The Shroud of Turin is reputedly Christ's burial cloth. It has been a hallowed religious relic since the Middle Ages. To believers it was divine proof the Christ was resurrected from the grave, to doubters it was evidence of human gullibility and one of the greatest hoaxes in the history of art.
No one has been able to prove that it is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, but its haunting image of a man's wounded body is proof enough for true believers.
The Shroud of Turin, as seen by the naked eye, is a negative image of a man with his hands folded. The linen is 14 feet, 3 inches long and 3 feet, 7 inches wide. The shroud bears the image of a man with wounds similar to those suffered by Jesus.
The shroud is wrapped in red silk and kept in a silver chest in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy since 1578.
The shroud is unquestionably old. Its history is known from the year 1357, when it surfaced in the tiny village of Lirey, France. Until recent reports from San Antonio, most of the scientific world accepted the findings of carbon dating carried out in 1988. The results said the shroud dated back to 1260-1390, and thus is much too new to be Jesus' burial linen.
Turin Shroud Said from Middle Ages November 2002 - Discovery
Russian scientists say their calculations back the conclusion that the Turin Shroud, believed by some Christians to be the linen cloth in which Jesus Christ was buried almost 2,000 years ago, was in fact made in the Middle Ages.
A 1988 study authorized by the Vatican and conducted separately by carbon-dating laboratories in Britain, Switzerland and the United States estimated the Shroud to have been made some time between 1260 and 1390. That supported skeptics who had contended that the sacred relic - whose documented existence only started to surface in the 14th century - was a hoax.
Then, in April this year, a pair of scientists, Anatoliy Fesenko, a forensic expert at the Russian Federal Security Service, and Alexander Belyakov, director of the Russian Center for the Turin Shroud, said the 1988 study had been skewed.
They pointed to evidence that in the 16th century, the Shroud had been wiped with fresh vegetable oil - olive oil, linseed oil or nut oil - in order to remove surface grime. This, they contended, had left traces of oil in the fabric that had distorted the carbon dating, making the relic younger by some 1,300 years.
But, according to another Russian team, Fesenko and Belyakov got their calculations wrong. The pair did not account for different ratios between two isotopes, carbon 14 and carbon 12, in the vegetable oil, according to the new study.
As a result, this meant that the oil contamination would only change the 1260-1390 timeframe very marginally, by four decades at the most.
The new research is published by Dmitry Voronov from the Institute for Problems of Information Transfer at the Russian Academy of Sciences and Vladimir Surdin from the Shternberg State Astronomy Institute.
"The two authors' research is based on a mistake in the mathematical work and in the pathology," Elena Krasnova of the Informnauka Agency, a Russian scientific news agency which reported the research in a press release, told AFP by phone on Tuesday.
The Shroud, which measures 4.37 by 1.11 meters (14 feet three inches by three feet seven inches), bears the image of a crucified man wearing a crown of thorns and with a wound in his side.
In addition to Fesenko and Belyakov, other critics of the 1988 study say the samples may have contained threads from darning made in the Renaissance period to repair the Shroud after it was damaged by fire.
October 6, 2000 - Sightings - Oviedo, Spain
Scientists and forensic specialists gathered in Oviedo, Spain, this week to examine an obscure relic that many have claimed authenticates the Shroud of Turin - believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
The Sudarium of Oviedo is reportedly the other linen cloth found in the tomb of Christ, as described in the Gospel of John.
The relic, whose dramatic history is intertwined with the Knights Templar, Moors, El Cid, saints and bishops, has been in Spain since 631 A.D.
Meanwhile, in Turin, Italy, the last pilgrims of the Jubilee Year are winding their way past the Shroud of Turin before the exhibit closes on October 23.
Verses 5-8 of the 20th chapter of "The Gospel According to St. John" records, "... he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place."
This head cloth, the sudarium, has become the focus of increasing debates over the validity of the carbon-14 tests on the Shroud of Turin.
The carbon-dating tests set the age of the shroud in the 13th century, which would make the Shroud of Turin a pious icon at best, a clever fraud at worst.
However, the scientific community is divided over the shroud dates because -- with the exception of the carbon dating tests -- medical, artistic, forensic and botanical evidence favors the authenticity of the shroud of Turin as the burial cloth of Jesus.
One example of microscopic testing that supports the Shroud as authentic is the 1978 sample of dirt taken from the foot region of the burial linen. The dirt was analyzed at the Hercules Aerospace Laboratory in Salt Lake, Utah, where experts identified crystals of travertine argonite, a relatively rare form of calcite found near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
It is a stretch, say researchers, that a 13th century forger would have known to take the trouble to impregnate the linen with marble dust found near Golgotha in order to fool scientists six hundred years later.
The debate over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is elevated by the new discoveries resulting from the studies on the Sudarium of Oviedo.
Unlike the Shroud, the Sudarium, which covered the face of Christ for a short time before the body was wrapped in the longer burial cloth, does not carry an image of a man. Instead, the cloth, held against a face of a man who had been beaten about the head, shows a distinct facial impression and pattern of stains.
The cloth is impregnated with blood and lymph stains that match the blood type on the Shroud of Turin. The pattern and measurements of stains indicate the placement of the cloth over the face.
These patterns have been extensively mapped to enable researchers to compare the markings and measurements with those of the Shroud of Turin.
These measurements and calculations, digitized videos and other forensic evidence indicate that the Sudarium of Oviedo covered the same head whose image is found on the Shroud of Turin.
Part of Jewish burial custom was to cover the face of the dead, sparing the family further distress. The sudarium, from the Latin for "face cloth," would have been wrapped over the head of the crucified Christ awaiting permission from Pontius Pilate to remove the body.
