Colin Berry: Sindonology’s 10 Biggest Mistakes

image.pngIn a comment, Colin Berry tells us what he is planning on his own site.  I’d like to focus on each of the ten items that he will be discussing.  We can discuss them here and provide him our thoughts. He writes: 

As flagged up in an earlier comment, this long-in-the-tooth, dare I say somewhat jaded critic of the supposed supernatural Linen, is currently planning as we speak a new (and possibly final) posting on his own site.

Reminder: it’s to be entitled “Sindonology’s 10 Biggest Mistakes”.

Here’s a summary list of what’s on the drawing board:

1. Mistaken assumption that Secondo Pia’s discovery of the negative image via photography implies that ‘photography’ was required for initial image capture.

2. Mistaken assumption that the response of the body image to 3D-rendering software implies pre-existing “unique encoded 3D infomation”.

3. Mistaken conclusion that the faint body image is confined to the primary cell wall of the linen, with that supposed ‘ultra-superficiality’ needing some kind of subtle radiation-derived process.

4. Mistaken assumption that the Turin “Shroud” should be viewed as a “burial shroud”, whether real of simulated. The biblical account from first three Gospels suggests otherwise (J of A’s linen being intended merely for dignified transport from cross to tomb).

5. Mistaken assumption that the lack of lateral (“wrap around”) distortion of the body image rules out an imprinting mechanism dependent on physical contact (no air gaps).

6. Mistaken assumption in the 1981 STURP Summary that the image chromophore was due to chemical modification of the linen cellulose, with no mention of extraneous additions (whether Rogers’ ‘starch impurity’ or more recent proposals involving use of white flour as imprinting medium (my own Model 10)..

7. Premature radiocarbon dating, needing disfiguring removal of single chunky fabric rectangle. C-14 dating should have been postponed till the procedure worked with single excised threads, taken from multiple sites to exclude charges of “repair patches”.

8. Failure to identify the chemical nature of the image chromophore, especially to discriminate between chemically-modified cellulose and a chemical modification of extraneous coating (notably a Maillard-reaction involving starch or flour coating to generate high molecular weight melanoidins).

9. Pseudo-pathology based on assumption that bloodstains can be equated with body wounds, despite absence of any evidence for there being tears, punctures etc in the imprinted body image per se .

10. Failure to give proper recognition to the key role in French medieval society of the first documented owner of the Linen, namely Geoffroy de Charny, close confidante of his monarch, King Jean II (“The Good”). G. de Charny was prime mover in creating the “Order of the Star”. Possibility that the Linen was intended initially as a centrepiece for Star ceremonial, rudely interrupted by death of Charny at the Battle of Poitiers, 1356. bearer of the Oriflamme,to say nothing of the capture/ransom of his monarch.

18 thoughts on “Colin Berry: Sindonology’s 10 Biggest Mistakes”

  1. Right away I agree with number 2. First of all the word encoded is misleading. In fact, calling it 3D is misleading. It does seem to exhibit 3D characteristics. Those who assumed, therefore, that the cloth covered a body were making a serious mistake. It could have but it also might not have. Sadly, an assumption was treated henceforth as a fact.

  2. Thanks for the spotlighting Dan.

    In fact, on reflection (and I don’t mean my tanned iridescent 12 year-old mugshot in French Riviera sunshine) there’s one of the 10 that I have just classified as Primary on my own site.

    There’s a further 8 which flow from that Primary Mistake, and just one Tertiary stuck-out-on-its-own “Misfit”.

    Anyone care to guess what I’ve singled out as Primary Mistake (no peeking now at my own decrepit, burbling run-down site)?

    I still can’t believe that sindonology with all its technical expertise would have displayed such an in-your-face blind spot! (read the 3 synoptic gospels’ account of J of A and his ‘transport linen’ – no, NOT the final burial shroud!).

    “C’est la vie”, as our immediate cross-Channel neighbours in my part of the world would say. Or “quelle horreur!”.

