Marco Bella: Shroud of Turin–Between History and Pseudoscience

the Shroud is a fascinating conundrum.

imageThere is an interesting posting from / BLOG / di Marco Bella, which, by the way, Google Translate chooses to tell us is a posting by Mark Beautiful and Bing Translate tells us is by Marco Nice.

Other than that, Google seems to translate most of the page fairly well beginning with the title. Sindone di Torino: tra storia e pseudoscienza becomes Shroud of Turin: history and pseudo-science. Take your pick.

(Bing Translator may do a better job. (It only works for me if I click on Bing Translator and then paste in the URL  Bing give the title as Shroud of Turin: between history and pseudoscience.

With technical details out of the way, we note that:

Ours [that is Mark Beautiful’s or Marco Nice’s or Marco Bella’s] is a country that faced with irrefutable evidence (such as the carbon 14 dating) doesn’t want to resign. . . .

[ . . . ]

And also of the shroud we continue to discuss. In preparation for the exposition of 2015 Thursday, October 30, from 8:30, at the Department of chemistry of the University "Sapienza" of Rome, will be held on seminar (free) "The mystery of the shroud"where we discuss this and more and will be discussed between science and history on the sheet of Turin. The speakers will be Luigi Campanella (organizer of the meeting, Wisdom), Luigi Gadre (University of Pavia), Paul Lazar (Enea-Frascati), Philip Burgarella, (Università della Calabria), Andrea Nicolotti (University of Turin). An event definitely inspiring, given the prestige of the speakers, and which will be the last public appearance in the guise of Rector Prof.Luigi Frati, who will get jobs, with the Vice Rector for research, Giancarlo Ruocco.

Now we know what cannot be the shroud (the testimony of a man who lived in the time of Jesus Christ), but understanding how the negative image you both politically and possibly reproduce the procedure could be very historical and scientific interest, and in this sense the title of the meeting represents well the problem: the Shroud is a fascinating conundrum.

Hat tip to Joe Marino for spotting the article last night.

Posting Correction

imageThe previous posting has been corrected. This posting is just to notify you.

Yesterday, Dan wrote to me about an earlier Charles Freeman’s article. In something perhaps of a senior moment, I confused it with another criticism of the latest article,The Origins of the Shroud of Turin.  The mistake was completely mine.

Dan Scavone Responds to an Earlier Charles Freeman’s Article

Yesterday, Dan wrote to me about an earlier Charles Freeman’s article. In something perhaps of a senior moment, I confused it with another criticism of the latest article, The Origins of the Shroud of Turin.  The mistake was completely mine.

He sent me a copy of the article with his thoughts ‘penned’ in here and there.  While an annotated article makes for easy study, I unfortunately should not reproduce so much of the article without permission from Charles. Besides, it would make for too long a posting. What I have done is limit myself to a number of fair use quotations. Where the gaps exist in the article, I used bracketed ellipses. Charles’ text is indented with a quotation mark.  Dan’s comments are not indented and prefixed with his first name. In a couple of instances I have edited the Dan’s comments, mostly for formatting purposes or to remove extra comments directed to me. 

I apologize for the mistake.

Charles writes in his earlier article:

When I was researching my book on medieval relics, Holy Bones, Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of the Medieval World, Yale University Press, 2011, I decided to leave out the Shroud of Turin. Relic cults come and go and the Turin Shroud is very much a cult of the past fifty years, not a medieval one. The debates over its authenticity have been acrimonious and inconclusive. However, having been sent a copy of Thomas de Wesselow’s The Sign, the Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection, Viking, 2012, I had strong reservations about much of the historical evidence presented to provide an narrative history of the Shroud before 1350. Despite many years of research de Wesselow uncritically accepts much of the work of the veteran Shroud researcher Ian Wilson whose latest volume, The Shroud, Fresh Light on the 2000-year-old Mystery, Bantam Books, 2011, is used here. So much has been written about the Shroud that I am unlikely to provide much new material but I hope to clarify some issues by placing the Shroud within the wider context of medieval relics.

Now let us consider how many relics of the true cross there are in the world. An account of those merely with which I am acquainted would fill a whole volume, for there is not a church, from a cathedral to the most miserable abbey or parish church that does not contain a piece. Large splinters of it are preserved in various places, as for instance in the Holy Chapel at Paris, whilst at Rome they show a crucifix of considerable size made entirely, they say, from this wood. In short, if we were to collect all these pieces of the true cross exhibited in various parts, they would form a whole ship’s cargo.

