Top of the Head Puzzle Redux

We discussed this in January in the posting Top of Head Puzzle
which generated 56 comments. Does an essay by Bruce Robinson
offer some new perspectives? Do read Bruce’s essay at Religious Tolerance

imageBruce writes:

I have been reading about piezonuclear radiation as applied to the Shroud of Turin.

I noticed your note at the side . . .

So I sent you this email

My essay at says:

Portrayal of the top of the man’s head: There are two images on the sheet, showing a man’s back and front. That is because this burial shroud was apparently wrapped from the the man’s feet, up the front of his body, over his head, and down his back to his feet. The front and back images of the head are separated by a gap of less than 1 cm (less than a half inch).

Some investigators have suggested that the image on the shroud was caused by some form of radiation emanating from the body, perhaps at about the time of death. This leads immediately to what might be called the "top of the head" problem.
If radiation from the head created the two two images on the shroud, then there are only two possibilities:

1) There was similar radiation from the top of the head. It would have left an image of the top of the victim’s head on the shroud. However, there is no such image. Only a tiny gap is seen.

2) There was no radiation from the top of the head. This would result in a dark gap of perhaps 12 cm (almost 5 inches) between the top of the front of the head and the top of the back of the head. No such gap is visible.
Thus the radiation theory seems to fail because it does not match the image.   
That still leaves the possibility that the Shroud is some form of image intentionally created — either as a painting by an artist or by some form of photographic technique.
This leaves two possibilities:

1) The shroud was created as a forgery that was to be "sold" to the public as Jesus’ shroud. This seems improbable because the "top of the head" problem would immediately point out that this is not a real 1st century shroud.

2) The shroud was created by a human as a type of icon to be venerated. This seems to be the most likely possibility.

Any thoughts?

Any new thoughts?

81 thoughts on “Top of the Head Puzzle Redux”

  1. My theory is that the “other cloth” mention in gospel of John was placed at the top of His head thereby blocking any image formation.

  2. The front and back heads are separated by a gap of less than 1cm?? Dan, I think you should create a sticky entitled “Top of the head problem “.

    1. If no one can see that they is an ‘obvious’ large gap between the front and back head images of atleast 8-10 cm, they should get their eyes checked.

      There is no side image basically for the same reason there is no side images on the whole image; the hypothesis that whatever produced the image worked in a ‘vertical’ fashion…simple.

      There was no face cloth when the body was wrapped, that is also obvious, as for one, the image is strongest at the face; very unlikely if the face was covered first by a facecloth. The Sudarium was evidently removed and placed to the side, hence the second cloth mentioned in scriptures.

      That’s my take on it anyway.

      1. After reading Ron’s comment I pulled up the photos I bought from Barrie and looked at the gap. Ron is right, there is a large noticeable gap between the 2 images. Of course there is also the water stain that is being “falsely perceived” as being the beginning of the image, when it is not. Like has already been mentioned the image was formed by a light source (likely individual laser beams 1/100th the thickness of a human hair) working in a vertical fashion. It is consistent with the entire Shroud image. No side image anywhere. As for the chin band, it seems obvious that this was used. You can see it on both sides of the face. The lines it made on both sides of the front image. Top of the head problem is not a problem.
        1. Image is strictly vertical to the horizontal plane
        2. A chin band was used (not the Sudarium)

        It is a combination of both factors that the image appears the way it does. I know I just repeated what Ron just said.
        And for whatever it is worth, The Lord confirmed it with me personally that a chin band was used and the image is strictly vertical to the horizontal plane. I thought I would ask the person who image is on The Shroud. That is the answer I got. I am very aware of the fact that the mental health of a person who claims to have communication with the Spirit of God would be in question for making such a claim. Nonetheless, I am doing it anyway. For me this matter is closed and my questions answered. Thanks for letting me post on this blog. I really enjoy reading the comments on it.
        May the Power and Love Eternal of The Holy Spirit Be With You All. Amen

