Here is my Shroud News for May 2008. There was no significant Shroud of Turin News for April 2008, so the previous issue was March 2008. My comments are in bold.
Springs prof revives shroud riddle, The Denver Post, Electa Draper, May 20, 2008 ...
... Colorado Springs - A physics professor here has resurrected the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, the fabled burial cloth of Christ that 20 years ago scientists declared a fake. Millions of faithful believe the shroud's bloodstained image of a battered, crucified man is the miraculous image of Jesus, formed as he rose from the dead. Scientists at three laboratories using radiocarbon dating in 1988 and 1989 determined the shroud was a medieval forgery, though they could not explain how the image was created. Now, John Jackson, a physics lecturer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, has done something his colleagues consider nearly miraculous. Jackson, a leading researcher on the 14-foot-long linen sheet, has persuaded the Oxford laboratory that dated the shroud to the 13th or 14th century to revisit the question of its age. Professor Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, has agreed to test Jackson's hypothesis that contamination by carbon monoxide could throw off radiocarbon dating by more than a millennium. It is possible, Jackson said, that even minimal contamination of the shroud by environmental carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years - making it not medieval but contemporaneous with Jesus's life. ... There seems to be nothing new (see Shroud News - March 2008) in this article but it has provoked a flurry of similar news articles (see Chicago Tribune, WorldNetDaily, Catholic News Agency).
However, again note that it is possible that "even minimal contamination of the shroud by ... carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years - making it ... contemporaneous with Jesus's life." And as pointed out in my March Shroud News, Prof. Ramsey has admitted this, noting that "A relatively small amount of carbon monoxide ... could affect the radiocarbon age of the Shroud enough to allow it to be 2000 years old." (Ramsey, 2008). Even the mere possibility of this, makes false the 1989 claim in Nature that the 1988 radiocarbon dating provided "conclusive evidence that the linen of the shroud of Turin is mediaeval" (Damon, P.E., et al., Nature, 1989, pp.612,614). See also `tagline' quotes below.
Will Judean Desert find shed light on Shroud of Turin?, Jerusalem Post, May 29, 2008, Etgar Lefkovits ...
Can a 6,000-year-old shroud uncovered in the Judean Desert in 1993 help illuminate the centuries-old debate over the Shroud of Turin? That is the question posed by Olga Negnevitsky, a conservator at the Israel Museum who was involved in the conservation of the lesser-known shroud for the Antiquities Authority after it was discovered inside a small cave near Jericho. The idea to use the older shroud to learn more about the famous one came to Negnevitsky this week after she listened to an address on the Shroud of Turin at the International Art Conference in Jerusalem on the conservation of cultural and environmental heritage. "If we reexamine the [Jericho] shroud with all the latest modern technology, then maybe we will find out more information that will help solve the secrets of the Shroud of Turin," Negnevitsky said Wednesday. .... I cannot recall having heard of this Jericho Shroud before. I am not sure what studying this ~6,000 year-old shroud would tell us about the Shroud of Turin. But at least it shows that there was in Israel ~4000 years before Christ, "a very high level of fiber technology" employing "an enormous loom and an experienced team of three or four weavers working side by side" (American Museum of Natural History, 1998)!
Turin Shroud to go on public display, Daily Telegraph, Malcolm Moore, 30 May 2008 ...
The Turin Shroud is to go on public display for the first time in a decade, sources at the Vatican have indicated, coinciding with a new set of tests on its age. The linen has only been put on display five times in the last century. The Vatican keeps the 14ft by 4ft piece of linen, believed by some to be the death shroud of Jesus, in an aluminium case built by an Italian aerospace company to shut out all light, air and humidity. The case is filled with Argon gas in order to prevent bacteria from eating the material. However, the success of the exhibition of Padre Pio's remains in Puglia has convinced the Vatican to bring forward the next public showing of the shroud from 2025 to the year after next. This is great news-I may yet see the Shroud. It is interesting that, as mentioned in my Shroud News-November 2007 it was reported that there was to be a Shroud exhibition in 2010, but Cardinal Poletto, the Archbishop of Turin, who is the custodian of the Shroud, denied it, claiming "This is news invented by the press"! According to Barrie Schwortz' Shroud.com, "Some of the articles also suggested that this exhibition is timed to coincide with additional scientific testing of the Shroud's age" but "there is no official notice that this is the case and the article may be referring to the testing being planned by the Oxford Laboratory with Dr. John Jackson on other (non-Shroud) linen samples." See also Associated Press, Catholic World News, Chicago Tribune, Reuters & Zenit.
