The Conspiracy of the Faux-Sweat Imprint

Colin Berry: I have set out a possible scenario that led to the TS being
fabricated as a rival attraction to the Veil of Veronica, indeed one that built
on the established credentials of the Veronica . . . as perceived by those at the time,
and which later . . . came to supplant the Veronica as the Church’s new “central icon”
(to borrow Neil McGregor’s words re the 14th century Veronica).

Colin’s old blog site, Shroud of Turin Without All The Hype (or something like that) has sprung back to life after several months, reincarnated as The Shroud of Turin: medieval scorch? The blog that separates the science from the pseudo-science…. The first posting since March is The Shroud of Turin: probably not miraculous, just a simulated sweat imprint – a triumph of medieval joined-up thinking.

(the 3D, negative scorch image, right, resides
on Colin’s blog, click on the image to see
a larger version)

There must have been at least some who, viewing, or even hearing of the Veil, [ca. 1350] must have asked themselves: how can plain old perspiration (“sweat” in common parlance) imprint an image on cloth? What would it look like initially? What would it look like a day later, a week later, a century or millennium later? And among those people, might there be just one individual who then asked themselves an audacious question: could or might the process be simulated, or to put it baldly, faked? Could one pass off an entirely and audaciously  man-made image as that of a divine sweat image? And if that were the case, what would be the most profitable way of doing that? Content oneself with producing a face imprint that was superior to that on the Veil, and claim that one had the “real” version, and that the one in Rome was the fake? Or avoid any such controversy and unpleasantness. Instead, marshall one’s technology to make an even more audacious claim, namely that one had not only an image that captured the face of Jesus, but that of his entire body! How could that be done? Was there a scenario from the New Testament gospels that might be adduced to back one’s claim?

Certainly there was, and it’s one that occurred just a day or two AFTER the crucifixion. It was the initial placement by Joseph of Arimathea of Jesus on  a costly sheet of linen, conveniently with no reference at this stage to the body being cleaned of blood and other bodily secretions, notably sweat.

Already a plan for developing that germ of an idea was taking shape. What were the criteria that could be adopted first to produce a whole body imprint of the crucified Jesus that would pass muster, yet importantly pose no threat to the status of the Veil?

Just a sampling here to give you an idea of what Colin is talking about and to encourage you to read . . . just a simulated sweat imprint . . . :

1. The image must NOT be mistaken for anything but a burial shroud. A single image of the frontal side might be mistaken for some kind of painted portrait. Solution: imprint BOTH sides of the body, align them head to head making it seems as though  . . .

[ . . . ]

5. Choose a weave that is receptive to one’s imprinting process. A twill weave  (e.g. herringbone 3/1 weave) has more flat areas than a simple 1/1 criss-cross one.

[ . . . ]

13. Feet are a problem. Does one terminate the dorsal imprint at the heel, as would be expected, thereby leaving an image lacking feet? Or does one image-imprint off a template as if the linen had been pulled up around the heels and pulled tight against the soles to capture those surfaces as well (creating an option for adding blood imprints too on soles of feet issuing from crucifixion nail holes)? Go for that latter option, since human intervention with enveloping a  shroud around the feet is not inconsistent with the the 1st century rock tomb scenario and indeed serves to enhance it.

14. The chin and neck are also problematical. Cloth laid loosely over the frontal surface would tend to bridge from chin to chest, creating a detached floating head with no neck. But cloth that imaged the neck, as if it had followed all the contours would risk imaging the underside of the chin too, making the neck look too long. Some compromise is needed, to get some neck and not too much underside of chin. Maybe simulate a crease at the chin to suggest there had been pressure applied to the linen, manual, or maybe from having a ‘neck tie’ of some kind that would not itself be imaged.

15. Loin cloth? . . .  Finer sensibilities must take a back seat. . . .

16. Frontal nudity? Use crossed hands to cover the genital area. Take liberties with human anatomy if necessary (slightly overlong arms and fingers).

Is it fair to call this a conspiracy theory?  No!  That is why I didn’t use the word theory in the title. It sounds like a conspiracy theory but it is clear that Colin intends to support his conjecture, indeed subsume the conjecture under science.

Samuel Johnson Meets His Match

image

imageIn a comment, Colin wrote:

It is unhelpful and unconstructive to judge the TS as a choice between authentic or non-authentic. It’s like deciding whether a stuffed swan one is about to see in a natural history museum is black or white – it could be either.

The rational and constructive way of viewing it is to ask whether the TS is a contact or non-contact scorch.

If it’s a contact scorch, then it’s fairly certain the image is man-made, using a heated template to imprint the image (which will of course be a negative, explaining what might otherwise seem peculiar at least from an artistic standpoint, being much more photogenic centuries later when Secondo Pia-era photography and light/dark reversal became practicable).

If it’s a non-contact scorch, then all options are open, pro-authenticity ones included, radiocarbon dating notwithstanding.

But while there are groups who promote their own preferred non-contact scenarios (laser beams, corona discharges, sugar-seeking putrefaction vapours, earthquake-releases of radioactive emissions etc) few if any of them are willing to generalize and say it’s a non-contact process that is being proposed, and that the image characteristics are consistent with, and can be modelled in the laboratory as a non-contact process with a qualitatively-different outcome from the simple, uncomplicated man-made contact one I favour.

