A sweat imprint that is a negative which is comparable to a brass rubbing

a racing certainty that the TS was assumed to be a sweat imprint,
and that few if any in the era would have entertained ideas of miraculous
flashed of light, especially as the image is supposed to have had been covered
with blood stains of one kind or another from head to foot.
– Colin Berry


imageColin, is developing a response to Thibault Heimburger over in the comments section of his blog where is feels better insulated from the acerbic comments of anoxie. Anoxie is not a troll, as Colin says.  He is more like a camp follower who goes about heckling politicians by yelling out annoying questions and comments whenever the politician stops to speak. Politicians learn to insulate themselves, not by moving to venues with guarded doorways where they can, like Stephen Jones, carefully exclude annoying and perhaps dissenting comments but by ignoring them.

Too bad. But to be honest, this blog is not exempt. Four people are completely blocked from commenting. Three of them are beyond being reasonable or being able to comprehend why they should be blocked. You would agree with my decision. One other person has been completely blocked after several lengthy email attempts by me to get him to control his frequent bursts of anger resulting in unjustifiable insults. Unfortunately, this last person, was a significant contributor to this blog even though I seldom agreed with him.

Again, this is too bad. Colin’s comments are important. So if you want to see what Colin is writing in response to Thibault, and you should, you will need to go here. Here is a tempting tidbit:

imageWell,we seem to be agreed on one thing, namely that the first people to lay eyes on the Shroud would have known what it represented, given the double image, but would have wanted to known how it was formed. If as I believe the image was always faint, our early viewer would have seen it as an imprint left by the body that was once inside the shroud. The view that it was an imprint, not a painting, would have been immediately reinforced by noting that the image is a negative, comparable to a brass rubbing.

In the absence of any documentary evidence to the contrary, and noting the words of St.Francis de Sales that the TS was the repository of blood AND sweat then it seems plain common sense to me that the TS represented a sweat imprint – and that’s without having to make any connections with the Veil of Veronica. But the fact that the latter was the Roman Church’s "central icon" in the 14th century according to the BM’s present director (Neil MacGregor) makes it a racing certainty that the TS was assumed to be a sweat imprint, and that few if any in the era would have entertained ideas of miraculous flashed of light, especially as the image is supposed to have had been covered with blood stains of one kind or another from head to foot. The two ideas of human mortality and miraculous radiation hardly sit well together, would you not agree?

Really, a negative comparable to a brass rubbing? Generally brass rubbings tend to be mostly, at least in concept, two-tone negatives of line drawings. When there is shading, as in these these examples, it is coarse hatching and/or as a result of applied rubbing pressure. Something to think about. But would the negative connection be noted?

The take away quote is this, however:

. . . a racing certainty that the TS was assumed to be a sweat imprint, and that few if any in the era would have entertained ideas of miraculous flashed of light, especially as the image is supposed to have had been covered with blood stains of one kind or another from head to foot.

Quite possibly so!


21 thoughts on “A sweat imprint that is a negative which is comparable to a brass rubbing”

  1. If Freeman can’t recognize a negative when he sees one what makes Berry think that a medieval observer could? “Look there, my Lord,” said Friar John, “it is a negative.”

  2. False dichotomy there, CB. They might well have imagined a miracle. You as a scientist should know better than to impose a ‘nonsense’ limitation on a choice.

  3. I did brass rubbing with replicas of effigies of medieval knights in England many years ago. It is not the same thing, and everyone knows that what we see on the Shroud is not just a contact image.

  4. I don’t think that’s Colin’s point, if I may be so presumptuous. The fact the “everyone knows” something now, does not mean that they knew it then. Nor did anyone think in terms of black/white colour reversal, which meant nothing, even if they knew about brass-rubbing, moulds for plaster statues, and all the other possible variations of the word ‘negative’ that have been mentioned recently. I think that medieval people who believed that the Shroud was genuine could have had two possible responses, depending on what it actually looked like. The first was that the Shroud was miraculously formed, in which case it could have been anything at all, but a bright painting would be a better miracle than a faint blur. The second was that the Shroud was naturally formed, in which case I think a contact print from sweat and blood would have been the default assumption, as Colin has suggested. I find it difficult to imagine a couple of 14th century pilgrims arguing about vapours versus contact, let alone light or neutrons, as the process by which the image was formed.

    1. I agree with you and Colin. A medieval person is most likely to have accepted the TS as a miraculous image, or some kind of contact print – sweat/blood. It’s medium does not look like anything else common to the era, not a painting, woodcut, or stained glass. Their best guess, ironically, isn’t much farther off than our own today.

  5. The words “everyone knows” were employed to stress that it is not just a contact image and I will now add that brass rubbing requires pressure and how is that applicable to the extreme superficiality we see in the Shroud body image?
    Now, to enter the realm of theology, one may ask: if we accept as credible the things Jesus performed that may be only described as miracles, accepted even by the top Jewish scholars today, can it be relevant in the context of Shroud studies? What does it tell us about our world and how does it inform our worldview? How does it shape our present understanding of the world, its basic structure and its perspective?

  6. Whether it is actually a contact print or not does not inform us about the medieval response to the Shroud, which I think would probably have been that, if not miraculous, then then image was a contact print. They may have been wrong, but I believe that’s what they would have guessed.

    As for theology, it is not unreasonable to accept that miracles, in the sense of infractions of the laws of physics, could have occurred. However, it is also not unreasonable, and certainly not atheistic, to believe that miracles do not occur beyond the realm of physics, but are merely unusual events whose circumstances are such that they create faith. I myself think that God is integral to his laws, a view fairly typical of those who earn their living by interpreting them; but I feel no disrespect to those who think otherwise. What I don’t have a lot of time for is the pseudo-scientific attempt to narrow down the parameters of a supernatural miracle, in an attempt to make it more credible by reducing its extra-physical aspects to a minimum.

