No basis for concluding that the cloth covered a body

Once upon a time, it was said of all swans that they were white. And this was so because no one, at least no one during the Middle Ages in Europe or the Middle East, had ever seen swans of another color. It was as good as a fact. That was until 1697 when Dutch explorers discovered black swans in Australia.  And thus, a logical fallacy got a name. Wiktionary defines the Black Swan Fallacy thus:

The black swan fallacy holds that if all you have ever observed in your field research are white swans, you might be tempted to conclude ‘All swans are white’. However, a black swan was discovered in Australia. Therefore, all it takes is one black swan to falsify the general statement about the universality of white swans.

And thus was made what was perhaps the greatest error in Shroud science. For once upon a time, and still today, it is said, “​When input to a VP-8, a normal photograph does not result in a properly formed dimensional image but in a rather distorted jumble of light and dark ‘shapes’.” That is what it says on a page by Barrie Schwortz at (updated in 2014). This thinking is repeated in many ways. You will find it in Jackson et al.’s Critical Summary, a defense of something called the “Fall Through hypothesis. You will find it in countless presentations, websites and books.

Bill Meacham put it this way:

Unlike ordinary photographs or paintings, the Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure, a phenomenon which suggested that the image-forming process acted uniformly through space over the body, front and back, and did not depend on contact of cloth with body at every point.

Unfortunately, that just doesn’t hold up.

image_thumb.pngThe black swan moment happened at an international Shroud of Turin conference in St. Louis in 2014, Joseph Accetta, in a presentation, explained how a normal photograph could contain all the same type of three-dimensional information found on the Shroud.  John Dee German, an optical physicist with STURP has said much the same thing.

To the left is a photograph of a death mask from Joseph Accetta’s presentation. Below, courtesy of Colin Berry who did the work, is the proof that Accetta was right.




So this statement at, once thought to be true, is simply not true:

​This spatial data encoded into the image actually eliminates photography and painting as the possible mechanism for its creation and allows us to conclude that the image was formed while the cloth was draped over an actual human body.


There is no basis whatsoever for concluding that the cloth covered a body.

Photography, painting and other methods are just as likely now as they were before the VP-8 was ever used. 


Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,  described by The Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II, explains how we fall into Black Swan traps:

  1. The event is a surprise to the observer.
  2. The event has a major effect.
  3. It is rationalized by hindsight.

In this context, re-read the page by Barrie Schwortz at

Every option is back on the table. Yes, even John Jackson’s Fall Through hypothesis if one can recognize that it is a mere assumption and not established or valid science that the cloth covered Jesus’ body. It is for other reasons that I think the Fall Through hypothesis is unlikely.  Read The Resurrection is Just Too Mysterious to Be Described


27 thoughts on “No basis for concluding that the cloth covered a body”

    1. Hi David. Good to hear from you.

      No, I’m not saying it is a 4 meter long photograph. What I’m saying is that the scientific argument that it is NOT a photograph is incorrect. I rather suspect, now, in retrospect, that the initial VP-8 analysis was insufficiently rigorous. But even if it was, the Black Swan cannot be ignored. I’m open to any arguments. Maybe the Black Swan is only the beginning of the discussion and hopefully some rigorous research with proper controls and modern, repeatable experimentation using modern software.

      I have no idea how the image was formed. First of all, if it was manmade, I suspect it was from the first or second centuries and not the medieval. But I don’t think that is highly probable. I don’t think we have established, for certain, that it was the burial shroud. Maybe it was used after Jesus was removed from the cross and then removed before burial. How do we know, otherwise?

      But, let’s say it was the burial shroud. How do we know this? Because of an image? Because of an image that plots to 3D? Maybe so. But the false story that makes it out to be uniquely 3D is false. And conclusions drawn on that basis are therefore unfounded.

      Give me good evidence that I can believe in. That is all I’m saying. Did you read, THE RESURRECTION is Just Too Mysterious to Be Described? That may give you a better idea of where I am coming from.

  1. Hello Dan!

    Please read my presentation carefully AGAIN.

    The Shroud is a database of information about the shape of the body (presumably) covered by the Shroud. This information is contained within intensity of the image, relatively to background. OF COURSE any faithul photographic reproduction of theShroud image (like this spanish copy: ) contains the same 3D information.

