So, was the small Arizona piece in Doug Donahue’s custody ever made available to Barrie Schwortz?

clip_image001Bill McClellan, a columnist writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is reminiscing about his friends, Dee and Doug Donahue (pictured):

Occasionally, other events brought us to Tucson. In 1988, Doug’s lab at the university was one of three labs to carbon date the Shroud of Turin. The two other labs were at Oxford and Zurich. The labs had agreed not to release the results individually. Doug had invited Harry Gove, a physicist from the University of Rochester, to observe. Gove had had a poor relationship with the scientific adviser to the bishop of Turin, and his lab had been excluded from the testing.

I was waiting for them at the house on Fourth Street when they returned from the lab. Neither of them mentioned the results, but as we had a drink on the porch, I sensed — correctly — from Gove that the results were not what Turin would have wanted.

[ . . . ]

Not long ago, Dee fell. She was not hurt badly, but it was clear that living on the second floor, climbing up and down steps, was not a good idea. For that matter, the house required too much maintenance. Doug and Dee moved into an apartment for senior citizens. . . . the house on Fourth Street . . . will go on the market next month.

And thus I’m reminded as a result of something Helmut Felzmann wrote for the Shroud Science Group that I republished last November with his kind permission in a  blog entry: The Mysterious Arizona Piece. Helmut  had written:

Barrie [Schwortz] went to Tuscon in August 2012 with invitation from Jull (I persuaded Jull) to take photos from all the blind samples, the rest of the large sample and the small sample. When he arrived in Tuscon, Jull told Barrie that the small piece is not available as it is in custody of Mr. Donahue, the retired head of the laboratory in 1988. But Donahue was not available due to his personal situation. It was promised to Barrie, that he will have access to the piece later.

Barrie had also written in Report on the STERA, Inc. – University of Arizona Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory Macro Photography – 30 August 2012:

The day I was to make the photographs, Dr. Jull informed me that one (or more?) remaining samples would not be available for the photography session. These were currently in the possession of Dr. D.J. Donahue, the retired former Director of the laboratory, who was away due to a family emergency. I am hopeful they can be made available at some future date so they can be photographed using the same techniques and equipment and added to the collection.

So, was the small Arizona piece in Doug Donahue’s custody ever made available to Barrie? Was it at the time of Barrie’s visit at home on Fourth Street or locked up in the lab such that Timothy Jull, then the director of the lab, could not get access? Where is it now?

25 thoughts on “So, was the small Arizona piece in Doug Donahue’s custody ever made available to Barrie Schwortz?”

  1. Amazing.
    Kudos to Dan, I adore this site. Everyday I learn something I never knew.
    I’m embarrassed to say this post made me very tense. I can’t imagine what could possibly motivate anyone to withhold something that I believe doesn’t belong to an individual, but to the world. I’m not sure how this happened, but it certainly should have went back to the Vatican.
    If I took a personal item in for testing, I wouldn’t expect a professional to keep a portion of it for himself. Maybe it was previously arranged and have came to the wrong conclusions, I hope.

  2. Yes it these types of odd, unprofessional behaviours that give life to the conspiracy theories. The labs have done themselves no favours in failing to be transparent about the surviving samples. Many of these theories could be debunked in a day if the labs responded with the vigour one would expect, given the accusations. The more they do not, the bigger the question mark grows over their heads. Perhaps they do not wish to ‘dignify’ the question with a response…but the question is being asked by some reasonable people just looking for the facts/truth. As such the lack of response is bringing indignity to the labs anyway.

    Perhaps those involved are too ‘retired’ to really care anymore. Who knows.

  3. I have emailed Dr Donahue to inquire. On the whole I do not find that anybody has ‘refused’ to be co-operative about my inquiries. Many of the remaining members of STuRP are easily contactable, and they have replied to my queries promptly.

  4. To date, I have received no answer from Dr. Jull to the several e-mails I sent him to follow up on photographing the remaining sample. I am still prepared to photograph it should it be made available. According to the experts I spoke with, most labs would never destroy or use all of an existing sample but would typically keep some small pieces in reserve. The Zurich and Oxford labs now state that they have no Shroud samples remaining, while Arizona apparently kept substantial portions after their tests. I don’t believe they were required to return them to Turin, much as STURP was not required to return any of the materials they gathered. I am still hopeful that the Donahue sample will be made available at some point in time so it can be photographed and included with the other images I made.

    1. Is there a real possibility (just possibility) that this piece may contain some evidence for the so-called ‘invisible mending’ theory, put forward by Benford & Marino, and supported by Rogers, Villareal and others? May it be the real motivation why this sample is still kept secret from the public?

      Not suggesting anyone being dishonest of course…

      1. Good science must be done with complete transparency, particularly when dealing with something as controversial as the Shroud. Even Dr. Jull admitted to me that the 1988 tests were rather poorly performed. Arguing over the sample site, leaving the room for 30 minutes and returning with sealed, stainless steel (opaque) containers rather than glass, failure to perform chemical analyses on the samples (required by their own protocol) or release the raw data or explain mathematical inconsistencies in the process, etc., etc., have led to many conspiracy theories. I still personally prefer to look for a credible, scientific answer (like the reweave theory) than to resort to conspiracies. In the end however, you reap what you sow.

