The Authentication of the Turin Shroud:
An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology

by William Meacham - Archaeologist
CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY - Vol. 24 - N° 3 - (June 1983)
Published by the University of Chicago Press
Copyright 1983 by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission

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OF ALL RELIGIOUS RELICS, the reputed burial cloth of Christ held since 1578 in Turin has generated the greatest controversy. Centuries before science cast the issue in a totally new perspective, disputes over the authenticity of the Shroud involved eminent prelates and provoked a minor ecclesiastical power struggle. From its first recorded exhibition in France in 1357, this cloth has been the object of mass veneration, on the one hand, and scorn from a number of learned clerics and freethinkers, on the other. Appearing as it did in an age of unparalleled relic-mongering and forgery and, if genuine, lacking documentation of its whereabouts for 1,300 years, the Shroud would certainly have long ago been consigned to the ranks of spurious relics (along with several other shrouds with similar claims) were it not for the extraordinary image it bears.

Sepia-yellow in color, the apparent frontal and dorsal imprints of a man's body may be discerned on this 4.3 X 1.1-m linen cloth. Stains of a slightly darker carmine or rust color, with the appearance of blood, are seen in areas consistent with the biblical account of the scourging and crucifixion of Christ. The image lacks the sharp outline and vivid color of a painting and is described as "melting away" as the viewer approaches the cloth. Yet the consensus of skeptical opinion up to the 1930s (with a few surviving remnants today) was that the image was indeed a medieval painting of Jesus which had through time taken on the appearance of a truly ancient relic.

Modern technology served as a catalyst to renewed controversy when the Shroud was first photographed, during a rare exhibition in 1898. Black-and-white photography had the fortuitous effect of considerably heightening the contrast of the image, thus bringing out details not readily discernible to the naked eye. Remarkably, its negative image was found to be an altogether more lifelike portrait of the body and, especially, of the face. From the rather grotesque and murky facial imprint visible on the cloth, reversal of light and dark revealed a harmonious and properly proportioned visage. This discovery of course created a sensation in the media, with claims of miraculous intervention and accusations of darkroom hoax.

Photography made another and far more important contribution in making available copies and enlargements of the Shroud image for detailed study by anatomists and art historians. By the time of its next exhibition in 1931, the Shroud had attracted a considerable following among scholars; it was inspected at that time by experts in various fields, and a vastly superior set of photographs was taken (see figs. 1 and 2). The scientific inquiry into this object, whether medieval fraud or "the holiest icon upon the holiest relic" (Stacpoole 1978), had begun, culminating by 1980 in what must be the most intensive and varied scrutiny by scientific means of any archaeological or art object in history.

In a statement which may not be as hyperbolic as it seems, Walsh (1963:8) observed: "The Shroud of Turin is either the most awesome and instructive relic of Jesus Christ in existence... or it is one of the most ingenious, most unbelievably clever, products of the human mind and hand on record. It is one or the other; there is no middle ground." However, as in almost every complex issue, there is indeed a middle ground (albeit rather weak) in this case, but it has not to my knowledge been investigated in other writings on the Shroud. Clearly, every remote possibility of forgery, hoax, accident, or combination thereof must be examined before a firm archaeological/historical judgement on this artifact can be proffered.

Of the three interrelated areas of interest in this relic - authenticity, mechanism of image formation, and religious significance - we shall be concerned here mainly with the first. While high technology and theology contend respectively with the other aspects of the relic, determination of its origin and place in history is an archaeological issue. The cloth is an unprovenanced artifact purporting to be associated with events in recorded history and encoded with considerable information about its past. Direct study and testing of the relic since 1900 have yielded a wealth of data, and in this paper I attempt to review and summarize the major empirical data and other relevant research. Further, and unlike the authors of the most recent broad reviews on Shroud studies (e.g. Wilson 1978, Sox 1981, Schwalbe and Rogers 1982), I address the question of authenticity in historical/archaeological terms.

Authentication of the Shroud differs from that of manuscripts, sculptures, and other materials only in the wide range of data from many disciplines - anatomy, scientific analyses, history, archaeology, art history, exegesis - which has a bearing on the issue. The fact that it is a religious relic associated with supernatural claims is of no consequence here; certainly there is no justification for employing different or stricter criteria than for any other important artifact, except perhaps in according greater consideration to the possibility of forgery. Considerations of the Shroud have frequently been marred by an intense desire to believe and an imprecise use of data among the overzealous and by an insistence on impossible standards of proof among the skeptics. Clearly, authenticity should be judged on criteria no more and no less stringent than those applied in the usual identification of ancient city sites, royal tombs, manuscripts, etc.

The Shroud of Turin as seen by the naked eye (above, top image) and in photographic negative (above, bottom image). Amidst burn marks, patches, water stains, and creases, the frontal and dorsal images of a male body may be discerned, with apparent blood flows at the wrists, right side (in the positive), head, and feet. Photograph by G. Enrie, 1933; © 1935, 1963 by the Holy Shroud Guild.

The facial imprint on the Shroud of Turin as it appears to the viewer (above, left) and in photographic negative (above, right). Photograph by G. Enrie, 1933; © 1935, 1963 by the Holy Shroud Guild.


Scientific scrutiny of the Shroud image began in 1900 at the Sorbonne. Under the direction of Yves Delage, professor of comparative anatomy, a study was undertaken of the physiology and pathology of the apparent body imprint and of the possible manner of its formation. The image was found to be anatomically flawless down to minor details: the characteristic features of rigor mortis, wounds, and blood flows provided conclusive evidence to the anatomists that the image was formed by direct or indirect contact with a corpse, not painted onto the cloth or scorched thereon by a hot statue (two of the current theories). On this point all medical opinion since the time of Delage has been unanimous (notably Hynek 1936; Vignon 1939; Moedder 1949; Caselli 1950; La Cava 1953; Sava 1957; Judica-Cordiglia 1961; Barbet 1963 ; Bucklin 1970; Willis, in Wilson 1978; Cameron 1978; Zugibe, in Murphy 1981). This line of evidence is of great importance in the question of authenticity and is briefly reviewed below.

The body was that of an adult male, nude, with beard, mustache, and long hair falling to the shoulders and drawn at the back into a pigtail. Height is estimated at between 5 ft. 9 in. and 5 ft. 11 in. (175-180 cm), weight at 165-180 lb. (75-81 kg), and age at 30 to 45 years. Carleton Coon (quoted in Wilcox 1977:133) describes the man as "of a physical type found in modern times among Sephardic Jews and noble Arabs." Curto (quoted in Sox 1981:70, 131), however, describes the physiognomy as more Iranian than Semitic. The body is well proportioned and muscular, with no observable defects.

Death had occurred several hours before the deposition of the corpse, which was laid out on half of the Shroud, the other half then being drawn over the head to cover the body. It is clear that the cloth was in contact with the body for at least a few hours, but not more than two to three days, assuming that decomposition was progressing at the normal rate. Both frontal and dorsal images have the marks of many small drops of a postmortem serous fluid exuded from the pores. There is, however, no evidence of initial decomposition of the body, no issue of fluids from the orifices, and no decline of rigor mortis leading to flattening of the back and blurred or double imprints.

Rigor mortis is seen in the stiffness of the extremities, the retraction of the thumbs (discussed below), and the distention of the feet. It has frozen an attitude of death while hanging by the arms; the rib cage is abnormally expanded, the large pectoral muscles are in an attitude of extreme inspiration (enlarged and drawn up toward the collarbone and arms), the lower abdomen is distended, and the epigastric hollow is drawn in sharply. The protrusion of the femoral quadriceps and hip muscles is consistent with slow death by hanging, during which the victim must raise his body by exertion of the legs in order to exhale.

The evidence of death in a position of suspension by the arms coupled with the characteristic wounds and blood flows indicate that the individual had been crucified. The rigor mortis position of outstretched arms would have had to be broken in order to cross the hands at the pelvis for burial, and a probable result is seen in the slight dislocation of the right elbow and shoulder. The feet indicate something of their original positioning on the cross, the left being placed on the instep of the right with a single nail impaling both. Apparently there was some flexion of the left knee to achieve this position, leaving the left foot somewhat higher than the right. Two theories, each supported by experimental or wartime observations, contend as regards cause of death: asphyxiation due to muscular spasm, progressive rigidity, and inability to exhale (Barbet, Hynek, Bucklin) or circulatory failure from lowering of blood pressure and pooling of blood in the lower extremities (Moedder, Willis).

Of greatest interest and importance are the wounds. As with the general anatomy of the image, the wounds, blood flows, and the stains themselves appear to forensic pathologists flawless and unfakeable. "Each of the different wounds acted in a characteristic fashion. Each bled in a manner which corresponded to the nature of the injury. The blood followed gravity in every instance" (Bucklin 1961:5). The bloodstains are perfect, bordered pictures of blood clots, with a concentration of red corpuscles around the edge of the clot and a tiny area of serum inside. Also discernible are a number of facial wounds, listed by Willis (cited in Wilson 1978:23) as swelling of both eyebrows, torn right eyelid, large swelling below right eye, swollen nose, bruise on right cheek, swelling in left cheek and left side of chin.

The body is peppered with marks of a severe flogging estimated at between 60 and 120 lashes of a whip with two or three studs at the thong end. Each contusion is about 3.7 cm long, and these are found on both sides of the body from the shoulders to the calves, with only the arms spared. Superimposed on the marks of flogging on the right shoulder and left scapular region are two broad excoriated areas, generally considered to have resulted from friction or pressure from a flat surface, as from carrying the crossbar or writhing on the cross. There are also contusions on both knees and cuts on the left kneecap, as from repeated falls.

The wounds of the crucifixion itself are seen in the blood flows from the wrists and feet. One of the most interesting features of the Shroud is that the nail wounds are in the wrists, not in the palm as traditionally depicted in art. Experimenting with cadavers and amputated arms, Barbet (1953:102-20) demonstrated that nailing at the point indicated on the Shroud image, the so-called space of Destot between the bones of the wrist, allowed the body weight to be supported, where-as the palm would tear away from the nail under a fraction of the body weight. Sava (1957:440) holds that the wristbones and tendons would be severely damaged by nailing and that the Shroud figure was nailed through the wrist end of the forearm, but most medical opinion concurs in siting the nailing at the wrist. Barbet also observed that the median nerve was invariably injured by the nail, causing the thumb to retract into the palm. Neither thumb is visible on the Shroud, their position in the palm presumably being retained by rigor mortis.

The blood flow from the wrists trails down the forearms at two angles, roughly 55° and 65° from the axis of the arm, thus allowing the crucifixion position of the arms to be reconstructed. It is generally agreed that the separate flows from the left wrist and the interrupted streams along the length of the arm are due to slightly different positions assumed by the body on the cross. This seesaw motion is interpreted as necessary simply in order to breathe or as an attempt to relieve the pain in the wrists (the median nerve is also sensory and pain from injuries to it excruciating). A postmortem blood flow with separation of serum is seen around the left wrist and more copiously at the feet, presumably from the removal of the nails.

The pathology described thus far may well have characterized any number of crucifixion victims, since beating, scourging, carrying the crossbar, and nailing were common traits of a Roman execution. The lacerations about the upper bead and the wound in the side are unusual and thus crucial in the identification of the Shroud figure. The exact nature of these wounds, especially whether they were inflicted on a living body and whether they could have been faked, is highly significant. Around the upper scalp and extending to its vertex are at least 30 blood flows from spike punctures. These wounds exhibit the same realism as those of the hand and feet: the bleeding is highly characteristic of scalp wounds with the retraction of torn vessels, the blood meets obstructions as it flows and pools on the forehead and hair, and there appears to be swelling around the points of laceration (though Bucklin [personal communication, 1982] doubts that swelling can be discerned). Several clots have the distinctive characteristics of either venous or arterial blood, as seen in the density, uniformity, or modality of coagulation (Rodante 1982). One writer (Freeland, cited in Sox 1981) questions the highly visible nature of the wounds and clots, as if the Shroud man had been bald or the stains painted over the body image.

Between the fifth and sixth ribs on the right side is an oval puncture about 4.4 X 1.1 cm. Blood has flowed down from this wound and also onto the lower back, indicating a second outflow when the body was moved to a horizontal position. All authorities agree that this wound was inflicted after death, judging from the small quantity of blood issued, the separation of clot and serum, the lack of swelling, and the deeper color and more viscous consistency of the blood. Stains of a body fluid are intermingled with the blood, and numerous theories have been offered as to its origin: pericardial fluid (Judica, Barbet), fluid from the pleural sac (Moedder), or serous fluid from settled blood in the pleural cavity (Saval, Bucklin).

So convincing was the realism of these wounds and their association with the biblical accounts that Delage, an agnostic, declared them "a bundle of imposing probabilities" and concluded that the Shroud figure was indeed Christ. His assistant, Vignon (1937), declared the Shroud's identification to be "as sure as a photograph or set of fingerprints." Ironically, the most vehement opposition was to come from two of Europe's most learned clerics.


While medical studies of the body image were providing strong evidence for genuineness, inquiries into the Shroud's history showed its case to be extremely weak. In 1900, the distinguished scholar Canon Ulisse Chevalier published a series of historical documents shedding light on the early years of the Shroud in France and casting seemingly insurmountable doubts on its authenticity. An English Jesuit, Herbert Thurston, condemned the relic in a persuasive and powerful style "that muted and almost stifled the controversy in the English-speaking world" (Walsh 1963:69).

With rivals at Besançon, Cadouin, Champiegne, and elsewhere, this purported "Shroud of Christ" appeared in 1353 in Lirey, France, under mysterious circumstances and with no documentation whatever. It immediately began to draw large numbers of pilgrims to a modest wooden church founded by the Shroud's owner and tended by six clergy but in financial difficulties. Its exhibition was condemned by the resident bishop, Henri de Poitiers. His successor, Pierre d'Arcis, compiled a memorandum in 1389 urging the pope to prohibit further exhibitions of the relic because its fraudulent nature had been discovered by de Poitiers and an unnamed artist had confessed to painting the image. To d'Arcis, the absence of historical reference was equally damning; he considered it "quite unlikely that the Holy Evangelists would have omitted to record an imprint on Christ's burial linens, or that the fact should have remained hidden until the present time" (quoted in Thurston 1903). In all the recorded veneration of countless relics down to the 13th century, there had been no mention of Christ's shroud's bearing an imprint of his body. This silence of history together with the suspicious circumstances of the Shroud's appearance and the confession of the artist seemed sufficient to settle the matter. Thurston concluded confidently, ''The case is here so strong that. . . . the probability of an error in the verdict of history must be accounted, it seems to me, as almost infinitesimal." However, this historical argumentum ex silencio must be considered as an open verdict, as we shall see.

In 1203, a French soldier with the Crusaders camped in Constantinople (who were responsible for the sack of the city the following year) noted that a church there exhibited every Friday the cloth in which Christ was buried, and "his figure could be plainly seen there" (de Clari 1936:112). It is likely that this cloth and the Turin Shroud are the same, especially in view of the pollen evidence (discussed below) and the fact that these are the only known "Shrouds of Christ" with a body imprint. It now seems virtually certain that the Turin Shroud was among the spoils of the Crusades, along with many other relics looted from churches and monasteries in the East and brought back to Europe. Another shroud, now at Cadouin, was found by the Crusaders at Antioch in 1098, brought back to France, and venerated down to the present. (Unfortunately for its cult, the Cadouin Shroud was discovered to have ornamental bands in Kufic carrying 11th-century Moslem prayers [Francez 1935:7).) Wilson (1978:200-215) argues that the Turin Shroud was held and secretly worshipped by the Knights Templars between 1204 and 1314, passing later into history in the possession of a knight with the same name as the earlier Templar master of Normandy (Geoffrey de Charny). Others (e.g., Rinaldi 1972:18) identify the Turin Shroud with the "Burial Sheet of the Redeemer" brought to Besançon from Constantinople, according to unsubstantiated tradition, by a Crusader captain in 1207.

