Friday, March 22, 2013

The Shroud of Turin: 2.6. The other marks (3): Dirt on foot and limestone

Here is "2.6. The other marks" (3): Dirt on foot and limestone, which is part 14 of my series, "The Shroud of Turin">The Shroud of Turin." The previous post in this series was part 13, "2.6. The other marks" (2): Poker holes." See the Contents page (part 1) for more information about this series. This page had previously been posted as part of a combined "Poker holes, dirt on foot and limestone" post, but I later expanded the `poker holes' section, which made the post too long, so I decided to separate out the "dirt on foot and limestone" part and repost it, hence this post.

© Stephen E. Jones

As explained in a previous post, by "other marks" I mean those significant marks on the Shroud of Turin which are not wounds (see "2.4. The wounds") or bloodstains (see "2.5. The Bloodstains"). In previous "Other marks" posts I covered the "Burns and water stains" (1) and "Poker holes" (2). In this post I will cover the dirt on the man's foot and the limestone in that dirt. Again the order in which they are presented is from the most to the least obvious (not necessarily from the most to the least important).

Dirt on foot In 1978 STURP (Shroud of Turin Project) members, husband and wife Roger and Marty Gilbert, while carrying out reflectance spectroscopy on the Shroud, discovered an unusual

[Above (enlarge): bloodstains and image of the right foot, on the dorsal side of the Shroud: Shroud Scope: Durante 2002 Vertical. The heel is lower left.]

spectral signal from the heel of the right foot on the dorsal side[1] and nowhere else on the Shroud[2]. As we saw in "2.5. The bloodstains" there is a clear imprint of the right foot only and that only on the dorsal side of the Shroud[3]. When the area was examined under a microscope, dirt particles could be seen deep between the threads[4]. It is logical to find dirt on the foot of a man who wore sandals, as Jesus did (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:7; Jn 1:27)[5], and who would have been barefoot before he was crucified[6]. That the dirt is not a later contamination is shown by it being under the bloodstains on the foot[7]. But the dirt is not easily seen with the naked eye[8], so no forger would have put it there[9]. Therefore this is yet another problem for the forgery theory[§13].

Limestone In October 1978 the Shroud of Turin Project (STURP), as part of its five day intensive scientific investigation of the Shroud, took thirty-two samples[10] of surface material on the Shroud by pressing a specially formulated sticky-tape onto body image, bloodstain, waterstain and non-image areas of the cloth[11]. Los Alamos chemist, Dr. Ray Rogers, was responsible for this task[12] and so he took the sticky tape samples back with him to the USA[13]. In 1982 Rogers gave some of the sticky-tape samples to optical crystallographer Dr Joseph Kohlbeck, for him to make photomicrographs of them[14]. Kohlbeck became interested in some crystals of calcium carbonate (limestone) he found on some of the tapes [15]. Under his microscope he found from their crystalline structure that they were of the comparatively rare travertine (deposited from springs) aragonite variety of calcium carbonate rather than the more common calcite[16]. Kohlbeck knew that travertine aragonite limestone was typically found in limestone caves in Palestine[17]. The question then occurred to him whether their chemical signature might match the limestone of the tomb in which Jesus was laid in Jerusalem[18]. Kohlbeck realised that it might be difficult obtaining samples from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem but he reasoned that limestone from other tombs around Jerusalem should have the same characteristics[19].

An archaeologist, Dr Eugenia Nitowski, who had made a study of ancient Jewish tombs in Israel, was able to obtain for Kohlbeck limestone samples from a number of tombs in and around Jerusalem[20]. Kohlbeck found that that the calcium carbonate in the Jerusalem samples was of the same rare travertine aragonite variety as the samples taken from the Shroud[21].

To confirm whether the Jerusalem tombs limestone did have the same chemical signature as the Shroud samples, Kohlbeck asked Dr Ricardo Levi-Setti at the University of Chicago to compare them using the University's high-resolution scanning ion

[Above: Dr Ricardo Levi-Setti's scanning ion microprobe comparisons of Jerusalem limestone and limestone on Shroud[22]]

microprobe[23]. The Shroud sample tested was from the same foot area of the Shroud where Roger and Marty Gilbert had found the abovementioned dirt[24] because it had a larger concentration of calcium carbonate than other areas[25]. From their spectral patterns it was clear that the Shroud and Jerusalem tomb limestone samples were very close match[26]. Both the Shroud and the Jerusalem samples contained small amounts of iron and strontium, but no lead[27], and their spectral patterns were an unusually close match[28]. They would have been an even closer match but for a slight organic variation due to particles of flax which could not be separated from the Shroud's calcium[29].

While this does not absolutely prove that the aragonite limestone on the heel of the Shroud man came from a Jerusalem limestone tomb[30], it is further evidence that it did. The onus is on the Shroud sceptics to explain how limestone which specifically (if not uniquely) matches that found in and around Jerusalem came to be on the Shroud[31]. It is a major problem for the forgery theory to explain how the barely visible dirt on the heel of the Shroud man, `just happens' to contain the same rare travertine aragonite limestone found in and around Jerusalem[§14]. No medieval or earlier forger would have thought of including such details, which would have been ignored by his contemporaries because of their microscopic size[32].

1. Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, p.93. [return]
2. Ibid. [return]
3. Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus?," Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.42. [return]
4. Heller, J.H., 1983, "Report on the Shroud of Turin," Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston MA, pp.112-113. [return]
5. Heller, 1983, p.113. [return]
6. Ibid. [return]
7. Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, p.67. [return]
8. Wilson, 2010, p.66. [return]
9. Heller, 1983, p.113. [return]
10. Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, p.4. [return]
11. Wilson, I. & Miller, V., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, p.59. [return]
12. Ibid. [return]
13. Wilson & Miller, 1986, p.61. [return]
14. Wilson, 1998, p.104. [return]
15. Ibid. [return]
16. Wilson, 1998, p.105. [return]
17. Ruffin, C.B., 1999, "The Shroud of Turin: The Most Up-To-Date Analysis of All the Facts Regarding the Church's Controversial Relic," Our Sunday Visitor: Huntington IN, p.103. [return]
18. Wilson, 1998, p.104. [return]
19. Wilson, 1998, pp.104-105. [return]
20. Wilson, 1998, p.105. [return]
21. Ibid. [return]
22. Barta, C. & Bracaglia, G., 2011, "New evidence may explain image on Shroud of Turin" by Kohlbeck and Nitowski. Biblical Archeological Review (BAR), vol 12 n. 4, 1986, pp.23-24," Holy Shroud Guild. [return]
23. Wilson, 1998, p.105. [return]
24. Ibid. [return]
25. Ibid. [return]
26. Wilson, 1998, p.106. [return]
27. Wilson, 1998, p.105. [return]
28. Ibid. [return]
29. Wilson, 1998, p.106. [return]
30. Wilson, 1998, p.105. [return]
31. De Wesselow, 2012, p.115. [return]
32. Guscin, M., 1998, "The Oviedo Cloth," Lutterworth Press: Cambridge UK, p.79. [return]
§13, §14. To be further examined under "9. Problems of the forgery theory". [return]

Continued in part 14, "2.6. The other marks (4): Plant images"

Posted 22 March 2013. Updated 5 January 2023.


Sylvia60 said...

Have you seen this?

Sylvia60 said...

A quick search shows that travertine aragonite limestone is found all over the world and in fact derives its name from the quarries of this stone in the Travertine.

It seems to me this subject is just going over old material and doesn't really bring anything new to the subject.

Stephen E. Jones said...


>Have you seen this?

Yes, I had seen it. But I can't see that it makes any difference to my post above.

That Ray Rogers' original tape samples cannot now be located does not change the fact that he sent samples from STURP's tapes to Dr. J. Kohlbeck for higher magnification, and Kohlbeck found that the limestone from the foot area of the Shroud was the comparatively rare travertine aragonite.

And Kohlbeck sent a sample of the aragonite limestone from the foot area of the Shroud to Prof. R. Levi-Setti for examination under an ion microprobe, and Levi-Setti found that the chemical signature of that aragonite limestone's matched that of samples from in and around Jerusalem collected by Dr E. Nitowski.

Stephen E. Jones
Comments are moderated. Those I consider off-topic, offensive or sub-standard will not appear. I reserve the right to respond to any comment as a separate blog post.

Stephen E. Jones said...


>A quick search shows that travertine aragonite limestone is found all over the world

No one said it wasn't. But that doesn't mean it is not relatively rare, compared to calcite.

And the chemical signature of that particular travertine aragonite, with its particular levels of strontium and iron, has to date only been found in and around Jerusalem.

>and in fact derives its name from the quarries of this stone in the Travertine.

You are confusing two things. "Travertine" is the name for limestone which is deposited by springs. There is also the more common travertine calcite.

But aragonite was first discovered near Aragon in Spain, not at Travertine in Italy. So presumably travertine aragonite, if it exists at Travertine, Italy, was not originally noticed.

>It seems to me this subject is just going over old material and doesn't really bring anything new to the subject.

As is obvious from my extensive footnotes, I am definitely "going over old material"! That is for the benefit of those readers who may not be aware of that "old material. If you don't like that, then don't read my blog.

But it does not follow that I don't "bring anything new to the subject." In my `Poker holes' post immediately before the post that this comment is under, I brought something new to that subject.

Stephen E. Jones

Anonymous said...


You may not get this in time, but there is a show on the Shroud tonight at 7:30pm on SBS1.

You might want to remove this comment as it is not relevant to the limestone subject.



Stephen E. Jones said...


>You may not get this in time, but there is a show on the Shroud tonight at 7:30pm on SBS1.

Thanks. I did get it in time on my smartphone but a friend had already told me a few days ago that there was going to be a documentary on SBS 1 on the Shroud of Turin on Sunday 24 March at 7:30 pm.

It had not occurred to me to post the news to my blog, but as soon as I got home I did that in: "Shroud on SBS 1 Australia at 7:30 pm tonight Sunday 24 March."

But because of the three-hour time zone difference between Perth and the Eastern States capitals Sydney and Melbourne the show would have already started when my post appeared.

>You might want to remove this comment as it is not relevant to the limestone subject.

In the circumstances it was OK to use a comment under my then latest blog post to alert me and others about the imminent Shroud documentary.


Thanks again for letting me know.

Stephen E. Jones