[Right: "A Grain of Truth: How Pollen Brought a Murderer to Justice" (2005) by Lynne Milne.]
amazing pro-Shroud authenticity, pro-Max Frei's pollen findings, pro-Whangers and Danin's flower images on the Shroud, and anti-the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, four pages in a 2005 book, "A Grain of Truth" by respected Australian forensic palynologist, Dr. Lynne Milne. My comments are in bold.
One of the most famous and fascinating cases that involved analysing pollen from woven fabric to determine where something came from is the investigation into the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin.
The Shroud of Turin is a 4.3 x 1.1-metre piece of linen cloth on which a faint image of a man's face and body can be seen. There are various lines of evidence, including blood samples, that suggest that the image is of a man who was crucified. Many believe this is the shroud that was wrapped around the body of Christ after his crucifixion; others believe it's a medieval forgery. Scientists first examined the Shroud at the end of the nineteenth century, and research and debate on its authenticity continue today. Historically, it is alleged that the Shroud was taken from the Holy Land to Constantinople in Turkey and then, in the 1350s it was taken from Turkey to France. The first documented history of the Shroud is from 1357 AD, when it arrived in France. But pollen from the Shroud indicates an earlier history in the Middle East. This summary already shows that Dr. Milne has, unusually, `done her homework' on the Shroud's history.
Pollen was first collected from the Shroud in 1973 by Dr Max Frei,17 [Palenik, S., 1982, "Microscopic trace evidence-the overlooked clue: Part II, Max Frei-Sherlock Holmes with a microscope", Microscope Vol. 30, pp.163-168] then head of the Scientific Service of the Criminal Commission of Investigation  that photographs of the Shroud taken some years before were authentic, he asked for permission to collect dust samples from the Shroud. Shroud sceptics have tried to discredit Max Frei, but while he was not a trained palynologist, he did have a PhD in Botany, and the title of the above paper cited by Milne, "Max Frei-Sherlock Holmes with a microscope," shows that Frei was respected in the forensic science community as a pioneer in the use of pollen to solve crimes.
Frei pressed 5-centimetre sections of transparent sticky tape onto the Shroud, lifted them off and mounted them onto glass microscope slides Police of Zurich, Switzerland. Some of his previous police work was based on pollen and, while testifying at the Turin
for microscopic examination. He found hundreds of pollen grains on the tapes and compared them with reference pollen collected from plants in Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, France and Italy. Only a few pollen grains were from typical European plants found in Italy and France. Most of the pollen was from plants that grow in different parts of Israel, in nearby Turkey, and the western Mediterranean. Thirty-three per cent of the pollen grains were from Gundelia tournefortii, a prickly tumbleweed (thorn) restricted to the
Middle East. Among other pollen types, Frei also reported pollen from Rock Rose [Cistus creticus] and a bean caper plant, Zygophyllum dumosum, that would later help other investigations of the Shroud. From the natural distribution of plants represented in the pollen assemblage Frei concluded that the Shroud originated in the Middle East in an area near the Dead Sea and Palestine, and that it had travelled through Turkey to France and Italy. He collected further tapes from the Shroud in 1978 but didn't finish examining them before his death in 1983. It is refreshing to read that forensic palynologist Milne sees no reason to doubt Frei's identification of pollen on the Shroud as having come from the Middle East. This contrasts with the circular argument of extreme Shroud anti-authenticists Steven Schafersman (and Walter McCrone), that: 1) the Shroud is not authentic; 2) Frei's claimed Middle Eastern distribution of Shroud pollen would be strong evidence that the Shroud is authentic; 3) therefore Frei's Shroud pollen distribution must be fraudulent and Frei must be a fraud:
"In a similar fashion, I will show that Max Frei's pollen data can be most reasonably explained by human fraud because the only other possible explanations are that the Shroud of Turin is authentic, that a miracle occurred, or both. Since we are pretty certain as scientists that the Shroud is not authentic and that miracles don't occur, human deception is the only explanation remaining. Proof is not necessary in this method, the scientific method, at all." (Schafersman, S., in McCrone, W.C., 1999, "Judgment Day for the Shroud of Turin," p.302).