    (Yup, I lived a 10 minute walk for some 8 years from where that Mediterranean snapshot was taken – but am now back on home-ground, better I suspect for cool, calm, rational thinking…

    1. PS to my comment:

      Dan writes (my bolding)

      “Right away I agree with number 2. First of all the word encoded is misleading. In face, calling it 3D is misleading. It does seem to exhibit 3D characteristics. Those who assumed, therefore, that the cloth covered a body were making a serious mistake. It could have but it also might not have. Sadly, an assumption was treated henceforth as a fact.”

      He still seems to be moving towards a supernatural explanation for the body image. But it’s one that he has previously suggested does NOT depend on radiation, but presumably some other mechanism, thus far unspecified.

      My advice, for what it’s worth – don’t be too quick to discount simple image capture via physical contact – as has happened with 90% or more of radiation-fixated sindonology (excluding Rogers’ credulity-straining diffusion model)

      Here’s a list of 10 reasons for starters (simply the first that came to mind):

      1. The entire body, front and rear, hair and skin, displays a fairly even image intensity all over, which, with absence of brush strokes, pain pigment etc, suggests use of an imprinting medium

      2. The bloodstains we’re told were acquired before body image. Taken together with lack of evidence for wounds in body, the reliance on blood only to identify woundsites, implies not just an imprint-like nature for the blood, but arguably for the body image too, indicative of contact-process.

      3. The negative tone-reversed body image is also consistent with imprinting via contact (while not ruling out other mechanisms, albeit less likely).

      4. Lack of sides to body image is also highly suggestive of imprinting via contact, in a manner that either (a) keeps linen clear of sides or (b) deploys an artificial imprinting medium that is apllied to frontal v dorsal surfaces only – NOT sides – so as to convey an instant impression of contact imprint to the first-time viewer.

      5. Then there’s the absence of any obvious imaging mechanism other than contact imprinting, unless resorting to ‘supernatural mechanism’ (whether involving self-generated radiation, whether electromagnetic or subatomic particles, electrostatic discharges etc etc). In short, imprinting by contact needs to be actively disproved before resorting to supernatural alternatives.

      6. The arguments advanced by Jackson, other STURP team members and subsequent investigators that attempt to summarily dismiss imprinting by contact simply do not stand up to close scrutiny. Lack of conspicuous lateral (“wrap around”) distortion is a case in point (being totally irrelevant – see Point 4 – in the case of a body image that lacks sides, for whatever reason). Claims that there must have been imaging across air gaps – allegedly ruling out contact imprinting – invariably assume a pro-authenticity loosely draped linen, relying entirely on gravity for partial contact, failing to consider the alternative of medieval manufacture, deploying applied MANUAL DOWNWARDS PRESSURE to permit maximal contact between linen and subject, the latter precoated with an imprinting medium, closing up most of the air gaps (excluding deeper hollows such as eye sockets etc).

      7. The greatest image intensity is seen for regions of higher relief on a recumbent body – like nose, forehead, chest, crossed hands etc. That is entirely to be expected of imprinting via physical contact. It admittedly would not exclude other mechanisms of image capture, notably a photographic means that yielded a negative image. But the onus is on proponents of the latter to provide solid evidence of such a mechanism that did not rely on a foreign substance as radiation-sensitive photographic emulsion with accompanying developing agent. If an emulsion-free system is envisaged, e.g. relying on some image-capturing mechanism that linen molecules per se can utilize, then there has to be detailed modelling, at least to win over us party-pooper sceptics. It is not sufficient to wurble on about “oxidized” or “chemically dehydrated” cellulose (least of all STURP’s eye-glazing combination of both acting simultaneously, modelled with – wait for it – concentrated(!) sulphuric acid).

      8.Pathologist Robert Bucklin was perhaps the first to point out the distortion of the nose in the facial body image. That, with its accompanying medical details, like separation of nasal cartilage from overlying tissue etc, was immediately attributed to beating with a blunt instrument, maybe a clenched fist. But there’s an alternative explanation that fits with contact-imprinting: a real face, with its awkward nose, WAS deployed (as distinct from a bas relief substiute as others have proposed). The nose was simply squashed flat and partially sideways by that applied manual pressure referred to earlier. (I once imprinted my own face with distorted nose using a flour slurry and manual pressure way back in 2014!).