    It is not the image technique itself, that shows the Shroud contained a real human body. Rather the relation, the ability to faithully reproduce the human body form, very unlikely to perform in the Middle Ages, that convinces us that the Shroud covered the body (+presence of blood, body fluids etc.).

    1. Agree with your presentation OK and furthermore Prof. Giulio Fanti created a 3D image of the body covered by the Shroud from the image of the Shroud

  2. Hmm. Much to comment on, although I’m not sure a lot of it is new.

    1) “When input to a VP-8, a normal photograph does not result in a properly formed dimensional image but in a rather distorted jumble of light and dark ‘shapes’.”

    Not necessarily. It very much depends on the “normal photograph”, which, in the majority of Shroud publications, seems to have been selected particularly for its unsuitability. Take the photo of William Ercoline in John Heller’s ‘Report on the Shroud.’ It is a three-quarter profile, with light shining from the side. His hair and lips are darker than the skin. Of course the dark areas, which appear recessive on the VP-8 image, do not match recessive areas on Ercoline’s actual face. And his nose appears off to the side of his face, whether viewed from in front, or to the left or right. The death mask, on the other hand, is uniformly coloured (white), lit from in front, reducing the shadows to a minimum, and photographed straight. Similar photos have been illustrated here before (

    2) “The Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure.”

    This is the crux of the post, and it is ludicrously incorrect. Undistorted? I think the trouble was that, just as the surprise felt by Secondo Pia at seeing the ‘negative’ image led it to be taken out of proportion, so the surprise felt by Jackson and Ercoline at seeing the ‘3D’ image did the same. The description by Heller is wildly over the top.

    “Suddenly, the two men saw, swimming up from the electronic fog of the screen, a perfect three-dimensional image of a scourged, crucified man.” He goes on and on about it.

    This is simply incorrect. The VP-8 image looks like a bas-relief, the face an almost flat surface sunken inside the surrounding frame of the hair. With huge care, the image was converted into a statue of stacked cardboard profiles, but the effect was the same. A more or less Shroud-image shaped cake, with the 3D effect decorating the icing on the top.

    3) The Shroud image is not a photograph, it merely resembles one insofar as the intensities of the Shroud image match the intensities of a photograph. The dark eyelashes and sloping sides of the eyesockets look dark in photographs, and dark on the Shroud too, so the eyes look similar. However the lips are darker than the skin in photographs, but lighter on the Shroud, so a VP-8 image of the lips of a photo shows them recessive, while the image of the lips of the Shroud shows them prominent. The hair/beard similarly. On a photograph, the front facing parts of the curves of the eyelids, cheeks, nose and brow all reflect the light similarly, so they all appear equally prominent on a VP-8 image. On the Shroud, the nose and hair are the darkest, the cheeks and brow rather mottled, resulting in a prominent nose and frame of hair, with the other features of the face rather irregularly terrain between them.

    4) Since the Shroud rather poorly converts to a real 3D image, as, after a short while, everybody realised, then it has been necessary to manipulate the image to ‘correct’ it. I particularly admired Jackson’s idea of superimposing two images, of a man and a cloth covering him, measuring the vertical distance between them, and attempting to correlate these measurements with measurements of the intensity of the image along the midline of the Shroud. However the resulting profile, converting intensity back into distance, is unimpressive. Remarkably, everybody coming up with what they claim is precise, objective, scientific results all achieve completely different dispositions of the body and cloth. Supine or bent-legged; floating, draped or wrapped. They can’t all be right.

    5) Since the Shroud is clearly only a pseudo-photograph, and only loosely correlates some idea of image intensity to some idea of body-cloth distance, there is no per se reason why it should not have been coloured by an artist commissioned to create it, simply guessing what kind of image might possibly have been made by a dead body under a cloth.

  3. Hi Dan i dont think we have spoke before .. Would it be ok if i posted my work regarding the “second face” that was allegedly found on the reverse side of the shroud in 2002 ? I have done some follow on work on the high resolution images and believe that i have proven without a doubt that there is indeed another image on the reverse side of the shroud. Nobody else has used the Durante images of the reverse side before, Giulio Fanti used low resolution images, the ones i have used are the original RAW lossless photos. Many thanks.

