Home > Press Coverage, Science > Important New Pollen Discovery on the Sudarium of Oviedo?

Important New Pollen Discovery on the Sudarium of Oviedo?

February 15, 2015

imageThe English language pages of the Universidad Católica de Murcia (UCAM) are reporting that UCAM’s researchers have found scientific evidence that places the Shroud of Oviedo and the Shroud of Turin in the same scenario::

The research group of the Catholic University of Murcia which is studying samples of the Shroud of Oviedo, has discovered a grain of pollen from one plant that, according to the Pollen Expert of EDICES, Marzia Boi, is compatible with the botanical species of Helicrysum Sp., also identified in the Holy Shroud (Shroud of Turin). Moreover, it has dropped the hypothesis of subsequent contamination, as the pollen is adhered to the blood; this means that the pollen arrived on the shroud at the same time as the blood, not randomly at some point along its history.  This fact is very important because it makes it possible to prove the authenticity of the Shroud of Oviedo, and deny that it is a forgery.

La Opinion de Murcia in a story four days ago adds this interesting piece of information (Translation by Google):

This research has been possible thanks to the innovative scanning electron microscope last generation that tells the UCAM. In this sense, the president of the UCAM, José Luis Mendoza, notes that [the university] acquired "the microscope to offer this service" to investigate in depth the aforementioned relic. This is a new finding that is not part of the research line that is centered study, since what is sought in the sample being processed is human biological material.

The Valencia newspaper, Las Provincias, in its coverage of the discovery, offers up this (Translation by Google):

The plant known as ‘Helicrysum’ has been used for thousands of years for cosmetic purposes in the Middle East; also was used in Jewish burials during the first century of the Christian era, so it is no wonder their presence on blood remnants of a canvas used to shroud a corpse.

Will this story get legs beyond regional papers and a university website?

Click on picture for larger view and here for and even larger image on the university’s site.

  1. February 15, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Marzia Boi has never had a pollen specimen from the Shroud at her disposal. She has only seen a bad-quality photo of a grain that had been published by Baruch and says that it is a grain of Helicrysum. Baruch said it was Gundelia. Litt observed similar grains on the tapes with good microscopes and said that it was not possibe to determine the genus. Nobody, apart from Boi, has ever seen Helicrysum on the Shroud.
    The genus Helicrysum contains about 600 species that grow in various geographical areas, not just in Israel. Here where I live, at the seaside of Tuscany, we have plenty of Helicrysum.

    • El Gayo
      March 2, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      “Marzia Boi has never had a pollen specimen from the Shroud at her disposal. ”

      How do you know this? The term “NEVER” is a strong word, especially when used in a very confident statement.

      • March 3, 2015 at 12:03 am

        El Gayo, if Boi had ever had a specimen from the Shroud at her disposal, she should have clearly stated it.

  2. February 15, 2015 at 7:34 am

    It’s involvement withe blood clots which is the interesting thing. I am not really into pollen that much but this is an intriguing circumstance. And as always with circumstantial evidence, its weight (the strength of the inference drawn) varies. The first issue is whether the circumstantial fact is inconsistent with authenticity. In this case it is not.

    Does it “prove” authenticity. No, it does not. But it is consistent with it and the fact of entanglement with the blood is very interesting.

  3. Hugh Farey
    February 15, 2015 at 9:04 am

    1) Helichrysum of any kind does not appear among Max Frei’s list of 58 pollen identified species on the Shroud. Nor does it appear in any of the identifications of any of the subsequent pollen investigators (Danin, Baruch, Litt, Whanger). Its identification on the Shroud by Marzia Boi has been based entirely on photographs of type specimens and not on any actual Shroud pollen, either on tape or photographed.

    2) Be that as it may, Avinoam Danin, in his Flora of Israel site (http://flora.org.il/), lists two species of Helichrysum, pallasii and sanguineum. The former is rare and does not flower till late June and can be rejected. The latter is common, grows around Jerusalem, and flowers in April.

    3) Helichrysum sanguineum is an entomophilous flower whose pollen could not have blown onto the Sudarium. Its pollen could only have arrived on the blood of the cloth by being placed there. Despite Boi’s etymology (heli-chrysum : sun-gold), H. sanguineum flowers are deep red, are sometimes called the Blood of the Maccabees, and have a similar significance as a memorial to fallen warriors as the poppy does in Western Europe. I do not know when this symbolism emerged, but at face value, the plant does not seem inappropriate for Jesus.