A third part of the crown [of Thorns] is preserved at the Holy Chapel at Paris, three thorns at the Church of the Holy Cross, and a number of them at St Eustache in the same city; there are a good many of the thorns at Sienna, one at Yicenza, four at Bourges, three at Besangon, three at Port Royal, and I do not know how many at Salvatierra in Spain, two at St James of Compostella, three at Albi, and one at least in the following places: — Toulouse, Macon, Charroux in Poitiers; at Cleri, St Flour, St Maximira in Provence, in the abbey of La Salle at St Martin of Noyon, etc.’ (John Calvin, 1543)

Dan: This is precisely the WRONG approach to the Shroud. It is NOT a run-of-the-mill medieval relic. If Freeman wishes take this approach, he must first show us the numerous other shrouds claimed throughout ancient or medieval Christian history. He must then compare their realism to the Shroud. The Shroud is NOT one of a million claimed Jesus-shrouds. It stands alone and never was another made like it, whether in the middle ages or even today at the apex of technical science and artistic media.

[ . . . ]

Those trying to assess the authenticity of the Sudarium of Oviedo have to contend with a radiocarbon-14 dating apparently of c. 700 AD. The blood on it has been analysed and is of the rare AB group. This is the newest blood-group in evolutionary terms and results from the mingling of Caucasian blood-group A and Mongoloid blood-group B. At first such a mutation would have been very rare and is virtually unknown before AD 900.

Dan: Virtually??? . . . I hesitate to speak definitively or to claim perfect accuracy on matters of science, but I can recall something about AB blood-type given out by University Hematologist (and Jewish) Al Adler, He has stated EITHER that AB is most common among Jews OR that all or most denatured ancient blood alters to AB over time. Perhaps somebody can confirm Adler’s learned assertions about the blood on the Shroud.

[ . . . ]

Let us start with Edessa, the modern Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey, where a image of Christ was first reported by the historian Evragius Scholasticus in the 590s.

Dan: Try 2nd-4th c. Doctrine of Addai, attested by its author as derived from Edessa’s ancient, unfortunately lost, archives..

Edessa may have been Christian as early as the beginning of the third century but its legends took Christianity back further. (This was quite common. In the fourth and fifth centuries many cities ‘discovered’ a first century founding bishop, usually one who had been consecrated as such by one of the apostles.)

Dan: Many? Name 2 or 3. Can he document these last remarks? 

The Edessa legend told the story of King Abgar who had received a letter from Christ that was preserved within the city. As late as the 540s this was recorded as giving protection to Edessa but by the end of the century a new relic, an image of Christ, took its place as the ‘top’ protector relic of the city.

Dan: Try 2nd-4th c. Doctrine of Addai.

[ . . . ]

For reasons that completely escape me, Wilson claims that the Image of Edessa is none other than the Shroud of Turin.

Dan: He has simply ignored Ian’s great arguments.

[. . . ]

. . . There was a taboo in the Byzantine world about showing Christ, no less than God, of course, dead.

Dan: ???? I’ve never heard of this.

[ . . . ]

An even more bizarre explanation comes when Wilson tackles Byzantine art. Seventy years ago a Frenchman, Paul Vignon, noted that the bearded face on the Turin Shroud has some of the characteristics of Byzantine art. All kinds of measuring was done and some enthusiasts found as many as sixty resemblances. This is all interesting but Wilson goes on to make the absurd suggestion that this was because Byzantine art was born from the Image of Edessa, also known to Wilson as the Turin Shroud! Wilson makes some vague points about a new period in art at this time and finds a reference to two wandering Georgian monks with contacts with Edessa in the 530s who may have painted images. His key argument is the appearance in iconography of Christ with a beard happens just at this time. Yet, even if Wilson claims, against Belting who prefers a date fifty years later, that the Image of Edessa was known from the 540s, Byzantine art was well under way by then. So we have the earliest bearded Christ in the catacomb of Commodilla in Rome in about 390 and then a fine central image of a bearded Christ in the church of San Pudenziana of c. 405 (below). Even a brief glance at a standard history of early Christian art would have shown Wilson the emergence of these fully fronted bearded portraits in the fifth century.

Dan:  I have no comments about Freeman’s last paragraphs.  They are so "not applicable" to the information that we really have about the Shroud. 