The enigma of the Shroud's history prior to the Crusades will probably never be resolved, but certain points of departure for hypothesis can be established. Pollen samples taken from it reveal that it has been in Turkey and Palestine, and the medical evidence seems to place it in the era of crucifixion. These data strongly suggest that the Shroud is a relic from the early church period. Whether forgery, accident, or genuine, however, the cloth has escaped the gaze of history through a long period in which a relic purporting to be Christ's burial linen and actually bearing his image would have attracted enormous attention and pilgrimage. Whereas other important relics acquired by the Byzantine capital were received with much fanfare and ample recording, there is no mention of when or from what quarter this shroud was obtained. It first appears in the lists of relics held at Constantinople in 1093 as "the linens found in the tomb after the resurrection."

Of the many relics which "came to light'' during the first great cult of relics in the 4th century, there is no mention of a shroud. However, history is not totally silent on the possible preservation of Christ's burial cloth. In a pilgrim's account dated ca. 570 there occurs a reference to "the cloth which was over the head of Jesus" kept in a cave convent on the Jordan River. In 670, another pilgrim described having seen the 8-ft.-long shroud of Christ exhibited in a church in Jerusalem (cited in Green 1969). Earlier references to the preservation of the burial linens are more legendary. A passage in the apocryphal 2d-century "Gospel of the Hebrews" relating that Jesus gave his shroud to the servant of the priest and a statement by St. Nino of the 4th century that the burial linen was held first by Pilate's wife and then by Luke the evangelist, "who put it in a place known only to himself.''

It is of course impossible to establish whether any of these early references actually describe the Turin Shroud, and we may conclude only that it was possibly lost or kept in relative obscurity during the early centuries, eventually being taken to Constantinople. If genuine, the most difficult time for which to construct a plausible scenario is the earliest period. How might such an important relic of Christ's burial have been preserved by persons and in circumstances unknown to the early church at large? And, whether genuine or forged, what is to account for the 700 to 1,000 years during which the image on the cloth is not mentioned?

The actual shroud of Christ may well have been kept in obscurity by 1st-century Christians, perhaps for political reasons and/or out of aversion to an "unclean" object of the dead. By A.D. 66 the Judaeo-Christians had migrated east of the Jordan, and thereafter little is known of them apart from their increasing isolation from the early church and their heretical tendencies. If the Shroud had been taken from Jerusalem by this group, its obscurity in the early centuries would be understandable. Justin Martyr, writing in mid-2d century, observed that Christians who still kept the practices of orthodox Judaism were a rarity regarded with much suspicion.

Other factors which may have played a role in the Shroud's early history and absence of documentation are (1) a very gradual emergence of a visible image on the cloth, (2) folding or wrapping of the cloth so that none or only a portion of the image was visible, and (3) storage, oblivion, and re-discovery of the relic. In times of prosperity as in turmoil and persecution, valued relics were customarily placed in various parts of church structures, homes, and catacombs; it often happened that these objects were forgotten, only coming to light in later construction or warfare. The looting of Edessa (Urfa, Turkey) by 12th-century Turkish Moslems, for example, yielded "many treasures hidden in secret places, foundations, roofs from the earliest times of the fathers and elders. . . . of which the citizens knew nothing" (Segal 1970:253). Similarly, it was not uncommon for manuscripts, works of art, and relics kept in monasteries gradually to drift out of the collective memory; the most notable example is the Codex Sinaiticus, which reposed in a Sinai monastery for over 1,000 years, its importance totally unknown to its keepers.

Wilson (1978:109-93) has offered an elaborate and ingenious identification of the Shroud, folded four times to show only the face, with the Mandylion, a cloth said to have received the miraculous imprint of Christ's face and to have been taken to Edessa in ca. A.D. 40 by the disciple Thaddeus. This semilegendary account of the "Image of Edessa" describes it as having been hidden in a wall during a persecution in A.D. 57 and forgotten until its discovery during a siege of the city ca. 525. The history of the Mandylion is well documented thereafter; it was held at Edessa until 944 and then at Constantinople until its disappearance in 1204. There are, however, numerous problems with a Shroud/Mandylion link (Cameron 1980), notably the difference in size, separate mention on relic lists, and the silence on its eventual "revelation" as a burial cloth.

The tradition of the miraculous imprint of Christ's face developed first in the Byzantine empire. Gibbon (1776-78: chap. 49) records that "before the end of the sixth century, these images made without hands were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire." In the 7th and 8th centuries in the West arises a similar tradition, that of Veronica, who wiped the brow of Christ with her veil and found a facial imprint remaining. It is quite possible that these traditions have an ultimate basis in the Shroud and its figure, transformed into an image of the living Christ to accord with early Byzantine iconographic conventions. On the other hand, the flourishing of these traditions represents a most likely impetus and context for a forged burial cloth with body imprint.

In sum, although the Shroud's history prior to 1353 is a matter of much rich conjecture and little firm evidence, there are numerous possible avenues by which the Shroud could have come down to us from the Jerusalem of A.D. 30. Genuine or forged, the absence of references to it in the 1st millennium is equally enigmatic. It must be admitted, however, that even if the Shroud's history could be extended back to the early Byzantine era, the case for its authenticity would not be significantly improved.


The fact that the Shroud is not easily harmonized with the Gospel accounts has been taken as evidence both for and against authenticity. A number of biblical scholars (discussed in Bulst 1957 and O'Rahilley 1941) have rejected the Shroud because of a perceived conflict on two points: the washing of the body and the type of linen cloths used in wrapping it. Robinson (1978:69), on the other hand, suggests that "no forger starting, as he inevitably would, from the Gospel narratives, and especially that of the fourth, would have created the Shroud we have." The Shroud could of course be genuine and not necessarily agree in every detail with the biblical account: it could also have been forged by persons who were close to the early burial traditions and therefore based their work on a better understanding of the Johannine Gospel account than is possible today.

The wounds seen in the Shroud image correspond perfectly with those of Christ recorded in the Gospel accounts: beating with fists and blow to the face with a club, flogging, "crown of thorns," nailing in hands (Aramaic yad, including wrists and base of forearm) and feet, lance thrust to the side (the right side, according to tradition) after death, issue of "blood and water" from the side wound, legs unbroken, McNair (1978:23) contends that such an exact concordance could hardly be coincidental: "it seems to me otiose, if not ridiculous, to spend time arguing . . . about the identity of the man represented in the Turin Shroud. Whether genuine or fake, the representation is obviously Jesus Christ."

The apparent bloodstains on the Shroud conflict with the long-established tradition in biblical exegesis that Christ's body was washed before burial, which was carried out "following the Jewish burial custom" (John 19:40). The phrase, however, refers directly to the deposition of the body in a linen cloth together with spices. All of the Gospels convey the information that Christ's burial was hasty and incomplete because of the approaching Sabbath. In the earlier accounts of Mark and Luke, the women are said to be returning on Sunday morning to anoint the body with ointments prepared over the Sabbath, when washing a body for burial was effectively forbidden by the ritual proscription of moving or lifting a corpse.

Greater difficulties are encountered in John's descriptions of the burial linens. The synoptic Gospels record that the body was wrapped or folded in a fine linen sindon or sheet. Although the traditional idea is that this sheet was wound around the body, there is no difficulty in reconciling it with the Shroud. John (20:5-8) describes the body as "bound" with othonia, a word of uncertain meaning generally taken as "cloth" or "cloths.'' In the empty tomb he relates seeing "the othonia lying there, but the napkin (soudarion) which had been over the head not lying with the othonia but folded [or rolled up] in a place by itself." To elucidate this passage, almost as many theories as there are possibilities have been put forward. One which would exclude the Shroud is that the linen sheet was cut up into bands to wrap around the corpse, but most exegetes reject this notion. The fact that Luke describes the body as wrapped in a sindon and then relates that the othonia were seen in the empty tomb is taken by some as an equation of the two, by others as a distinction. Most commentators identify the Shroud with the sindon and offer one of the following interpretations: (1) The othonia is the Shroud, the soudarion is a chin band tied around the head to hold up the lower jaw, and the hands and feet were bound with linen strips. In the account of Lazarus, a soudarion is mentioned "around his face," and his hands and feet are bound with keiriai (twisted rushes). Three-dimensional projections of the Shroud face have indicated a retraction of beard and hair where a chin band would have been tied. The Greek soudarion is clearly a kerchief or napkin. (2) The soudarion is the Shroud, and the othonia are bands used to tie up the body. In the vernacular Aramaic, soudara included larger cloths, and the phrases "over his head" and "rolled up in a place by itself" suggest an item more substantial than a mere kerchief.

Clearly, the Shroud as a ''fifth gospel" is difficult to harmonize with the others. Although it can be worked into the biblical accounts of the burial linen, no evidence for its authenticity can be gleaned therefrom. On the other hand, the exact correspondence of the wounds of Christ with those of the Shroud man is of supreme importance; if genuine, the Shroud would provide a most extraordinary archaeological reflection of the crucifixion accounts rendered by the evangelists. But upon this ultimate question, the verdict of history and exegesis must be recorded as open.


Direct examination of the Shroud by scientific means began in 1969-73 with the appointment of an 11-member Turin Commission (1976) to advise on the preservation of the relic and on specific testing which might be undertaken. Five of its members were scientists, and preliminary studies of samples of the cloth were conducted by them in 1973. A much more detailed examination of the Shroud was carried out by a group of American scientists in 1978-81 as the Shroud of Turin Research Project (Culliton 1978, Bortin 1980, Stevenson and Habermas 1981, Schwalbe and Rogers 1982).

Samples of pollen collected from the Shroud by commission member Frei (1978) yielded identifications of 49 species of plants, representative of specific phytogeographical regions. In addition to 16 species of plants found in northern Europe, Frei identified 13 species of halophyte and desert plants "very characteristic of or exclusive to the Negev and Dead Sea area." A further 20 plant types were assigned to the Anatolian steppes, particularly the region of southwestern Turkey-northern Syria, and the Istanbul area. Frei concluded that the Shroud must have been exposed to air in the past in Palestine, Turkey, and Europe. Suggestions that the Shroud pollen derives from long-distance wind-borne deposits or from dust from the Crusaders' boots do not merit serious discussion.

The cloth itself has been described (Raes 1976) as a three-to-one herringbone twill, a common weave in antiquity but generally used in silks of the first centuries A.D. rather than linen. The thread was hand-spun and hand-loomed; after ca. 1200, most European thread was spun on the wheel. Minute traces of cotton fibers were discovered, an indication that the Shroud was woven on a loom also used for weaving cotton. (The use of equipment for working both cotton and linen would have been permitted by the ancient Jewish ritual code whereas wool and linen would have been worked on different looms to avoid the prohibited "mixing of kinds.") The cotton was of the Asian Gossypum herbaceum, and some commentators have construed its presence as conclusive evidence of a Middle Eastern origin. While not common in Europe until much later, cotton was being woven in Spain as early as the 8th century and in Holland by the 12th.

The Turin Commission conducted a series of tests aimed at clarifying the nature of the image. Thread samples were removed from the "blood" and image areas for laboratory investigation. Conventional and electron microscopic examination revealed an absence of heterogeneous coloring material or pigment. The image and "blood" stains were reported to have penetrated only the top fibrils; there had been no capillary action, and no material was caught in the crevices between threads. Both paint and blood seemed to be ruled out, and magnification up to 50,000 times showed the image to consist of fine yellow-red granules seemingly forming part of the fibers themselves and defying identification. Finally, standard forensic tests for haematic residues of blood yielded negative results.

The Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) formed around a nucleus of scientists studying the Shroud by means of computer enhancement and image analysis. Jackson et al. (1977) scanned the image with a microdensitometer to record lightness variations in the image intensity and found a correlation with probable cloth-to-body distance, assuming that the Shroud was draped loosely over the corpse. They concluded that the image contains three-dimensional information, and confirmation was obtained by the use of a VP-8 Image Analyzer to convert shades of image intensity into vertical relief. Unlike ordinary photographs or paintings, the Shroud image converted into an undistorted three-dimensional figure, a phenomenon which suggested that the image-forming process acted uniformly through space over the body, front and back, and did not depend on contact of cloth with body at every point. Computer analysis (Tamburelli 1981) of the body image also revealed that it was formed nondirectionally, whereas the scourge marks exhibited a radiation from two centers to the left and right of the body, the former being somewhat higher than the latter. Enlargements of the scourge marks revealed an extraordinary detail consisting of minute scratches.

The Shroud face is also highly detailed, and the relief figure constructed therefrom had an extraordinary clarity and lifelike appearance. Retraction of the hair and beard where a chin band might have been ties has been noted. Flat, button-like objects interpreted as coins appear on both eyes; the protuberances stand out prominently when processed by isodensity enhancement (Stevenson and Habermas 1981:fig.17). Independently of STURP, another researcher (Filas 1980), working with third-generation enlargements of the 1931 photographs, noted the presence of a design over the right eye, apparently containing the letters UCAI. Filter photographs and enhancements done by STURP also show UC and AI shapes, but somewhat askew (Weaver 1980:753). Whanger (quoted in a United Press International report, April 8, 1982) found exact agreement between the shape and motif of a coin of Roman Palestine and the image over the right eye, when superimposed in polarized light. There is, however, no general agreement on the inscription or on the identification of the protuberances as coins,

The "blood" areas were the subject of special attention from STURP, employing analytical methods of much greater sensitivity than those used by the Turin Commission. Even during cursory inspection, however, it was discovered that, contrary to the Commission's findings, the stains do penetrate to the reverse side of the cloth. Color photomicroscopy (Pellicori and Evans 1981:41) showed the stains to consist of red-orange amorphous encrustations caught in the fibrils and in the crevices. Unlike body image areas, the "blood" regions exhibit the capillary and meniscus characteristics of viscous liquids, viz., penetration, matting, and cementing of the fibers-a phenomenon consistent with blood, paint, or other staining agents. Ultraviolet fluorescence photographs (Gilbert and Gilbert 1980) revealed a pale aura around the stains at the wrist, side wound, and feet, with a fluorescence similar to that of serum, X-ray fluorescence measurements (Morris, Schwalbe, and London 1980) showed significant concentrations of iron only in the blood areas. Both transmission and reflection spectroscopy yielded an absorption pattern characteristic of hemoglobin, and chemical conversion of the suspected heme to a porphyrin was accomplished (Heller and Adler 1980). Blood constituents other than heme derivatives -protein, bilirubin, and albumin - were also identified chemically (Heller and Adler 1981:87-91). A total of 12 tests confirming the presence of whole blood on the Shroud are described by Heller and Adler (1981:92). Finally, fluorescent antigen-antibody reactions (Bollone, Jorio, and Massaro 1981) indicated that the blood is human blood.

The presence of traces of whole blood must be considered as firmly established, with the probability that the blood is human. It is possible, of course, that an artist or forger worked with blood to touch up a body image obtained by other means. Attempts to ascertain how the image came to be imprinted on the cloth have not yielded definitive results. An impressive array of optical and microscopic examinations was conducted, including most of those used in testing for blood constituents, infrared thermography and radiography, micro-Raman analysis, and examination by ion microprobe and electron scanning microscope (Jumper and Mottern 1980). There was general agreement among researchers on the nature of the image - degradation and/or dehydration of the cellulose in superficial fibers resulting in a faint reflection of light in the visible range (Pellicori 1980). Only the topmost fibrils of each thread are dehydrated, even in the darkest areas of the image, and no significant traces of pigments, dyes, stains, chemicals, or organic or inorganic substances were found in the image. It was thus determined that the image was not painted, printed, or otherwise artificially imposed on the cloth, nor was it the result of any known reaction of the cloth to spices, oils, or biochemicals produced by the body in life or death. STURP concluded that "there are no chemical or physical methods . . . and no combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances which explain the image adequately" (Joan Janney, quoted in an Associated Press report, October 11, 1981). Two theories currently contend among STURP researchers: a "photolysis effect" (heat or radiation scorch) and a "latent image process" where by the cloth was sensitized by materials absorbed by direct contact with a corpse. Wags were quick to label these "the first Polaroid from Palestine" and "a Christ contact print."