In 1988 radiocarbon dating, commonly expressed as carbon-14 or 14C, of linen strands from the Shroud produced a date of 1325 AD, strangely coincident with the first documented history of the Shroud. Sceptics declared the Shroud a thirteenth-fourteenth century forgery; and because Max Frei wasn't a recognised palynologist, his research and findings were not taken seriously. It is significant that Milne also realised that the midpoint of the 1260-1390 radiocarbon dates of the Shroud is 1325 ±65, which is "strangely coincident with the first documented history of the Shroud" (see "My theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker #2") that this `too good to be true' date is evidence of fraud, i.e. computer hacking. It is also significant that Milne does not include herself among the Shroud "Sceptics".
[Above: One of Scheuermann's corona discharge images of a Chrysanthemum coronarium flower (left), a Chrysanthemum coronarium flower image visible on the Shroud (centre) and a drawing of a Chrysanthemum coronarium flower in Flora Palaestina (right): Whanger, A.D., Council for Study of the Shroud of Turin, Still Image Gallery.]
the Shroud. He conducted experiments and concluded that these images were made by corona discharge-the discharge of radiation from a surface charged with static electricity. That is, where the plant material touched the cloth it lost electrons to the cloth and left faint halo-like images of the outline of the plant material on the cloth. Scheuermann reported his findings to Professor Alan Whanger of Duke University in North Carolina and his wife Mary Whanger. Milne shows an unusual depth of knowledge of Shroud science. As in the previous post, the Whangers are less well known than (say) Ian Wilson. It does not necessarily follow that whatever caused the body image to be imprinted on the cloth was the same as Scheuermann's static electricity discharge but it must also have been able to imprint the images of flowers (and coins).
[Above (click to enlarge): Chrysanthemum coronarium flower image near the head of the man on the Shroud: ShroudScope: Enrie Negative Vertical. This is the clearest flower image on the Shroud and was the first to be seen by Dr. Alan Whanger. The species C. coronarium is native to the Mediterranean and East Asia. See also below.]
and white photographs of the Shroud taken in 1931 and detected hundreds of images of flowers, buds, leaves, fruit and stems around the head and on the chest area of the image of the figure of a man on the Shroud. Tentatively, they identified 28 of the plant images as being from plants that grew in Israel. Milne does not say that she agrees with Whanger's findings but neither does she say that she doesn't. And it it is very unusual, if not unique, that someone who is not a Shroud pro-authenticist (although see below) states the pro-authenticist case so objectively and fairly. Personally I assume that Milne is a closet Shroud pro-authenticist (again see below).
In 1995 the Whangers enlisted the help of a well-respected Israeli botanist, Dr Avinoam Danin, to confirm their identifications of plants in the Shroud images. Danin was impressed. He verified their work and
identified other plants represented by the images. Of particular interest was the image of a flower of the thorn Gundelia tournefortii near the right shoulder of the figure on the Shroud, the same place from which Frei had taken a tape that contained numerous G. tournefortii pollen grains. This is very important that Frei (like STURP members which he wasn't) was apparently oblivious to the plant images on the Shroud, had reported that he found a concentration of G. tournefortii pollen at the very same place on the Shroud that this G. tournefortii image is. This `two-step authentication' is confirmation that both Frei's pollen identification and Danin's plant images identification are correct. And needless to say a medieval forger, and his target audience, would not have known about pollen grains (which can only be seen with a microscope), let alone obscure Middle Eastern plants.
[Above: "An image of Gundelia tournefortii on the right shoulder of the man of the Shroud (marked by a red ellipse); on the right, enlargement of the G. tournefortii inflorescence displaying a long thorn, from below the inflorescence, and large spots at the tips of the short thorns tips." (Danin, A., 2011, "Plant Stories: My studies on the Botany of the Shroud of Turin," February 20th.]