  3. Chris. They aren’t. I don’t have access to any kind of measure but it’s more than that.
    Someone’s seeing a water mark & other non image features & making assumtions

  4. Gerard & ChrisB: Check out Mario Latendresse’s Shroudscope. You can do accurate measurements there to whatever accuracy you want, using the zoom and scale tools. From scaling the distance from nose to occiput (bump on back of head), and comparing the same distance with our own heads, we reckoned that the Shroud cloth was placed quite firmly over the top of the head, so there was virtually no loose fold or gap there. The simplest explanation of why there’s no image of the top of the head is that there was some type of separate head cloth masking the Shroud cloth from the image process.

    The Soudarion of Oviedo apparently shows blood shed in life, so that it seems to have been a type of mask placed over the head before death, and probably kept in place during the portage to the tomb, possibly to mask the gruesome death rictus of the face. The cloth placed over the head during the burial was likely some kind of other ritual head covering. There were likely other cloths as well, such as any used for binding the jaw, and to keep the arms in place.

    I had made the same error that Bruce Robinson seems to have made, in assuming that the water stain was the start of the dorsal head image. The regular pattern of the water stains identifies it for what it is. There are several other errors and presumptions in the Robinson posting, he has a lot of catching up to do to get his facts right. He might start by regularly checking out this blog, as his presumptions would soon be corrected!

  5. Dave you wrote: “The simplest explanation of why there’s no image of the top of the head is that there was some type of separate head cloth masking the Shroud cloth from the image process.”

    Or archaeologically speaking, the other “simplest explanation” is plants (with ferocious thorns used as pins) and flower heads (used e.g. as fly repellent) were pressed via tightly wrapping-up against the top of the head.

    1. My point was that such a ritual wrapping would mask the Shroud cloth so that the top of the head would not be imaged onto the cloth. Somewhere there might be a wrapping with a top-of-head image, possibly with flowers as you suggest, but quite likely has now perished. I don’t believe that it would be the Oviedo cloth.

    2. Max, ferocious thorns used as pins pressed against the top of the head? Something is wrong there.

      1. Louis, I just meant ferocious thorns could be used at the time of Yeshua to “stitch” pieces of burial together if need be and/or i haste whether on top of the head (through the hair) or on both side of the body.

    1. Annette, If you cehck out the Durante 2002 horizontal positive image on Shroudscope, you can see the regularly spaced water stains along the centre of the cloth. What in negative I thought was the start of a head image, is a water stain.

  6. What do you make of Israeli expert on the plant life of the Land of Israel, Avinoam’s initiated eye for markings precisely left by plants and flowers from the Land of Israel?

  7. Personally, I myself detected 4 flower heads from Tamburelli’s 3D computer-enhanced reconstruction of the TS face.

    1. I have zizyphus spina christi plucked in Israel with me and after reading Professor Danin’s book “Botany of the Shroud”, with its excellent colour illustrations, I am convinced about at least one or two things he sees on the TS.

  8. The gap is more important, I think, than has been acknowledged.
    It has been proposed that a band held the jaw closed and this band went around the sides of the head and across the top of the head. This lifted the shroud away from the top of the head hence the lack of image.
    Another theory is that a cap-like crown of thorns had the same effect, however I can’t see why Christ’s supporters would have left such a mocking prop on him

    1. I think it’s more than just a band, more like some burial ritual cloth, possibly held in place by the band. Max probably has some ideas on what it may have been. The side hair does not look as if it’s bound against the face, so any jaw cloth was probably more like a narrow band. One would think that the head thorns were almost certainly removed for the burial. The measurement from nose to occiput doesn’t leave room for much else.

      1. Daveb,you may remember that I had thought about a chin band in a comment a few weeks ago. This band would not only explain the gap in the head images, the lack of definition on the sides of the face but also the forked beard, seen in many of the earliest icons.As the chin band went down the jaw, the middle part of the beard, perhaps the longest part of it, was held against the jaw and what remained at the sides of the beard, being shorter, was left as it was.

