an overall stiffness as well as specific alterations in the appearance of the lower extremities from the posterior aspect. The imprint of the right calf is much more distinct than that of the left indicating that at the time of death the left leg was rotated in such a way that the sole of the left foot rested on the ventral surface of the right foot with resultant slight flexion of the left knee. That position was maintained after rigor mortis had developed.

Barbara Faccini, Emmanuel M. Carreira, Giulio Fanti, Jose de Palacios, Jose Delfin Villalain wrote:

The asymmetrical bending of knees ( and ß angles), the unnatural bending of ankles ( angle) leading to an almost flat position of the right footprint, and the absence of flattening in the buttocks area (which is typical in a lying subject) are remarkable and only compatible with an extreme rigidity in a human body.


This position has been achieved most probably on the cross, where the head was freely hanging down ( angle); it has been fixed by rigor mortis and maintained after deposition, but for the arms,