The Whangers had acquired Max Frei's pollen tapes and Danin took them back to Israel in the hope that Dr Uri Baruch, an expert on Israeli palynology, would examine them. Baruch had publicly taken a stand against Frei's findings, but on examining the tapes he changed his opinion. Like Frei, Baruch found that almost one-third of the pollen grains on the tapes were from the thorn Gundelia tournefortii. This is also important because the claim that Frei could only have identified his pollen down to the genus level, not the species level, fails in the case of G. tournefortii because Gundelia is "a monotypic genus," i.e. a genus with only one species, G. tournefortii":
"The two plant species identified as part of the Shroud, beyond any reasonable doubt, are Gundelia tournefortii and Zygophyllum dumosum. Their presence on the Shroud, with the former confirmed by its pollen grains and both identified by presumed imaging, indicate that the Shroud originated in the spring season (March-April) in the Jerusalem area. The high indicative value of Gundelia tournefortii's pollen grains derives from the fact that it is a monotypic genus (Feinbrun-Dothan, 1978). For the Near East, its pollen morphology is unique for the family and for the entire flora. Zygophyllum dumosum is an endemic plant with unusual leaf morphology. Leaves of the present year are produced at the beginning of winter as paired leaflets on a terete petiole while those of previous years can be seen to lack this leaflet pair. The cooccurrence of these two species on the Shroud suggests that they were placed with the body prior to the process that caused the formation of images on the cloth." (Danin, A., Whanger, A.D., Baruch, U. & Whanger, M., 1999, "Flora of the Shroud of Turin," p.23. Bold emphasis mine-see below).
During another visit to the Whangers, Danin identified leaves and flowers of bean caper plants, Zygophyllum dumosum, in the image of a bouquet on the chest area of the figure of a man on the Shroud. At that
[Above: On the chest area, "Zygophyllum dumosum leaflets (L), petioles (P) and flower (F) images shown with a black overlay. On the right an illustration of the plant from Flora Palaestina": Danin, A., "Flora of the Shroud of Turin].
time Danin didn't know that Frei had reported pollen of Z. dumosum on the Shroud tapes. Similarly, an image of a bouquet of Rock Roses was found near the left cheek of the figure. Frei had found Rock Rose pollen on the tapes too. Presumably Milne means that Frei found both Bean Caper (Z. dumosum) and Rock Rose (Cistus creticus) pollen in the same places, that Danin found images of those two different species. If so, these would be two more, separate, `two-step authentication' confirmations that Frei's pollen, and Danin's plant image, identifications are correct.
Although pollen and images from many other plants that grow in the Middle East have been recognised on the Shroud, the independent identification of both pollen and images of Gundelia tournefortii and Zygophyllum dumosum are the most significant. The thorn G. tournefortii is insect pollinated and flowers from February to May.
[Above: Distribution map of the only place on earth where Gundelia tournefortii, Zygophyllum dumosum and Cistus creticus are all found growing together (Danin, A., 2010, "Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin," p.52), the area around Jerusalem (green circle superimposed by me).].
Such great numbers of pollen from this species could only have arrived on the Shroud from a flower being placed on it. Zygophyllum dumosum is restricted to Israel, western Jordan and Sinai, and its northernmost distribution occurs between Jerusalem and Jericho.18 [Danin, A. & Baruch, U., "Floristic indicators for the origin of the Shroud of Turin," in Minor, M., et. al., eds., 2001, "The Shroud of Turin: Unraveling the mystery," Proceedings of the 1998 Dallas Symposium, pp.202-214.] The natural distributions of G. tournefortii and Z. dumosum overlap in two small areas, both in the Holy Land. From studying distribution grids of all the plants identified by pollen or images, Danin reported that the area the Shroud may have originated from is 10-20 kilometres east and west of Jerusalem. What Milne is clearly implying is what others have stated:
"So for Gundelia pollen to be so strongly represented has to mean either that a whole swarm of insects flew from Gundelia plants to land on the Shroud - highly unlikely - or that at some time some person or persons unknown deliberately laid flowering Gundelia tournefortii plants on it. ... it is quite definite that whoever did this has to have done so somewhere within the Middle Eastern geographical area where the plant is known to grow, an area specifically including Jerusalem. They also have to have done so at a time of the year when Gundelia is known to bloom, and therefore produce pollen, a time that botanists ... can narrow to between March and May. So is it mere coincidence that this was the very period of the year within which Jesus' Passover-linked crucifixion occurred?" (Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," p.91).
That is, the abundance of G. tournefortii pollen and plant images (together with those of Z. dumosum and C. creticus) must mean these flowers were placed on the body of the Man, and then covered with the Shroud, in or around Jerusalem between March and May, the same time and place that Jesus was crucified (see below)!
The Whangers, Danin, Baruch and others have plenty of ammunition for the sceptics. The documented history of the Shroud shows that since 1352 AD it hasn't left Europe. If the similar carbon-14 date for the age of the Shroud is correct, how did so many pollen grains and images of plants from the Middle East come to be on the Shroud? The carbon-14 dating has since been discounted. The linen threads that were dated are chemically different from most of the' Shroud linen. Was this younger thread used for mending the Shroud when it first arrived in France, or before it was taken from Constantinople? Milne has `come out of the closet' and is clearly a Shroud pro-authenticist (whether she realises it or not), differentiating herself from Shroud sceptics, pointing out that the Shroud must have had an undocumented history outside of Europe before 1352, in the Middle East, the carbon-14 date for the age of the Shroud cannot be correct and indeed has been "discounted"!