  9. I’ve just had a detailed browse through the religioustolerance site, as well as the articles on the Shroud. Thanks very much, Dan, for bringing it to our attention. Although on the whole Bruce Robinson’s observations are fairly superficial (and a few just plain wrong, like confusing the waterstain with the outline of a head), the article and others related to it are remarkably balanced. Reading through them I kept chamging my mind as to my guess about Bruce’s personal beliefs, which is a good sign of objectivity.

  10. This question has already been discussed on this blog nevertheless I’d like to point out this:
    If you watch carefully a Durante’s 2000 image from Shroudscope and you magnify the image there is no doubt that a water stain is between the ventral and dorsal head images on the Shroud ,and the waterstain overlaps a bit the superior occipital area near the blood marks from the cap of thorns.
    There is a distance about 16-18 centimeters between the two head images as it has been stated.

    Are there any blood marks between the two head images? I see some spots with a color perhaps similar to the blood marks but I’m not sure,
    If those supposed marks are ibood indeed, then there was not any kind of fabric over the head of the Man of the Shroud namely a chin band.

    Does any one Know if Professor Baima Bollone or Professors Alan Adler and John Heller collected any samples for blood studies from this area? As far as I know this area has not been sampled,

    Antero de Frias Moreira
    Centro Português de Sindonoogia

    1. Antero: I thught I noticed something similar which might be found somewhere among the 56 comments my original posting generated back in January, see Dan’s link to it above. At Comment #17 there, O.K. posted some links to a 3D re-construction, and I thought then that the colours might possibly indicate a few minor blood-stains. However it depends on whether the body was laid on the Shroud before or after the napkin was placed on the head. If the napkin was placed afterwards, there might have been a few blood-stains from the hair before the napkin was placed. O.K. also referred to a relic known as the “Cap of Cahors” which has been claimed to be the napkin. The negative seems to show some whitening at the water stain which just might be a blood-stain.

    2. [Shoudl be “I thought …”; O.K. wasn’t able to comment on whether the ‘Cap of Cahors’ had a ‘top of head’ image on it or not.

    1. I think this top of the head thing poses very interesting questions for the question of authenticity.
      The authenticists need to provide a compelling reason for the lack of image.I am not convinced by some of the cloth / cap theories put forward.
      For me this is a problem that lends some support to a man-made image. The image would look somewhat odd with the top of head shown hence the artist did not show it.

    1. So the artist didn’t. artist would not want to depict the top of the head only the front and back. Hence an argument in favour of the man-made.
      I realise there are theories around head caps, bands etc but I am yet to see a compelling comprehensive case. If someone can point me in the direction of such a case…

      1. Matthias, re. # 27:This is no argument in favour of any artistic production, also because all the complexities involved in the image have also to be taken into account. In my view, the chin band (#17) is the best explanation.

      2. Matthias, the shroud is not an artwork. 24 scientists spent 120 hrs trying to examine this assumption (among others) and concluded that it is not man made. The ventral image is incomplete while the dorsal image is complete. This is evidence that this is not an artwork. If you are wrapping a box you do the same thing. You lay the wrapping paper on the table then you put the box and make sure there is extra wrapping from all sides. Then you fold the rest of the wrapping paper over the box. That’s exactly what we see here. This is not what you see if someone was trying to make an artwork. In that case the ventral image should be the most important to print.

      1. I want more. The so called chin band has flimsy evidence.
        I think this major issue is being conveniently ignored. There is no image on the top of the head. A barrier is necessary to explain this if indeed the image is authentic. I have heard bands were used by Jews in burial but I have never seen any compelling evidence backing this claim.
        The head image would have looked strange if an artist conveyed the top of head hence why I think there is a question mark here

  11. John’s gospel cllaims that Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus buried Jesus in accordance with Jewish custom (all that the Law demanded). If that required a head covering, it would have been a simple matter to provide one. The measured distance between nose and occiput corroborates that the burial cloth was brought firmly over the top of the head. Your artist would need more than ordinary insight to attend to all the details that only much later technology has since been able to reveal. You cannot yet say how your artist was able to imprint the image.

