The question of how the Shroud of Turin came into existence has long since been the topic of heated debate by skeptics and supporters. The 14.3 x 3.7 ft. cloth contains an image of a man strongly resembling Jesus Christ with markings mirroring those of crucifixion. Some remain in the believe that it is the burial cloth of Christ, while others believe it may be a forgery. Earlier this week, a team of scientists led by Professor Alberto Carpinteri of Politecnico di Torino, announced that they believed the Shroud of Turin was created by an earthquake in Old Jerusalem in the year 33 AD, the same year Jesus was believed to have been crucified. Furthermore they explained that the 8.2 magnitude earthquake would have been strong enough to release neutron particles from crushed rock. These neutrons would react with nitrogen nuclei and make an imprint of the body it was covering onto the burial cloth, creating an x-ray type image. They also concluded that it is possible the radiation could have affected the results of radiocarbon dating tests conducted in 1988 at the Oxford University claiming the cloth to be 728 years old, thus a forgery.
The new findings has been met with both approval and skepticism from historians and scientists. Dr. Christopher Ramsey, director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, states that there are numerous hypotheses as to why the radiocarbon dates on The Shroud of Turin maybe be incorrect, but “none of them stack up.” He also notes that there have been many radiocarbon dating tests administered on objects from seismically radioactive areas such as Japan. These tests are similar to the ones performed on the Shroud of Turin and the results have never been problematic. Ramsey also raises the question as to why the cloth was affected by the neutrons but the surrounding ground and geological materials were not. Professor of Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Glasgow, Gordon Cook, agrees as he states there is no record of it happening anywhere else, adding that “it would have to be a very local effect not to be measured elsewhere” and “people have been measuring materials of that age for decades now and nobody has ever encountered this.”
Many skeptics that do not agree an earthquake created the image on The Shroud of Turin, believe in the 1978 work of famed micro analyst, Walter McCrone. McCrone analyzed numerous tests performed by STURP, Shroud of Turin Research Project, and concluded the blood to be composed of red ochre and vermilion tempera paint. He also observed that the blood appears red and not the brown and black color that it usually ages to be. The same tests were analysed by two other members of STURP, John Heller and Alan Adler, who concluded that the blood on the cloth was in fact blood. Their findings were published in a peer-reviewed journal, Applied Optics, in 1980. McCrone remained unconvinced in believing that the red substance was blood. Three years later, at a conference for the International Association for Identification, forensic analyst, John E Fisher, explained the manner in which results similar to Heller’s and Adler’s could also be obtained from tempera paint. It was also highlighted that Heller and Adler were not pigment experts nor forensic serologists, although Adler is a known expert in the chemistry of porphyrins, which includes heme, the pigment of red blood cells.
The Catholic Church appoints official custodians for The Shroud of Turin and has only released it for the 1998 Oxford study. Leading expert of The Shroud of Turin and president of the Resurrection of the Shroud Foundation, Mark Antonacci, is petitioning Pope Francis to authorize molecular testing to be performed on the cloth to either confirm or refute the new radiation theory. The Christian Church has never confirmed or denied the authenticity of the cloth that has sparked much dispute between historians. Whether it is proven if The Shroud of Turin was created by an earthquake or not, skeptics and supporters will remain in debate of its authenticity for many years to come.
By Lian Morrison