PS: Only the first two `tagline' quotes below (emphasis italics original, emphasis bold mine) are hyperlinked to references above.
"The large Textile A formed a unique wrapping sheet. It was folded over twice to create an `envelope' that contained the corpse of the deceased. The two smaller textiles, probably items of dress, also lay inside the burial bundle. The textile assemblage reflects a very high level of fiber technology. It also suggests that the warrior was a person of high rank, perhaps a `chief' or other leader. Because the textiles had become very stiff and brittle, they had to undergo painstaking processes of conservation. The wrapping sheet, 23 by 7 feet, is made of linen yarn, woven in the basic tabby weave. Dark-brown patterned bands at both ends and elaborate warp and weft fringes embellish the cloth. The weaving of such a wide cloth would have required an enormous loom and an experienced team of three or four weavers working side by side." ("The Textiles," Cave of the Warrior, American Museum of Natural History, 1998).
"The Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit has been working with a team from Performance Films Ltd making a documentary about the Shroud of Turin for the BBC. .... Another contributor to the film, John Jackson (Turin Shroud Center of Colorado) ... has developed a new hypothesis, which he believes may explain why the mediaeval date for the Shroud is incorrect. The hypothesis put forward in the film is that the linen of the Shroud might have been contaminated by carbon monoxide. Unlike most contaminants, carbon monoxide is naturally enriched in radiocarbon when found in the environment and would therefore in principle be able to alter the radiocarbon age significantly. A relatively small amount of carbon monoxide (roughly 2% of the carbon in the linen) could alter the age of the sample by a thousand years. This is the only contamination hypothesis which could affect the radiocarbon age of the Shroud enough to allow it to be 2000 years old." (Ramsey, C.B., "Shroud of Turin Version 77," Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, 23 March, 2008).
"The techniques used in 1988 by three separate teams of scientists to date the Shroud of Turin to the middle ages, may have been inconclusive, a radiocarbon dating expert at Oxford University has told the BBC. According to the Church official in charge of the Shroud, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, director of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator, whose specialty is the use of radiocarbon dating in archaeological research, told the BBC that radiocarbon dating techniques have developed since 1988, and that the Shroud's long history of travel, exposure to the elements and handling could have skewed the results. The BBC interview, that has yet to be broadcast, was discussed by Mgr. Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Diocesan Commission for the Shroud of Turin, at a conference in Novara Italy. Mgr. Ghiberti speculated that the Shroud's long history, including travels from Palestine to Europe, damage by fire in the 16th century, and much handling over the centuries could have influenced the outcome of the tests." (White, H., "Shroud Dating May Have Been Inaccurate," LifeSite News, February 5, 2008)
"A British scientist is overseeing new tests on the Shroud of Turin that he says will show it dates to the time of Jesus of Nazareth. Professor Christopher Ramsey of Oxford wants to check the theory that some type of contamination of the cloth caused the carbon-dating tests run in 1988 to mistakenly peg the shroud as a medieval forgery. The 14-foot-long cloth bearing the image of a man is said to be the burial shroud of Jesus. However carbon dating 20 years ago indicated the cloth dated from A.D. 1260-1390. Ramsey's retest is based on the theory that the level of contamination on the cloth required to skew carbon-14 dating results is far less than had been thought back in the 1980s, The Telegraph said Monday. The project will be covered in a BBC documentary that will reportedly include new supporting archaeological evidence. `This new theory only requires 2 percent contamination to skew the results by 1,500 years,' said David Rolfe, the director of the documentary. `It springs from published data about the behavior of carbon-14 in the atmosphere which was unknown when the original tests were carried out 20 years ago.'" ("Age test of Shroud of Turin planned," PhysOrg.com, February 25, 2008)
