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K. Kris Hirst

Experimental Archaeology and the Shroud of Turin

By March 31, 2008

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The Shroud of Turin is really a neat artifact. Seriously. The 'shroud' (as if you didn't already know) is a sheet of linen cloth impressed with the three-dimensional front and back image of a six-foot tall man in red stains. The shroud was first exhibited in public in the 14th century AD by the French knight Geoffrey de Charny; it was also denounced as a forgery that same year, by Bishop Pierre d'Arcis of Troyes.

Some people are of the steadfast belief that the shroud represents the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of the Christian church; but all radiocarbon dates and scientific testing to date have returned medieval dates. The theory of most scientists and historians is that the shroud was created by an artist in the 14th century using a model who was coated in a combination of red ochre and vermilion, a paint combination commonly used in the middle ages. Whether the original intention was a work of secular art, a hoax meant to fool people, or a thoughtful religious relic made by a follower of Jesus, isn't really available to us today.

The discovery that all five radiocarbon dates were in the 14th century was a setback for those who believe in its direct association with Jesus; and some have argued that the dates were affected by a fire which added carbon monoxide to the fabric. John Jackson, director of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado and the University of Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit conducted additional work in an attempt to identify if carbon monoxide might have been a factor in the dates. What they did was experimental archaeology--Dr. Jackson's center subjected modern linen cloth to very high levels of carbon monoxide; and the ORAU monitored the effects.

The results--that exposure to even the highest carbon monoxide levels does not affect modern linen at all--were communicated in a BBC2 documentary this past week.

For more information, see the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit webpage.


March 31, 2008 at 3:57 pm
(1) Graeme says:

The Shroud of Turins Carbon Dating tests to me was done on the backing cloths of the shroud. So that would explain why the date is so near the time of the fire.
Evidence with the type of linen and the image itself points to the 1st century.
We know as well that the shroud was in Israel when image was made as of rare plants on it.

April 2, 2008 at 4:10 pm
(2) thadd says:

The weave of the linen does not match known samples from the first century and is very complex.
The images of plants on the shroud have also been questioned as hopeful expectations more than actual images.

September 25, 2011 at 12:20 am
(3) JS says:

view my archeological tour of the Shroud of Turin at : http://www.youtube.com/user/juandeet41902

August 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm
(4) Arzorco says:

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