A particularly impressive example comes from the Church of San Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna which is securely dated to 500 (illustrated below). So Byzantine images of a fully frontal bearded Christ are known from long before the date Wilson gives for his copying of the image of the Turin Shroud. So if the face on the Turin Shroud does have so many resemblances to Byzantine art then, it seems to me, that it may well be an excellent example of . . . Byzantine art!

Dan: He has confused which was the original (the Shroud) and which was the copy (Byzantine art)!!!  Also he has not paid attention to the "tetradiplon" reference to the image in the Acts of Thaddaeus. And [seems to be uninformed] of Ian’s "claims."

[ . . . ]

It is not known what happened to the Blachernae Shroud. The Chapel was very vulnerable as it was exposed on the shoreline. The Hodegetria was saved from the rapacious crusaders but the shroud seems to have disappeared. There is a hint in one source . . .

Dan: Much more than a hint.

. . . that it may have gone to Athens and some argue . . .

Dan: NO!!! I have proved with documents

. . . that it was the shroud found at Besancon which is first recorded in 1205, a year after the Crusade.

Dan: Yes!!! And it is firmly documented as coming from Constantinople to Besancon to Geoffroy de Charny. From there on the TS is documented through it possession by Geoffroy de Charny.

Most accounts suggest that this was then lost in a fire in 1350.

Dan: NOT True. In the first place, Freeman’s “most accounts” needs some names. And “suggest” (???) is so “escapist” as a wannabe “fact” that it may be discarded without further comment.

[ . . . ]

If Wilson’s thesis that this linen cloth was the Mandylion was not already in enough trouble, he still has a major issue to tackle, the history of the Shroud from AD 30 to the second half of the sixth century when the Edessa Image aka to Wilson the Turin Shroud is first recorded in Edessa. It is a long period, much more challenging than filling in a mere 150 years. 560 years from today would take us back to the Middle Ages! Of course, Wilson is up to the challenge. He has dug up a document called The Doctrine of Addai. This may date from the early fifth century

Dan: Freeman [seems to be] inventing dates hoping that uninformed readers will go along

[ . . . ]

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spake thus to him, by virtue of being the king’s painter, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought with him to Abgar the king, his master. And when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy, and placed it with great honour in one of his palatial houses.’

Dan: And he was healed. Unless this is a lie, it was not a human “painting done with “choice paints” that healed him but the strange–looking, misunderstood, faint face on the Shroud of Jesus.

[ . . . ]

So where did the Mandylion end up? I would suggest that it lies, folded tetradiplon, in the casket below.

Dan: “Suggest” ??? He has not proved anything that might empower Freeman to“suggest” some opinion or other – of his own.

More on Charles Freeman’s Article

imageStephen Jones reacts to Charles Freeman’s article The Origins of the Shroud of Turin in History Today. He unfortunately begins with an inappropriate barrage of ad hominem.

He subtly questions Freeman’s credentials as a historian. “Freeman has never held a actual historian position in any university,” he writes. He elaborates (see Jones’ blog posting) and then states, “This should be borne in mind when assessing the headline ‘…historian says.’”

He implies motive:

Freeman is evidently an atheist/agnostic having published papers critical of Christianity in the New Humanist online magazine, the subtitle of which is "Ideas for godless people", and is "produced by the Rationalist Association … dedicated to reason, science, secularism and humanism."


. . . so presumably Freeman was once a Catholic but is now a non- (or even anti-) Christian. If so, then according to Freeman’s presumed personal atheist/agnostic philosophy, there is no supernatural, so Christianity must be false, and the Shroud of Turin must be a fake.

“I hasten to add that I am a Protestant evangelical Christian . . . ,” Jones writes. Well, so am I. I’m a Christian anyway, Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian, and I feel compelled by my belief to respect Freeman’s worldview and not try to use it as a weapon against him.  I don’t agree with much of anything he said in the article but it was not because of his worldview.

The intelligent reader can only see that this is what Jones is doing. I am so reminded of the words of another atheist/secular humanist, Christopher Hitchens, speaking out about such attacks . . .

whereby if your opponent thought he had identified your lowest possible motive, he was quite certain that he had isolated the only real one. This vulgar method . . . is designed to have the effect of making any noisy moron into a master analyst.”

Okay, it sounds like I’m doing the same thing. Maybe. But I’m not calling Jones a moron. No, I’m not. I’m thinking about his methods. Maybe he will think about them, as well.