However, she is wrong that, "The linen threads [sic] that were dated are chemically different from most of the' Shroud linen." That is Benford and Marino's claim but as I pointed out in Benford and Marino admit that to shift the carbon-date of 1st century linen shroud to the 14th century would require that the Shroud sample was 60% 16th century, when it clearly isn't. The same 60% contamination requirement refutes all contamination theories. The only theory which satisfactorily explains how the 1st century Shroud has a 14th century carbon date, 1352 ± 65 years, is my computer hacker theory.My theory that the radiocarbon dating laboratories were duped by a computer hacker #1,"
Are the images of plant material on the Shroud artefacts or 'faces in the clouds' as one sceptic put it? They could be, but it's unlikely. After examining the pollen and image evidence, even the aforementioned sceptic agreed the images may be authentic. Some images can be seen on the Shroud without the aid of photographic enhancement, and the same images can be seen in photographs of the Shroud taken in 1898 and 1978-eighty years apart and with different cameras, films and developing methods. In this instance the "sceptic" is the pro-authenticist Ian Wilson:
"For such reasons Barrie Schwortz and I, along with many others who favour the Shroud's authenticity, dismissed Alan Whanger's insights as having too much of a `faces in clouds' character to be considered in the same scientific league as the pollen evidence. Yet, in fairness to him, in the case of the flower images in particular there are some very good reasons to be wary of too readily dismissing his insights. ... at the March 2000 viewing of the Shroud I was very close to Danin as we were ushered into the Cathedral sacristy. ... Then, as we were able to get within touching distance of the Shroud, the spontaneity of his reaction was quite infectious. As his eyes focused on the shoulder area, in almost childlike delight he recognized, as only one of his so specialized botanical expertise could, the Gundelia inflorescence's presence on this. ... Quite obvious was that for Danin, the world's leading expert on the flora of Israel, here, on this piece of cloth displayed in a northern Italian Cathedral side-room, was utterly unqualified recognition of a plant that he positively knew to come from the environs of his own Jerusalem. And in my observing this recognition, I could only bow to his very special `eye' for such things - as he subsequently explained to me, a `gift' from his childhood. The natural daylight lighting Turin Cathedral's sacristy was clear and even, and as, during the two hours allotted to us, my eyes continued to rove the Shroud's surface, quite apparent was that flower images are not just an aberration of black-and-white photographs. Faint flower-like shapes are quite definitely there on the cloth itself, and while no doubt many can deservedly be dismissed as merely of the `faces in clouds' variety, the `hard' evidence of the pollens, combined with my first-hand observation of Danin's very special eye at work, now persuades me to believe that some at least are `real'. (Wilson & Schwortz, 2000, pp.84,91-92. Emphasis original).
who indeed, as can be seen above, after examining the plant images on the Shroud, agreed that at least some of them are authentic. Not only can some of the plant images be seen on the Shroud directly by the naked eye, as pointed out by Danin, the same images can be seen in photographs of the Shroud taken over 80 years apart, by different photographers, cameras, films and developing methods:
"Confirmation that the plant images are not a result of artifacts of photographic enhancement of Enrie's (1931) negatives is provided by the identical images discovered on photos taken by other photographers. A few of the most significant images were discovered and confirmed (by Danin) in several additional sources (Table 5). There are differences of 80 and 45 years between the three photographic intervals, all by different investigators, by different cameras, with different optical qualities, with different film emulsions and spectral characteristics, as well as film development under different darkroom conditions. Yet, many significant images were consistently observed in the photos of different generations. These similarities establish that the images are not artifacts of photography, but are part of the nature of the Shroud." (Danin, A., et al., 1999, p.21).