    1. Good points. The very precisely accurate distances would be very impressive for an artist of that time.We still need more though on why the lack of top of head image

      1. I personally don’t believe the lack of a side image is because of a head covering. The image between the two heads is not the only side image missing. There is no side image, period. I think the problem here is because the lack of any side image has always been explained away by the hypothesis that the linen was loosley draped over the body and the spice bags were kept beside the body preventing side contact. But in this situation the measurment between the two heads doesnt give a chance of any loose wrapping. the lack of side image is very clear in the right elbow blood stain, which flows in an outside direction (as demonstrated by Dr. GIlbert Lavoie in his paper/book. This clearly indicates that the cloth was touching the side of the elbow because we see the blood stain, but we dont see the side elbow.The image formation process was strictly orthogonal to the horizontal plane. Isobel Piczek has attributed this phenomenon to an event horizon. This is way over my head and I simply don’t have an explanation for it.

    2. But what kind of head covering? To explain the fact that there is a face image but no top of head image we need an object that sat on top of head. I would have thought a face cloth would cover whole of head therefore preventing face and back of head image as well as top of head

  12. The “cloth which was over his face”, believed to be the Sudarium of Oviedo, was probably only used when Jesus was taken down from the cross and removed when he was wrapped in the Shroud. The face cloth is not to be confused with the chin band. If you can read Spanish the CES website is a good source of information.

  13. Matthias, did you manage to read additional sources? To go further, it was Jewish custom to use a band for the jaw. We must not forget that Jesus was left nailed to the cross till Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to request permission to bury the body, the centurions went to the site of the crucifixion and then came back to report to Pilate, enabling Joseph to go to the cross and make arrangements for Jesus burial. I think you will get the point.

    1. Where is the evidence about Jewish custom using chin bands? Where is the evidence that the chin band wrapped up and over the top if the head preventing contact between top of head and cloth? References please and more credible evidence please

      1. In a lot of shroud commentary, sensible ideas appear which, because they are sensible, are often taken as read, without supporting evidence to demonstrate that they are actually true.
        The jaw-band is a case in point. It seems reasonable that in some circumstances a narrow band of cloth is used to keep the jaw from falling open (maybe out of respect), and it would explain the gap in the image between the brow and the back of the head.
        But is there any evidence that this actually happened as a burial custom? Does the Talmud or something similar mention it? Is there any archaeological evidence that such a thing was used? If there is nothing, then common sense is all we’ve got, which, although no mean thing, is insufficiently conclusive, I feel. Matthias is right to ask for more evidence.

  14. Right now I’m working on another topic but will get the reference the soonest possible.

      1. The writer in me wants to suggest that those that buried Jesus replaced the crown of thorns with a crown of flowers, which kept the cloth off the top of the head. Pure narrative speculation — but it’s what I might have done.

      2. Re.#46: Generally people refer to Mishnah Shabbat 23:5. Professor Konstantinos Th. Zarras of the University of Athens referred to John 19:40 but in a different context, nothing to do with the TS.

  15. I would be sure that Max ought to have some specific ideas and sources to settle this question.

  16. Hugh re. #51: There is nothing to thank me for, it was my duty to provide some reference with my comment. The reasons why it seems there is some justification for a band to bind the jaw are in # 42.
    By the way, did you read # 14 on the thread “As long as these results are not refuted…”?

  17. Louis – great, thanks.
    My next question is how the jaw was bound. I imagine a band or cloth that goes under the chin up the sides of the head and over the top of the head makes sense?
    but would this not impact on the facial image?

  18. Mishna Shabbat 23:5
    “They may do all that is needful to the corpse [on the Sabbath], anoint and wash it, provided they do not strain its limbs. The pillow may be moved from under its head; it may be put on sand, that it keep the longer [from putrefaction]: its jaws may be tied, not to force them closer, but to prevent them dropping lower.”