Jones moves on. He spends time arguing against the 1988 carbon dating results with his amazing conspiracy theory (does anyone else on the planet buy into this?):

But [the carbon dating] is explicable if the Shroud sample dates were computer-generated. E.g. by a computer hacker, whom I have provided evidence in my soon to be completed series, "My theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker," was Arizona Radiocarbon Laboratory physicist Timothy W. Linick (1946-89), aided by self-confessed KGB hacker Karl Koch (1965–89), who both died of suspected `suicide’ within days of each other, presumably executed by the KGB to ensure their silence.]

Jones does spend time, appropriately as I see it, challenging other aspects of Freeman’s article. However, in a response to Freeman pointing out that the church officially regards the shroud with an open mind he falls into a trap of speculating to explain speculation (pretty much the way Freeman does in his article):

As I have stated before, the Vatican is dishonest in this. From its actions in spending the equivalent of millions of dollars preserving the Shroud and holding exhibitions for millions of people to see it, clearly the Vatican regards the Shroud as authentic. So presumably the reason it refuses to confirm or deny that the Shroud is authentic is that the Vatican would then have to say which of its other relics were authentic or fakes, and most of them would be the latter. It might be good church politics to suppress the truth in this matter but it is not Christian (Rom 1:18; . . . ).

The Vatican is dishonest, the church is suppressing the truth . . . is not Christian? And Jones, points to Romans 1:18, not as a citation but as a threat. It reads: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

All quoting by me is in accordance with doctrines of Fair Use defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, Chapter 1, Section 106. This grants me the right to limited copying for commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.

Colin Berry: Maybe It’s A Maillard Reaction After All

Oh, and go boil your head.

From the blog postings of Colin Berry:

It has clear advantages over Mode 1, [discussed above]. in that ANYTHING with 3D properties can in principle be imprinted, not having to be heated. That might be bas relief templates and/or fully 3D statues.  It may even conceivably have been a person, living or dead.  All that was needed was a coating of white flour (or a comparable dry powdered substance providing reducing sugar and amino groups), probably with a binder material to ensure even coating (the vegetable oil in the present modelling, but other options exist).

But I don’t see how with 3D statues, bodies and whatnot, we are not facing the well-understood contact-wrap-around problem. What am I missing?

But there’s a tricky step in the procedure – namely the final roasting of the flour-imprinted linen that has to convert the coating to tan-coloured melanoidins (Maillard reaction products) without too much dicoloration of the linen. It can be done in  principle, on a small scale laboratory basis, given the exceptional chemical and thermal stability of cellulose, by far and away the major component of linen fibres, relative to the starch, proteins lipids etc of wheat flour.

There’s a great deal to think about right now. Best to stop here and post the experimental results. Maybe others can see things I have missed that might offer a way forward through this thicket of new possibilities, each with its own unique difficulties.

To those who claim I select and/or manipulate experimental data I say this. Go boil your heads (old English expression of endearment).

Publishing Shroud of Turin Papers on

According to Wikipedia, “ is a social networking website for
academics. It was launched in September 2008 and the site now  has over
11 million registered users as of 2014. The platform can be used  to share papers,
monitor their impact, and follow the research in a particular field.

imageShroud of Turin papers are being published everywhere: peer-reviewed journals, open-access journals, pay-to-play journals and on all manner of websites.  Many conferences papers have been published on special conference websites as was the case for the Ohio State University conference in 2008 and the Frascati conference in 2010. In the past, many conference papers were published in and now we learn that papers from the St. Louis conference will be published there as well; that’s wonderful!

Other shroud-related papers, prepared for any number of reasons get published on all manner of websites.

  • ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development hosts papers such as The Conservation of the Shroud of Turin: Optical Studies by Paolo Di Lazzaro, Daniele Murra, Antonino Santoni and Enrico Nichelatti.
  • Dozens upon dozens of papers (in English) are published at such sites as and
  • John and Rebecca Jackson’s Shroud Center of Colorado has a few papers. 
  • David Rolfe’s Shroud Enigma site has some as well.
  • So, too, does Pam Moon’s Shroud of Turin Exhibition site.
  • This blog has a number.

And these are just the papers in English.

One site, in particular, is becoming a goto site for publishing shroud-related papers. It is increasingly popular with authors of papers because they can self-publish (upload) and make their papers instantly available. Authors can track readership. They can revise papers, even make instant corrections, all without having to wait for update schedules. has “Follow” facilities that allow anyone to follow the works of specific authors as well as papers on particular topics. For instance, because I follow the shroud, when Louis C. de Figueiredo published a paper, Professor Giulio Fanti discusses the controversies in the realm of Shroud studies, I knew about it within minutes. It was perhaps connectivity overkill, but my iPhone beeped to let me know about it. Helpfully, Louis also posted a notice on this blog.

