The Carbon Dating of the Sudarium of Oviedo Plus the Caves of the Sudarium

the 2007 carbon dating
and a bit of fascinating history

imageO.K. writes:

I would like you to post some of the following issues on the blog:

1. The 2007 carbon dating of the Sudarium of Oviedo. Mark Guscin has written in the article ‘The Second International Conference on the Sudarium of Oviedo’

Just weeks before the congress took place, new samples from the Sudarium were subject to carbon dating. Five samples were dated from five different cloths –three of them came up with the expected date, while the cloth from an Egyptian mummy returned a date of any time in the 19th or 20th centuries. The laboratory immediately concluded that the cloth (and the mummy) were fakes. The sample from the Sudarium was dated to around 700 AD. Scientist César Barta spoke about the carbon dating process, emphasising the fact that if carbon dating is always absolutely accurate, then we could just as well finish the congress there and then. However, there were several points to bear in mind– in specialist carbon dating magazines, about half the samples dated come up with the expected date, around 30% with an “acceptable” date, and the other 20% is not what one would expect from archaeology. The laboratory used (via the National Museum in Madrid) said they were surprised by the result and asked if the cloth was contaminated with any oil based product, as oil is not cleaned by the laboratory processes used before carbon dating and if oil is present on a sample, the date produced by carbon dating is in fact the date of contamination. Finally, the history of the Sudarium is very well established and there are definite references to its presence in Jerusalem in AD 570 and at the beginning of the fifth century.

Micheal Hesemann in a recent book (“Chusta Chrystusa, Naukowcy na tropie zmartwychwstania” pg. 230-232, that is polish edition of “Das Bluttuch Christi”) gives some more details. The dating was performed by Beta Analytic Inc. from Miami, and the result was 660-890 AD.

It is curious, because so far we know, the Sudarium had been carbon-dated in the 80s, by two laboratories: Tuscon and Toronto, based on samples taken from it by Max Frei and Pierluigi Baima-Bollone. Various accounts about the results exist. So far I have met: 653-786 AD Toronto, and 642-769 AD (in other version 642-869 AD) Tuscon. Micheal Hesemann, on the other hand, reprots 540-869 AD. Also "between 1st and 9th century" claim was made at one point.

Does anyone has any more details about 2007 dating? So far I know, on the Barrie’s site, on the Valencia conference page, there is listed a paper called ‘Dating the Cloths by the C14 Method – The Oviedo Sudarium’  by Felipe Montero Ortego, but it seems to be inaccessible either via Barrie’s site, or the Google.

2. The second issue is that I have found interesting site of Micheal Hesemann. Mainly German, but there are a few articles in English.

The second referenced item, Discovered: The Cave Monastery which housed the Sudarium of Christ  concludes fascinatingly:

Many question remain unanswered: Did St. Gerasimus discover a hiding place of the early Christians, did he find the long-forgotten “Sudario Domini” in these very caves, maybe preserved in a wooden chest or a large jar, like the Dead Sea scrolls? Or was the precious relic entrusted to him by his teacher, St. Euthymius, the “founder and patron of the Judaean wilderness”, who established several laurae of hermits in the Judaean desert? We can only speculate about the details. But we can say for sure that Antoninus gave an accurate description of the cave monastery which existed in the cliffs of the Wadi en-Nukheil, at least since the 5thcentury. And that in this cliff laura, according to the pilgrim’s report, the Sudario was once venerated, before it was brought first to Africa, then to Spain.

5 thoughts on “The Carbon Dating of the Sudarium of Oviedo Plus the Caves of the Sudarium”

  1. I’ve been at 2012 Valencia Shroud Conference and as far as I recall a spanish member of Centro Español de Sindonologia whose name I no longer remember stated something interesting on this issue.

    He stated that the results of 2007 radiocarbon dating the Sudarium of Oviedo around 700 A.D. had to be explained by some factor(s) that skewed the tests, namely contamination.

    So a study had been done by scientists from Centro Español de Sindonologia and microscopic examination of the fabric-whose images were shown on the screen to the attendance- determined the presence of many tiny carbonaceous particles over the threads,resulting from a previous fire in the Oviedo Cathedral, he called the particles the black particles

    Accordingly to this scientist the presence of those carbonaceous particles which were impossible to completely extract from the sample by the cleaning procedures were responsible by the younger dating than expected.

    If anyone has something to add I’d appreciate.

    Antero de Frias Moreira.
    (Centro Português de Sindonologia)

    1. Thanks Antero,this is similar to what Hesemann describes, but I need more details. Where was the sample taken, what was the actual results, what was the laboratory report etc. The main problem is that to skew the C14 result from circa 30 Ad to circa 750 AD, one needs about 36-40 % of modern carbon. And that is quite much, I think. Only hydrocarbon substances, like oil (of course organic, not mineral) or wax may give enough carbon, and the problem is how large percent of contaminated sample they may be.

  2. Unfortunately I can´t remember further details.
    I lloked for the Valencia paper dealing with this subject but it was not available.
    Maybe if you contact Centro Español de Sindonologia they will give you the anwer to your legitimate questions

    Nevertheless I got the idea that radiocarbon dating of Sudarium of Oviedo would never provide accurate results because of the impossibility to remove those carbonaceous debris.

    Antero de Frias Moreira

  3. “Five samples from five different cloths..”
    Sorry if I missed it, but was the Sudarium sample from (just) a single site?

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