The research continues because the effect of the specific storage conditions of the Turin Shroud have yet to be reproduced by John Jackson's team. It remains possible, though not at all likely, that in these specific conditions there are reactions which provide significant contamination. There are also other possible types of contaminant, and it could be that one, or some combination of these, might mean that the Shroud is somewhat older than the radiocarbon date suggests. It is important to realise, however, that only if some enriched contaminant can be identified does it become credible that the date is wrong by 2000 years." (Ramsey, C.B., "Shroud of Turin Version 77," Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, 23 March, 2008)
"There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the Shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow and so further research is certainly needed. It is important that we continue to test the accuracy of the original radiocarbon tests as we are already doing. It is equally important that experts assess and reinterpret some of the other evidence. Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the Shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information." (Ramsey, C.B., "Shroud of Turin Version 77," Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, 23 March, 2008)
"Mr Jackson has developed a new hypothesis that could explain how a genuinely ancient piece of linen could produce a distorted younger date. I took this to Professor Christopher Ramsey, director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. He agreed to collaborate with Mr Jackson in testing a series of linen samples that could determine if the case for the Shroud's authenticity could be re-opened. `With the radiocarbon measurements and with all of the other evidence which we have about the Shroud, there does seem to be a conflict in the interpretation of the different evidence,' Professor Ramsey tells the BBC. `And for that reason I think that everyone who has worked in this area, radiocarbon scientists and all of the other experts, need to have a critical look at the evidence that they've come up with in order for us to try to work out some kind of a coherent story that fits and tells us the truth of the history of this intriguing cloth." (Omaar, R., "Shroud mystery 'refuses to go away'," BBC, 21 March 2008)
"The Shroud of Turin, the 14- by 4-foot linen believed by some to have been wrapped around Jesus after the crucifixion, might not be a fake after all, according to new research. The director of one of three laboratories that dismissed the shroud as a medieval artifact 20 years ago has called for the science community to reinvestigate the linen's authenticity. `With the radiocarbon measurements and with all of the other evidence which we have about the shroud, there does seem to be a conflict in the interpretation of the different evidence,' said Christopher Ramsey, director of England's Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, which carried out radiocarbon dating tests on the cloth in 1988." (Lorenzi, R., "Shroud of Turin's Authenticity Probed Anew," Discovery News, March 21, 2008).
"COLORADO SPRINGS A physics professor here has resurrected the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, the fabled burial cloth of Christ that 20 years ago scientists declared a fake. .... Scientists at three laboratories using radiocarbon dating in 1988-89 determined the shroud was a medieval forgery, though they could not explain how the image was created. Now, John Jackson, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs physics lecturer has done something his colleagues consider nearly miraculous. Jackson, who is a leading researcher on the 14-foot-long linen sheet, has persuaded the Oxford laboratory that dated the shroud to the 13th or 14th Century to revisit the question of its age. Professor Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, has agreed to test Jackson's hypothesis that contamination by carbon monoxide could throw off radiocarbon dating by more than a millennium. It is possible, Jackson said, that even minimal contamination of the shroud by environmental carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years - making it not medieval but contemporaneous with Jesus's life. Jackson, who must prove a viable pathway for that contamination, is working with Oxford to test samples of linen under the various conditions the shroud has endured, such as outdoor exhibitions and exposure to extreme heat during a 1532 fire. `Science still has much to tell us about the shroud,' said Jackson, a devout Catholic. "If we are dealing with the burial cloth of Christ, it is the witness to the birth of Christianity. But my faith doesn't depend on that outcome." (Draper, E., "Lab agrees to test Shroud of Turin for new theory," Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2008).
