Shortly after I became interested in the Shroud in 2001, I was reading about plant pollen from Palestine, nebulous images of flowers, even indefinite images of coins over Jesus’ eyes, and other indistinct objects that people saw on the cloth. I don’t remember who warned me to be cautious and skeptical of anything identified visually by just one or two people. When many of us see something, and many of us can correctly identify it, then and only then, should we believe that it is there.
The pollen was really there. That was seen by many people, even photographed. But the identification of individual grains– what were they and where were they from — was the issue. It was often inconclusive and sometimes controversial. An important paper, The question of pollen grains on the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo by Emanuela Marinelli, carefully examines years of research. Nothing seems definitive. Nothing seems certain. It was not something that we should have accepted without question. Thus I was surprised when I read on the very new website, Sign From God:
Fact: Dust and pollen found on the Shroud are native to where, according to the Bible, Jesus lived and walked.
I wondered: would a statement like this survive scrutiny in a modern courtroom? For example, during a cross-examination, could we not ask what would it mean if pollen native to, let’s say, the North American Appalachian Mountains was found on the Shroud?
That is not an absurdity. It turns out to be true. In what may be the most interesting and most scientific study of pollen on the Shroud, Uncovering the sources of DNA found on the Turin Shroud, Gianni Barcaccia, Giulio Galla, Alessandro Achilli, Anna Olivieri & Antonio Torroni state in Scientific Reports, (October 5, 2015):
With regard to the land plant species identified, some are native to Mediterranean countries and widespread throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and are thus compatible with both a rather recent Medieval origin in Europe and a more ancient Near Eastern origin. However, others have a center of origin in Eastern Asia and the Americas and were introduced to Europe only after the Medieval period. Clearly, the latter species cannot help in discriminating between alternative scenarios.
In other words, we can’t know if the pollen that seemingly points to the Palestinian region is unique to just that area or a wider Near Eastern area. The question is how wide. Moreover, if East Asian and American pollen are certainly later contaminants, shouldn’t we also realize that what is presumably Palestinian pollen could also have been a post-medieval contaminant? Why not?
At the end of the day, the only reasonable conclusion is that without further studies, we cannot conclude anything from the pollen.
Can someone design a study that figures out when and how pollen is deposited on the Shroud? Or have we reached the end of the road on this subject?
* Scientific Reports is an Open Access journal published by Nature
Evidence from Frei is confirmed. Why all the skepticism at this point. The Jury is in. I hope you would not bring that to a jury in a trial. Hung jury.
Max Frei’s evidence confirmed? Just thinking. Lots of people in prison and deathrow because of confirmed evidence by forensic experts. Then along comes DNA after many years and exonerates them.
“Evidence from Frei is confirmed.”
Really? By whom? Not by Israeli palynologist Uri Baruch, German palynologist Thomas Litt, Spanish palynologist Marcia Boi, Israeli botanist Avinoam Danin, French microscopist Gérard Lucotte or US sindonologist Alan Whanger, all of whom have examined the pollen found on the Shroud in some detail.
This is from our Shroud presentation:
“Max Frei (criminalist & amateur palynologist) took sticky tape samples from the Shroud and conducted pollen studies from which he concluded the types of pollens by shape. Quoting Mariotti Lippi, professor of Archaeobotany and Palaeobotany in the Department of Plant Biology, University of Florence, “palinologists today cast doubt on the identifications made by Frei.” (https://www.shroud.com/pdfs/marinelli2veng.pdf)
Another statement from our presentation:
“Dr. Oliver Rackham of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, although not a pollen analyst himself, works with them and knows their methods. He has commented to me of this list:
“Conventional pollen analysts can make most identifications only to genus (e. g. Pistacia) or even to family (Chenopodiaccae). They use terms like ‘Ranunculus–type’ or ‘Quercus-cerris–type’ for a group of species, all with the same type of pollen, for which no closer identification is possible. Of doctor Frei’s 58 identifications, 56 are to species; only twice does he identify no more closely then to a genus, and he never uses the ‘–type’ expression. I am suspicious of such great precision of identification. If it is true, then Frei made a very considerable advance at the frontier of what palynology is capable of doing. Maybe he did, but he never explained how he did it. Species, rather than genus or family, identifications are crucial to his argument.””
Quite so. On the other hand, I don’t think Frei was a charlatan. Apart from the two big mistakes which destroyed his credibility and ruined his reputation, he was a sincere forensic investigator and certainly in the forefront of palynology. So what did he do wrong?
The answer lies in his statement (quoted by Marinelli) that “each identification result was verified and checked on herbarium material and in botanical Gardens worldwide renowned for their collections, as well as documented in micro photographic surveys.” This is ludicrous. There was vanishing little palynographic data available in the 1970s. The collections against which Frei matched his Shroud pollen were collected by himself on two expeditions to the Middle East. Knowing the specific plants from which his expedition samples came, he simply matched his Shroud pollen against each one, and classified it as the one it matched best. If he found a nobbly grain on the Shroud, and it looked like a nobbly grain on his collection, he assumed a precise identification, without realising that thousands of other plants also have nobbly pollen. It is my firm belief that had he collected a representative sample of plants from Norway, Japan or Chile, he could have matched all his Shroud pollen just as precisely, and just as incorrectly, to those countries.
For nobbly, also read spiky, lobed, dimpled, etc. etc.
How could he be in the forefront of palynology? He was never trained in it, only in botany in general, and spent his life working for the Swiss police force!
You answer your own question, in a way. If you are in the forefront of something, you can’t be trained in it because there’s nobody to train you! However, perhaps I should have narrowed the field to “forensic palynology,” as the use of pollen analysis in palaeontology had been common for some time.
Frei-Sulzer was not just a cop; he was a forensic investigator of considerable repute. His paper introducing the collection of evidence by sticky tape, ‘Die Sicherung von Mikrospuren mit Klebeband,’ which was published in 1951, was completely original, and he was the “go-to” man to investigate the circumstances behind the death of the Secretary of the United Nations in 1961.
However, as I expect you implied, and as I mentioned above, being at the forefront meant that there was very little to refer to, which is why he had to make his own collections.
Keep it coming folks.
(A week since last posting, Three plus days since last comment!).
Keep it coming folks.
(12 days since last posting. Three plus days since last comment!).
Keep it coming folks.
(2 weeks since last posting,. 5+ days since last comment!)
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