Much publicity has been generated by the assertions of McCrone (1980), a former STURP consultant, that the image is a painting, judging from the microscopic identification of traces of iron oxide and a protein (i.e., possible pigment and binder) in image areas. The STURP analysis of the Shroud's surface yielded much particulate matter of possible artists' pigments such as alizarin, charcoal, and ultramarine, as well as iron, calcium, strontium (possibly from the soaking process for early linen), tiny bits of wire, insect remains, wax droplets, a thread of lady's panty hose, etc. (Wilson 1981). However, this matter was distributed randomly or inconsistently over the cloth and had no relationship to the image, which was found to be substanceless, according to the combined results of photomicroscopy, X-radiography, electron microscopy, chemical analyses, and mass spectrometry. McCrone's claims have been convincingly refuted in several STURP technical reports (Pellicori and Evans 1980:42; Pellicori 1980:1918; Heller and Adler 1981:91-94; Schwalbe and Rogers 1982:11-24). The results of previous work by the Italian commission also run totally counter to those claims (Filogamo and Zina 1976:35-37; Brandone and Borroni 1978:205-14; Frei 1982:5). Undaunted, McCrone (personal communication, 1982) continues to stake his reputation on the interpretation of the Shroud image as "an easel painting . . . as a very dilute water color in a tempera medium."

More promising far future research was the identification by micro-analyst Giovanni Riggi of a substance chemically resembling natron, a powder used in ancient Egypt to dehydrate the corpse prior to embalming. An accelerated dehydration process producing a form of Volckringer (1942) print similar to those left by plants pressed in paper is a possibility now under investigation. While further research may shed new light on the origins of the image, the possibility must be recognized that the precise mechanism of image formation may never be known. Scientific testing of the Shroud has not, however, reached a dead end; autoradiography of the entire cloth, thread-by-thread microscopic search, a complete vacuuming of the cloth for pollen and other particles, and of course C14 dating have been suggested.

Proposals for radiocarbon dating of samples from the Shroud are still under consideration by the Catholic church, although approval has been given in principle. The result eventually obtained will undoubtedly have an enormous and, I would submit, unwarranted impact on the general view of the Shroud's authenticity. A C14 age of 2,000 years would not appreciably tilt the scales toward genuineness, as only the cloth, not the image, would be so dated. A more recent date of whatever magnitude would also fail to settle the matter in view of the many possibilities of exchange and contamination over the centuries (variations in ambient atmosphere, boiling in oil and water, exposure to smoke and fire, contact with other organic materials) and the still unknown conditions of image formation, which affected the very cellulose of the linen. The antiquity of the Shroud can, however, be established from archaeological data now available, employing criteria commonly accepted for the dating of manuscripts, ceramics, and stone and metal artifacts not subjected to radiometric measurements.

The fact that the exact manner of image formation is not and may never be known does not pose a serious obstacle to establishing the Shroud's authenticity. The absence of a satisfactory explanation of the image formation does not, as Mueller (1982:27) argues rather curiously, rule out natural processes and leave only human artifice or the supernatural. Rather, the information obtained from medical studies and direct scientific testing establishes the framework for the issue: the Shroud was used to enshroud a corpse, and the image is the result of some form of interaction between body and cloth and does not derive from the use of paint, powder, acid, or other materials which could have been used to create an image on cloth. Whatever process gave rise to the image, the necessary conditions may have prevailed accidentally during a forger's attempted use of a corpse to stain the cloth at in an actual burial. It is virtually unimaginable that a forger of any period would have known of a secret "dry" method (as proposed by Nickell 1979) to produce such an image, a method apparently used only once and evasive of the most sophisticated modern means of detection. The evidence certainly points very strongly toward a natural though extremely unusual process, possibly aided by substances placed with the body and linen at the time of contact.


There is evidence that the body once folded in the Shroud was the victim of a Roman crucifixion. Though used as a method of execution by the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and other societies of antiquity, crucifixion in the Roman world was distinctive in a number of ways. Flogging invariably preceded execution and was usually carried out as the condemned proceeded to the crucifixion site; the victim was made to carry his own crossbar and was tied or nailed thereto and then hoisted onto a cross; or a T-shaped frame. Evidence in the Shroud image attests to each of these traits, except that the Shroud man was stationary with arms above the head or outstretched during the flogging. Further, both the whip marks and the side wound appear to have been inflicted with Roman implements. Unlike the depictions of medieval artists, the dumbbell shape of the scourge wounds and their occurrence in groups of two or three match exactly the plumbatae (pellets) affixed to each end of the multithonged Roman flagrum (whip), a specimen of which was excavated at Herculaneum. The side wound is an ellipse corresponding exactly to excavated examples of the leaf-shaped point of the lancea (lance) likely to have been used by the militia: it does not match the typical points of the hasta (spear), hasta veliaris (short spear), or pilum (javelin) used by the infantry. The lance thrust to the side of Christ was, according to Origen of the 4th century, administered, following the Roman military custom, sub alas (below the armpits), where the wound of the Shroud image is located.

The wrist-nailing of the Shroud image is highly significant, as it contradicts the entire tradition in Christian art from the first crucifixion and crucifixion scenes of the early 6th century (hardly 200 years after crucifixion was abolished) down to the 17th century, of placing the nails in the palms (McNair 1978:35). The few portrayals thereafter (Van Dyck, Rubens) of nailing in the wrist have been considered influenced by the Shroud or chronological markers for dating it. Similarly, the impaling of both feet with a single nail occurs in art only in the 11th century and after. Again, the Shroud is construed by some as the origin of the trend, by others as influenced by it. The style of nailing of wrist and feet was confirmed as Roman by a recent archaeological discovery. The first human remains with evidence of crucifixion were unearthed by bulldozers at Giv'at ha-Mivtar, near Jerusalem, in 1968. Among the stone ossuaries of 35 persons deceased ca. A.D. 50-70, one marked with the name Johanan held the remains of a young adult male whose heel bones were riveted by a single nail with traces of wood adhering to it (Tzaferis 1970). At the wrist end of the forearm, a scratch mark as if from a nail was identified on the radial bone; parts of the scratch had been worn smooth from "friction, grating and grinding between the radial bone and the nail towards the end of the crucifixion" (Haas 1970:58), a grim confirmation of the seesaw motion deduced by Barbet to have characterized the final agonies of the Shroud man.

In several important respects, however, the Shroud evidence varies from the usual crucifixion and burial practices of 1st-century Palestine. Prior to crucifixion, a wide range of tortures might be inflicted: gouging of the eyes, mutilations, burning of the hair, etc. (Hengel 1977). The choice of torments apparently depended on the inclinations of the execution party and was bounded only by a concern to avoid the premature death of the condemned. The "crown of thorns" devised for Christ and the mocking and beatings appear to derive from the judicially sanctioned subjection of the condemned to the caprice of his guards. The Shroud man, like Christ, was flogged in a stationary position rather than on the way to the execution ground. In deference to strong Jewish feeling against leaving a corpse exposed after sunset, the Roman administration in Palestine allowed the breaking of the legs (crurifragium) to hasten death. John's Gospel (19:32) specifically records that the thieves crucified with Christ had their legs broken in order that the bodies could be taken down before nightfall. The right tibia, left tibia, and fibula of the Johanan remains were also broken, but the legs of the Shroud man were not. There is no historical mention of any other method of hastening death or coup de grace, and indeed crucifixion elsewhere in the empire was mandated to be a slow and agonizing death, usually lasting 24-36 hours. The lance thrust to the side of Christ thus appears as a capricious and unique act by one of the guards.

Again out of consideration for local custom, the Romans allowed the bodies of crucified Jews to be buried in a common pit instead of being left on the cross or thrown on a heap for scavenging animals as was the general practice. Certainly the use of a sheet of fine linen cloth such as the Shroud would indicate a degree of wealth, respect, family ties, or ranking not normally pertaining to common criminals. In general burial practice, the body would have been washed and anointed with oils, and the linen would not have been removed from the body. In other respects, the Shroud does accord with burial customs known or surmised of 1st-century Jews. The account by Maimonides, a 12th-century Jewish scholar at Cordova, parallels what can be constructed from the 4th-century Palestinian Talmud, 2d-century Mishna, and biblical accounts: "After the eyes and mouth are closed, the body is washed; it is then anointed with perfumes and rolled up in a sheet of white linen, in which aromatic spices are placed." The possible presence of a chin band and coins over the eyes has been noted; the failure to wash the body may be explained by the Sabbath prohibition or by the existence of early injunctions, similar to those later incorporated in the medieval codes of Rabbinical law, against washing of the body or cutting of the hair, beard, and fingernails of victims of capital punishment or violent death (Lavoie et al. 1981). Finally, the burial posture of the Shroud figure is seen in a number of skeletons excavated at the ca. 200 B.C.-A.D. 70 cemetery of the Essene sect at Qumran (Wilson 1955:60), which were laid flat, facing upwards, elbows bent and hands crossed over the chest or pelvis. Sox (1981:134), however, sees the position as a reflection of medieval modesty.

The placing of coins or shards over the eyes of the corpse was known among medieval Jews and believed to be an ancient tradition (Bender 1895:101-3) to prevent the eyes from opening before glimpsing the next world; in the pagan tradition, coins were placed on the body as payment to Charon for crossing the River Styx. Recent excavations (Hachlili 1979:34) at Jewish tombs of the 1st century A.D. near Jericho have yielded the first evidence of this practice; two coins (A.D. 41-44) were found inside a skull, undoubtedly having fallen through the eye sockets. On the Shroud, the pattern over the right eye exactly matches the size and shape of some of the cruder coins (leptons) of the procuratorial series in Judea, especially those of Gratus (A.D. 15-26) and Pilate (26-36). The UCAI "inscription" was suggested to be a misspelling of the Greek TIBERIOU KAICAROC ("Tiberius Caesar," A.D. 14-37); in 1981 an unpublished coin bearing the letters IOUCAI was discovered in a collection (F. Filas, news release, September 1, 1981). Although the letter-like shapes on the Shroud are not clear enough to be distinguished with certainty from vagaries of the image and the weave, their location in the correct position on the coin shape when seen in relief would seem to give the inscription a small measure of credibility. One cannot, however, go very far with this evidence, for even if the imprint could be confirmed as a Pilate coin, such coins were circulating for at least several decades after minting and were probably obtainable for a considerable time thereafter, the coins of Pilate having gained a certain notoriety in Judea for their use of pagan symbols (Kanael 1963).

Coon's description, noted above, of the Shroud face as Semitic in appearance is supported by Stewart (cited in Stevenson and Habermas 1081:35), who points out other features of the image which suggest a Middle Eastern origin. The beard, hair parted in the middle and falling to the shoulders, and pigtail indicate that the man was not Greek or Roman. The unbound pigtail has been described as ''perhaps the most strikingly Jewish feature" of the Shroud (Wilson 1978:54) and has been shown to have been a very common hairstyle for Jewish men in antiquity. The estimated height of the Shroud man at around 175-180 cm corresponds with the average height (178 cm) of adult male skeletons excavated in the 1st-century cemetery near Jerusalem (Haas 1970) and with the ideal male height of 4 ells (176 cm) according to an interpretation of the Talmud (Kraus 1910-11).

Some of the earliest representations of Christ from the 2d to 4th centuries portray him as youthful, clean-shaven, and Greco-Roman; others depict a bearded, Semitic face much more akin to that of the Shroud. Beginning in the 6th century, the face of Christ in Byzantine art became highly conventionalized, with a certain resemblance to the Shroud figure. Vignon (1939) noted 20 peculiarities in the Shroud face (e.g., a transverse streak across the forehead, a V shape at the bridge of the nose, a fork in the beard, etc.) that are common in Byzantine iconography. He suggested that the Shroud might have been the source of this artistic tradition. Whanger and Whanger (n.d.), using a system of polarized light to superimpose images, found 46 points of congruence between details of the Shroud face and the face of Christ in a 6th-century Mt. Sinai mosaic and 63 points of agreement between the Shroud face and the face of Christ on a 7th-century Byzantine coin. In other respects, however, the Shroud image differs markedly from Byzantine art of the early centuries in revealing a dead Christ, covered with wounds and blood, nude, lacking any indication of majesty or divinity. The crucifixes and crucifixion scenes of the 5th to 8th centuries invariably show a nonsuffering, glorified Christ, eyes open, clad in a tunic, with no bleeding or signs of physical agony. Again, the evidence indicates very strongly that the Shroud image does not derive from the art of this or any era, but may be the source of certain features.

In summary, the evidence from anthropology, archaeology, and art history corroborates in a compelling manner that of medical and scientific analyses. It should now be considered well-established that the Shroud is indeed an archaeological document of crucifixion - a conclusion reached by STURP and most serious students of the Shroud since the 1930s. Attempts to interpret it as a painting (McCrone), a wood-block print (Curto 1976), a bas-relief rubbing (Nickell 1979), a scorch from a hot statue (Papini 1982), or a colored "clay press'' (Gabrielli 1976) are untenable, derive from consideration of only a small portion of the evidence, ignore the vast array of data to the contrary, and need not be discussed further. The confirmation by archaeology of numerous details found in the image and of hypotheses deduced therefrom - nailing of the wrist, single nailing of both feet together, seesaw motion on the cross, coins on the eyes, burial posture, and Middle Eastern origin, even the UCAI "misspelling" - give the Shroud an undeniable ring of authenticity as an archaeological object.

The pollen, the Semitic appearance of the figure, and other anthropological evidence combine to indicate an origin of the Shroud in Palestine or possibly Asia Minor; the pathological data coupled with the evidence of Roman implements and style allow it to be assigned with confidence to the period of Roman crucifixion, thus from the Roman conquest of Turkey and Palestine in 133-66 B.C. to Constantine's banning of this form of execution ca. A.D. 315. The "obvious" representation of Christ in the image further narrows the dating of the Shroud to A.D. 30-315. On this final point of identity we arrive at the "crux" of the issue, for there were thousands of crucifixions during this period in Palestine and Asia Minor.


The identification of the Shroud figure may be approached by testing the uniqueness of the set of traits it shares with the historical description of the death of Christ. That is, the question may be posed whether these shared details can be established to a reasonable degree as historically specific, in the same manner that, for example, the singular characteristics of the tomb of Tutankhamen or the Shang-dynasty kings mentioned in oracle texts allow a definite identification. Such an archaeological/historical identification may be initiated by endeavoring to generate alternative hypotheses, derived from the known historical context, which might account for the configuration of features characterizing the Shroud. Calculations of cumulative probabilities (e.g., Donovan 1980; Stevenson and Habermas 1981:124-29) based on mere historical guesswork (legs not broken: 1 chance in 3; lance thrust to side: 1 in 27; etc.) are of no scientific validity whatever.

In order to be as definitive as possible, we shall examine a wide range of scenarios - some little more credible in ancient history than the notion that Hitler is alive in Brazil is in the present. And yet, any conceivable scenario which could be successfully superimposed on the Shroud's particular pattern of data would have to be taken seriously. In considering the Shroud as a possible forgery, an unwarranted emphasis on intentionality creeps into the discussion. Between deliberate hoax and true relic are various shades of accident, mistaken identity, excessive reverence for an inspirational "visual aid," and/or exaggerated claims. The ultimately important question is, of course, not how this image on cloth came to be taken as Christ's, but how it acquired such an extraordinary accuracy in the details of Christ's historically known life and anthropologically known times.