      2. Would be great to know. If it did, it would also include threads from the main body since the 2 fibers were interwoven.

    2. If anyone deserves to have it in their possession, I wholeheartedly believe it should be with you, Barrie. Your professionalism, non biased approach, integrity you present with the media and tenacious work makes every shroud enthusiast proud! I loved the shroud since I was in my early teens and my mother took me to a conference. After the carbon dating, I sadly accepted the numbers for over a decade until I began watching and listening to you. That old spark of excitement and joy has been with me since, I thank you for that!

      Would a petition on change.org be a possibility to get this to Barrie? Or any type of action? It’s so disheartening to imagine one day this sacred piece of Christian history could end up on ebay to the highest bidder.

  5. I only need to have it in my possession for one day, so it can be photographed in the exact same manner as the other samples I imaged at the lab in 2012 and added to the collection (which STERA, Inc. has made publicly available). After that, it can go back to the lab. No, I don’t think a petition is a good idea. I would rather hope they realized the importance of documenting the remaining sample, which might be equally useful in quelling some of the conspiracy theories. I doubt it would ever show up on e-bay, but stranger things have happened!

    1. I see. It would be great if our number of supporters could help them realize that importance too, but then again… with the heightened attention, how could you miss a following like this?

      In the Benford paper, based on weave-pattern changes in the sample, the estimated ratio reflected approx 60% 16th century threads and 40% 1st century in origin. IF this remnant is donated in the future, could enough fibers be separated for advanced dating in this particular piece?

  6. The only thing we’re sure is the proven fact that the C14 corner was non-representative of the main cloth and in the end that’s all that matter… The question of what really caused this discrepancy is secondary.

    I dream of the day when the scientific community and the Vatican, because of this proven fact, will agree to move on and go ahead with a new C14 dating better done with multiple samples taken from different parts of the cloth after being sure those samples are really representative of the main cloth.

    1. I should have written this instead: “The question of what really caused this discrepancy is secondary and I even seriously doubt that someone will ever be able to prove what this cause (or, more probably, causes) really was (were). When it comes to the Shroud, the question of contamination (whether it is chemical or physical) is truly a complex one because there are a lot of unknown regarding the way it was kept over the centuries.”

  7. … the proven fact that the C14 corner was non-representative of the main cloth …
    … sigh …

    1. Independently, Adler and Rogers have found solid pieces of evidence that this corner was anomalous and not just a bit. That’s enough for anyone intelligent to ask for a back-up test done with more than one sample (and samples proven to be representative of the main cloth).

      Do you have a problem with this logic? I don’t know why someone should be offended if the Vatican decide to ask one more C14 test to be done in order to confirm or not the one made in 88.

      1. Evidence yes. Solid no. Proven absolutely not. Would another C14 test help – possibly. Logic – er…

    2. I shall hold my breath on the reweave theory until someone who specialises in ancient textiles can show from an actual examination of the cloth where the weave begins and ends and how it is differentiated from the rest of the Shroud. If Rogers was right ( and I really do have my doubts) the reweave should be shown through the presence of cotton fibres or threads- something relatively easy to spot.
      But yes, 25 years on from the testing and thirty-five years on from STURP, a re-examination of the cloth using modern technology is bound to provide new answers or confirm old ones.

      1. Didn’t Flurry-Lemberg, a textile historian, observe the variation in 02 during the restoration?

      2. The reweave is only a hypothesis for the moment and it’s not proven yet.

        But that’s not important in order to cast serious doubt on the validity of the 88 dating. What matters is this: never mind if there really was a medieval reweaving or not, the fact remains that Adler and Rogers (independent of each other) analyzed threads taken from the C14 corner and found huge chemical and physical difference there in comparison to the samples that were taken elsewhere on the cloth by STURP. That is a solid and proven fact. And that’s well enough to go on a new C14 dating done more properly this time and on various samples.

        That’s the only thing that really matter.

    1. No- she was more worried about contamination as a source of discrepancy in radiocarbon dating. . See: Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, ‘The Invisible Mending of the Shroud, the Theory and the Reality’ (2007) which you can pick up online.

      1. Personally, in the light of the results of analysis obtained by Adler and Rogers on samples taken in C14 corner area and considering the facts that there is a missing part adjacent to the C14 sample area and that it is historically proven that this area was handled a lot during history, I think we can’t discard both hypotheses (contamination and reweaving) right now…

  8. You want invisible re-weave – I give you invisible reweave! Pop across to the “Of Pixels, Spectrum and Density” page, where I will expand on this topic.

  9. Will this forever be “Donahue’s Legacy”? Is the Donahue piece lost? Worse yet is it being concealed? Will suspicion about the piece ever fade? Will the resulting image of sloppiness in Arizona ever fade?

Comments are closed.