Stains made at that time indicate a vertical position with the head at an angle. There are stains from deep puncture wounds on the portion of the cloth covering the back of the head, consistent with those puncture marks found on the Shroud of Turin, theoretically made by the caplet of thorns
A separate set of stains, superimposed upon the first set, was made when the crucified man was laid horizontally and lymph flowed out from the nostrils.
The composition of the stains, say the Investigation Team from the Spanish Centre for Sindology, who began the first sudarium studies in 1989, is one part blood -- type AB -- and six parts pulmonary oedema fluid.
This fluid is significant, say researchers, because it indicates that the man died from asphyxiation, the cause of death for victims of crucifixion.
Recently, Dr. Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of Duke University, employed his Polarized Image Overlay Technique to study correlations between the Shroud and the Sudarium. Dr. Whanger found 70 points of correlation on the front of the sudarium and 50 on the back.
"The only reasonable conclusion," says Mark Guscin, author of "The Oviedo Cloth," "is that the Sudarium of Oviedo covered the same head as that found on the Shroud of Turin." Guscin, a British scholar whose study is the only English language book on the Sudarium, told WorldNetDaily, "This can be uncomfortable for scientists with a predetermined viewpoint; I mean, the evidence grows that this cloth and the Shroud covered the same tortured man."
Guscin also points to pollen studies done by Max Frei of Switzerland.
Specific pollens from Palestine are found in both relics, while the Sudarium has pollen from Egypt and Spain that is not found on the Shroud.
Conversely, pollen grains from plant species indigenous to Turkey are imbedded in the Shroud, but not the Sudarium, supporting the theory of their different histories after leaving Jerusalem.
The significance of the Sudarium to the Shroud, in addition to the forensic evidence, is that the history of the Sudarium is undisputed. While the history of the Shroud is veiled in the mists of the Middle Ages, the Sudarium was a revered relic preserved from the days of the crucifixion.
A simple cloth of little value, other than that it contained the Blood of Christ, the Sudarium accompanied a presbyter named Philip and other Christians fleeing Palestine in 616 A.D. ahead of the Persian invasion.
Passing through Alexandria, Egypt, and into Spain at Cartegena, the oak chest containing the Sudarium was entrusted to Leandro, bishop of Seville. In 657 it was moved to Toledo, then in 718 on to northern Spain to escape the advancing Moors.
The Sudarium was hidden in the mountains of Asturias in a cave known as Montesacro until king Alfonso II, having battled back the Moors, built a chapel in Oviedo to house it in 840 AD.
The most riveting date in the Sudarium's history is March 14, 1075. On this date, King Alfonso VI, his sister and Rodrigo Diaz Vivar (El Cid) opened the chest after days of fasting. This official act of the king was recorded and the document is preserved in the Capitular Archives at the Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo. The King had the oak chest covered in silver and an inscription added which reads, "The Sacred Sudarium of Our Lord Jesus Christ."
Juan Ignacio Moreno, a Spanish magistrate based in Burgos, Spain, asks the critical question. "The scientific and medical studies on the Sudarium prove that it was the covering for the same man whose image is [on] the Shroud of Turin.
We know that the Sudarium has been in Spain since the 600s. How, then, can the radio carbon dating claiming the Shroud is only from the 13th century be accurate?"
Examine the Shroud of Turin Online.
July 3, 1999 - AP
A new analysis of pollen grains and plant images on the Shroud of Turin places its origin to Jerusalem before the eighth century, giving a boost to those who believe the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus and refuting a 1988 examination by scientists that concluded the shroud was made between 1260 and 1390.
The earlier study also indicated the shroud came from Europe rather than the Holy Land.
"We have identified by images and by pollen grains species on the shroud restricted to the vicinity of Jerusalem," botany professor Avinoam Danin of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said Monday during the International Botanical Congress here. "The sayings that the shroud is from European origin can't hold."
More than 4,000 scientists from 100 countries are taking part in the botanical conference, which focuses on a wide range of issues related to plants.
The shroud contains pollen grains and the image of a crucified man, as well as faint images of plants.
Analysis of the floral images, and a separate analysis of the pollen grains by another botanist, Uri Baruch, identified a combination of plant species that could be found only in March and April in the region of Jerusalem, Danin said.
Danin identified a high density of pollen of the tumbleweed Gundelia tournefortii. The analysis also found the bean caper Zygophyllum dumosum. The two species coexist in a limited area, Danin said.
"This combination of flowers can be found in only one region of the world," he said. "The evidence clearly points to a floral grouping from the area surrounding Jerusalem."
An image of the Gundelia tournefortii can be seen near the image of the man's shoulder. Some experts have suggested that the plant was used for the "crown of thorns."
Two pollen grains of the species were also found on the Sudarium of Oviedo, believed to be the burial face cloth of Jesus.
Danin, who has done extensive study on plants in Jerusalem, said the pollen grains are native to the Gaza Strip.
Since the Sudarium of Oviedo has resided in the Cathedral of Oviedo in Spain since the 8th century, Danin said that the matchup of pollen grains pushes the shroud's date to a similar age. Both cloths also carry type AB blood stains in similar patterns, Danin said.
"The pollen association and the similarities in the blood stains in the two cloths provide clear evidence that the shroud originated before the 8th Century," Danin said.
The location of the Sudarium of Oviedo has been documented since the first century. If it is found that the two cloths are linked, then the shroud could date back even further, Danin said.
The 1988 study used carbon-14 dating tests. Danin noted that the earlier study looked at only a single sample, while he used the entire piece of fabric.
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