  7. The “sweat imprint” at first glance seems plausible to some. As a well trained physician it makes me take pause. The number of sweat glands and their density varies dramatically throughout the entire body. I would suggest the proponents of the sweat imprint theory do their due diligence before making these fantastic assertions.

    It reminds me of patients tellig the doctor that their body itches all over. To which the doctor would respond, “do your teeth itch?”

    Based on the appearance of the teeth on the shroud I would like to know whether or not Mr. Berry believes the teeth have sweat glands too.

  8. According to Ian Wilson, in an interview he granted me some years ago, the Shroud is a time capsule, with an image conveying a message to us. We have information that the people in the medieval period did not have, and they were not as sceptical as we are today…
    As for miracles, Captain Leonard Cheshire did look for something when it came to the Shroud. The Catholic Church, at least, goes much beyond that. Its position is implied in the view of the well-known American Catholic New Testament scholar Professor Luke Timothy Johnson: “Christian faith, then and now (in NT times and the modern age) is based on religious claims concerning the present power of Jesus.”
    Former fundamentalist pastors who are no longer Christian and have in fact become anti-Christian have written about the Jesus “who is dead” and Johnson has penned something about “the living Jesus”.

  9. The distribution of sweat glands is indeed uneven. There are twice as many per cm2 on the front of the body as on the back, for example, and the palms of the hands have even more. (See Henry Gray, The Anatomy of the Human Body, at http://www.bartleby.com/107/234.html). Their number is also related to the colour of the skin, the darker the more, presumably as dark skin absorbs more heat which needs to be dissipated. However nobody today, I think, thinks that sweat was a major factor in the production of the image.

  10. The question was asked because from what I understand from this blog, the image show continuous uniform distribution. So if the sweats are uneven, then it would be impossible to have continuous distribution. Is Colin saying sweat imprint from both contact and non contact? Heat from sweat? Diffusion? I’m scratching my head on this. Sweat imprints similar to mailliard reaction?

    1. I don’t think Colin was saying anything about the Shroud being made by sweat. He was suggesting that medieval observers might have considered that it was made by sweat, which is quite a different thing.

  11. Right, Colin does not think like the people who formed that medieval crowd, eager to look at relics.

  12. Why human sweat cannot produce a Shroud like imprint

    Sweat is composed mainly of water with dissolved minerals lactate and urea.
    It’s a fact that sweat glands have an uneven distribution in human skin, and the composition and quantity of produced sweat by a human depends on several factors.

    Leaving aside speculations,, if we assume the corpse wrapped in the Shroud had profuse sweating before death, then almost all skin surface would be covered by sweat, and the uneven distibution of sweat glands in dermal structure would not matter., even hair would be soaked with sweat (unless it had been washed…)

    Question 1- Is there any sweat chemical compound that reacts whith the polysaccharide layer involving linen fibers(Rogers theory) or pectin and hemicellulose of primary cell wall?
    Perhaps lactate? urea?-
    If so does it produce the same color tone?

    Question 2- From a microscopical point of view IF sweat was responsible for color change of fibers, as a fluid it is, it would soak the fabric and probably there would be coloration on the other side of the cloth, and besides, contrary to what is observed on the Shroud there would be a continuum of colored fibers in «image» áreas ( I mean at microscopical level there would not be colored fibers and uncolored fibers side by side..)
    The question of superficial fiber coloration at thread level would not be fulfilled either.

    Question 3- A sweat imprint on cloth would be by defenition a contact imprint, ON THE CONTRARY THE SHROUD IMAGE IS NOT(al least in several anatomical áreas) A CONTACT IMAGE.

    Question 4- If it would be possible to wrap a naked human body with its skin covered with sweat in a linen sheet with the aim of obtaining an image, the result would be as follows
    (assuming that a color change would occur independently of the time elapsed to get it..)

    It would be a contact-only blurred image, with different macroscopic and microscopic characteristics relative to Shroud image let alone the fact it would have no 3D encoding.

    SWEAT THEORY HAS ALREADY BEEN DISPROVED, let’s not waste time speculating on old fashion and out of date issues,

    Antero de Frias Moreira
    Centro Português de Sindonologia

  13. Question 1 – “AS FAR AS I KNOW THIS HAS NEVER BEEN ACHIEVED IN LABORATORY EXPERIMENTS” Thanks, Antero. I have attempted several times to react urea and even ammonia with cloth, both unprepared and soaked in starch, saponin, myrhh and various other things in various combinations. I have never achieved disclouration.

    Question 2 – Even if some sweat compounds could change the colour, could sweat absorption discolour only the most superficial fibres of the cloth without soaking in and reacting with the whole thread.? This was one of Ray Rogers’s main problems, and led him to postulate the ‘evaporation gradient’ layer, whereby the vapour or fluid from the body could penetrate the whole cloth, but was so unreactive that only the uppermost surface, where the layer was, would be discoloured.

    Question 3 – THE SHROUD IMAGE IS NOT A CONTACT IMAGE. Not if it was made by a real bodyshape, no; but if from a bas relief of template, then it could be.

    As I already said, you are correct that the sweat theory has lost traction. However, that’s not the point of this posting, which is clearly outlined in the first line: it is a “racing certainty that the TS was assumed to be a sweat imprint,” even if in fact it wasn’t at all.

  14. OK Colin,

    I have read your very very very..long (but enlightening) answer on your blog.
    It will take me many hours to re-read and understand what you really have in mind.
    Then, I’ll write my comments before Sunday.

    The next step will be to write my last “Scorch” paper and you’ll be surprised.

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