The Shroud of Turin, for centuries and counting still baffles scientists as to its authenticity, and a recent finding may add to the argument that it may be genuine after all. Italian scientists believe that a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 8.2 on the Richter scale could be the possible cause of why the image on the cloth was imprinted. They also suggested that the radiocarbon dating done on the shroud in 1988 which says that it is just 728 years old was erroneous because of the effects of this powerful earthquake. These findings were released in the journal Meccanica.
The scientists led by Prof. Alberto Carpinteri from the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, and research on piezonuclear fission reactions, surmised that high-frequency pressure waves coming from the Earth’s crust during an earthquake and eventually producing significant amount of neutron emissions may be the key. This can be likened to crushing a brittle rock under a press machine which released the neutron emissions.
Based on this study, the neutron emissions could have directly interacted with the nitrogen atoms of the cloth allowing the creation of a chemical reaction which eventually produced the image people refer to as the Shroud of Turin. Carpinteri also added that the chemical reactions led to the wrong radiocarbon dating result done on the cloth by Oxford University in 1988.
The new theory proposed by Carpinteri and his team revolves around neutrons being released by a very powerful and devastating earthquake that hit Old Jerusalem during the time that Jesus Christ is believed to have died around 33 AD. Carpinteri further explained that all living things possess the same ratio of stable carbon to radioactive carbon-14. However, after death the stable radiocarbon slowly decays in a constant manner leaving the carbon-14 concentration intact.
Scientists and researchers therefore look at carbon-14 in organic archaeological materials in order to estimate their age. The theory is that the flood of neutrons released from the earthquake collided with nitrogen atoms in the shroud unleashing the carbon-14 and imprinting an X-ray like image unto the burial cloth. The radiation may have also raised the cloth’s level of carbon-14 isotopes thereby providing it with an artificially youthful age.
A professor of mechanical engineering at Padua University, Giulio Fanti, said he is not sure that a neutron emission is the only possible explanation of why the image on the shroud was formed. Fanti, who published a book in 2013 Il Misterio della Sindone (The Mystery of the Shroud) added that it is possible a corona discharge could also create such an image. One thing he agrees with Carpinteri is that the radiocarbon dating done on the cloth in the 80’s “furnished wrong results probably due to neutron emission.”
Meanwhile, a professor of environmental geochemistry at the University of Glasgow, Gordon Cook, opined that even if earthquake-generated neutrons can cause such chemical reactions, the study by Carpinteri does not address why there was no similar effects found elsewhere. “People have been measuring materials of that age for decades now and nobody has ever encountered this.” Cook thinks this is just local.
A similar view was offered by Christopher Ramsey, the director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, where he finds it odd that other archaeological and geological materials in the same period were not affected as much as the Shroud of Turin.
The Vatican has been silent on this issue of authenticity, however, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once mentioned that the Shroud of Turin, a ghostly image of a crucified man with his arms crossed can be a way to remind everyone of the sufferings experienced by Jesus Christ to save mankind from sins.
This most recent finding delving into the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin may have cleared questions for some people. Undeniably too, the theory about the earthquake may also prolong the discussion on authenticity of this object even more.
By Roberto I. Belda