In the Belly of the Beast

imageI was reminded during Bob Siefker’s presentation in St. Louis that John Jackson and the other authors of A Critical Summary of Observations, Data and Hypotheses – Version 2.1 assign significant importance to the raking light photographs of the shroud. So do I, but far less so. To my way of thinking:

  • the cloth was at times folded
  • the cloth was possibly folded in half along its length three times such that the face, and only the face, appeared on the outside. This, of course, lends credence to the term tetradiplon. It also comports with the idea that the shroud may have been stored folded in a reliquary with a grate, so as to show only the face.
  • the cloth may have been been an inspiration for the Man of Sorrows icons that show Christ rising out of a coffin-like container.

I have been giving this some thought. What did the Critical Summary actually say?

    Quoting from item L6 of the Critical Summary:

One of the tasks undertaken by the STURP team was to take raking light photographs of the Shroud. Linen has poor elasticity, explaining why it wrinkles so easily. Thus, linen cloth has sort of a memory that can reveal how the cloth has been folded (see item H 13.0,2). . . .

Okay. That seems probably so.

Jackson has studied the fold lines, some of which are as sharp as a straight edge and show discoloration as would be expected if folded over the edge of a wooden block or batten, as illustrated as "F” in the diagram below.

Words like “discoloration as would be expected if” sound speculative, not evidentiary. At least, it is not strong evidence.

Jackson’s team developed a computer program that maps prominent folds found on the Shroud related to the Man of Sorrows Icon.

That instantly bothered me. What sort of computer program maps fold marks on the shroud to hand painted icons? In what way? Moreover, to which Man of Sorrow Icon? Without an explanation this unfortunately sounds like the “scientists say” jargon we encounter in television commercials.  It’s like “ a computer programs says.”

Google suggests these icons:



The Critical Summary goes on to say:

These folds have been found to be consistent with the design of a lifting device that could have been used for raising the cloth.

imageConsistent with what design? This is an imagined lifting device. The point of this imagining may be to match the AD 1203 description of what Robert de Clari saw or to fit an account of “The Palace Revolution of John Comnenus by Nicholas Mesarites wherein we find

In [Constantinople’s Pharos] chapel Christ rises again, and the sindon with the burial linens is the clear proof.

I’d like to think there is some connection. I’d like to think this is all true. But the imagined device (click on the image on the right), while illustrative of a possibility, seems far too tentative to be in an evidence table.

So what are the fold marks really evidence of? How good is the evidence?

The authors of the paper have classified this as Class 1 Evidence which they define thus:

This rating is given to items of evidence that are firmly supported by empirical and/ or forensic research. To receive this rating there must be multiple corroborating research sources.

Yet when I look at the references I find only one paper by Eric Jumper and two similar popular books by Ian Wilson. Unfortunately Wilson uses material “deduced by Dr. John Jackson.” While not exactly a circular reference, it’s close. There is not much to go on.

Wilson goes on to say, “Although exactly how the cloth was made to rise is necessarily conjectural.” (The Blood and the Shroud page 157). Perhaps anticipating the problem some of us might therefore have, Bob Siefker said in his St. Louis talk:

Some people might not like the fact that we’ve rated this class 1 evidence but we’re in the heart of the belly of the beast. I’ve seen those folds. I’ve seen the marks. I’ve seen the razor thin nature of those folds where the “F” block is. I’m not only rationally convinced that the scheme is right, I’ve seen close evidence and had it very deeply explained to me. I’ve been very lucky to be in the belly of the beast, over here [pointing to], John Jackson.

So? Can I see the folds? Can anyone see the folds?  Are the photographs online? Can we examine the computer program’s logic? Without some illustrative photographs of the folds, without an explanation of what the computer program does, I’m thinking the entire item, L6, should be demoted.  Without some supporting evidence of a cloth-raising device being used, the speculative diagram should be removed. It is evidence of nothing.

What am I missing?

17 thoughts on “In the Belly of the Beast”

    1. For obvious reasons, the Shroud was always held longways as it was the only way to display the full extent of the images. Certainly it was folded, probably in different ways at different times, but I can’t see the need for a lifting mechanism when there were so many clergy who were obviously honoured to do the job themselves.What would be the point of having a lifting mechanism that could only show one of the two images?

      1. Because the whole thing was nothng more than a theatrical prop, perhaps? I too, find the whole creases thing less than convincing. I have never seen any good “raking light” photos that demonstrate these creases, although they are frequently mentioned in this connection, and am certainly not aware that creases in fact have any particular longevity. The only creases that we can be certain of (because of the 1532 fire) were almost indistinguishable even before the 2002 restoration, and the creases from when the shroud received its big diamond pattern water stains have completely disappeared. Creases no doubt came and went whenever the shroud was rolled and unrolled, and being roughly transverse, any selection could be selected to fit in with some kind of lifting gear. It seems that the elaborate design put forward by Jackson was mostly to account for a mass of closely spaced creases he observed around the ventral groin area, but lifting a cloth out of a box doesn’t require anything half so elaborate, even if it was by a hidden mechanism so that the operators were invisible.