    4) It is not clear to me what the precise relationship is supposed to have been between the Sudarium and the Shroud.
    a) Did the Sudarium cover the face, and the Shroud cover the Sudarium? The appearance of the image of the face on the Shroud through two layers of blood soaked Sudarium seems to me incredible.
    b) Did the Sudarium cover the face for the transport of the body to the tomb, whereupon it was removed and replaced by the Shroud? In which case why should it have been covered with flowers?

    5) What is the provenance of the sample examined by the electron microscope? To date, at least on this site, there has been absolutely no evidence for any supposed pollen identification of the Sudarium other than vague suggestions. If Max Frei, or anyone else, took tape samples from the Sudarium, when did he do it, where is his report and where are the slides?

    6) As has been mentioned Helichrysum species are found all over Europe, the pollen in individual species are difficult to identify, so there is nothing in this report that prevents the Sudarium from being an early medieval creation, as suggested by its (also unconfirmed) radiocarbon date.

    • Hugh Farey
      February 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks, OK, but this is very much a secondary source. “At least nine of the sixteen species of pollen found on the Sudarium grow in Palestine”, says Bennet of page 4, and “There are about thirty types of pollen grains, three of which indicate that the Sudarium was in Palestine, and the rest clearly indicate a flora belonging to the Mediterranean region” she says on page 5. How does Janice Bennet know this? I guess she is quoting from two reports. Where are they? She mentions three Palestinian pollens, Quercus, Pistacia and Tamarix. Not Helichrysum, and not even Gundelia, which is a cornerstone of the Whanger/Danin hypothesis. How strange. Slide 18 on the pdf announces: “The electronic scan microscope makes it possible to identify a large number of pollen grains.” What does this mean? There are two pictures of pollen grains taken by a scanning electron microscope, but the microscope illustrated is not a scanning electron microscope, nor it is how Max Frei took his specimens. All very confusing.

      • February 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

        As far as I know (from Bennett, Hesemann and others) the work on the pollen was concluded by prof. Carmen Gomez Ferraras from University of Madrid. Marion and Lucotte give reference: Carmen Gomez Ferrara, El sudario de Oviedo y la palinologia , Congresso internacional sobre el sudario de Oviedo, 1994, pg. 83-90.

  4. Kelly Kearse
    February 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    A few comments:

    1. Regarding the observation that the pollen is adhered to the blood, thus subsequent contamination can be ruled out. This logically raises the question, what do electron micrographs of pollen not adhered to the blood look like? Are the points of all of the spikes completely on the surface? Has it been considered that folding, rolling of the cloth at some point in time, may have affected how this is perceived, i.e. that a grain may have been pressed more into the fiber (dried bloodstain) than when it originally landed?

    2. Another (main) point is: The pollen is adhered to the blood, so they arrived on the cloth at the same time. Okay, when was this? That is, scientifically speaking, what data is there that speaks to when the blood arrived on this particular cloth?

    It would be important that these (and other) studies reach the point that the results could be formally summarized and submitted to a major scientific journal. For most scientific investigations, the order is typically the reverse: publication first, then any type of press announcement is secondary.

    It is expected that a reviewer would pose similar questions as those above (and others). Scientists naturally question things, even (and most importantly) in their own research. When others ask questions about a particular scientist’s ideas, it may sometimes be perceived as challenging (threatening), but it need not be. It’s about trying to sort out what is real and what is not. There is circumstantial evidence to possibly link the two cloths in association with each other. What would it really take? That’s something each person has to decide for himself or herself: what level of scientific rigor is necessary in the context of what could be done given the age, condition, and accessibility of both cloths.

    • February 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      The story goes that the sudarium was one of many relics from the last week of Christ’s life that were kept in a chest apparently made by the apostles themselves. Unless the others were thrown away , they will provide evidence that will support or deny the authenticity of the sudarium, yet they are never mentioned by all these enthusiastic researchers. They certainly provide better evidence than this elusive pollen!
      And what if the other relics in the chest prove to be later than the first century- or even to have a carbon date similar to that of the sudarium e.g AD 700.

      • February 15, 2015 at 4:23 pm

        Good advice Charles, if you have nothing meaningful to say, keep silent. And read the books and articles about the topic.


        You have some of the relics listed in Chapter 2 ‘The Permanence of the relics in Oviedo’.