In short, we see systematic evasion of the scientific essentials, the latter based on model-testing and evaluation. Not a pretty sight.

Some folk’s thinking might be described as pre-Renaissance. Indeed, there may well be a hankering for pre-Renaissance certainties, when everyone, the unwashed, uneducated classes especially, knew their place and did not dare to question their social and intellectual superiors.

 

So, is Colin redefining the word scorch to mean anything that “resulted in oxidation, dehydration and conjugation of the polysaccharide structure of the microfibrils of the linen itself* (or perhaps of an impurity coating on the microfibrils)?  Is that fair? Samuel Johnson did define the word as also meaning, “to be dried up.”

Are we to assume then, when Colin says all options are open for non-contact scorches, he means to allow, in addition to all-natural chemical processes, scorches produced from the imagined energetic or sub-atomic particle byproducts of miraculous events?  Is that fair?

Does ‘all options are open’ extend to the appearance of a scorch that might have miraculously appeared on the cloth without any chemical process taking place? By without process I mean something that was not at some time partly formed or forming as we might imagine water changing into wine in steps. By without process I mean without heat or chemical reaction. By without process I mean without the passage of time, as if a changed visual state could have been photographed by an unimaginably fast camera in only two frames, visually not there and then visually there.

If we are thus open to miraculous images that seem to be non-contact scorches and might not have involved a formation process, must we not also be open to miraculous images that seem to be contact scorches and might not have involved a formation process?

Frankly, if we allow for miracles, we are beyond the limits of science. I don’t see any difference between contact and non-contact in this context.

It would be fair to argue that I threw miracles into the mix and that was never Colin’s intent. Fair enough. But that doesn’t solve anything, does it? Are not the investigators of UV, for instance, contemplating miraculous causation in some way or other?  Is there a philosopher in the house? David Hume, where are you?

While I was writing this, Colin clarified his position of contact vs. non-contact. It is helpful, so here it is:

I use “contact scorch” to indicate there is no imaging except where template is in direct physical atom-to-atom contact with hot metal, ceramic, whatever. If there’s the slightest air gap, then there’s essentially no scorching, though a slight yellowing might just be possible from hot convected gases.

There are those who maintain that the TS image includes parts of the subject that could not have been in contact with linen. They have yet to convince this sceptic. All the important parts, i.e. raised relief, could or would be accessible, especially if linen were draped over template (whether bas relief or fully 3D) and then manually and forcibly impressed in and around important contours. The places most likely to get ‘missed’ are precisely those that appear as pale poorly or non-imaged areas on the TS (eye sockets, around the crossed hands, the gaps or even curvature between fingers etc.).

I use bas relief to imply something like the head on a coin with a little raised relief but much less in relative terms than the real live or dead subject, or a fully 3D representation of the latter (statue, bust etc). The wiki definition is OK seems OK for starters:

“Bas-relief is a type of sculpture that has less depth to the faces and figures than they actually have, when measured proportionately (to scale). This technique retains the natural contours of the figures, and allows the work to be viewed from many angles without distortion of the figures themselves.”

I believe the face (at least) of the TS image was imprinted from a bas relief (as incidentally did Prof Luigi Garlaschelli). The sharpish break in image continuity between cheek and hair on both sides is the give-away, suggesting there to have been a groove or trough in the template such that no imaging was possible in that gap. The idea that the break is just a banding effect in the linen, that the ‘missing’ image is retrievable with the right ‘enhancement’ with computer software etc, simply does not stand up to close critical scrutiny. That knob-twiddling-solves-all view is an example of what is known technically in boring old mainstream science as “pure tosh”.

* A Summary of STURP’s Conclusions

Revisiting: The Turin Shroud Image is not a Scorch

Thibault Heimburger recently commented:

I do not think that the image formation process is a stochastic process. . . . In addition, I completely disagree with Colin. I repeat: the distribution of the image color is not consistent with any kind of scorch, even if one takes into account ageing etc.. This has been shown in :
https://shroudofturin.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/scorch-2-eng-final.pdf

imageLeading Colin Berry to reply:

Nothing is “shown” unless opened up to debate. Pdfs do not open up to debate. Criticizing others via pdfs is a means of evading both online counter-criticism or more formal peer review.

Personally speaking, I can scarcely be bothered to read pdfs any more – they occupy a nether world between public and private domain, and at best qualify as vanity publications in my mind.

Huh?  PDFs “. . . at best qualify as vanity publications”?  Really?  Almost every article I read in Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science is a PDF document. Is that a vanity publication in anyone’s mind? As one might expect, Nature pondered the question of using PDF files for its articles. They report, “So far, scientists have shown a strong preference for the portable document format (PDF) version of individual articles. . . .” And so they and nearly every ethical journal use PDF.

On this blog, I will use the PDF format when it makes sense to do so. A 23 page article makes sense.  It would not make sense to clog a blog page with that much content. It slow down page loading. It hampers debate; comments are a mile away down the page.

On April 17, I announced Thibault’s paper, The Scorch Hypothesis: New Experiments, April 2014. There were thirty comments and it is significant to note that about half of them were not from Max and none of them were from Colin.

Perhaps we need to revisit this topic. So HERE IS THE PDF. And right below this sentence is space for debate. Over to you Colin.