The interpretation of the Shroud as a painting by an unknown medieval artist emerged from its suspicious history as highly likely and has persisted with unusual stubbornness down to the present. Its prominence as the main forgery theory is such that virtually all commentators expend great effort in disproving it, believing the authenticity of the relic to be established thereby. The notion has indeed been disproved so thoroughly and absolutely that it should be permanently buried. I shall simply list yet again the numerous items of evidence, many of which would be sufficient singly to establish that the image is not a medieval painting, rubbing, scorch, or other work of art: anatomical detail, realism of the wounds, presence of blood, absence of pigment or binder, reversal of light and dark, diffuseness of the image at close range, three-dimensional information, absence of outline or shading, lack of directionality in the colored areas, lack of change in color from light to dark tones, color not affected by heat or water, detail and twin radiation of scourge marks, nailing of wrists, single nailing of both feet together, characteristic wounds of the Roman flagrum and lancea, Oriental cap rather than Western circlet crown, accuracy in Semitic appearance and Jewish burial posture, pollen from Turkey and Palestine, difficulty in reconciling the Shroud with biblical accounts, nudity of the figure. Each of these features could be explained by invoking extraordinary circumstance, e.g., absence of pigment due to the use of a thin solution and frequent washings of the relic, real blood used by the artist, pathological exactitude from the artist's genius, scourge marks and wrist nailing from intuition, a cloth of Middle Eastern origin, etc. Clearly, however, the cumulative effect is to place the painting hypothesis somewhat lower in credibility than notions of the Marlowe authorship of Shakespeare's plays or an Egyptian influence on the Mayas.

Unknown Crucifixion Victim

Guilty of McNair's charge of otiosity, a number of commentators, including the STURP team, have suggested that the Shroud could be the gravecloth of a person who suffered injuries in the same manner as Christ. We shall examine here the possibility of such an occurrence without obvious intent to imitate the experiences of Christ. This hypothesis thus hinges on the degree to which features now interpreted as "clearly representing Jesus Christ" should be considered unique.

The major characteristics of the Shroud figure which seem to identify him as Christ are the lacerations of the head and the wound in the side; of lesser importance are the evidence of stationary flogging: and absence of crurifragium. Certainly, the methods of capital punishment did not always follow a rigid procedure; an example is the occasional lifting of prohibitions on the use of the flagrum or crucifixion to punish Roman citizens. Political prisoners in Palestine may well have received harsher penalties than common criminals in the form of more severe flogging and prolonged sufferings on the cross. On the other hand, the bodies of rebels and subversives were not normally released for burial, according to a 6th-century digest of Roman law (Ulpian, cited in Barbet 1963:51). In the Matthew account (28:62-64), the Sanhedrin were clearly unprepared when the request for Christ's body was granted.

The crowning with thorns is described in John's Gospel as a spontaneous and capricious invention of the guards in response to absurd claims of kingship associated with their prisoner. Ricci (1977:67) and others contend that this trait is a singular and identifying mark of Christ; among the recorded tortures of the condemned prior to crucifixion there is no such crowning or spiking of the scalp. It must be allowed, however, that similar injuries might have been sustained by other crucified men, perhaps palace intriguers or leaders of rebellion. An instance is recorded by Philo of a mock crowning in ca. A.D. 40 during a visit of the Jewish King Agrippa to Alexandria; a mock procession was staged with an idiot dressed in ragged royal purple and crowned with the base of a basket. Preexecution tortures might also have caused punctures of the scalp resulting, if credulity is strained, in a pattern similar to an Oriental crown (mitre or cap) of thorns. Therefore, while the parallel between the head wounds of the Shroud man and those of Christ is striking, it is not sufficient of itself to establish the identification.

The postmortem nature of the side wound also exactly parallels the biblical account, and again there is no historical mention of a practice of this or any method of coup de grace during crucifixion, other than the crurifragium in Palestine. Bulst (1957:121) interprets an ambiguous phrase in Quintilian (1st century) as suggesting that piercing the corpse may have preceded its release for burial. However, an exhaustive search by Vignon (1939) and Wuenschel (1953) turned up only one slightly dubious reference to such a practice: the martyrs Marcellus and Marcellinus were dispatched with a spear during their crucifixion ca. 290 because their constant praising of God annoyed the sentries. In this instance, as in that of Christ, the spearing appears as a spontaneous act by the guards. One might conclude that similar transfixions may have occurred occasionally, were it not for the universal attitude in the early church toward the issuance of blood and water from Christ's side. Christian apologists of the 2d and 3d centuries - a period of frequent crucifixions - believed the flow to be a miracle, Origen, who had witnessed crucifixion, could write: "I know well that neither blood nor water flows from a corpse, but in the case of Jesus it was miraculous." Certainly such a belief could not have prevailed if piercing the corpse sub alas had been other than a very rare happening indeed.

The omission of normal washing and anointing of the body may possibly be explained by the onset of the Sabbath, since ritual differential treatment of execution victims does not seem to have been practiced in 1st-century Palestine. The individual burial and quality of linen suggest that the Shroud man was not a criminal, slave, or rebel. Finally, the lack of decomposition staining of the cloth indicates that, barring highly unusual preserving conditions arresting the normal bodily decay, the Shroud was removed from the corpse after 24-72 hours. It would have been kept in spite of the deep-seated aversion of the Jews (and most peoples of antiquity) to anything which had been in contact with the dead, not to mention bearing the actual stain of a corpse. Eventually, the similarity of its imprint with the body of Christ would have been noticed.

Clearly, this scenario requires the most improbable combination of many fortuitous and highly improbable events. For each detail, an explanation of sorts can be concocted, but that all of them could have been strung together accidentally into a configuration corresponding exactly to the biblical account of Christ's crucifixion is, quite simply, inconceivable. The order present in the Shroud data reveals, just as surely as does the workmanship of an artifact, an intentionality in its composition. If it is not the actual Shroud of Christ, it must be the result of a deliberate attempt to duplicate the experiences of his death and burial.

Early Forgery

The first centuries of Christianity afforded ample possibility and motivation for the forgery of a relic such as the Shroud. A widespread cult of relics developed in the 4th century following the conversion of Constantine and was intensified by the discovery of the "True Cross" during an expedition to Jerusalem of Constantine's mother in 326 and the distribution of shavings of the wood throughout the empire. Similar "discoveries" soon followed, of the nails, lance, crown of thorns, clothing, and other material items from the life of Christ, the apostles, Old Testament figures, saints, and martyrs. As noted above, a Shroud of Christ was claimed by a convent on the Jordan in 570, and cloths believed to bear his facial imprint were current by ca. A.D. 500. Early ecclesiastical writers frequently denounced spurious relics created for reasons of rivalry, reverence, or profit, and relic forgery was especially rife in Egypt and Syria in the 4th century, It may be suggested, then, that forgers obtained the corpse of a crucifixion victim, marked it to resemble Christ, and attempted to imprint an image on cloth, achieving by accident a remarkable result.

The objections to this scenario are manifold and insurmountable. Of greatest importance is the medical interpretation of the head wounds as inflicted on a living body; spiking the scalp of a corpse or marking it with blood could not approach the pathological exactitude of the wounds and blood flows on the Shroud man. Straining credulity, one might escape this difficulty by postulating a collusion between forgers and executioners for preparation of a victim with suitable head wounds. The postmortem side wound presents equal if not greater difficulties: it was inflicted on an upright corpse, resulting in a copious flow of blood and clear fluid (matching the biblical account); a second flow issued when the body was horizontal, not simply laid out but being moved, as indicated by the collection of blood across the small of the back. There can be no doubt that early forgers could not have attained such precision and that it was unnecessary in any case for the simple production of a bloodstained cloth for a gullible public.

There are numerous other difficulties with this hypothesis: (1) The major demand for relics came after the state establishment of Christianity, by which time crucifixion had been abolished. (2) Stains, dyes, oils, or other materials likely to have been used by early forgers in an attempt to imprint the cloth are completely lacking on the Shroud. (3) The victim appears to have been Jewish, with the correct burial posture, chin band tied and eyes covered, yet the legs were not broken as was the practice in Palestine. (4) A successful imprint of Christ's likeness made in this era would have been trumpeted as another great relic "come to light." (5) An image of the nude and unwashed body of Christ would have been considered offensive, lessening or destroying its economic and ceremonial value. Based on the already shaky premise that forgers accidentally and spectacularly succeeded in their task, this hypothesis is hopelessly fraught with difficulties. It can be unequivocally rejected, and with it any possibility that the Shroud is the product of a forgery attempt. As Donald Lynn (quoted in Rinaldi 1979:14) of STURP concluded, "it would be miraculous if it were a forgery."

Imitation of Christ

Finally, the possibility may be considered that the Shroud man was literally a "little Christ" - that, out of fanaticism, extreme asceticism or desire for martyrdom, someone was able to inflict or have inflicted the exact wounds of Christ on his own person. There is ample evidence of asceticism and self-denial carried to extremes in the early monastic- anchorite movements of the late 3d and 4th centuries. Hermits isolated themselves in the deserts, in cave cells, on pillars, there to indulge in all manner of bizarre vilifications of the flesh: wearing of chains for years, self-flagellation, dietary privations, exposure to heat and cold, etc. The above-cited theological writer Origen in his youth committed self-castration; the first monk ascete, Paul of Egypt, was reportedly found dead in his cell: in a kneeling position of prayer.

The 4th-century anchorites of Egypt retained practices of mummification of the dead; the body was wrapped in bandages and the outer surface sometimes painted with a mask or Christian symbols. As this custom fell out of use, the dead were simply wrapped in a winding sheet and carried into the desert, to be buried after three days of wailing. The Shroud might thus be the burial sheet of an unknown but charismatic figure in the early anchorite communities of Egypt or Syria, crucified by followers in a manner exactly imitating that of Christ. The presence of natron on the Shroud takes on a special relevance here, and several other details may be fitted into this hypothesis: the wrist and foot nailing of Roman crucifixion would have been known; the victim might have been "Semitic," the crown of thorns conceived of as a cap, the cloth preserved in the desert conditions; and the areas were rife with relic-mongering.

The hypothesis requires, on the other hand, a virtually impossible double occurrence of freakish events: a self-styled crucifixion and a body imprint by unknown mechanism. There are other difficulties: the matching of the wounds with Roman implements, the Jewish burial customs (most unlikely to have been known), the linen itself (luxurious and urban), and of course the silence of the historical record on the entire proceedings. The coup de grace for this wildest of hypotheses is, appropriately, the lance wound in the side. It would have been well nigh impossible to draw forth intentionally from a corpse a flow of blood and fluid at a single thrust. The presence of pericardial or pleural fluid in sufficient quantity and the exact site, angle, and depth of piercing would have to be carefully determined before such a feat could be performed by a modern surgeon, as Barbet discovered in experiments on corpses.

A similar set of historical circumstances can be cited in attributing the Shroud to a crucified martyr eager to imitate the "Way of the Cross." That early Christians sometimes exhibited a fanatical desire for physical suffering and martyrdom is well documented; it is reflected in the remark of Antonius, 3d-century proconsul of Asia, when confronted with mass confessions and volunteers for martyrdom: "Miserable people, if you are so weary of life, is it not easy to find ropes or precipices?" Hagiographies overflow with accounts of martyrs' showing contempt for the exertions of their torturers, and a situation may be imagined in which the condemned entreated or goaded their guards into "glorifying" them with a crown of spikes and a spear wound in the side,

By the 3d century, linen brandea or "second-class relics" were being created by touching them to the body or blood of a martyr. At the beheading of Bishop Cyprian of Carthage in 258, a linen sheet was spread on the ground to collect his blood, and the body was then carried through the streets in the cloth. Is it possible that the Shroud is a similar relic in linen intended to absorb the blood and holiness of an exceptional martyr who bore all of the wounds of Christ? The answer again must be a definite negative. The scenario posits the concurrence of no fewer than four extremely rare and improbable phenomena - a martyr's crown of thorns, a postmortem side wound, blood and fluid issuing therefrom, and the imprint. If a spear thrust to the corpse on the cross had been a common practice, eventually a repetition of the blood and fluid flow from the wound would have occurred, but to attach this extremely unlikely event to the other wounds and features of the Shroud and to the accident of body imprint, all in total historical obscurity, is clearly to enter the world of fantasy.

It is unnecessary to extend this exploration of extremely farfetched and improbable hypotheses to the limits of the imagination, e.g., to concoct a massive conspiracy such as might be formulated to challenge any historical document or fact. Suffice it to note that even the most preposterous notions - e.g., mass crucifixions conducted during the persecutions to replicate in every detail Christ's sufferings (Gramaglia, in Sox 1981:69) - would founder on many of the Shroud's details and on the accidental image formation. Neither should any consideration be given to the ludicrous suggestions of the "paranormal," that the Shroud man was a stigmatist bearing in exact detail all the wounds of Christ, or that the Shroud is a satanic ploy to focus attention on the dead rather than the spiritual Christ.


The question of authenticity may be readily divided into two stages: (1) the Shroud as a genuine burial cloth recovered from a grave or removed from a corpse and (2) the Shroud as the gravecloth of Christ. The first stage may be established from direct examination of the object and comparison with relevant data from other disciplines. The second stage relies heavily but not entirely on the historical record and, ironically, at certain points on the silence in that record. In the foregoing discussion, we have reviewed the evidence related to each stage of the authentication process. The final judgement generally depends on whether one in inclined to stress the positive or the negative evidence.

As early as 1902, the basic cleavage of opinion an the Shroud was already apparent. For the anatomists, scrutiny of the image yielded positive evidence that it was the imprint of a corpse bearing wounds exactly corresponding to those described of Christ. For historians, the silence of history and the sudden appearance of the relic in suspicious circumstances constituted an equally convincing negative indication. It has been my contention in this paper that, while the lack of historical documentation and the claimed confession of the artist are difficulties, the evidence from the medical studies must be treated as empirical data of a higher order. The dead body always represents a cold, hard fact, regardless of a lack of witnesses or a freely offered confession of murder. With anatomists and forensic pathologists of the highest caliber in Europe and America (many of whom are also well versed in the history of art) of one mind for 80 years about the image as a body imprint, one is on firm ground in characterizing the Shroud as the real shroud of a real corpse. The direct testing of the last 20 years goes farther in demonstrating that the relic is a genuine gravecloth from antiquity rather than the result of a medieval forger's attempt to imprint the cloth with a smeared corpse. Fleming (1978:64) concurs, with the conclusion that "it is the medical evidence that we are certainly looking at a gruesome document of crucifixion which satisfies me that the Shroud is not medieval in origin."

Current opinion on the Shroud's authenticity ranges generally from "probable" to "proven" for Stage 1 and from "possible" to "probable" for Stage 2. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the object is a religious relic, these opinions seem to err an the side of the cautious, place undue emphasis on the negative evidence, and are often based on an assumption that the identity of the Shroud man is "unprovable." Rather, the second stage of authentication may well be more easily demonstrable than the first, as even the arch-skeptic Schafersman (1982a:41) admits. That is to say, if the Shroud image is truly a body imprint (as the evidence overwhelmingly indicates), and if the wounds seen in the imprint are real (on which point there is little room for doubt), then surely we must conclude that the imprint must be from the body of Christ.

Therefore, applying standards of proof no more stringent than those employed in other archaeological/historical identifications, one is led, I submit, to an almost inescapable conclusion about the Shroud of Turin: it is the very piece of linen described in the biblical accounts as being used to enfold the body of Christ. The pattern of data revealed by the Shroud is unquestionably unique, it concurs in every detail with the record of Christ's death and burial, and it is unfakeable. The combination of premortem, postmortem, and postentombment information cannot be matched with any other known or hypothetical series of events. In eliminating other explanations of the Shroud's origin, I have put greatest weight on the most firmly established evidence - the uniqueness of the body image phenomenon and the pathology of the wounds. The former has defied the most sophisticated technological investigation, while on the latter there has been unanimous agreement and such force of medical opinion that it cannot be questioned without dramatic new revelations. But every detail of the Shroud, from the pollen to the scourge marks, accords with or does not run counter to authenticity, which may be considered as "reasonably well established," at least in the same sense that many other facts of history or archaeology are established by the interpretation of documents and material evidence. Its authenticity should be accorded a degree of certainty comparable, for example, to the identification of ancient city sites such as Troy, Ur, etc., to the dating of the Lascaux cave paintings, or to the description of the death of Nero - all of which rely on a complex and seemingly unfakeable pattern of data. The Shroud's authenticity is a matter for expert rather than personal opinion and certainty not a matter of faith; it involves a "judgement of fact" than a "judgement or value" (after Mandelbaum 1938).