  1. “For obvious reasons, the Shroud was always held longways as it was the only way to display the full extent of the images.”

    Yet another dogmatic statement as to what “always” happened with no evidence in support of it, all with the purpose of dissing any possibility of its authenticity. Certainly there are several occasions since 1355 when the Shroud was frequently displayed in this way and there are several illustrations of this type of depiction. For those Eurocentrics who believe that it only dates from the 14th century, I suppose “always” is close enough. For those who for various reasons believe that it dates from antiquity it most definitely is not.

    We have the evidence of Robert de Clari and Nicholas Mesarites both claiming to have seen an upright image of Christ in connection with burial linens in Constantinople. Mesarites description of “rising again” implies some kind of mechanism was used for the purpose. The Byzantines were not only competent engineers from ancient times but also ingenious, and were quite capable of producing such a visual display to full dramatic effect.

    Vern Miller produced photographs under raking light during the STURP investigations. Several fold-marks across the cloth are clearly visible under these lighting conditions. Very likely many of the folds arise from various ways of storing the cloth during its long history. Sadly the folds are no longer visible because of the 2002 interference with the integrity of the original.

    John Jackson has his own particular take on it and maintains that there are definite folds which correspond with the claimed tetradiplon pattern. Many of present correspondents will have seen the video of his presentation on this. He has set up a simulation of the type of mechanism which he conjectures was involved. Absent this agenda, and some fold marks do seem to occur at the locations he claims.

    His paper “FOLDMARKS AS A HISTORICAL RECORD OF THE TURIN SHROUD” by JOHN P. JACKSON, together with reproductions of Miller’s and others’ photographs can be found at: . Fold marks are clearly visible, on what must be considered as imperfect reproductions.

    The paper may or may not convince those with an open mind on the matter, but they remain at least as an admissible possibility. For those with a closed mind, nothing will ever persuade them anyway! I would agree that ranking them as “Class I Evidence” is probably over-egging the custard somewhat. However fold marks were definitely present and visible before 2002 of the kind asserted,

    1. Daveb. You need to envisage how and why the Shroud should have been displayed if it were top to bottom. Do you have the head of the frontal image at the top and the rest folded away behind it or do you just have one long hanging with the dorsal image upside down? At present every single image we have of the Shroud from the Lirey badge onwards shows it displayed longways and held by clergy so it reasonable to suggest that it was hung like this.
      As inventories show that cloths with images of Christ on them were quite common, there is absolutely no evidence to link the single image that de Clari saw with the double image of the Shroud. That is a misconception of those who do not realise how few of many thousands of original painted linens survive. Wilson goes even further with the misconceptions when he thinks that the cloth with an image of a man ( why didn’t they say it was Christ if it was?)on it venerated by the Knights Templar was also the Shroud. Not a shred of evidence to link the two and then we have the problem of Barbara Frale .. .but I digress….

      1. Charles,

        I repeat my challenge. Show us a comparable image to the Shroud complete with actual blood stains and burn holes with charred edges.

        Also when were these other linen shrouds created. Before 1350? Please show us or identify a linen Shroud with actual burn holes and bloodstains in existence before 1350.

        Ian has made enormous groundbreaking contributions. Do I agree with everything he has written? Let’s just say I am very skeptical of the Templar theory. Also at the St. Louis Conference Jack Marquadt gave a superb presentation that disputes the Abgar legend.

        There are healthy disagreements among those who have studied the Srouud about subsidiary issues.

        However, rank speculation which seem to be your expertise doesn’t cut it.

        Again, show us the historical PRECEDENTS that you claim exists. I capitalize “precedents” because linen shrouds after 1350 do not speak to the authenticity of the Shroud except to the extent they have copied it. I address that in Chapter 3 of my book in the part that deals with the Pray-Manuscript and Lier linen.

        1. The Shroud appears to be a unique survivor of many documented linens. This is the key point of my article. It gives new life to the stagnated and repetitive debates!

    1. Dave,

      I was going to apologize for my use of “Americanisms” which seemed to baffle some readers. However, after reading “over-egging the custard somewhat:” which I believe I understand and have never, never in my lifetime ever heard on this side of either the Equator or the the Pond, I’ll skip the apology for my use of Yankee argot.

      However, as usual you are on the point. There is no egg on your face.

  2. Having been too much a Yankee perhaps in my choice of aphorisms now I venture forth as that most dreaded of beasts: a lawyer who has grappled for too long with the task of “proving” facts.