Authors who publish on may, if they wish to do so, provide an email address or choose to rely on’s private messaging facilities – or neither. is free. It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s powerful. But do read the article by Menachem Wecker in Vitae: Should You Share Your Research on

[High readership numbers] are enough to convince many scholars looking to develop an audience. Heidi Campbell, associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University, is among them. Don’t jump on to expecting to find vibrant discussions or active networkers, she says. Think of it instead as a “great way to share my work and let others know about my scholarship.”

“While it has not been that useful for me as a social-networking tool or for building collaborations,” she says, “it offers some great features that have spread the word about my work to a broader audience beyond my subfield. I think it has helped raise my public profile as a scholar online.”’s related topic indexing helps, too. Sooner or later, if you are reading about Byzantine coins, for instance, you will encounter a list of topics that suggests you might also be interested in the Shroud of Turin – sort of like the way Amazon recommends books based on what you are reading.

It should increase readership.

Every page in the Academia site has a search box. Moreover, Google and other search engines view this site as a major site (Alexa ranks it as 1 of the top 1000 websites in the world).

The header for each report contains buttons for viewing the author profile, displaying the abstract of the paper, tweeting a message about the paper, bookmarking the paper and downloading the paper to your computer. There is also a counter to show how many times the paper has been viewed, as can be seen in this example for a paper by Emanuela Marinelli from the 2012 Valencia Conference.




I say put your paper on and then put it someplace else like  The only exception may be if you are planning to publish your paper formally in a journal. In that case, check first.

Did we mention that on Academia you can follow an author?


What’s next?

SkyDrive from Microsoft and Google Drive are making  it even easier to publish papers. Just save papers as PDF files and decide if they will be public, private or available to a select group. Everyone can have their own storage.  Just sign up and each of these Internet giants will give you a recurring fifteen gigabytes of storage for free. That is enough for 1,000 typical shroud papers in PDF format. Want more space, it’s $1.99 per month for a hundred gigabytes, enough for 6,000 typical papers. And what about bandwidth. It is free.  Really! Bandwidth is bundled into the price.

Social media. Academic papers are moving there. Set up your own blog and store as many papers as you want. File space is cheap and bandwidth is free and unlimited.

The go-to choice for finding information these days is Google. Everybody Googles. And Google doesn’t care if a paper is on,, or somewhere in the clouds. There was a time when it took Google days to index a paper and they would only examine the first few pages. Now they will index a book length paper. And they get around to doing so in minutes

A St. Louis Paper Already Online: The Roman Flagrum . . .

This morning we learned that St. Louis conference papers will be published at, something I am especially pleased to learn. Later, Paulette wondered if some authors might also upload their papers at This, wonderfully, is already happening.  As the authors of one paper tell us:

The contents of this paper have been presented on the occasion of the international St. Louis Shroud Conference (The Controversial Intersection of Faith and Science), held in St. Louis on October 9th-12th, 2014. The paper has been anticipated here, waiting for the official Proceedings.

imageThe paper is The hypotheses about the Roman flagrum that was used to scourge the Man of the Shroud. Some clarifications by Flavia Manservigi and Enrico Morin.

The authors tells us, as part of this fascinating paper:

In the Roman world many different instruments were used to inflict chastisements through flesh beating. The use of the different tools was determined by the gravity of the crime, but also by the social class of the prisoner and by its nationality.

The lowest level of this punishment was carried out in schools, against undisciplined children: in this case was used an instrument called ferula, which was a thin stick or a flat leather strip (Martial, Epigrammata, X, 62; 14, 79; Juvenal, Saturae, I, 15).

Another instrument which could be used for the domestic punishment was the so called virga (Juvenal, Saturae, VII, 210); in the case of serious crimes, it could become an instrument of death. It was a small rod made of elm or birch, which could be used singularly or joined together; in this form, virgae were also carried by the lictors as symbols of the juridical and administrative authority of the magistrates, because they were used to flog criminals (Cicero, In Verrem, 2, 5, 140; Livy, Ab Urbe conditam, II, 5; XXVI, 15-16; XXVIII, 29; XXIX, 9; Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, XVI, 30, 75; Acts of Apostles, 22, 24-29).

. . . and it goes on from there. Fascinating. Do read it.