    Indicates the general practice. I’m not satisfied that a band under the jaw and perhaps tied at the crown would be sufficient to mask the top of the head. There’s no suggestion of even a slight image there at all. I think it can be only be explained by some form of cloth underneath the band covering the head completely, with or without flowers. Flowers alone would not be sufficent to mask the head, unless it was a fairly thick layer with leaves. The cloth might have been placed to soak up some of the blood in the hair and then left in place (too sticky to remove).

  19. “I think it can be only be explained by some form of cloth underneath the band covering the head completely”
    But such a cloth would not only prevent top of head image but also front and back of head image

    1. Matthias, You are finding objections where there are none. Google on you’ll get the idea. They may be called kippah or yamulka, depending on the language, Jewish or Yiddish, worn because Jewish men acknowledge that there is a God above them.

    2. So less than, greater than brackets don’t work on WordPress; Google “Jewish head caps images”.

      1. No more spoon-feeding. Do your own research or use your common-sense. what do you think the explanation is?!!

  20. I envisage something a bit different; more like a band of cloth maybe 15cm wide or so and up to a metre long, passed under the jaw and over the head twice, then tied off at the side (maybe pushing the hair forwards).

    1. Hugh that was the kind of thing I was thinking.
      Dave – my opinion- I don’t think it was a kippah I can see no evidence at all that it would be used in burial.
      To be frank I even think the band seems unlikely and this whole discussion has changed my view towards favouring a medieval man made origin.
      I maintain the top of head puzzle is really important

      1. Matthias, The top of the head is not the only unexplained thing in the shroud. Image superficiality and half tone effects are two features only appreciated under the microscope that can’t be explained either, doesnt mean its a forgery. I would think an artist who measured the anatomically correct distance between the two heads would have no problem filling it in. This is part of the mystery, and beauty of the shroud.. This is why people spend their life studying the shroud.

      2. There are many reasons that there might not have been an image on top of the head. From burial straps, to flowers (I still like a crown of flowers) to caked blood, and because we don’t know the process of image formation we don’t know ‘what we don’t know’.

        This mythical artist, who is two moves ahead of even us modern day observers, neglects to account for the image gap between the heads? He gets everything else amazingly right but muffs something that obvious?

        This gap actually makes me less inclined to accept the forger theory — because it’s exactly the kind of gap a forger would have mitigated.

      3. If one can envisage an orthogonal radiation model, you would expect the top of the head to be missing.

    2. That seems to be a very weak argument on which to reject authenticity when other simple explanations are readily available. Nose to occiput distance fits. No-one has yet come up with a credible explanation if it was man-made together with all the other supporting evidence. Your medieval artist needs more than extraordinary insight to be able to anticipate future technology.

  21. “No-one has yet come up with a credible explanation if it was man-made”
    No-one has yet come up with a credible explanation if it was the shroud of Jesus.

    Both equally true…

    “Your medieval artist needs more than extraordinary insight to be able to anticipate future technology.” Not so, in my opinion. All the 3D and negative effects are an inevitable consequence of what somebody set out to do, rather than planned effects.

    1. He also had the foresight to include pollens from the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Anatolia; Jerusalem aragonite limestone; No doubt he had some good reason for creating it as a negative and a reverse reflection intead of a portrait; He only ever did it once and left no trace of any of his practice trials. He also evidently had an incredible understanding of anatomy. Church prohibitions against dissection meant that he would have to rely on the fact and fancy of Galen, until the time of Leonardo da Vinci who was the first to carry out his own dissections. Who do you think your artist used as a model? Jaques de Molay? A touch of brilliance including the crown of thorns!

      Your first two assertions are not equally true as you claim.

