Is the Shroud Really the Most Studied Whatever in History?

imageCharles Freeman, in a comment, reacts to the the first sentence in the description of the new book by Giulio Fanti and Pierandrea Malfi which reads, “The Turin Shroud is the most important and studied relic in the world.”

… We often seem to read this but there has been actually a great deal more intensive research directly on the fabric and images ( writings,inks,etc,) of the Dead Sea Scrolls than of the Shroud and it has been undertaken by top- level specialists in the relative disciplines. As the recent report on the Scrolls in Minerva, the international journal of art and archaeology, noted’ no other set of documents has been subjected to so many analytical techniques’. The main difference ,of course, is that the Scrolls, after a poor start, have been open to direct specialist examination with increasingly sophisticated equipment.

I would certainly argue that we have learned more from the Scrolls than we have from the Shroud.

And, if I remember correctly, Bill Meacham once told me that he thought that Ötzi, the Hauslabjoch Iceman Mummy – was it that or something else – may be the most studied historical artifact.

Okay, point taken. But then again, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ötzi are not exactly relics if we insist on being precise. But then again we often hear that the shroud is the most studied artifact in history and maybe that isn’t so.

6 thoughts on “Is the Shroud Really the Most Studied Whatever in History?”

  1. To paraphrase Bill Clinton it depends on what the meaning of the word “:relic” is. Granted that one definition is more or less identical to artifact. However, it also has a more limited definition as meaning something connected to a particular figure often a saint. It might have a secular meaning even in that regard.

    Ben Franklin’s eye glasses would be a relic more than just an artifact. Do we have Washington’s wooden teeth? Brutus’s knife would be a relic more than a artifact but I don’t believe such exists.

    There is of course the arm of St. Francis Xavier that is a relic more than just an artifact.

    If the Shroud is authentic, than it would probably be the most studied relic in the limited definition of a relic.

  2. Yes, relic vs. artifact is a distinction that matters. Ultimately, though, that comes down to belief. The ‘most studied’ part is true in the sense that it has been examined, pondered, sought after, etc. for (the evidence suggests) nearly two thousand years. In another sense, though, it’s not even close to the top of the things-examined-by-science pile (let’s assume for the moment that such a thing exists) simply because of a lack of access. All of which makes sense given its fragility and the stakes involved but would still exclude it from the upper echelons of examined…thingies. Until, perhaps, reliable and accepted non-destructive methods are available.

    1. For an object that “has been examined, pondered, sought after, etc. for nearly two thousand years “, it has remained remarkably unnoticed by historians until medieval times.

      1. Curious you left out my parenthetical. It crossed political, cultural, religious and language barriers. Do you really expect it would be called the same thing — or even understood the same way — that entire time. Simply because there isn’t a formal chain of custody isn’t an excuse to ignore the evidence, which is compelling and abundant.

      2. Thousand years of silence???
        Here what I have read about the silence by St. Paul about the Holy Virgin:

        >…It is often stated that “Mary is never mentioned in the Bible by Paul” …
        >…it would be a mistake to base a doctrine or even a view of the relationship of Mary to Jesus based on silence in St. Paul’s epistles. …

        Is a similar case the mysterious problem of the Shroud?
        — —
        >Rabban Gamallel (first century) instituted the use of a plain linen shroud for everyone (Bavli Moed Katan 27b. Cf. Matthew 27:59).

        — —
        >… …The textile fragments belong to a shroud. The deceased was buried with the shroud because there was no secondary burial. The tomb was probably sealed because of leprosy and there was no bone-collecting after a year. The shroud is made of wool. The Z-spin of the wool suggests production outside of Israel as Z-spun threads form only a small proportion of textiles in Israel and its neighbouring countries in the Roman period. The wool textile from the Ben Hinnom Valley could, therefore, have been imported from Greece or Italy in which Z-spinning was the norm. … …

        Source, the study:
        “A burial textile from the first century CE in Jerusalem compared to roman textiles in the land of Israel and the Turin Shroud”
        by Orit Shamir


        Click to access shsconf_atsi2014_00010.pdf

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