This head–scratcher appears in the Sign From God website, the site of the group which brought us the museum exhibition at the Bible Museum in Washing ton D.C.

Facts: The cloth is made of handspun flax. Historians have determined that the weave of the Shroud cloth is woven in a 3-over-1 herringbone pattern. These dimensions correlate with ancient measurements of 2 cubits x 8 cubits – consistent with loom technology of the 1st century AD. 

Is something missing? Which dimensions are these dimensions?

What does “consistent with loom technology of the 1st century AD” mean? Are we simply talking about the width of the cloth or something more complicated? And how do we know if it is consistent? Do we have some of those looms in museums somewhere, or a fragment of one from a dig somewhere, from which we can make this determination? Am I also to believe that a handcrafted loom from perhaps Syria, Galilee, Samaria and Judea, or for that matter, anywhere between India and Spain, is somehow a standard by which to gauge consistency?  Back then, was anything consistent with anything?

And I’m wondering, do we know if the Shroud’s loom was possibly also consistent with looms of, let’s say, medieval France?

And what does, “correlate with ancient measurements of 2 cubits x 8 cubits” mean? I just looked in Wikipedia and read this:

The common cubit was divided into 6 palms × 4 fingers = 24 digits.[1] Royal cubits added a palm for 7 palms × 4 fingers = 28 digits.[2] These lengths typically ranged from 44.4 to 52.92 centimetres (1.46 to 1.74 ft), with an ancient Roman cubit being as long as 120 centimetres (3.9 ft).

Cubits of various lengths were employed in many parts of the world in antiquity, during the Middle Ages and as recently as early modern times.

I’m confused. What is the significance of 2 x 8 cubits?

Several years ago, Mark H. Stone wrote in Journal of Anthropology

Biblical citations and historical archeology suggest more than one standard length for the cubit existed in Israel. In II Chronicles 3:3 the citation may imply cubits of the old standard. Ezekiel 40:5; 43:13 may be indicating the cubit plus a hand. Archeological evidence from Israel [6] suggests that 52.5 cm = 20.67 and 45 cm = 17.71 constitute the long and short cubits of this time and location. To some scholars, the Egyptian cubit was the standard measure of length in the Biblical period. The Biblical sojourn/exodus, war, and trade are probable reasons for this length to have been employed elsewhere.

Hugh Farey, about the same time, wrote in this blog:

The shroud was measured by Flury-Lemburg as 437cm x 111cm in 1998, and later by Barberis and Zaccone (2000), with its corners stretched slightly, as 437.7cm and 441.5cm (long sides); 112.5cm and 113cm (short sides). It is also quoted as varying in length by 2cm depending on humidity. (All information from Dr Zugibe’s ‘The Crucifixion of Jesus’).

Various cubit measurements have been found, all different lengths. The nearest I can find to the 1st century is the Roman cubit of about 44.4cm, which may be based on contemporary Egyptian cubits. Some excellent work on funerary slabs in various museums suggests that the Assyrians, whose empire dissolved some hundreds of years before Christ was born, may have had three cubits, of between 51cm and 57cm. Actual measuring bars, mostly from Egyptian tombs, are about 52cm long.

It is popular to pick whichever shroud dimensions seem appropriate, divide them by 8 and 4 as required, and then find a cubit that fits, pronouncing the shroud as “exactly” this or that. Whether there is any evidence that any 1st century cloth was woven (or buildings constructed) to any particular width, let alone an Assyrian cubit, I rather doubt. Does anybody know of any?

Should we be calling such a speculation a fact? Do the folks at Sign From God have someway of substantiating their claim?