  22. Reply to Dave:

    Most likely and in keeping with the Misnah, a skull cap (or pathil in Hebrew, now known as the sainte Coiffe of Cahors) was first placed to keep the Turin Shroud (TS) man’s mouth closed and then withdrawn on the buriers’second thought from his head and placed on top of the moulding in-soaked inner long shroud (aka the TS) to thus more tightly close the head enshrouded with flower heads and framed with three wooden pieces (cut/sawn off the Titulus Damnationis and used as a small ‘jaw-box’): two underneath on each side of the falling hair as hard as cardboard, and one on top of the shroud, stuck under the chin (see ghost writing reading IHCOC, “Jesus” in 1st c. CE Greek upper cases, in exactly the same script readable in the fragment of Titulus Damantionis kept in Rome).

    Reminder one: the koine Greek word aromaton (John 20) can also refer to flowers (used as insect repellent) not only spices (such as myrrh and aloe).
    Reminder two: flowers were found in the sole Second Temple period crucifixion victim ossuary ever found in the Land of Israel.
    Reminder three: Israeli botanist, Avinoam Danin found markings on the TS left by flowers from the Land of Israel (especially around the head).
    Reminder four: I myself detected 4 flower heads on Tamburelli’s 3D reconstruction of the TS man’s face.
    Reminder five: “Yeshua cried out with a loud voice again and died” (Matt. 27:50), which mean most likely his mouth was still open when he died and rigor statuaris got over.

  23. Actually, there is more than one body image gap in the TS image: head, wrist, back of the knee, backside and side gaps.

    1. These other image gaps might be explained by either the distance of the cloth from the body, especially behind the flexed knees, or possibly by packing with flora or spices. But there is an underlying visual continuity which can mentally fill in the gap. The visual gap at the top of the head needed more explanation because distance measurement could demonstrate that there was little or no physical gap there, and insufficient cloth for a fold. If the imaging action was normal to the body surface, then we would expect to see the top of the head if it was not masked by a cloth such as a skull cap. One possible other explanation I have entertained is that the imaging action may have been constrained to be a vertical action, particularly if there was some kind of seismic influence. But then we would still expect to see even a faint image, but there is none at all that I can see.

      1. Dave,
        One must be extracareful when it comes to “mentally filling the gap” as far as body image is concerned.Actually the backside gap JUST CANNOT be explained “by either the distance of the cloth from the body, […] or possibly by packing with flora or spices.” There is a visual body image discontinuity due to a “S ease fold”.

  24. David Goulet – flowers on top of head? What’s the rationale for that please?

  25. But why flowers on the head? I think the pro-authenticity argument goes along the lines that Christ’s body was taken down from the cross and temporarily placed in the tomb within the shroud…as an interim measure before the full and final burial rites were to be undertaken (which never happened as Christ was resurrected before this occurred). This is consistent with the gospel of Mark, Luke and Matthew. John obviously differs, but I view John more skeptically from a strict historical account perspective (but obviously see a lot of metaphorical power in John).

    Sorry not convinced by the flower argument. I think the band (along the line’s of Hugh’s suggestion) is more likely.

    But still plenty of question marks here I think .

    1. To Matthias,

      Why NOT flower heads/inflorescences on and around the head? A few of them can still be seen rather clearly in 3D and even identified.

      BTW when you wrote “I think […] that Christ’s body was taken down from the cross and temporarily placed in the tomb within the shroud…as an interim measure before the full and final burial rites were to be undertaken.”
      Actually, once the body hasty bural, dressing in shrouds, purifying and drying was performed and the deceased buried in dignity, the body could be anointed IN its shrouds later if it could not have been done on the same day because of the Shabbat grinding spices was not allowed on shabbat to prepare spicy oils).

      Actually there is a U marking left by a head band but this is not a “chin band” stricto sensu It has ghost writings on it (IN NECCEM in Latin + PEZW in Ancient Greek script). Most likely, it is an infamy head band that was just placed over and around the face.

  26. Typo: it is an infamy head band that was just placed over and around the deceased’s face on burial. It tells us the deceased was sentenced to death, mocked and executed.

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