  4. Regarding putting a normal color photograph under a VP8 analyser, If the photo were converted to a monochromatic grayscale or black and white, then it would respond to the VP8, but as VP8 systems and other similar software emulators (such as ImageJ) are designed for grayscale or black and white images (as in lighter shades go down and darker shades go up) they dont respond to multiple color images. Hence why the resulting images come out blurry and distorted.

  5. Dan, My delight at seeing your Shroud blog and forum revived was much diminished by your quoting me TOTALLY OUT OF CONTEXT. I did not “put it that way.” This is the full context:

    “The Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) formed around a nucleus of scientists studying the Shroud by means of computer enhancement and image analysis. Jackson et al. (1977) scanned the image with a microdensitometer to record lightness variations in the image intensity and found a correlation with probable cloth-to-body distance, assuming that the Shroud was draped loosely over the corpse. They concluded that the image contains three-dimensional information, and confirmation was obtained by the use of a VP-8 Image Analyzer to convert shades of image intensity into vertical relief. Unlike ordinary photographs or paintings, the Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure, a phenomenon which suggested that the image-forming process acted uniformly through space over the body, front and back, and did not depend on contact of cloth with body at every point.”

    Clearly I am summarizing what was reported by STURP, and the sentence you quoted is obviously a continuation of “They concluded …” Now one might say I should have been a bit more sceptical, but having never seen or studied what a VP-8 Image Analyzer can do, I went for a simple reporting style.

    Yes, I’ve never seen a black swan either, but you make it appear that I was reporting on MY OWN observation of how the Shroud image “converted…”

    The issue really can be better refined this way: Is there any medieval PAINTING or RUBBING (forget about modern photos of death masks, etc) that would yield anything approaching a natural body 3D image when subjected to VP-8 or software analysis?

    On another topic, surely you don’t mean this sentence to stand alone:

    “There is no basis whatsoever for concluding that the cloth covered a body.”

    But only in the sense that the VP-8 results did not provide any evidence to support the conclusion. There is of course a wealth of other evidence that makes it an almost inescapable conclusion.

    But having said all that, I am still pleased to see you back on the Shroud scene.


  6. Er, sorry Lee, but where did you acquire the notion that ImageJ software requires monochrome images?

    One can take Shroud Scope images of the Turin Linen, courtesy of Mario Latendresse’s site. convert to monochrome with commonly available software ( I used MS Office Picture Manager) and obtain identical results when inputted into 3D-rendering ImageJ.

    Can you think of theoretical reasons why the two should differ? I can’t (and in any case, the results above prove my point, do they not?)

    1. They are still monochromatic images Colin. The phrase that is usually mentioned is something like “Normal photographs always come out distorted when used with a VP8 analyser and the shroud photo’s/scan’s do not” Thats because they put color photos under the VP8 or use software emulation such as ImageJ and as you mentioned, MS Office Picture Manager. If one were to convert the color photo’s to grayscale/black and white, then they would give the same response as the images/scans of the shroud do.

    2. Sorry, i should have said that the VP8 and similar emulating software’s require images of varying monochromatic tone. Color Photos/images do work, providing that they are not comprised of many different colors, and have perhaps one color with comprised of lighter and darker shades. Isometric Projection normally uses grayscale,black and white or singular colors with varying shading when compiling brightness maps, try and use a color photograph in a VP8 analyser or any software that has similar function, all you will get is a distorted image. A good way to prove this would be to add alot of color to an image of the shroud face, then run it through a VP8 or imagej etc, i bet it gives the same kind of result that a normal photograph does.

  7. First, I should have said “grayscale” or “black and white”, not “monochrome” Lee. That was careless on my part (this long-retired scientist having spent an hour or so wearily and laboriously retrieving old software off a long-retired laptop).

    Second, if I understand you correctly you seem to be saying that converting as I did from colour to grayscale is not the same as doing the reverse. You have not explained why. Why????