    You see the issue is circumstantial evidence and even the atheist Pope, Richard Dawkins, understands the necessity of relying on circumstantial evidence when dealing with ancient artifacts. I even blogged a piece in June 2011 which demonstrated its use and related it to the Shroud of Turin: THE SHROUD OF TURIN, THE RESURRECTION AND JOE KENNEDY,

    It is more or less the heart of the first chapter of my book which deals with how we can reasonable draw conclusions from circumstantial evidence and as Dawkins notes we sometimes have to.

    In sum, from two facts recited in the third verse of the lyrics written by Ira Gershwin, reasonable conclude, and I would submit beyond a reasonable doubt, that Gershwin was twitting Joseph Kennedy, the father of US President John Kennedy.

    The two facts: (a) in 1929 I sold short and in (b) In England I am presented in Court.

    Cutting to chase, I submit with 100% confidence that of tyhe over 100 billion huamns who have walked the face of the Earth since the human race emrged from evolution, nly one – Joseph P. Kennedy fits those two facts. I guess the odds that he is not would be 1 in a 100,000,000,000.

    Obviously, the issue of Shroud authenticity is a much more complex issue. However, its an accumulation of facts, that lead inevitability to the conclusion that the Shroud is authentic. Some are quite strong and some are more weak. You can not reach a conclusion without taking into account the totality of the evidence.

    It’s something that we do every day of our life. To quote the first sentence of my book: “We do not order our lives by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    In a UN debate back in the day, the USSR Ambassador twitted the UN Ambassador for retitevly quoting himself. And Goldberg hadn’t even written a book to quote from. :-)

    There is a paper on the which lists many of the circumstances which revealed by the physical facts of the Shroud:

    It lists 87 circumstances that the signers of the paper believed support the authenticity of the Shroud which were empircally proven and 61 more confirmed findings that point in that direction. That’s 148 circumstances, none of which individually prove authenticity but taken as a whole prove it. Some may be rebutted and if you wish start chopping.

  3. There are several typos in this that seemed to escape the spell cjecker. Sorry but none of them have any effect on the meaning of the piece,


  4. “Charles Freeman:

    “The Shroud appears to be a unique survivor of many documented linens. This is the key point of my article. It gives new life to the stagnated and repetitive debates!”

    The threads can be confusing and points get lost in long trail. Responses than get lost. So I want this response to a Charles Freeman response to my unanswered challenge because I think it is really important.

    Once again, Charles Freeman has failed to give us one concrete example of a linen Shroud that preexisted the Shroud of Turin after writing of inventories listing shrouds.

    Now, I want to apologize to Hugh Farey for my curt disregard of his failure to grasp that not everyone on this blog is familiar with phrases that are quite common in Yankee argot. Now I have another one which I know is not a Americanism because it is defined in the the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press: “As plain as the nose on your face.”

    You Charles after writing and claiming that the Shroud is inauthentic and that it is only one of many linen Shrouds concedes that its survival is unique.

    Why should the Shroud have uniquely survived?

    The answer would seem to be it survived because it is very special. It’s uniqueness in that regard is in essence an argument for its authenticity. It is very, very special and unique. Charles had spoken of inventories listing shrouds. What inventories and when were they gathered?

    There is another aphorism that I know is not just American. It indeed it is adopted from Jeremiah: “None are so blind as those who will just not see.”

  5. “Why should the Shroud have uniquely survived?” This is a fair question; one which I asked a few posts ago and one which Charles gave some possible answers to. The Shroud was indeed a “primus inter pares.” He suggested that if any of a multitude of similar ritual objects had become associated with a specific miracle, then that would accord it the very special status John was looking for. My own ideas, that it had moved from an area where Quem Quaeritis rituals were common to a place where they were unknown, or that it resurfaced years after the rituals had ceased to be practiced, do not seem to me unreasonable either.

    Nevertheless, although Charles has placed the Shroud quite neatly within a ritual and even artistic context (the rise of ‘whole-body’ flagellation imagery being an example), he is as aware as anybody – perhaps more so as I’ve no doubt he has looked more assiduously – that there are no comparable double-imaged, paint-flaked-off cloths to push his argument beyond dispute. There is no point in attempting to refute his argument by demanding one. All you can do – and it’s a perfectly valid point – is to say that the lack of contemporary material convinces you that he is wrong.

    John also has a perfect right to demand references for things like “inventories listing shrouds.” However it seems that History today, although it demands references from its authors, has the custom of not printing them. Perhaps it enjoys stimulating controversy, or perhaps it thinks that, as some articles would have longer lists of references than the articles themselves, the content of each edition would be too restricted to be of general interest. Perhaps, after the article has arrived at the kiosks, Charles will post a link to his sources.

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