      9. The alleged ‘boniness’ of certain parts of the body image (fingers especially), plus the indications of teeth being imaged etc – features that prompted August Accetta MD to self-dose with x-ray emitting technetium isotope (!) – are fully consistent with image-capture via physical contact. Underlying bone, teeth etc mean the overlying linen gets subjected to greater pressure.

      10. It’s not at all clear why there should be hints of a reverse-side image, albeit face and hands only, albeit faint and fragmentary, by any ‘supernatural’ alternative to simple contact photography. In contrast, the latter provides a simple explanation: an imprinting medium, probably liquid, if only temporarily, can traverse the entire width of the linen at points where there is maximal applied manual pressure, i.e. precisely those regions with highest raised relief and/or resistance-offering underlying bone or other hard tissue (faced, crossed hands etc).

  3. Far from being in a catatonic trance, I have been gradually formulating a reply worthy of the erudition of the enumeration….

    I think one of ‘sindonology’s’ biggest misdirections is to give the impression that ‘sindonology’ is a coherent collection of beliefs. This is far from so. Historians, pathologists, and ‘experts’ in other disciplines all disagree with each other, often profoundly, on various aspects of the Shroud, how it was formed, and what it means. It is instructive that Colin’s selected representatives of ‘sindonology’ (especially Jackson, Fanti and Schwortz, and no doubt he would have included Rogers if he was still alive) all represent quite different scientific and theological stances.

    So I don’t think ‘sindonology’ can be said to have made any mistakes at all. People, or groups of people, make mistakes, not fields of study.

    – But having said that, I think Colin has a point in that a thoroughly dispassionate study of the Shroud does seem to have got off on the wrong foot. I think there is little doubt that the emotional impression made by the negative image affected, and still does effect, Christian thinking about the Shroud, even if only subliminally. I think a presupposition of authenticity flutters into the minds of the most rational observer, and I think it was not sufficiently determinedly shaken out when the scientific study of the Shroud began.

    – In a similar vein, although modern technology has rendered its effect much less dramatic, I think the now distinctly rather unimpressive 3D image provided by the VP-8 analyser had the same effect as the earliest black-and-white movies, making their viewers, who had never even envisaged, let alone seen, anything similar, gasp with admiration and declare what they saw stunningly lifelike and realistic. This too, I think, instilled an unjustified presupposition of authenticity.

    It is instructive to read the accounts of Walter McCrone, who started a detailed study of the Shroud slides on Christmas Day 1978, and John Heller, who with Alan Adler was sent four slides labelled ‘Blank’, ‘Scorch’, ‘Blood’ and ‘Non-image’ early the following year. That March, when the first Data Analysis Workshop was held at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, McCrone’s iron oxide findings were summarily dismissed, even though no-one else had even seen, let alone examined, any of the tapes. Whether or not he was correct (and some work by Sam Pellicori suggested he was wrong, and some work by the Gilbert family suggested he was right), it is my belief that this initial rejection was due to inherent belief in authenticity, even if nobody at the time would have admitted it scientifically. The rift thus caused, no doubt contributed to by the strong personalities of several of the people involved, has had the single most deleterious effect on subsequent Shroud studies than anything else.

    – Colin’s third point returns to the theme of primary and secondary cell walls, although I do not think that ‘sindonology’ even knew flax had cell walls until the 21st century. The STuRP references to ‘superficiality’ all refer to the top few fibres of threads, not the top few nanometres of single fibres.

    – I don’t think it matters very much from a scientific point of view whether the Shroud is seen as one kind of burial cloth or another. The Gospels are vague on the subject, and for many years the Turin cloth was assumed to be the one on which Christ was carried to the tomb, while the shroud of Besançon was the final covering. If Colin’s hypothesis is correct, and the Shroud is a fake relic, then since there were plenty of other funerary relics about, making one which had not yet been ‘discovered’ would make sense. If I am correct, and it was made to be displayed on Easter Sunday morning, then it was made to represent the final covering, discovered by St Peter on the first Easter Sunday. If it is authentic, then to my mind it better resembles the impression made by a body in still repose than being shaken and slipped about as it was carried along.