Delage, to his eternal credit as a scholar, perceived all this of the Shroud in 1902, working with the poorer 1898 photographs and in a milieu of militant agnosticism. The anatomical realism of the body imprint and the accuracy of the wounds led him to conclude, "The man of the Shroud is Christ. . . . if instead of Christ, there was a question of some person such as a Sargon, an Achilles or one of the Pharaohs, no one would have thought of making an objection" (quoted in Walsh 1963:66). I have here examined the remotest possibilities of forgery or imitation precisely because of the religious nature of the relic and the spurious character of many similar objects ascribed by tradition and popular veneration to holy men, religious leaders, or miraculous events. Most such relics would not allow of a positive identification in any case; nor would the Shroud were it merely a piece of ancient linen. But encoded in the image are data of such specificity that the relic can be fixed in time and place, used to generate hypotheses to be tested in the laboratory and in the field, and finally attributed to a single, historical person.

There is, however, a disturbing current (now reaching cliché status) in Shroud studies, expressed both by scientists and those with a religious interest, that the Shroud's identification with Christ is beyond the scope of science or proof and requires a leap of faith. Sox (1978.56), for example, contends that, even after exhaustive testing, "it can never be said that this is Jesus' burial cloth, . . . this conviction, as always, must come through the eyes of faith." Cameron (1978:59) believes that "we shall only be able to prove that the Turin Shroud might be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, not that it actually is." Weaver (1980:752) asks, "Is it the Shroud of Christ himself? That, say both scientists and theologians, will remain forever outside the bounds of proof."

This line of thought must be rejected as verging on obscurantist and lacking any solid basis in historical/archaeological assessment of the object and the relevant data. To my knowledge no writer on the Shroud has examined the various hypotheses presented above (unknown crucifixion victim, early forgery, imitation of Christ) or seriously attempted to probe the uniqueness of the Shroud data other than in unscientific probability calculations. To suggest that science (in the form of direct testing of the cloth) can attain only a certain point, beyond which lies subjective opinion or faith, is to ignore the essentially scientific character of historical knowledge. This attitude is reflected even in the much more reasonable conclusion of STURP member Bucklin (1981:189) that identification of the Shroud man "is not within the realm of science, but may be decided by careful historical inquiry." Unfortunately, STURP spokesman Janney (in the Associated Press report quoted earlier) confuses the matter with the claim that "the classical scientific method cannot prove who it was" beyond establishing that the Shroud figure was "a scourged, crucified man." In truth, it is merely obvious, not scientifically proven sensu stricto, that the body was male, But in the same scientific manner in which complex patterns of data are interpreted in the natural and social sciences, alternative explanations may be rejected with a reasonable degree of certainty, and a firm association of the Shroud man with the historical phenomenon of crucifixion and with the historical person of Christ may be established. The fact that these relationships are not subject to irrefutable laboratory confirmation does not place them "outside the bounds of proof," except on the philosophical level that no knowledge of the past derived from the study of history, social science, geology, paleontology, or astronomy can be proven beyond any possibility of doubt.

The genuineness of the Shroud must have a considerable impact on biblical exegesis, especially on the allegorical school which has emphasized the symbolic and spiritual rather than the historical content of the Gospels. As noted above, a genuine Shroud provides a striking confirmation of the recorded detail of the torture and execution of Christ. The crown of thorns was not a poetic embroidery of the basic story. The flow of blood and water from the side, seen by tradition as miraculous and by modern demythologizing as symbolic (of atonement through suffering and of purification by baptism), must now be seen as at least a real, natural physiological occurrence. The removal of the cloth from the body after a brief contact period is also indicated, demolishing what little remained of the theory that the empty tomb of Christ was an invention of the early church.

On the Shroud as evidence of Christ's resurrection, those with "eyes of faith" have seized upon the inability of scientists to arrive at a technologically credible mechanism of image formation and asserted that the Shroud might constitute empirical evidence for some moment of regeneration or "transmaterialization." Clearly, the data can be taken no farther than to indicate a separation of body and cloth before the onset of decomposition and the prevalence of rare conditions in the tomb which resulted in the image. These conditions may reasonably be assumed to derive in some as yet unknown manner from the 40-kg "mixture of myrrh and aloes" which, according to John (19:39), was placed with the body in the linen as a preservative and aromatic. An alternative but perhaps less likely theory is that the imprint resulted from a "Kirlian effect" or other unknown quality of Christ's body; the aura of light and the rare condition of haematidrosis (bloody sweat) recorded of Christ may be cited in this regard.

The Turin Shroud is without doubt one of the most mystifying and instructive archaeological objects in existence. Although its first thousand years are a total blank, intention and accident combined to preserve it, however unceremoniously, from discovery in the tomb to eventual transfer to Constantinople. Although the image-forming process is not known, the image itself is an important document of Christ's crucifixion and has appropriately been termed "the fifth gospel." And whereas the scholarly consensus a mere 60 years ago deemed the Shroud a medieval fraud, the present evidence allows a firm archaeological judgement for authenticity.

The Shroud has been probed by virtually every appropriate element of high technology; science, like Thomas, has verified for itself the reality of the wounds. The verdict on this awesome cloth must be that, remarkably, it is exactly what it appears to be. As a unique specimen of material evidence relating to one of mankind's great religious teachers and major historical events, this icon-relic, this strange 1st-century photograph of Christ, has tremendous anthropological significance and enduring fascination for a wide range of people of differing beliefs.


by James E. Alcock

Department of Psychology, York University, Glendon College, 2275 Bayview Ave., Toronto, Ont., Canada M4N 3M6. 22 xi 82

Meacham at the outset calls for an objective examination of evidence pertaining to the Shroud, arguing that it should be treated in the same manner that scientists would treat any other historical object. He subsequently argues against the value of carbon-14 dating, which to many might be the first step to take if one really wants scientific evidence about the Shroud's origin. His argument is rather strange, unless one were so cynical as to suspect that he is preparing the groundwork for a defense of the authenticity hypothesis ("it is Christ's burial-cloth") should such dating place the origins of the cloth at any point in time well after the presumed date of Christ's death. He correctly points out that if carbon-dating were to indicate that the cloth is about 2,000 years old or older, one could still argue that some medieval artist painted the image of the Shroud on an ancient piece of linen. However, while it would seem that if carbon-dating indicated that the cloth is much younger, this would be a compelling piece of evidence against the authenticity view, Meacham argues that variations of ambient temperature, boiling in oil and water, exposure to smoke and fire, and contact with other organic substances could lead to a conclusion of this nature even if the cloth really is 2,000 years old. This strikes me as sheer whimsy; carbon-dating may have its problems, but how do boiling or changes in ambient temperature come into it? And how do we know that the Shroud was boiled in oil, anyway? Surely one should press for permission to proceed with such testing without at this point speculating about the results.

What is most disturbing about Meacham's account is not so much his obvious belief in the authenticity of the Shroud as his apparent belief that he is presenting a careful scientific review of the evidence. Not only does he give what I think is a very one-sided view of that evidence, but he even goes so far as to dip into what many consider to be pseudo-science when he presents, albeit as "perhaps less likely," the theory that the imprint on the cloth resulted from a "Kirlian effect."

Science does not proceed by pronouncements of authenticity. It requires free and open inquiry and debate. If Meacham wants scientific validation of his belief in the authenticity of the Shroud, he should press for the examination of the Shroud, including carbon-14 dating, by a group of scientists who represent skeptics as well as those inclined towards the authenticity hypothesis.

Before making up their minds on the validity of Meacham's analysis, readers should avail themselves of quite a different interpretation of the evidence such as can be found in McCrone (1982), Mueller (1982), and Schafersman (l982a), among others.

by Robert Bucklin

3321 Bonnie Hill Drive, Los Angeles, Calif. 90068, U.S.A. 6 xii 82

From the point of view of a physician-pathologist, with more than 30 years' experience in the study of the Shroud of Turin, I find the report by Meacham extremely satisfying. His approach is thoughtful, scientific, and rational, and he has objectively combined known results of highly technical research findings with his comprehensive review of historical events and biblical references. The conclusions that he has drawn are wholly realistic. At this period in time it is not possible for anyone to make a final judgement on the authenticity of the Shroud. Certainly, science can do no more than analyze the available physical evidence of the image on the cloth, including the stains and other markings, and express an opinion, based on reasonable probability, as to their nature. By correlating these scientific findings with historical data, Meacham has extended the investigation one step farther.

Scientifically speaking, one's faith or religious beliefs should play no role in arriving at a conclusion concerning the true nature of the Shroud. On the other hand, it would be a gross injustice to deny to one who believes the biblical account of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the physical findings on the Shroud of Turin, in correlation with pertinent historical facts discovered thus far, including those related in the Bible, make a strong argument that the Man of the Shroud and Jesus Christ could indeed be one and the same. Obviously, this judgement must, in the end, be a matter of personal conviction.

by K. O. L. Burridge

Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6H 1P9. 1 xi 82

Meacham is to be congratulated on a provocative essay.

I am not conversant with the techniques used to test the Shroud, so I cannot evaluate them. Only the ignorant and perverse are unaware that 90% of relics are frauds. Relics are "venerated," bought, and sold because, being concrete, and in a suspension of both belief and disbelief, they serve as memory points concentrating attention on particular events. Church authorities and the custodians of the Shroud are fed to the teeth with the hoo-ha. They have it by a chain of accidents, and they exhibit it from time to time, ceremoniously, because, like all relics (including the Piltdown skull), it concentrates the mind on particular events. If it is genuine, so much the better; if not, who's bothered?

Scientists share with most of the lay population a proper scepticism in the face of the unlikely. They will also take a leap beyond the evidence if need be. We have King Tut's mummified body - but on whose say-so? If there were no body, would it still be King Tut's tomb? One footprint and Crusoe surmised (correctly) that someone else was around. Several footprints across the hardened mud and we surmise a little Lucy found somewhere around. Many footprints and sightings (unreliable these), but Sasquatch or Bigfoot is more in the imagination than actually there, so it seems. Why no scientific search? A real basis for the imagination in relation to UFOs seems to be in place. But why did it take so long to take the sightings seriously? Angels may be, but spacecraft from another planet? Is the idiom, the language, really so much a hindrance? It would seem so. Bereft of technology and a professionalised scepticism, on which so much hangs, scientists are on the whole much like anyone else: reputation and status at stake in orthodoxy.

In the present case, technology has failed to prove the negative. Yet an affirmative is not the only other possibility. Faith in a negative is as good as faith in an affirmative. If Jesus Christ was not a historical figure, then of course the Shroud, if it is a shroud, cannot be his. If Christ actually lived, then it would seem that the Shroud might have been his. So many of our supposed certainties are actually possibilities or probabilities that now and again we need, as a basis for our faith in the rest, something that is without doubt either precisely what it appears or seems to be - authentic - or a fraud. Also essential, of course, providing material for thought and faith, is the ambiguous. As Meacham has demonstrated so well, the Shroud is just that.

by John R. Cole

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614, U.S.A. 13 xii 82

This is more religious apologetic than analysis. Meacham claims to discuss his topic from a strictly scientific viewpoint, however, and I will adopt the conceit here, raising technical objections to a patently religious argument. Tacked-on references to skeptical views do not disguise a credulous bias and hope.

Contrary to Meacham, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof, in part because they are liable to extraordinary incentives for fraud, wishful thinking, and unconscious bias, and attempts to prove the Shroud of Turin "authentic" have to be attempts to prove it "supernatural" and thus supposedly beyond scientific proof. The cloth could date to the 1st century but the image need not; both could date to the 1st century without originating in Palestine; they could be from 1st-century Palestine but not from the grave of Jesus; and evidence for any of the above could be faked.

The image is not "perfect." The body is taller than a typical 1st-century Palestinian. The right hand has much longer fingers than the left (Angier 1982). Supposed wounds are too clear to be true; real bleeding would not appear as discrete streams, for example. Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for the City of New York and one of the world's most distinguished pathologists, has said that the image is patently fraudulent (Rhein 1980, cited in Mueller 1982:26). Yet Meacham says the medical verdict is "unanimous" in support of the Shroud.

Walter McCrone, probably the best-known forensic microbiologist in the world, identified vermilion and hematite pigments in the "bloodstains" on the cloth - pigments which would seem to prove the image fraudulent (McCrone 1982, Mueller 1982). Meacham dismisses McCrone. STURP also dismissed him when he came to conclusions contrary to their hopes ("I was completely ignored" [Angier 1982:60]). Contrary to Meacham, STURP publications do not prove McCrone's arguments wrong.

Claims of impressions of coins on the eyes are baseless, yet Meacham lists these as partial proof of his thesis. The alleged coin-images are artifacts of observers' hopes and beyond the limits of photo enlargement and the coarseness of the Shroud weave.

Meacham attempts to prove a religious claim scientifically. He fails to do so. High-tech shroudology, like "scientific creationism," ultimately fails to resolve an intrinsically religious question via science. A massive investigation could be mounted with the goal of proving the Shroud fraudulent, but who would finance it? And what difference would it make? Only confirmation of the Shroud is newsworthy, yet only disproof is scientifically possible. Religion and science can be in conflict, but they need not be so on the practical level. Meacham violates the "sleeping-dog" rule - stirring up an issue which redounds to the detriment of his religious viewpoint when examined in detail. A religious person should ask, Why denigrate religion by subjecting it to materialistic tests? A scientist should ask, Why should a religious claim be granted the boon of hopeful suspension of disbelief rather than skepticism?

How did the Shroud wrap a body without any distortion of the impression by folds and wrinkles?

Why did a vivid 14th-century image fade radically over the next five or six centuries when it had supposedly remained bright and clear until its 14th-century "discovery"?

The details of crucifixion recorded on the Shroud are said to echo biblical evidence. Actually, they echo only the Book of John - which is generally regarded as nonhistorical (cf. Bornkamm 1974, Schafersman 1982a). Any fraud worth its salt would try to fill biblical prescriptions.

Normal tests of archaeological evidence do not apply to claims for the Shroud. A religious claim requires more evidence for possible proof than a nonemotional one. A tool found at Ben Franklin's old address may be identified as his according to normal standards, but a Shroud claim has to be judged according to exceptional standards; the Franklin claim has little import, while the latter has tremendous claim to significance, right or wrong.

Computer analyses of the image on the Shroud are said to indicate three-dimensionality, but this is debatable and in any case irrelevant, a reification of unclear phenomena and interpretations.

Nickell (1978, 1979, 1981) has shown that a shroud-image can be duplicated as a rubbing, although not that this one was. Other experiments demonstrate that negative images can be produced by impressing a cloth on a body anointed with spices and oils, and vermilion pigments or blood could add to the effect.

Extraordinary claims demand an extraordinary skepticism and rigorous analysis which Meacham fails to provide.

by Richard J. Dent

Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, Md. 20742, U.S.A. 6 xii 82

We live, in the 1980s, in an era that sees mythology and science often clash. Both forms of religion stand on devotion to some principle which, in one way or another, negates the principles of the other. Yet now scientific scrutiny is called upon to authenticate a relic from the opposite camp. I shall not, in this commentary, join in the debate by offering a point-by-point criticism of the author's documentation of what he sees as a firm archeological judgement for the Shroud's authenticity. I have no trouble in recognizing a man on a crusade, and the reader and, no doubt, other commentators are capable of interpreting and ultimately judging the so-called evidence, or lack thereof, for themselves. It is my belief, however, that this paper does represent an important epistemological issue in anthropological archeology - although I doubt it is the one intended by the author. Simply put, the arguments for the Shroud's authenticity illustrate that this relic is an authentic artifact not of the event in question, but of ourselves and our society.