        • February 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm

          O.K. So follow my advice and get working on them! Just as the so-called mystery of the Shroud will probably be solved, and maybe sooner than you think, by comparison with similar features of other objects so might the so-called mystery of the sudarium be solved by the same methods, researching objects that have been found in the same original context.
          This obsessive focus on the Shroud to the neglect of other relics which may or may not be authentic is very strange.

    • Eric
      February 15, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      If a compendium of all technical questions is gathered, then perhaps they could be answered by Dr. Boi, she does appear to be very active in FB after all: https://www.facebook.com/marzia.boi.9

  5. Louis
    February 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    As I commented more than once, a comparison will have to be made with the material taken from the Shroud during the restoration with what is in Dr. Alan Whanger’s possession. If this is done then we will have real news.

  6. Paulette
    February 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Whanger is as bad about not letting anyone see the pollen as is the Diocese of Turin in not letting anyone see the HAL9000 photographs.

    • Louis
      February 15, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      The Church is slow to move, and from information I have received, with no permission to reveal the contents, even a request to study another relic that could help in Shroud research — an important link in my view — has been ignored. It has nothing to do with the relics mentioned in Ian Wilson’s study, “Holy Faces, Secret Places”.
      Since you are tuned, you will soon see online a dismissal of an important claim made in the realm of Shroud studies — without the need for the microphotographs.
      Dr. Alan Whanger, a Methodist, is respected in Turin, in fact he was one of the scholars invited to the Round Table in Turin by Cardinal Severino Poletto. One can hope that the cooperation requested by Benedict XVI, read out by Bishop Kevin Vann at a Shroud conference in Dallas, will bring more results.
      Well, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia was not among the twenty to receive the cardinal’s hat from Pope Francis this week. When this happens perhaps he will be more bold and we will see developments.

  7. Eric
    February 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    For those interested, this articles goes into the details of the microscope per se: http://www.lasprovincias.es/sociedad/201502/09/ucam-demuestra-sudario-oviedo-20150209200327-rc.html

  8. February 15, 2015 at 8:26 pm


  9. Stan Walker, MD
    February 15, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Very interesting subject – this pollen thing. I am struck that there is any pollen at all on the Shroud or the Sudarium. A forger from long ago would have no clue what a spore or pollen grain would be or where it came from. And it would never occur to him to posit such artifacts on the forgery. I am wondering if these spores are found randomly or sporadically (pun intended) on other pieces of linen from centuries ago. Charles Freeman who stated, ” They certainly provide better evidence (the other artifacts in the box) than this elusive pollen!”. Perhaps Charles could enlighten us on the incidence and prevalence of pollen grains on ancient pieces of art. Methinks no one is suggesting the Sudarium is a forgery. Just another inexplicable artifact. I cannot imagine a scenario that someone could discredit the presence of the pollen, its biological classification as being meaningless and also explain why there are pollen grains present at all.

    • February 16, 2015 at 3:00 am

      I agree with Stan that most of these so-called relics were never intended as forgeries. They were simply unexplained artefacts which were lying around or stored somewhere and of unknown provenance to which legends became attached . In many cases they became ‘live’ after someone reported a miracle or vision. It was sometimes at this point that a canny operator declared the artefact to be an authentic relic and the shrine may or may not have become established depending on whether the church tried to close it down. Very often the Church went half- way as Clement VII did with the Shroud in 1390- not authentic but worthy of veneration.j
      Pollen analysis has made enormous strides in the last two decades as computers and optics have allowed pollen to be analysed more effectively. It is now a major part of any archaeological dig so there will be lots of experts around for those who wish to consult them. Pollen appears, of course, in a large number of ancient contexts. As Hugh has pointed out in the British Society bulletin there are major problems with the pollen on the Shroud. It is one more area where recent advances would allowing a total rethink of the evidence.

      • Sampath Fernando
        February 16, 2015 at 4:00 am

        CF -As Hugh has pointed out in the British Society bulletin there are major problems with the pollen on the Shroud.

        What are the major problems with the pollen on the Shroud? .

        • Hugh Farey
          February 16, 2015 at 4:48 am

          You can find the article at: http://shroud.com/pdfs/n79part8.pdf. Briefly, different studies differ on how much pollen there is, where it came from, how it got to the Shroud, the precision with which it can be identified, and the biological and geological distribution of the species discovered.

  10. Louis
    February 16, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Some progress was made in pollen studies. The following was the first step in a different study and should be refined as more research is undertaken:

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