    – The mistaken assumption that “the lack of lateral (“wrap around”) distortion of the body image rules out an imprinting mechanism dependent on physical contact” has yet, I think to be demonstrated mistaken. I do see that smearing a body with paint (or sweat), and wrapping a cloth round it would result in gross distortion, but have yet to be convinced that sprinkling a body with flour (so that none landed on the sides) and then pressing a cloth to it, would produce an imprint similar to the one we see. As it happens, at least one proponent of ‘sindonology’ (Mario Latendresse?) thinks that the Shroud could have draped a body and still not have borne a distorted image, even if it was covered in image-making chemical.

    – I would modify Colin’s sixth mistake, assuming “that the image […] was due to chemical modification of the linen cellulose, with no mention of extraneous additions …” to an over-reliance on the single fibre examinations of Heller and Adler, without sufficient regard to what may have been relevant among the particles that were not removed from the tape, or what may have been washed off during the removal of the fibres. This exacerbated the McCrone / STuRP controversy, when a united investigation could have been much more conclusive in its findings.

    – Was the radiocarbon dating, with hindsight, premature? Perhaps it was, though if I had had anything to do with it in 1988 I would certainly have encouraged it. Where, I wonder, would we be now if it was yet to be performed? While I have said above that mistakes are made by people, not fields of study, this one, if it is one, is the fault of circumstances.

    – I don’t think the failure to achieve a scientific goal is necessarily a mistake. It is certainly a pity that McCrone, Heller and Adler, and Rogers did not achieve a collective or decisive answer to the question of what the image chromophore is, but all of them, I think, did their best to do so. Failure to co-operate was a mistake, and there may have been methodological errors committed by them all, but not achieving consensus is not, in my view, a ‘mistake.’

    – I think there was a failure with the bloodstains, mostly, I think, brought about by the presupposition of authenticity I spoke of earlier. Comparison tests were made between the Shroud ‘blood’ and other blood, and not between the Shroud blood and, say, tomato ketchup. Before the characteristics of blood can be explored (whether it responds to a hemochromagen test, or what proportion of bilirubin it contains) it must be identified as blood per se. Otherwise, as several biologists have pointed out, the results could have been obtained from other organic material. Generally speaking the use of proper controls was somewhat variable across the range of investigations carried out by STuRP (some were excellent), and the individuality of the blood tests was, I think, insufficiently robust.

    – I think there have been unjustified assumptions regarding the history of the Shroud, and agree that assuming that the reason for building a church at Lirey was for the display of he Shroud, rather than for its professed intent of honouring the virgin Mary, was one of them. The co-incidence of the two Geoffrey de Charney’s / Charny’s names, and an ‘obvious’ connection to the Templars, was another.

    I might have something to say about Colin’s latest comment later, but just now, I find myself falling into a catatonic trance….

  4. I’ve had to stick my neck out (once again) as scientists have perforce to do, from time to time, that being the job description, on my own site.

    Here’s a shorthand version.

    All but one of the “mistakes” in my list of 10 are secondary to No.4.

    The exception is No.3 ( sindonology’s set-in-stone dogma for an exclusive PCW location of the body image, unsupported as far as I’m aware by microscopic cross-sections).

    My advice to “sindonology” (whether seen as unitary or disjointed): please read – or re-read- the first 3 Gospels.

    Tune in to the Joseph of Arimathea narrative (not, repeat, NOT, the formal post-transport burial in-tomb rituals as per Jewish practice as set out in the final Gospel).

    Then ask yourself this : how might those in the medieval times (mid 14th century, as per radiocarbon dating) have latched onto that narrative if wishing to trump the (wait for it) Veil of Veronica?

    No, not just a contact imprint of the face, shortly pre-crucifixion, comprising sweat and blood, on the road to Calvary.

    Oh no, a bigger-and-better contact imprint of the entire body, frontal v dorsal, immediately post-crucifixion, as per J of A narrative, related (not surprisingly) in all three synoptic Gospels.