For the last 20 years, anthropological archeologists have recognized that not all artifacts are the same. Binford (1962) reminds us that artifacts, as material elements of culture, fall into one or more of three categories - technomic, sociotechnic, and/or ideotechnic. Ideotechnic artifacts are artifacts that are material representations of society conceptualizing itself. They contrast with the more familiar artifact categories that include objects employed in subsistence activities (technomic artifacts) or in social integration (sociotechnic artifacts). Following Althusser (1971), ideology and, by extension, ideotechnic artifacts are products of the imaginary relation of individuals in society to the real relations in which they live. Ideology is a mask. To begin to understand and to pierce this mask, and thus understand the significance of Meacham's paper, we must first recognize the Shroud and this particular documentation as an artifact of ourselves. Once we have done this, the paper has a lesson of value for anthropological archeology.

In short, the overall goal of Meacham in this paper, as seen through his eyes and the eyes of much of society, is to suppress or lessen the conflict that arises when an event is mythologically real but materialistically and empirically unreal. If one can suppress the conflict of believing in the crucifixion yet not having any direct evidence to substantiate it, the mythology is more believable. And if one can achieve this goal with the opposition's methodology (scientific method), so much the better. In reading this paper, it should be evident that Meacham is trying to remove a contradiction for us - to substantiate what he sees as a real event and attach it to a believed-in event. We must at least give him high marks for an attempt at documenting one of the great ideotechnic artifacts of our time. However, following Handsman (1980) and Leone (1982), we should not lose sight of what Meacham is up to: he is creating an ideotechnic artifact, albeit a grand one, nothing more.

by John P. Jackson

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Shroud of Turin Research Project, 14415 E. Club Villa Drive, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80908, U.S.A. 13 xii 82

I am always interested in reading papers written by persons who have not been part of the Shroud of Turin Research Project, the group of scientists who examined the Shroud in 1978. Deciding exactly what the Shroud is is by no means a trivial task and involves input from many scientific and scholarly disciplines. It is necessary to collect these inputs, as Meacham has done, in order to address the question of authenticity. While I share the author's apparent conclusion that the Shroud is probably the burial cloth of Jesus, I do think some critical comments are in order. My general impression after reading this paper is that scientific research on the Shroud is sufficiently complete that the authenticity question can reasonably be settled in favor of the Shroud as the true burial cloth of Jesus. If others have also received that impression from this article, then it is important to point out that, although the case for the Shroud's authenticity is rather good, in my opinion, the authentication question is still open and I therefore would not want to discourage further research on the Shroud. In particular, two major holes exist in the authentication issue. First, 13 centuries of relative silence concerning the Shroud of Jesus (with image) need explanation. While various theories, some discussed by Meacham, have been proposed, there is no unanimity among scholars. Carbon-dating the Shroud, which should be done, can tell us if it has a 2,000-year history but cannot tell us what that history is. Second, science has not been able to determine the mechanism of image formation. Unless we can identify the image-formation process, we cannot be sure, in a scientifically rigorous sense, that the image was made directly from a human body under a draping cloth, even though evidence is mounting that this was the case. Without this critical determination, it seems to me that the authentication question will be open to dispute. Therefore, rather than argue authenticity on the basis of incomplete studies, we should point out where research is incomplete and encourage further studies where appropriate.

The authentication of the Turin Shroud is a scientific issue apart from any religious interest. Ultimately, the authenticity question must rest upon what has been written about Jesus in the Bible, for that is essentially our only source of information concerning him. This is valid only as long as it is understood to what extent the Bible represents true history, realizing that it is first and foremost a theological understanding of the Jesus of history. Science is a well-defined pattern of human thought, and, especially in the case of the Shroud, where bias can so easily enter in, adherence to sound reasoning and analysis is essential. In essence, science is the process of discarding hypotheses when there are observational data with which they are inconsistent. All too often, however, investigators unknowingly do just the opposite; they start with an observation (i.e., iron oxide on the Shroud) and "deduce'' the hypothesis (i.e., the image is due to an iron-oxide pigment) and call this science. I have become sensitive to such abuses of the scientific method. The careful scientist will rather start with various hypotheses to explain some observation (e.g., the image is an iron-oxide pigment or iron oxide is due to translocated aged blood fragments, etc.) and look for independent observations (e.g., body image not the color of iron oxide, density of iron oxide not sufficient to account for body image, etc.) that will discriminate between hypotheses. Thus, the scientific method whittles away unacceptable hypotheses, leaving in the end, ideally, the correct explanation for the Shroud image. Meacham's paper is a reasonably good anthology of scientific, historical, and scholarly data, but I think it suffers in places from a lack of scientific rigor in the sense noted above (e.g., the "whip marks and the side wound [observation] appear to have been inflicted with Roman implements [hypothesis]" or "the lack of decomposition staining of the cloth [observation] indicates that . . . the Shroud was removed from the corpse after 24 to 72 hours [hypothesis]"). However, with these caveats, I think Meacham's paper presents an interesting, overview of how various data interrelate to illuminate issues pertaining to authenticity. Further, in view of the various data already collected concerning the Shroud, one cannot but be impressed at the resistance of the hypothesis that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus to scientific rejection. On that point, I believe Meacham and I are in agreement.

by Walter C. McCrone

McCrone Research Institute, 2508 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60616, U.S.A. 8 xii 82

I appreciate Meacham's attempt to provide a balanced approach to the discussion of the Turin "Shroud." He succeeds well in all areas except one - inclusion of the only direct physical data on the image particles from the "Shroud." Of this work he states: "attempts to interpret it ["Shroud"] as a painting (McCrone) . . . are untenable . . . and need not be discussed further." He bases this conclusion on the "vast array of data to the contrary." Nowhere does he present or discuss my work: what I did, how I did it, or why he considers my conclusions invalid. He does not even reference one of my detailed papers (McCrone 1981). I feel like Hughes Mearns's "little man who wasn't there": "He wasn't there again today/Oh! How I wish he'd go away." I will not try to explain why my work is ignored, but I will say the painting hypothesis is not untenable. It is based on sound microscopical examination carefully done by an experienced microscopist who has studied many dozens of paintings over many years by the same procedures. Whatever reputation I may have rests confidently on the conclusion that the "Shroud" is entirely an artist's work.

Others who have looked at the fibers from the sticky tapes do not see the paint pigment obviously present there. They prefer to believe the image is blood, yet my work shows no blood - only red inorganic pigments, iron earths and vermilion. I can accept that I am outnumbered, but I refuse to believe I am outgunned. No one has spent anything like the time and effort I have put into study of these 32 tapes with their thousands of "Shroud" linen fibers and millions of pigment particles. No one in STURP has this specialized background in small-particle identification, trace analysis, or the study of paintings by microanalytical methods. Substantially all of the image on the "Shroud" fibers consists of common and well-known pigments and a stain on the fibers due to ageing of the paint medium. I do not see any other significant colored material on any of the "Shroud" image fibers. If one removed "my" paint layer from these fibers there would be no visible image remaining on the "Shroud."

I would very much like to see my work evaluated and repeated by one of my peers in this highly specialized field.

I have made no great effort to defend my position in the past because I seem to run into minds already made up and because I have confidence that the eventual carbon-dating will clear the record and show the "Shroud" to be of medieval origin. I note that Meacham now says a carbon date may well be inaccurate because the "Shroud" is so contaminated. I find the "Shroud" linen fibers to be well over 90%, intact and pure. The impurities present can readily be removed before dating, hence this argument has no validity. More difficult to refute is the argument I hear occasionally that the resurrection so modified the linen that any carbon date is bound to be meaningless.

by Paul C. Maloney

Ancient Near Eastern Researches, Box 334, Quackertown, Pa. 18951, U.S.A. 7 xii 82

More than a year has passed since STURP released its preliminary findings. In essence, the image on the Shroud remains an unresolved question. Already there have been attempts to evaluate STURP's work. Some highly antagonistic presentations have tried to show that it lacked scientific objectivity (see Mueller 1982; McCrone 1982, and especially Schafersman 1982a:55-56). Meacham's irrepressible optimism is sure to pique those who are as strongly convinced the Shroud is a fake. He states: "applying standards of proof no more stringent than those employed in other archaeological/historical identifications, one is led . . . to an almost inescapable conclusion about the Shroud of Turin: it is the very piece of linen described in the biblical accounts as being used to enfold the body of Christ. "

For two reasons, both antagonists and protagonists are premature in their conclusions. First, while STURP seems to have made a good case for the Shroud cloth's having wrapped a dead body, we still have no undisputed evidence that the Shroud is older than 1357. If we conclude, with STURP, that the cloth does not appear to have been faked, we might simply suppose that it wrapped a crucified victim in the 14th century. However, crucifixion had been outlawed 1,000 years before. Clearly, the cloth must first be subjected to C14 tests before there can be any advance in understanding the historical background of the Shroud and bridging the gap between the 1st and the 14th century. This is one of those "standards of proof" mandatory for any interpretation of this cloth.

Meacham dismisses C14 dating by appealing to contamination problems, but sophisticated techniques clean a sample before testing to remove most contaminants. Margins of error are supplied with each date given, providing a measure of accuracy. Meacham mentions some sources of contamination. Of boiling in oil STURP could find no evidence. "Variations in ambient atmosphere" are not a contaminant, but rather have to do with the original intake of C14 from the current reservoir, an amount which can be deduced by data from tree-ring dating. And while it is true that C14 would date only the cloth and not the image, it seems logical to assume that, whether the image is of natural or artistic origin, the date of the cloth and the creation of the image should not be too far removed from each other - certainly not 1,300 years. And if the cloth should prove to be of 1st-century origin, then the argument that it was the burial shroud of Jesus would be more compelling.

Secondly, since STURP has not completely published the details of its techniques, instrumentation, laboratory experimentation, and scientific findings, lack of information remains a problem. For example, while Meacham is well versed in Heller and Adler's work analyzing the bloodstains on the Shroud, he states: "It is possible . . . that an artist or forger worked with blood to touch up a body image obtained by other means." He makes no mention of the very intriguing suggestion that the bloodstains might have been there before the image was. The full critical details of this observation have not yet been published (see, provisionally Schwalbe and Rogers [1982:40]). If it should prove correct, it would bode ill for the artist hypothesis.

Two other points must be addressed relating to Meacham's subtitle, "An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology." First, even should one accept STURP's basic conclusion that the cloth enwrapped a corpse, the wealth of details encoded there is often capable of divergent interpretations. Zugibe believes the elongated fingers of the Man of the Shroud to be evidence of Marfan's syndrome (1981 : 188-92). John Jackson, of STURP, believes the elongation is an expected distortion created by cloth-to-body drape (personal communication). Second, we must distinguish between "proof" as the term is often loosely employed in the human sciences and "proof" in the exact sciences. History and archaeology are not capable of "proof" in the strictest sense. Sabloff (1918:5) has put it succinctly: "the archaeological record cannot be converted directly into historical facts." Those in the exact sciences use the term "proof" in a rigorous and precise manner. On this issue one of the STURP scientists said at a conference: in New London in 1981, "We do not have a chemical into which we can dip an eyedropper, put a bit on the Shroud and by observing the color change prove that the man there was Jesus Christ." The most we can expect is a reconstruction that makes the best use of all the facts. It is difficult to do more than this, since the Shroud still holds crucial but obtainable secrets.

by Marvin M. Mueller

Physics Division, MS-E554, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M. 87545, U.S.A. 21 xi 82

Meacham's article is a thorough and impassioned presentation of the case for authenticity but should not be considered a work of balanced scholarship. The reader would never glean from it that general and powerful arguments have recently been advanced in support of a human-artifice origin for the Shroud image. These arguments have not been refuted by the pro-authenticity scientists of the STURP.

Within the space constraints, there is no possibility of a point-for-point rebuttal of Meacham's lengthy review here. For details, the interested reader may consult my critical appraisal of the Shroud investigation in the Spring 1982 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer, a publication of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal (P.O. Box 229, CPS, Buffalo, N.Y. 14215). This is, to my knowledge, the first reasonably thorough critique of the Shroud investigation published by an outside research scientist.

Meacham as authenticity advocate is formidable; Meacham as investigative reporter tends toward gullibility and onesidedness. He often misunderstands skeptical arguments, damns them with faint mention, or - most often - just ignores them. As is evident to readers of the many books and magazine articles on the Shroud that have appeared over the past two decades, Shroud investigators have usually been characterized by their pro-authenticity enthusiasm and markedly religious interpretations. About this there can be little disagreement. Meacham fails to take observer bias and evident will-to-believe into account in his judgements - even in notoriously subjective inferences from diffuse and dubiously resolved image details. The well-known Rorschach effect is not confined to inkblots.

Meacham states:

The image was found to be anatomically flawless down to minor details: the characteristic features of rigor mortis, wounds, and blood flows provided conclusive evidence to the anatomists that the image was formed by direct or indirect contact with a corpse, not painted onto the cloth or searched thereon by a hot statue (two of the current theories). On this point all medical opinion since the time of Delage has been unanimous.

In my article (Mueller 1982), which Meacham cites, it is made clear that this is not true. For example, a leading forensic pathologist (Michael Baden, deputy chief medical examiner of New York for Suffolk County) says (as quoted by Angier 1982:60): "From my knowledge of dead bodies, and the wrapping of dead bodies, this kind of transfer never occurs. And blood never oozes in nice neat rivulets, it gets clotted in the hair. The anatomic accuracy is more what Michelangelo would have done in a painting than what actually happens to a body." He also disputes the inferences concerning rigor mortis and wound pathology, which have long been a mainstay of the long line of "all medical opinion" cited by Meacham.

Meacham further fails to mention the two pivotal theses of my article (which have not been refuted by the STURP):

1.The celebrated "three-dimensional effect" begs the question as to whether the Shroud ever contained a full relief (statue or body). All that it shows is that there is a local consistency in tonal (intensity) gradations of the image. Hence, there is no evidence that the image was formed by some kind of projection across cloth-to-body distances.

2.All of the extensive chemical and microscopic evidence is consistent with a hypothesis (based in part on the Shroudlike rubbings from bas-relief sculptures done by Joe Nickell) that the image on the Shroud was put there by an artist using an imprinting method with a powder or semisolid medium which has subsequently reacted, evaporated, been washed away, or otherwise disappeared, leaving behind the degraded and colored cellulose fibrils which now form the image.

More specific hypotheses of image formation have recently been developed. These are largely based on experiments carried out by forensic analyst John Fischer using iron compounds extensively employed by medieval artists. With such rubbing media, Nickell has produced good Shroud image simulations which automatically reproduce the main microscopic as well as macroscopic features (Mueller 1982, Nickell 1983). (Contrary to Meacham's assertion, rubbing from bas-reliefs was a well-known technique by the 12th century.) These facts alone, not to mention many others, make a mockery of Meacham's claim that "although the image-forming process is not known, the image itself is an important document of Christ's crucifixion and has appropriately been termed 'the fifth gospel' . . . the present evidence allows a firm archaeological judgement for authenticity."

The one argument from my article that he does mention he apparently fails to understand. He states: "The absence of a satisfactory explanation of the image formation does not, as Mueller (1982:27) argues rather curiously, rule out natural processes and leave only human artifice or the supernatural." Curious or not, my argument has the logical force of geometry behind it, for there is no way that an image of the quality and beauty of the Shroud image could have been produced by contact of the cloth with a full relief (body or statue) - projection distortion in mapping a full relief onto a plane alone guarantees that, as has been made manifest in several experiments. To cite an extreme example: A sheepskin laid out flat does not much resemble a sheep. Only human intervention (leaving aside the supernatural) can produce a quality image of a full relief. Other compelling arguments, discussed in my article, can also be brought to bear against the much-publicized contact-transfer hypothesis. In fact, STURP members, having publicly disavowed human artistry, concede that they currently have no scientifically viable hypothesis of image formation.