The two independent botanical methods, palynology and the analysis of the halo-like images left by coronal discharge, show that plants were placed on the Shroud. Pollen analysis narrowed down the area from which the Shroud originated and determined the time of year when the pollen arrived on it. None of this proves that the Shroud was used to cover the body of Christ. I'm not an adherent of traditional religion, but the abundant presence of pollen from the thorn Gundelia tournefortii and its image near the shoulder of the figure oil the Shroud does provoke thought. This species is not an ornamental and is unlikely to have been used in a floral tribute. That Milne is "not an adherent of traditional religion" makes her fairness and objectivity in considering the pollen and plant image evidence on the Shroud that much more impressive. She cannot be dismissed as being biased in favour of the Shroud by her prior Christian beliefs, as leading Shroud anti-authenticist Joe Nickell and his ilk routinely (and ad hominem fallaciously) do. Milne is correct that the pollen and plant image evidence, although it does narrow down the area from which the Shroud originated (in and around Jerusalem), and the time of year when the pollen arrived on the Shroud (from February to May - and Jesus was crucified just outside the then wall of Jerusalem in April AD 30) does not itself in isolation, "prove... that the Shroud was used to cover the body of Christ."
But then the other evidence that the Man on the Shroud "was flogged, crucified, wore a crown of thorns, did not have his legs broken, was nailed to the cross, had his side pierced, and so on" had already narrowed it down so that, as leading Shroud anti-authenticists Steven Schafersman and Joe Nickell agreed, "Either the shroud is authentic ... produced by the body of Jesus) or it is a product of human artifice," and there is no "possible third hypothesis":
"As the (red ochre) dust settles briefly over Sindondom, it becomes clear there are only two choices: Either the shroud is authentic (naturally or supernaturally produced by the body of Jesus) or it is a product of human artifice. Asks Steven Schafersman: [Schafersman, S.D., 1982, "Science, the public, and the Shroud of Turin," "The Skeptical Inquirer," Vol. 6, No. 3, Spring, pp.37-56, p.42] Is there a possible third hypothesis? No, and here's why. Both Wilson [Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin," pp.51-53.] and Stevenson and Habermas [Stevenson, K.E. & Habermas, G.R., 1981, "Verdict on the Shroud," pp.121-129] go to great lengths to demonstrate that the man imaged on the shroud must be Jesus Christ and not someone else. After all, the man on this shroud was flogged, crucified, wore a crown of thorns, did not have his legs broken, was nailed to the cross, had his side pierced, and so on. Stevenson and Habermas [Ibid., p.128] even calculate the odds as 1 in 83 million that the man on the shroud is not Jesus Christ (and they consider this a very conservative estimate). I agree with them on all of this. If the shroud is authentic, the image is that of Jesus." (Nickell, J., 1987, "Inquest on the Shroud of Turin," p.141. Emphasis original).
And Schafersman "and so on" could have included that the Man on the Shroud's body did not decompose (which is why we have his burial shroud at all), his body and the Shroud separated without breaking the blood clots attached to both, his image (including that of flowers and coins over his eyes) was imprinted on the cloth, in photographic negative and three-dimensional, anatomically accurate detail, his teeth and some bones are visible under his skin, some of the pollen (including G. tournefortii) and AB blood type matches that of the Sudarium of Oviedo which has been in Spain since the 7th century, etc, etc, narrows it down still further so that beyond any reasonable doubt the image of the Man on the Shroud can only be of Jesus, since the only other possibility that is a product of 14th century or earlier "human artifice" is excluded by Frei's pollen and Danin plant image evidence alone, not to mention historical, archaeological and artistic evidence that the Shroud existed well before the 14th century and indeed all the way back to the 1st century.
After all, Milne herself has provided pollen and plant evidence, which combined with far less other evidence than that on and of the Shroud, has secured convictions in courts of law, on the basis of proof beyond reasonable doubt, which is the theme of her book:
"In 1996 Samantha Hall, a young mother of two, was brutally murdered and her body dumped in parkland near Noosa in the heart of Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Despite suspicions, evidence was thin until the police called in a forensic palynologist - a pollen specialist. Forensic palynology is the use of pollen and spores to help solve crimes. It is another investigative tool, like fingerprint analysis and DNA profiling which is increasingly used by police to solve crimes. Interwoven with the unfolding story of how Samantha's killer was brought to justice, A Grain of Truth opens the door on a new forensic tool that is being used to solve crimes and other mysteries." (Milne, 2005, inside front cover).
(Milne, L., 2005, "A Grain of Truth: How Pollen Brought a Murderer to Justice," New Holland: Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia, pp.92-95).
Posted: 22 August 2014. Updated: 17 October 2016.