    What we see in sindonology (whether unitary or disjointed) is a BLIND SPOT for the J of A narrative, “fine linen”, transport to tomb, no mention of final burial “shroud” etc etc,

    Then look at the claims for “resurrectional radiation”. Then join up sindonology’s alleged dots, Then join up your own…

  5. With a few provisos, I agree with Colin’s assessment above, that a contact image was rejected too soon, and his reasons for doing so. However, by feeling that Dan “still seems to be moving towards a supernatural explanation”, coupled to: “Don’t be too quick to discount simple image capture via physical contact”, I get the feeling that Colin really means, “Be as quick as you like to discount all the other hypotheses.”

    With the benefit of his own extensive experimentation, this may be a valid expression on Colin’s part, but “sindonology” would have done better not to discount any hypotheses as it set out on its exploration. In 1900, the image was treated as if it derived from a dead body without any consideration that it might not be, but in 1973, the team seem to have been much more objective. This may be why its findings are barely mentioned in most authenticist literature. In 1988, I think there was every attempt to be objective, but unconscious presupposition and over-hasty confrontation between opposing views warped the overall conclusion towards the authentic.

    I think the proper stance must be ignorance. Three major hypotheses must be entertained: a) Medieval painting, b) Authentic but natural, c) Authentic and miraculous. Minor variations, as suggested by anybody interested (medieval but not of Christ, ancient but not of Christ, of another time rather than 1st or 14th century, etc.) should all be grist to the mill. Of these, I believe that the miraculous is not accessible by rational research, and must be parked to one side by scientific enquirers. Evidence for and against the others should then (and to be fair, largely with the help of shroudstory, it mostly has been) accumulated.

    Where I think Colin is correct is that the hypothesis that image intensity is related to contact pressure was not considered at all, as far as I can see, in favour of the hypothesis that it was related to body/cloth distance, which has been investigated very thoroughly, never with wholly conclusive, or convincing results. Colin’s objections to it are cogent, and have been noted previously. To my mind they sum up to:

    a) the uniformity of the apparent relationship, without any consideration of the nature of the substrate

    b) the assumption that because the blood was transferred before the image, it could not be a contact process

    c) the assumption that because the image lacks sides, it could not be a contact process

    d) the assumption that any anatomical inconsistencies are due to inconsistencies on the supposed body, and not to vagaries of a contact process

    This is not to say that because of this neglect, Colin must necessarily be correct, but it does mean that far more research, and speculation, has gone into the body/cloth distance relationship, while he has been a lone voice crying in the wilderness of the contact pressure relationship. Discrepancies in the first have been increasingly convolutedly accounted for (rather like the epicycles within epicycles of the geocentric solar system), while a possible explanation involving the second has been, except for him, largely ignored.

  6. STURP provened that the image was encoded with special codes that could only be detected by NASA machines called VP8s. This code was the distance the body was to the cloth. We know this because if you flip the distance from the body to the cloth upside down you get a sideways silhouette picture of the body. This means the special codes were written at a distance by xray. We know it was xray because we can see through the front to the back. That is why there are two images. That is why the front is negative and 3D and the back is not.

  7. Supercharger’s comment is the epitome of something I have been wondering about for some time. Surely nobody who has ever read or seen anything about the Shroud could possibly make such egregious errors? True, for a while there was a general opinion that the VP-8 image analyser was a “NASA machine”, but surely nobody has claimed that the Shroud had special codes that could only be detected by it. And what on earth does Supercharger mean by “if you flip the distance from the body to the cloth upside down you get a sideways silhouette picture of the body”? And why should this mean these special codes have to be written in x-rays? And who has suggested that “the front is negative and 3D but the back is not”? Is it possible that the work all those scientists could be so poorly understood? Are Supercharger’s views filtered through fourth- or fifth- hand online reports? I wish we could trace the circuitous route from original research to Supercharger’s (and others like him) comment.