    In any case I can’t see it’s helpful to get us all bogged down in technical detail, especially if you’re not prepared to back up your points with actual images, requiring folks like myself to spend minutes, nay the best part of an hour, checking out your bewildering claims, and finding they don’t hold water …

    In short, Lee: stick to the facts, correction, established facts. Spare us the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. (Sorry, someone had to say it).

    There’s enough mumbo-jumbo already in sindonology, without you adding to it… ;-)

    1. Hi again Colin, it is certainly not pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo, it is easily proven, and if i could attach images to these post’s, then i would. Bear with me and i will sort a few images out and provide you with the proof you seek. Given your experience with using 3D brightness mapping and isometric Projection etc with the images of the shroud, you should know this to be true anyway ? I think you have misinterpreted the meaning of what i am trying to put across. And i did back up my claim’s (even though they are not my claim’s lol, they are just how the programs operate)

    2. Hi Colin, i have posted the images you asked for in my replies to Hugh. The examples of any monochromatic image of varying shade intensity responding to 3D brightness map software, or a VP8 analyser in the same way the image on the turin shroud responds to them, A color photo rendering using the 3D brightness mapping feature of ImageJ that shows distortion due to the way the program reads shade intensity. Do you understand what i was getting at now mate ?

  8. Hi Lee, I have indeed done just that, using a little girl facepainted to look like a tiger. The black stripes on her forehead and cheeks appear as deep trenches gauged into her face. Her red lips and dark hair are also deeply recessive. However, that may not have been Colin’s point. I did use a colour photo, and ImageJ did convert it to an intensity/height model, just not one that makes a lot of sense!

    1. Hi again Hugh :) Yes you will find that imageJ and a VP8 etc all attempt to render a brightness map of colored photographs/images, but the dont know what to make of half the colors, which is why you can see in the images i provided, the color image distorts, and the black and white (monochromatic) image renders nicely into an accurate brightness map (Darker shades go down and lighter shades go up, or you can set this in reverse) It is the same with the shroud image, it is monochromatic in the sense that it is an image that is comprised of one color, just with different intensities of shading. So it will still work if you load up a color image of the shroud as it is only comprised of one color, there are just lighter and darker shades of the sepia color, hence why it renders a nice 3D brightness map with all monochromatic shades, lighter up and darker down. Here is an example of what i mean (And your proof Colin) Colored image >> Monochromatic image

  9. Here’s a side by side comparison of the Turin Linen image (negative and positive versions) alongside the respective versions of the photograph in Dan’s postings, all 4 having been minimally 3D-rendered with ImageJ.

    I’m somewhat loath to be displaying it, and am only doing so as a riposte to Lee and his multiple obscurantist ramblings.

    Why? Because it continues the theme of Dan’s posting, one in which 3D (an irrelevance if ever there was) is compared with (a) photographs and (b) paintings).

    If 3D response ( which is largely a function of the computer software, albeit subtly modulated by 3D relief of a template) has to be under the spotlight (when by rights it should be the negative tone-reversed image that is prioritized , NOT the overhyped 3D) then the focus should have been on IMPRINTS, more specifically CONTACT IMPRINTS.

    The latter could be from a real person, a statue or a bas relief, maybe a combination, but it’s imprinting via actual physical contact between linen and ‘template’ that should be the focus, not the distraction of 3D. Virtually anything with variations of image intensity (even the Stars and Stripes, Union Jack etc) can be uploaded to ImageJ to get an eye-catching 3D-rendered image that starts to leap out the page.

    I consider it a major failing on the part of STURP that it allowed 3D to dominate discussion (there not being a single mention of negative image in the 1981 Summary). As for the argument that “lateral wrap-around distortion’ rules out imprinting via physical contact, words fail me. The Turin Linen body image lacks sides, for heaven’s sake, resembling if you’ll pardon my saying a front-and-back cardboard cut-out, so what possible relevance is lateral distortion?

    Future historians will surely shake their heads in disbelief (as I did 7 years ago when checking out the early STURP and similarly 3D-obsessed literature). Even John Heller’s otherwise lively account of the STURP project makes scarcely a reference to the negative image, unlike page after page on John Jackson’s and others’ 3D obsession.