Generally, Meacham's views of the consensus of the STURP are rather dated. For example, he makes much of the pollen evidence of Max Frei as well as evidence for a burial chin band. Few, if any, of the STURP members give any credence to either, nowadays. Also, he does not seem to have understood the implications of the good summary report of the scientific results from the 1978 investigations written by Schwalbe and Rogers (1982). Contrary to all STURP press releases, these leading STURP scientists guardedly conclude that human artistry cannot really be ruled out at this time. The STURP of 1981-83 is less monolithic and much less certain in its pronouncements than was the more-publicized STURP of 1977-79.

Further examples of Meacham's failure to present a balanced view of the present status of the Shroud investigation are probably unnecessary here. The interested reader is directed to a recent book by Nickell (1983), written in close collaboration with John Fischer and myself. Of the many books written on the Shroud, this is the first to be done in collaboration with non-STURP scientists. Besides giving a detailed critique of the Shroud investigation, it presents a powerful case for clever artistry.

by Joe Nickell

568 N. Broadway, Apt. 16, Lexington, Ky. 40508, U.S.A. 5 xii 82

Meacham makes so many claims that it is obviously impossible to respond to all of them in the space allowed. Many have been refuted elsewhere (e.g., Mueller 1982, Schafersman 1982a, Sox 1981), and in general I question his emphasis and sources.

For example, he cites a priest's and a professor of geriatric psychiatry's supposed evidence of "coins" over the eyes. While conceding that this may be due to "vagaries of the image on the weave," he nevertheless finds "a small measure of credibility" in the claim. He states, "Filter photographs and enhancements done by STURP" also show similar shapes, "but somewhat askew. " His reference to Weaver (1980:753) as his source is puzzling, since Weaver does not give this information (and the page referenced is simply a photo of the Shroud face). Not only have critics observed "inscriptions" elsewhere on the cloth, but most Shroud scholars and STURP scientists have found the claim absurd, suggesting that the nonexperts are probably seeing what they want to see (Mueller 1982:24; Sox 1982:26-27).

Meacham quotes Coon as describing the man of the Shroud as Semitic in appearance and claims that Coon's description is "supported by Stewart"; the truth is that this Smithsonian expert merely conceded that the face "could be Semitic" but warned that "there's no way to be certain without a profile." He emphasized that one could not tell whether "he was from Palestine or Greece" and observed that the likeness is quite "close to the traditional representation of Christ" (quoted in Wilcox 1977:129-32). Given the 1,300-year gap in the history of the cloth, this similarity is highly suspicious. In fact, the Shroud incorporates a number of artistic motifs common to the place and time of the reported forger's confession.

With regard to the "blood," Meacham cites the tests by two nonforensic scientists, none of which were specific for blood. Forensic expert John Fischer finds their conclusions untenable. In fact, similar results can be obtained with a tempera paint. The new claim (reported in a pro-authenticity religious publication) that tests supposedly "indicated" human blood will obviously require similar scrutiny. In the meantime, it must be held in grave doubt in light of the Commission's forensic experts' impressive analyses. These included standard chemical tests as well as neutron activation analysis, thin-layer chromatography, microspectroscopic analysis, and many other highly sophisticated tests - all of which were negative, including those for species. Moreover, the highly respected McCrone laboratories positively identified artists' pigments as comprising the "blood" - notably red iron oxide and vermilion, plus traces of rose madder (McCrone 1980). Unlike the STURP scientists, McCrone is a distinguished expert in the identification of pigments. Authenticity advocates still need to show a similarly old (600-2,000 years) bloodstain which has remained red and to explain how dried blood (as on the arms) was transferred to cloth. A forger, of course, could have used some real blood.

Admitting that the lack of historical documentation and the reported artist's confession are "difficulties," Meacham asserts that "the evidence from the medical studies must be treated as empirical data of a higher order." But the pathologists he cites have all been religious devotees of the "relic," and two serve on the Executive Council of the Holy Shroud Guild (as do STURP's leaders). So it was that Medical World News (December 22, 1980) reported an independent pathologist's review. Chosen was Michael M. Baden, one of America's foremost medico-legal experts. Baden stated: "If I had to go into a courtroom, I could not say there was rigor, whether the man was alive or dead, or that this picture was a true reflection of injuries on the body." He added, "Human beings don't produce this kind of pattern." Baden doubts that the Shroud ever contained a corpse and that, even if it did, any qualified pathologist would reach the kind of conclusions being touted as expert medical opinion. For example, he finds the "blood" flows from the "scalp wounds" highly suspect. Blood from a scalp wound, he stated, "doesn't flow in rivulets; the blood mats on the hair."

While conceding that if the Shroud is an actual burial cloth its image was formed "by unknown mechanism," Meacham largely ignores this profound argument against its authenticity. Contact imprints from bodies are invariably grossly distorted and vapors and radiations (on which other hypotheses are based) penetrate the cloth, whereas the Shroud image is quite superficial. Thus Meacham should give more serious consideration to the artistic-rubbing hypothesis. While he implies otherwise, rubbings are known from ancient times and were common in Europe at the time the Shroud made its fist-known appearance.

Used with a bas-relief sculpture, the wet-mold, dry-pigment technique automatically produces monochromatic negative images with minimal distortion and visually proper tonal gradations. Such images are superficial, "directionless," highly resolved, fire-stable, and characterized by blank spaces surrounding the forms. There is no cementing of fibers. The technique works well with a powdered iron oxide pigment (as identified by McCrone and found only in image and "blood" areas). Indeed, one medieval variety of pigment can account for the cellulose degradation that apparently represents much of the Shroud's visible image (to the puzzlement of STURP).

It seems that no other image-forming mechanism has been demonstrated which will so closely replicate the Shroud image. Anxious - like Meacham - to dismiss an artistic solution, some writers argue against the rubbing hypothesis on the basis of a dubious "3-D test," one which the physicist Mueller (1982:22-23) observes is largely based on circular reasoning. Ill-founded objections to a viable hypothesis should not conceal the fact that authenticity advocates have no viable image-forming hypothesis and are reduced to the unscientific position of suggesting a miracle.

In summary, the historical, iconographic, pathological, physical, and chemical evidence does not allow what Meacham rashly asserts is "a firm archaeological judgement for authenticity." Rather, the evidence at present is to the contrary (see Nickell 1983). Ideally, further tests - including carbon-14 dating - will be performed, if so, they should obviously be conducted by independent, impartial, and qualified experts.

by Adam J. Otterbein

Holy Shroud Guild, P.O. Box 336, Ephrata, Pa. 17522, U.S.A. 5 xi 82

The author has made a balanced and well-rounded presentation of the evidence from all sciences which should be considered in evaluating the Shroud of Turin. Recent tests and investigations have placed the emphasis on chemistry and physics. It is important to note that in spite of intensive study with sophisticated equipment no evidence of fraud or contradiction of 20th-century science has been proven. While this type of evidence is in a sense negative, its accumulated mass and variety are truly impressive.

Meacham makes an excellent point in saying that, although chemistry and physics alone will never be able to prove that the Turin cloth is the burial cloth of Christ, a broad archaeological assessment which includes all relevant data can lead not to a "leap of faith," but to a logical conclusion based on the total evidence. Not all archaeological conclusions can be proven by a microscope or reproduced in a laboratory.

He correctly divides the question of authenticity into two sections: (1) Is the Shroud a genuine burial cloth? and (2) Is the Shroud the burial cloth of Christ? Although science is still unable to explain the chemistry of the image formation process, recent investigation has reinforced the arguments that the Shroud did enclose a human corpse. In previous centuries those who claimed fraud never denied that the image was intended to represent Christ. Today science denies fraud and says that the image could be Christ. In treating the Shroud's relation to the biblical record, Meacham mentions some objections which suggest an apparent conflict between the Shroud and the Gospels. His position could be strengthened by reference to two articles by Wuenschel (1945, 1946), who has shown that the original Greek text admit of interpretations compatible with the Shroud and Jewish burial customs.

by S. F. Pellicori

Santa Barbara Research Center, 75 Coromar Drive, Goleta, Calif. 93117, U.S.A. 11 xii 82

Many scholars have addressed the Shroud of Turin problem, but Meacham does a better job than most. While he appeals to noble motives in his introductory thesis of applying stringent, but normal, criteria for examining the question of authenticity, he unfortunately concludes with no more convincing resolution of the problem than other scholars have.

The foundation for Meacham's conclusion rests heavily on some pieces of "evidence" which have not been adequately substantiated. Much weight is given to pollen studies; however, Frei does not provide data which would permit the statistical significance of his findings to be assessed. For example, from the sample as a whole, what is the true percentage of positive identifications? What is the predicted probability of occurrence? etc.

Much heat and emotion have been generated over the "findings" of inscriptions, coins, etc., by some people. The methodologies of these people are in themselves suspect, a problem often encountered when nonscientists attempt to apply scientific techniques. Regardless of that observation, examination of high-quality STURP photos failed to reveal unambiguous letter forms. The technique of preexposing a pattern to the retina (Whanger) assists the eye in seeing this Pattern in a subsequent field of dots which are unrelated (except for a preferred linear trend due to the weave structure). STURP scientists issued a statement to the effect that letters could not be identified from examination of the photos. This was more than one year ago. Until objective (and reproducible) methodologies are devised and applied to the problem, the coin-letter data point is insubstantial.

There are a few errors in Meacham's record. The Turin Commission did report that "blood" penetrated the weave. The detail existent in the scourge marks was revealed through ultraviolet fluorescent photography (by Miller and Pellicori, not Gilbert and Gilbert). The "pigtail" is most likely an artifact resulting from nonuniform image-resulting chemistry as the weave direction changes. This phenomenon also occurred in the strips that appear to be the separation between face and hair - an argument for caution in the selection of "data."

The image chemistry is known (as Meacham reviews it), but the mechanism of transfer of the body image to the cloth is not yet explained. It is important to make this distinction in discussing and demystifying the image formation process. Suggestions that Kirlian or Volckringer-like effects might somehow be applicable to the study of the image formation are based on a lack of understanding of those effects and of the known image chemistry. As such, they contribute nothing to the science.

In his closing argument, Meacham appeals to the "scientific character of historical knowledge," something, I assume, which he has invented. Contrary to his arguments, there really are no verifiable facts in the Shroud's seriously incomplete historical record, nor is there irrefutable evidence that warrants authentication as an obvious conclusion. The image resulted from naturally occurring cellulose chemical reactions and was not painted. However, the book is still open; Stage 1 is as much as we can support. The so-called evidence in favor of authenticity is, and always will remain, circumstantial.

by Steven Schafersman

Department of Geology, Rice University, Houston, Tex. 77251, U.S.A. 13 xii 82

Meacham's paper claims that the Shroud of Turin has been authenticated as a genuine burial shroud that once contained the body of the crucified Jesus Christ. Althrough such a blatant example of human credulity rarely finds its way into the professional scholarly literature, it is useful that Meacham is permitted to present his case, especially since other popular scientific and scholarly journals have allowed the same. All the empirical and logical evidence to date demonstrates that the Shroud is the product of a clever medieval artist, a forged relic with no other purpose than to awe and deceive an ignorant and credulous stream of pilgrims willing to pay to view it. The major difference between the Shroud of Turin and other medieval relics is that it is a far more cunning and convincing artifact than the others. Another difference is that the other relics are not today believed to be genuine by intelligent and educated adults.

Meacham writes that the "image was found to be anatomically flawless down to minor details" and that the body has "no observable defects." Why does he fail to mention the fact that the right forearm and fingers of the image are unnaturally elongated? Indeed, the whole body has an elongated aspect highly characteristic of Gothic art. Meacham presents all the evidence that the image was formed by contact with a corpse (rigor mortis, wounds, blood flows), even stating that all medical authorities agree with this conclusion. The evidence is spurious, however, and the conclusion is nonsense, since for the most part only the believers have bothered to make their opinions known on this notorious subject. Forensic pathologists have explicitly disagreed with the conclusion of legitimacy (Rhein 1980), citing such evidence as the lack of realism of the "blood" flows, which do not coagulate, even on the hair, but form perfect rivulets and pools everywhere. The existence of blood itself is another issue. Contrary to Meacham's claim, the presence of blood cannot be "considered as firmly established." Not a single one of the chemical tests of Heller and Adler (1981) confirms the presence of blood; their tests are marred by false positives caused by the protein binder of the applied pigment (Nickell 1983). Meacham's assertion that a 14th-century C14 date would "fail to settle the matter" of the age of the Shroud because of "exchange and contamination over the centuries" is absurd; other artifacts susceptible to C14 dating much older and more exposed than the Shroud have been dated with great reliability. Samples of the linen can be used now with no equivocation. The absence of a radiometric date today is due entirely to foot-dragging by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Max Frei's pollen evidence is questionable (Schafersman 1982c), so pollen samples taken from the Shroud do not "reveal that it has been in Turkey and Palestine." Meacham's claim that the antiquity of the Shroud can "be established from archaeological data now available" is interesting, but he rails to provide this important information in his paper. Instead, he offers us speculation and hearsay about a fanciful history of the Shroud before its first documented appearance in 14th-century France.

Meacham's conclusions that the notion that the Shroud is an artifact has "been disproved so thoroughly and absolutely that it should be permanently buried" and that it "should now be considered well-established that the Shroud is indeed an archaeological document of crucifixion" are entirely unjustified. The evidence he presents to support these erroneous conclusions is variously inadequate, incorrect, irrelevant, and unconvincing. It is the same evidence Shroud enthusiasts have been popularizing for years in their misguided attempt to promote the authenticity of the Turin Shroud. Clearly a much longer reply is necessary to detail all of Meacham's errors and misrepresentations; I refer readers to Schafersman (1982a, b), Mueller (1982), and Nickell (1983) for further details. I do want to state that Meacham's flat dismissal of the results of McCrone (1980, 1981) has no justification whatsoever. McCrone demonstrated convincingly that iron oxide and mercuric sulfide artists' pigments are found on the image and "blood" areas but not on the clear (nonimage) areas of the Shroud. The presence of the pigment documents that pigment was applied somehow (the method, painting or rubbing, is still debated), and the distribution of the pigment refutes the hypothesis of contamination. Furthermore, McCrone discovered that the pigment in the "blood" was in a protein tempera binder. The image on the Shroud today is due primarily to the dehydrated cellulose of the linen (the alteration or recrystallization of the cellulose was effected by some component, still undetermined, of the pigment or binder) and hardly at all to the iron oxide pigment, which explains STURP's spectroscopic results. The original Shroud image was darker and clearer to the naked eye, since the Shroud was the subject of paintings in earlier centuries, when artists did not have the benefit of filtered photographs. The conspicuous image was mostly destroyed by one or more washings (Sox 1981) which undoubtedly removed most of the original particulate iron oxide pigment.

I have no quarrel with the notion that the image on the Shroud is supposed to represent Jesus Christ. And as a religious relic, why shouldn't it? From the moment of the Shroud's first appearance to the present, no one has suggested otherwise, except rhetorically as a prelude to documenting the evidence for the true identity of the man on the Shroud. Meacham's painstaking rendition of this ritual is therefore characteristic and serves only to reveal his dogged belief in the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin and of Jesus Christ, a personage best considered by available evidence to be mythical. I agree with Meacham, however, in his rejection of the commonly heard claim that the Shroud's identification with Jesus Christ is outside the bounds of scientific or scholarly investigation and requires a leap of faith. Such things as the existence of Jesus, the true origin of the Shroud of Turin, and any connection between the two are very definitely within the limits of such investigation. I submit, however, that all investigations to date demonstrate that the Turin Shroud is an artifact connected with the mythical crucified and resurrected Christ only as a religious relic, and certainly not in any material sense.

by Giovanni Tamburelli

Centro Studi e Laboratori Telecomunicazioni, Via Guglielmo Reiss Romoli, 274, 10148 Torino, Italy. 13 xii 82

This paper is an interesting and all but exhaustive analysis of the problems concerning the authentication of the Turin Shroud. Only the results obtained by computer (see Tamburelli 1981, cited by Meacham, and also Tamburelli 1979) have not sufficiently been taken into account. I quote from my recent article on the subject, based on computer image processing done at the Centro Studi e Laboratori Telecomunicazioni (Tamburelli 1982:3-11, reprinted By permission):

In fact, almost the whole Passion of the Man of the Shroud according to the Gospel could be read in the data supplied by the computer. Obviously, this is only a probable "reading," because, after 2,000 years, very clear details can be interpreted in terms of hypotheses or, at most, probabilities.