"Ramsey also acknowledged the need to reconcile radiocarbon-dating results with other forensic and historical evidence, which indicate the shroud is much older than 600 to 700 years old. Scientists must arrive at a coherent story about the enigmatic shroud, Ramsey said. The shroud is either authentic or a hoax so ingenious that state-of-the-art scientific analysis has yet to explain how it was done, said David Rolfe, director of a new documentary, `Shroud of Turin.' `The shroud is brilliant and unfathomable,' Rolfe said." (Draper, 2008).
"The Vatican owns the shroud and keeps it locked away in a special protective chamber of inert gases in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. The Catholic Church makes no claims about the relic's authenticity. The first documented exhibition of the Shroud of Turin was in Lirey, France, around 1360, by its former owner, French knight Geoffrey de Charney. De Charney's descendants sold the relic to the House of Savoy, which later ascended to the Italian monarchy and moved to Turin. The shroud's last public display was in 2000 in Turin. The next is set for 2010. Jackson led a research team in 1978 given unprecedented access to the shroud by the church. The Shroud of Turin Research Project determined the shroud was not painted, dyed or stained. It is not known how the Shroud's faint brown discolorations, which form a negative image of a man, came to mark the linen, Jackson said. It was only with the advent of photography, centuries after the shroud's first public appearances, that its clearer positive image could be seen. Jackson is working on a radiation hypothesis to explain the markings. His 1978 findings were enough to heighten curiosity about a relic that no modern artist or scientist could reproduce. Jackson's work is so critical, Rolfe said, `that I sometimes think it should be called the Shroud of Colorado Springs.'" (Draper, 2008).
"In 1988, the church allowed tiny samples of the shroud to be removed for radiocarbon dating by laboratories at Oxford, in Zurich and at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Researchers concluded the cloth was made between 1260 and 1390 and could not have been the burial cloth of Christ. But Jackson, his wife, Rebecca, and fellow researchers at his Turin Shroud Center of Colorado have assembled, with other scientists around the world, reams of documentary, genealogical and forensic evidence challenging the radiocarbon dates. Their evidence suggests the shroud is as old as Christianity. Forensic data shows the blood stains on the shroud are real. Jackson said blood stained the cloth before the body image appeared. This rules out scorching the cloth to produce the image because the blood was not degraded by heat. Forensic experts have documented that stains around the head are consistent with punctures by thorns. The scourge marks on the back are consistent with those made by a Roman whip called a flagrum. A large puncture wound to the man's side is consistent in shape and size with a Roman spear of the era. While medieval paintings and Christian iconography portray Jesus nailed to the cross through his palms and the front of the feet, archeologists have found the bones of a Roman crucifixion victim nailed through the wrists and heels. The shroud is consistent with the archeological find and not centuries of artwork. In 2002, renown textile restorer Mechthild Flury-Lemberg went to Turin to help preserve the shroud and found a style of stitching she had only seen once before - in the ruins of Masada, a Jewish settlement destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 74. The cloth's herringbone weave, while common in the 1st Century, was rare in the Middle Ages, she said." (Draper, 2008).
"Historical evidence also suggests that the shroud may be the Shroud of Constantinople, which was displayed in the 1100s but disappeared from that city, now called Instanbul, during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Genealogical and literary researcher Alexei Lidov found that the Shroud of Turin's former owner, de Charny, was married to a direct descendant of a French crusader who sacked Constantinople. The Shroud of Turin also has been linked to the Sudarium, a face covering touted as another burial cloth of Jesus. The Sudarium has been on display in Oviedo, Spain, since the mid-600s. When researcher Mark Guscin compared the blood stains on the Sudarium and the Shroud of Turin, by laying one over the other, he found a match. Science has shown the shroud is remarkable, whatever its genesis, Jackson said. As for his hypothesis on shroud dating, he said that it's going to take months or years to test because of the project's complexity and limits on time and money. `The shroud doesn't rise or fall on this one hypothesis of mine,' Jackson said, `but it's part of a first-class adventure story in science and religion.' " (Draper, 2008).
Updated: 7 July 2015.