THE ORIGIN OF THE SHROUD OF TURIN
FROM THE NEAR EAST AS EVIDENCED BY
PLANT IMAGES AND BY POLLEN GRAINS

by
Dr. Avinoam Danin,
Professor of Botany, Department of Evolution,
Systematics, and Ecology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel 91904

Copyright 1998
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission


Hundreds of images of plant parts, such as flowers, flowering buds, fruits, stems, and leaves were found on high-grade photographs made from negatives by Enrie of 1931. These photographs were enlarged to life size and many were photographically enhanced to show these faint images more clearly. These images are mainly clustered around the head area but also extend down the sides of the upper body and onto the abdomen. They were observed initially by Dr. A. and Mrs. M. Whanger, and were confirmed more recently by me. While the images are of slightly wilted flowers rather tightly clustered together, many of them are quite identifiable even though they are faint, partial, and of low contrast. Experimental studies with corona discharge by physicist O. Scheuermann produced images from flowers similar to the images found on the Shroud. Nearly thirty species have been identified visually from the Shroud images. This correlates significantly with the studies by forensic microscopist Dr. Max Frei, who took sticky tape samples from the Shroud in 1973 and 1978. He found many pollen grains on these tapes, and tentatively identified some fifty-eight genera or species, mostly from plants growing in the Near East. Gundelia tournefortii L., a thorn, is one of the plants whose images I identified near the anatomical right side of the head image. Dr. Uri Baruch, palynologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority who made his M.SC. and Ph.D. dissertations on the flora of Israel, analyzed most of Frei's 1973 sticky tape pollen specimens and ten of the twenty-five 1978 sticky tapes. He examined 165 pollen grains, of which 45 (27.3%) were Gundelia tournefortii. On some of the tapes, he found more than ten grains in an area less than 5x1 cm. When Baruch was collecting "pollen rain" at various sites in the Judean Mountains and Judean Desert, he never found at any site more than 1 or 2 grains of this plant. The images of the plant and the presence of so many of its pollen grains on the Shroud prove that blooming plants were placed on the Shroud, as the pollen grains could not have been deposited by wind. G. tournefortii blooms in Israel from February (in the semi-desert warm parts) to May (in Jerusalem), hence testifying the time these plants could have been placed on the Shroud. G. tournefortii grows only in the Near East; therefore, the Shroud could have come only from the Near East.

Images of Zygophyllum dumosum Boiss, an endemic plant of Israel, Jordan, and Sinai, do not need any verification of pollen grains, although they are present in Frei's list. Two kinds of leaf images as well as flower images of this plant were identified on the Shroud. The unique leaf pattern development, visible on the Shroud, will be illustrated. Other species of Zygophyllum do not have this morphology. These plant images are observed on both the Enrie (1931), Miller (1978), Pia (1898) photographs, and I saw the large leaf with my own eyes armed with binoculars when visiting Turin June 5, 1998. All these indicate that the Zygophyllum images are not photographic artifacts. The northernmost place on earth where this plant could have been collected fresh is 15-30 km between the Sea Level sign on the road to Jericho and the Jordan River.

The authenticity of the Near East as the source of the Shroud of Turin is completely verified to me as a botanist through the images and pollen grains of Gundelia tournefortii and the images of Zygophyllum dumosum leaves. Other important botanical findings, such as the images of some 200 fruits of two-three species of Pistacia and the reed Arundo donax, will be described and illustrated by photographs. Using my data base of more than 90,000 sites of plant distribution, the place that best fits the assemblage of the plant species whose images and often pollen grains have been identified on the Shroud is 10-20 km east and west of Jerusalem. The common blooming time of most of these species is spring = March and April.



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