    1. Is it what the teacher wrote or said or is it what the student reads or hears? I cringe every time I hear someone use the phrase “encoded in the image” to describe the apparent 3D data. How is that word understood by someone with no concept of how a picture is chemically captured on film or electronically captured as digital data? Hugh, you and I know, that the image is not only the picture we see but also THE so-called 3D data. We either see an image or we plot the image to see it’s 3D-like properties. Moreover, we can speak in shorthand ways to each other because we realize that we understand each other.

      I think the x-ray idea has been suggested by some who claim to see teeth in the mouth and parts of the fingers and the spine of the man of the Shroud. How does the naive person, whose understanding of x-ray is first or foremost from Superman comics, understand what is being explained to him?

      As for what else is being explained to us, I don’t understand it at all.

  8. Collin, you are forcing more rigor into this study. I have always agreed with number 7. Dr. Haas from SMU and I discussed that very subject at length. Very frustrating. I believe the blood on the cloth will prove to be the “proof” needed to convince you. It’s human and anatomically correct and match real blood flows. The one off the right elbow speaks mega volumes to the collapsing cloth into the body (Lavoie). It will take a whole lot to convince me that Dr. Jackson’s model is invalid. Maybe you can do it with your last few minutes on Earth.
    I believe you have it in you. Thank you and well done once again.

  9. Never forget Akum’s razor. It seems to apply in this case very neatly. The history is overwhelming corroboration. One Man actually was crucified by Romans, a jew no less, and actually rose from the dead. Not a resuscitation, a translation of matter. The same body with scars included. undeniable. If you can disprove that then you would be the greatest scientist and historian of all time. Please do it for God’s sake. and yours.

      1. Chuck, I agree that we should be mindful of Occam’s razor when comparing two or a few competing scientific or historic hypotheses. Keep in mind that it is a philosophical-logical principle that presents us with unquantified relative likelihoods, not proofs. Occam is interesting and useful in individual decisions: for instance, was the Lirey cloth the same as the Athens? I don’t see how it helps with the sort of corroboration you are discussing.

        Thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans in Palestine. One of them, a man called Jesus, a man who made some extraordinary claims about himself, did according to scripture and widespread belief (probably chronologically the other way around) rise from the dead. We are told that he was seen by some of his followers. What does this mean? How literally true and correctly translated are the scriptural narratives? Was the rising from the dead physical or spiritual?

        It is not up to any of us to disprove any of this. Regrettably, I think some people believe that if they can prove the Shroud is real, they can prove the Resurrection.

  10. There is no way that the image of the Turin canvas corresponds to an authentic shroud. A shroud wraps, presses, wrinkles. But it is worse for first century Palestine. Where are the bands that held the pieces of cloth? Where are the wrinkles of the cloth?
    This cloth represents to be an extended piece: this is not a shroud. It is just what the Pope Innocent III said: an image of the true Lord’s Shroud.

  11. The biggest and most consequential mistake remains the C14 dating, by a long shot. It has little to do with “Sindonology” as Colin frames it, and defined it pejoratively multiple times.

    1. Here the words by Colin Berry (March 30, 2019 at 3:33 am) : “There was fairly conclusive evidence for the medieval origin of the corner strip taken for analysis, certainly, but not for the entire Linen. …” (… and those are not my words, but the words of Colin Berry!). …But… Have you tried to deepen the paper by Tristan Casabianca ?
      What is the implication regarding the paper : “Regression analysis with partially labelled regressors: Carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin” Statistics and Computing 23(4) · July 2013 ? Is that “New Evidence from Raw Data” a proof for the same “gradient” ( = “…the existence of a trend in the results…” ) found by Riani, Atkinson, Crosilla and Fanti ?
      What are your own conclusions ?

  12. Wouldn’t the Jesus image show large distortions caused by the unavoidable wrinkles in a shroud of fabric wrapped around a body? If you wrinkle photo paper and use it to develop a photo, then flattening it out would show many lines and voids where the image was interrupted by the creases and folds. Why are there no actual wounds? If a person were subjected to brutal torture by the Romans, shouldn’t there be some actual laceration and swelling? The flagrum was designed to tear through and remove flesh. How was there no flattening of the back or buttocks when the image is to represent a corpse laying on it’s back?
    Even a body in rigor mortis flattens on the contact points.

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