    End of rant (well, whinge at any rate)

    1. Im sure the others understand what i was aiming to put across, you said you only replied due to my multiple obscurantist ramblings, when all you did was misinterpret my original point, and then reiterate my own words in your own. And my words would be obscurantist had i intentionally intended to omit certain information, i did however, not omit any information. I provided all the information that was relevant to my original point, you just read into it wrong….

    2. I agree with you, Colin, when you say the focus should be on the image’s negativity rather than its 3D-edness. The naive 3D mystique born of amateurish image analysis has infected shroud research for more than 40 years. Sadly, it still does because it feeds attempts to prove the resurrection with wildly imaginative narratives of the resurrection.

      There is one image characteristic that I think is more interesting and important than the negativity. The image is unusually photorealistic. This suggests two possibilities to me. The image is a negative contact print derived from a somewhat transparent positive image by means of light or it is a conforming independent miracle image.

      1. Thanks Jim. I could not have put it better myself.

        We all look forward to seeing the Firth Scale of Photorealism appear in due course..

        Any thoughts as to how you might calibrate it to meet strictest scientific standards?

        0% is easy (like one of those happy Man in the Moon photos).

        100% is more problematical. But it sure ain’t the Man on the Turin Linen (hair? fingers? lack of ears? 372 scourge marks, with scarcely an overlap to be seen?)…

  10. If anybody wants any of the high resolution images of the shroud for their research, drop me an e-mail at djleejay85@google, I have the enrie image (1.4 gigabytes) the STURP images, the HAL9000 (Haltadefinizione) images from 2008, and the Durante images from 1997,2000,2002 and 2010, They range in size from 500 megabytes up to around 27 gigabytes. I know how much of a ball ache it can be trying to find decent resolution images. Marios shroud scope is a good resource but he converted the TIFF files to JPG and then chopped them up so nobody can download them lol. I have the file he uses which is the 2002 image, personally i think the 2000 image is sharper and reveals more detail. The best out of the lot of them is the Durante 2010 image, it is alot more detailed than the Haltadefinizione images (39 billion pixels if i remember correctly, whereas the haltadefinizione image was 12 billion pixels)

  11. Is the image “photorealistic”? Subjectively, of course, the negative appears stunning compared to the original, and certainly the 3D interpretations of it are considerably less so. However, before assuming that light had anything to do with it, we need to examine places where there appears to be a discrepancy between the Shroud negative and a ‘real’ photo portrait.

    Surprisingly, there are rather few of these. In most places the colour intensity of the Shroud negative seems to coincide rather well with a ‘real’ photo (of a full face portrait, lit from straight on, and a black background), which is why the illusion of photorealism occurs. However, there are a few.

    The most obvious is the hair, which is white, or at least very fair. Although there are a few people who think that at the moment of Resurrection Jesus’s hair, and beard, and moustache, went white, they are very much in the minority. Pictures of him during the crucifixion, and of him after the Resurrection, never show a man with white hair. One might also wonder why, if the whitening of hair was a characteristic of Resurrection, the eyelashes do not stand out at all.

    The second is the lower lip, which is also much lighter than the surrounding skin. This is not a characteristic of real people.

    The internet is packed with more or less ‘realistic’ images of what Jesus may have looked like, based on the Shroud of Turin. None of them has white hair, or lips brighter than the surrounding skin.

    Another characteristic of photorealism as an art-form is its detail. In this, the Shroud, with no brow-wrinkles, eyebrows, eyelashes, crows-feet, ears, nose-chin wrinkles etc, etc, is far too unfocussed to be thought of a photorealistic, in my opinion.

    1. The Giancarlo Durante 2010 image is by far the best image of the shroud The level of detail is unbelievable. Strange enough though, when i run it through the 3D interactive surface plotter, it renders it in a strange way. It just looks like a big mess of random pine needles lol, even when you change any of the parameters. I think it has something to do with the amount of pixels in the image as its huge, perhaps there is a limit to the amount of pixels it can process in imagej. I find that the lower image’s respond better to the 3D surface plotter. Anyway Hugh, i will find a way to send you the Durante 2010 image, im having trouble as it is 27 or so gigabytes and its hard to find a file sharing site that has that amount of storage. I will get it to you though Hugh.

  12. We could start arguing, but Jospeh Accetta’s image doesn’t really help his cause.

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