Here is part 7, "2.1. A linen sheet" in my series, The Shroud of Turin The previous page was part 6, "2. What is the Shroud of Turin?" See part 1, the main Contents page, for more information about this series .
2. WHAT IS THE SHROUD OF TURIN?
2.1. A LINEN SHEET
© Stephen E. Jones
Dimensions. As previously mentioned , the Shroud of Turin is a rectangular linen sheet, yellowed with age, 4.4 long by 1.1 metres wide or 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches. These unusual dimensions correspond very closely to 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits of 21.4 inches, which was the standard Jewish cubit in Jesus' day. So even the dimensions of the Shroud are a major problem for the forgery theory[§1] of the Shroud's origin!!
[Above (click to enlarge): The Shroud laid out flat, presumably after the 2002 restoration]
Side strip. The Shroud is a single cloth apart from a strip about 8 cms (3½ inches) wide along its left-hand side (looking at the Shroud with its frontal image in the lower half and upright) and joined by a single seam. The strip is incomplete at its ends, with 14 cms (5½ inches) and 36 cms (14 inches) missing at the bottom and top left hand corners respectively. This side strip is made from the same piece of cloth as the Shroud, since unique irregularities in the weave of the main body of the Shroud extend across the side strip. The outer long edges of the main body of the Shroud and the side strip have a selvedge, a weaver-finished edge. This indicates that the Shroud was originally woven on a wide loom, and the side strip was cut lengthwise and joined to the main body of the Shroud to give it a selvedge on both long edges. Weaving on extra-wide looms is known from antiquity, particularly in ancient Egypt, but it is not known from the Middle Ages. Moreover, the hand-stitching of the seam joining the two inner edges of the side strip and the main Shroud is known only from textiles excavated from the first-century Jewish fortress at Masada, near the Dead Sea. This is more evidence for Shroud's authenticity and further problems for the forgery theory[§2].
[Above (click to enlarge): Side strip (left) and seam (centre) near the bottom right hand (i.e. frontal image feet end) corner of the Shroud: ShroudScope]
[Above (click to enlarge): "How the shroud was originally woven much wider than its present width. Reconstruction of the likely size of the bolt of cloth of which the two lengths of the Shroud (shaded) formed part. This wider cloth was very expertly cut lengthwise, then the raw (i.e. non-selvedge) edges of the shaded segments joined together by a very professional seam to form the Shroud we know today."]
Weave. The cloth's weave is known as "3 to 1 twill" because each transversal weft thread passes alternatively over three and under one of the longitudinal warp threads. This gives the weave the appearance of diagonal lines which reverse direction at regular intervals to create a herringbone pattern. Such complex herringbone three to one twill weaves are known from antiquity, for example, from Egypt and Syria, but they are not known from the Middle Ages.
Yarn. In 1973, textile expert Prof. Gilbert Raes was given four samples from the Shroud's bottom left-hand corner: a 12 mm long weft thread, a 13 mm long warp thread, a 10 x 40 mm piece from the side strip and a 13 x 40 mm piece from the adjacent main Shroud  Raes confirmed that the threads and the pieces were linen from common flax plant Linum usitatissium. The flax yarn in the two pieces had what is known as a Z-twist, from the spindle having been rotated clockwise, whereas the yarn in the threads was the more unsual S-twist. Raes also found traces of cotton, of the Middle Eastern species Gossypium herbaceum, in the piece from the main body of the Shroud but not in the piece from the side strip.. This is very significant as we will see when we consider the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud in "6. Science and the Shroud."
1. Drews, R., 1984, "In Search of the Shroud of Turin: New Light on Its History and Origins," Rowman & Allanheld: Totowa NJ, p.11. [return]
2. Antonacci, M., 2000, "The Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, p.212. [return]
3. The Shroud was precisely measured by textile expert Dr. Flury-Lemberg prior to the 1998 exposition and found to be 437 cm long by 111 cm wide. (British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 51, June 2000 [PDF]). [return]
4. Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus?," Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.69. [return]
5. 8 x 21.4 inches = 171.2 inches and 2 x 21.4 inches = 42.8 inches. The Shroud is 172.0 x 43.7 inches. [return]
6. Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, p.181. [return]
7. Wilson, 1991, p.181. [return]
8. Wilson, 1979, p.21. [return]
9. Petrosillo, O. & Marinelli, E., 1996, "The Enigma of the Shroud: A Challenge to Science," Scerri, L.J., transl., Publishers Enterprises Group: Malta, p.162. [return]
10. Schwalbe, L.A. & Rogers, R.N., 1982, "Physics and Chemistry of the Shroud of Turin: Summary of the 1978 Investigation," Analytica Chimica Acta, Vol. 135, No. 1, p.42. [return]
11. Wilson, I., "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, 2010, p.72 [return]
12. Wilson, 2010, p.72. [return]
13. Wilson, 2010, pp.74-76. [return]
14. Wilson, 2010, p.72. [return]
15. Wilson, 2010, p.73. Upper case heading reduced. [return]
16. Petrosillo & Marinelli, 1996, p.161. [return]
17. Wilson, 1979, p.69. [return]
18. Wilson, 2010, pp.74-76. [return]
19. Antonacci, 2000, p.98. [return]
20. Sox, H.D., 1981, "The Image on the Shroud: Is the Turin Shroud a Forgery?," Unwin: London, p.74. [return]
21. Wilson, I. & Miller, V., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, p.36. [return]
22. Wilson, 1979, pp.70-71. [return]
§1, §2. I have created a section "9. Problems of the Forgery Theory" and I will keep a progressively numbered total of all the problems of the forgery theory encountered along the way, so they can all be brought together and discussed in that section.[return]
Continued in part 8, "2.2. The Shroud's location".
Last updated: 27 February, 2013.