Nevertheless, it would be interesting to list the new data obtained with the computer, making a distinction between data previously undiscovered or doubtful on the 2-dimensional images. Undiscovered data include (numbers refer to the details on the illustrations of the face [fig. 1] and body [fig. 2] images):

Of the second data we can list:

The correspondence between these data and the Gospels was detailed in my article as follows:

This stream formed a clot on the left eyelid (5), a clot near the left nostril (1) and the clot on the left side of the upper lip (11). This last clot (11) enlarged and took on a sharp-pointed appearance and acted as a watershed; in fact it divided the stream of blood into two

rivulets which flowed on the left side of the lower lip (13). As this stream did not soak the beard vertically and as the clot near the left nostril was clearly cut while the victim was on the cross (as explained later) and hence was not fully clotted, the stream did not appear long before crucifixion. The Man of the Shroud fell, striking the left cheek on the ground, where the cheek was cut by the gravel (4); furthermore, the crown of thorns cut the skin, giving rise at that moment, i.e., not long before crucifixion, to the stream of blood mentioned above and to other streams which soaked the hair.

As shown by the nail marks on both wrists and feet, the Man of the Shroud was crucified. After a certain time he bent his head towards the right side. This brought about the deviation of the stream on the right side of the face causing it to flow along the right side of the nose to the right nostril (9) from whence blood dripped on the right side of the lip (10) and then onto the beard (8).

The clot of blood on the left eyelid was wrinkled (5) by the movement of the eyelid. When the Man of the Shroud bent his head the stream of blood was diverged and thus did not cover the wrinkles; this clot was quite large and stuck the eyelid of the left eye together.

The position of the drop on the right side of the lip (8) shows the inclination of the face before death. The other streams of blood also flowed towards the right side, as clearly shown in fig. 1.

A person with a sponge soaked in vinegar and put on the tip of a branch of hyssop refreshed the Man of the Shroud: in fact, we can note that the clot on the left side of the cheek (1) is cut.

The upper part of the cut is straight and may correspond to the flat part of the tip of the hyssop branch, due to the cut with a sickle, while the lower part is round and may correspond to the cylindrical part of the tip.

Furthermore, the mark beginning from the right side of the hair (2), is slightly cut on the right cheek and on the nose and stops on the clot, showing that at the beginning the tip of the hyssop branch was placed an the right side of the hair and then dragged across so that the sponge reached the mouth of the Man of the Shroud and caused the cut seen on the clot of blood.


Fig. 1 - Three-dimensional relief of the Shroud face, showing details discussed in text.


Fig. 2 - Three-dimensional relief of the Shroud image, showing details discussed in text.


Fig. 3 - Three-dimensional relief of the Shroud face after smoothing of rough transitions with a recursive filter.

The last drop, dripped from the nostril and is greatly diverged towards the right side (9). In fact, when He died the muscles of the neck were fully distended and the head bent down more.

The drop has a pointed form, because the gradual decrease in blood flows caused a decrease in its section, and its weight was not sufficient to make it fall (this is a proof that the blood ceased flowing while he was on the cross and hence that the Man died on the cross.)

To ensure that the Man of the Shroud was dead, a soldier stabbed him in the right chest with a lance, as shown in fig. 2 (22), and water and blood flowed out.

The death on the cross is also confirmed by the fact that all streams of blood are in the fore part of the face and none are directed towards the back, where they would have arrived had the Man of the Shroud continued to lose blood after the deposition from the cross. To keep the right eyelid shut, a coin was placed on it, as is clearly shown by the circular flat area in fig. 1 (20). The coin must then have been removed as the mark is impressed in the linen wrap.

The striking similarities of these facts with Gospel are a clear contribution in favor of the Shroud's authenticity.

Hence, the probability that the Man of the Shroud was Jesus Christ is greatly increased by the results obtained with the aid of the computer.

The computer showed us also what the face of Jesus Christ probably looked like before the Passion or after Resurrection, through an electronic cleaning of the blood and wounds which provides the almost natural images of the face (fig. 3).

by Alan D. Whanger

Department of Psychiatry, Box 3196, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. 27110, U.S.A. 2 xii 82

Meacham has written a comprehensive, reasonably balanced, fascinating, and informative article. I would commend him for his courage in stating his conclusions in forthright terms after building his evidence and argument. I have two minor comments and one major criticism. On the minor side is the statement that the Mandylion was discovered during a siege of Edessa, about 525. According to Wilson's (1979:136-40) documentation, the circumstance was a massive flood that ravaged much of Edessa in 525, and the Mandylion was found during the repair process. Another minor point has to do with the question of the body's being washed. According to Zugibe (1982), the body was probably partially washed lightly prior to enshroudment.

Of major importance (from my standpoint, anyway) is that the author has not seen the work my wife Mary and I did on the polarized image-overlay technique of comparing the Byzantine icons and coins with the Shroud image or the work on identifying the coins over the eyes. Considerable perplexity is expressed as to the "lost years" of the Shroud, "if genuine." Our work shows that the Shroud image was well known in the early part of the 6th century and, being presumed to be an authentic image of Christ, was scrupulously copied in many media. Our image-overlay technique allows minute and detailed comparison of various images. There is an encaustic icon of Christ in St. Catherine's monastery at Mt. Sinai (probably a gift of Justinian I [reign 527-65], who also built the monastery) which shows at least eight medical diseases on the image of Christ, all of which can be easily explained in terms of the artist's having accurately copied the original model (obviously the Shroud face) on the assumption that it was a life image and not a death mask. These two images have 45 points of congruence (i.e., identical or very similar features). The comparison of the Shroud image with a solidus of Justinian II, struck between A.D. 692 and 695, shows at least 65 points of congruence, indicating that this coin was indeed a numismatic icon almost certainly copied from the Edessan image, as Breckenridge (1959) speculated. The nearly photographic-copy quality of the coin image (see fig. 1, 1-3) would have certainly required that the die cutter be looking directly at the Shroud image as he worked. While the analogy may not be strictly correct, it should be noted that in a court of law 14 points of congruence are sufficient to determine the identity of fingerprints, tire tracks, etc. By examining many early artistic depictions, it can be seen that within a comparatively few years' time after A.D. 530 the Shroud image had become the prototype for most depictions of Christ.

Another icon at St. Catherine's monastery is very helpful in elucidating the probable history of the Shroud. This is the icon of Abgar V receiving the Mandylion from Thaddeus, which Weitzmann (1976:94-98) attributes to the middle of the 10th century. This icon was painted to commemorate the Receiving of the Mandylion in Constantinople by Constantine VII, whose face appears on Abgar's body. Assuming that the icon painter would have preserved the proportions of the face image on the Mandylion relative to the rest of the panel or frame, I extrapolated the actual measurements from various measurements of the face and found that the depicted Mandylion is about 46 inches wide and about 20 inches high, very near the measurements of the Shroud of Turin folded to eight thicknesses as detailed by Wilson (1979), whose work would tend to be strongly confirmed by our studies. These observations would have obvious relevance to Meacham's references to our work, and to the Shroud's first 1,000 years as being a "total blank. " He correctly but only partially cites our reports on examining the coins over the eyes on the Shroud. We used the same polarized image-overlay technique to evaluate the reports of Filas, as he says, and found in fact that there are identifiable coins over both eyes. The image of the coin over the right eye is the clearer of the two, and, in contrast to his statement, the "letter-like shapes'' are clearly distinguishable from the vagaries of the weave. They virtually exactly match the lettering on a Pontius Pilate lepton owned by Filas, which has the misspelled inscription UCAI rather than the usual UKAI. Our technique enabled us to study the coin more completely and note 74 points of congruence between the Pilate lituus lepton and the image over the right eye of the Shroud (see fig. 1, 4-6). The coin nearly matches the type illustrated in Madden (1967 [1864]), as no. 14 on p. 149, except for the misspelling. We also, for the first time, dated the coin as struck in the 16th year of Tiberius, or A.D. 29. Interestingly, since people finally started looking at this seriously, at least six Pilate lepta have been discovered within the past year with the CAI misspelling, which was unknown until the Shroud gave evidence of the existence of such a coin. I have photographs of three of these, the two datable ones both struck in A.D. 29. The coin image over the left eye is less distinct but still clearly identifiable as the so-called Julia lepton of Pilate, struck only in the year A.D. 29. There are 73 points of congruence between this coin and the area over the left eye. The probability of placing two different coins minted in the same year on a corpse "several decades" after their issuance is rather remote.



Two of our major comparisons using the polarized image-overlay technique. The first two photographs on each line show the two images that are being compared; the third shows, in static way, the type of comparison that is possible as the superimposed images are viewed through a third rotating polarizing filter. The four small black rectangles on each image are the reference points that allow for quick and accurate alignment of the two images.
(Top 3 Photographs)
1 - The image on the Shroud of Turin, enhanced by photographic contrast (from Enrie's 1931 photograph).
2 - An enlargement of the portrait of Jesus Christ on a Byzantine solidus of Justinian II, struck between A.D. 692 and 695 (the image measures 9 mm from the top of the hair to the point of the beard; the tip of the nose is damaged).
3 - The overlapped images, showing several of the congruences with the blood stains and some of those in the beard and, particularly, the remarkable identity between the fold over the neck on the Shroud and the configuration of the collar on the cloak (most of the details cannot be appreciated in this small photograph).

(Bottom 3 Photographs)
4 - The area over the anatomical right eye of the Shroud image (a computer enhancement of the Enrie photograph), showing the letters UCAI and the lituus (the arrow points to the upper third of the critical letter C; the letters are about 1.5 mm high).
5 - A Pontius Pilate lepton ("window's mite") owned by Francis Filas, showing the highly specific lituus, or auger, or astrologer's staff design, the frequent clipped edge from one to four o'clock, and, despite erosion, parts of the letters TIOUCAI (again, the arrow points to the letter C).
6 - The overlapped images, showing the almost perfect congruence of the two indicating that this coin was struck from the same die as the coin over the Shroud image's right eye.

The author, not having seen our confirmatory evidence himself, is appropriately somewhat tentative in certain conclusions. Our work has been reported by Filas (1982:17-19) and is available on professionally prepared slides, filmstrips, and videotape, as well as having been internationally shown (albeit briefly) on television. The static photographs and the videotapes give a fair idea of the image comparisons, but the dynamic system of the polarized image-overlay technique provides a far superior and rather dramatic means of analysis. Over l,800 people that I know of have seen a demonstration of this technique, including at least 300 scientists of various sorts and at least 6 members of the original STURP investigating team. Not one of these has told me that he or she has not been able to see the remarkable similarities and identities between the icon and the Justinian II coin and the Shroud image, even though I have invited criticism and comments. While not scientifically valid, typical comments have included "stupendous," "incredible," "phenomenal," "amazing," and "one of the most important discoveries of the century." The negative comments have come, as far as I know, from those who have not yet seen the slides or, in some cases, have actually refused to look at them even when a personal demonstration was offered. Such a refusal to look at the results of an analytic technique strikes me as unscientific and unscholarly and perhaps illustrates the German proverb that says that "things which should not be, cannot be." I would even be brash enough to say that anyone who makes statements about the Shroud image and its history and comparisons without at least having seriously viewed our work is at best already out of date.

I consider this article to be one of major importance and commend CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY for undertaking its publication. Since the major weakness, as I see it, is derived substantially from the fact that the author has not seen our work firsthand, I am sending him my slides to illustrate the points that I have mentioned. Slide Set G, entitled "The Shroud Image on an Icon and Coin," skews the comparison with the St. Catherine's icon and the Justinian II coin but lists the congruences with a 6th-century mosaic as well as a 10th-century Byzantine coin. Instructions for the polarized image-overlay technique are detailed in the accompanying sheets. The relevant slides have been marked by a system of reference points devised by my wife to permit rather rapid and accurate alignment of the superimposed images. Slide Set I, entitled "Identification of the Coins Over the Eyes of the Man of the Shroud of Turin," deals with much finer and, in the case of the left eye, less distinct detail and is therefore less obvious to the unsophisticated observer. We do have our points of congruence plotted and stand by our contentions that the Shroud is self-dating by the presence of two identifiable coin images over the eye areas. Certainly others may disagree with our findings or interpretations, but I feel that anyone making a statement about the coins without having carefully examined our material may be leaving the arena of scholarship and entering that of speculation.


by William Meacham

Hong Kong. 1983

The skeptics are certainly out in full array among the commentators - out of all proportion, I might add, to either their real numbers or the force of their case. If only the latter were as strong as their rhetoric! It is surprising to find their arguments directed almost entirely to the discredited notion of medieval "clever artistry." Mueller and Cole allege that my treatment of the Shroud is "not a work of balanced scholarship" because it does not consider this hypothesis in a substantial manner. I chose not to convey the impression that "general and powerful arguments" have been advanced for clever artistry precisely because none have. I have informed the reader that there are skeptics (and arch-skeptics), that there are difficulties, major and minor unresolved questions, many divergences of opinion among Shroud researchers, and a number of options short of accepting full authenticity, but I have relegated the idea that a clever medieval artist could have created the Shroud to the level of a footnote, in the same way that reputable scholarship would dismiss questions of Shakespeare's authorship, Hitler's escape from Berlin, and outer-space contributions to ancient civilization. Akin in many ways to these notions, the skeptical case for medieval artistry is based in part on the denial of empirical data, is built on a postulated complex of exceptional circumstance, and is quite untenable.

When Delage's 1902 lecture on the Shroud's authenticity provoked a storm of controversy, he wrote (1902:683): "If our proofs have not been received by certain persons as they deserve to be, it is only because a religious question has been injected into a problem which in itself is purely scientific." Unfortunately, little has changed in the intervening 80 years, and Delage's remark certainly applies to the comments of Dent, Nickell, Schafersman, and above all Cole, who even claims that ordinary standards of evidence do not apply to the Shroud and that I have presented a "religious apologetic." One can only wonder if Cole has ever heard or read a "patently religious argument." I categorically reject the implication that a religious viewpoint can be discerned in the article or that any argument is constructed on a theological base. Cole and Mueller do attempt to press the supernatural into any argument for authenticity, in spite of the fact that crude approximations of the Shroud image have been produced by the use of a corpse and spices, oils, etc., as Cole himself points out. Injecting the religious/supernatural element into the issue only distracts from the scientific evaluation, which is not, as Dent maintains, the use of science to serve "the opposite camp," but rather the proper investigation of a material object. The skeptics have not, I submit, advanced their arguments or camouflaged their highly vulnerable position by this distraction.

The historical existence of Christ and an object possibly associated with him are not "intrinsically religious questions" as Cole mistakenly believes. Emotional issues abound in science, certainly in the pages of CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY, yet would Cole have exceptional standards applied to them for this reason? Further, to accept Cole's "sleeping-dog rule" would excise many legitimate areas of scientific interest. He violates his own rule in pronouncing the Book of John "non-historical"; it is generally regarded as a highly theological eyewitness account. Similar, Schafersman must be applying extraordinary standards indeed to reject all reputable scholarship and consider Christ by "all available evidence to be mythical," whereas only last year this same evidence made him "think it probable that Jesus was an authentic person" (1982a:45). Most of Schafersman's comments are equally in conflict with empirical data, yet he labels my conclusion on the Shroud as a "blatant example of human credulity."

Dent seems to be on his own peculiar crusade. Even without following Binford, Leone, et al., one does not lose sight of what he is up to - making the Shroud an ideotechnic artifact so as to dismiss it. The Shroud would be in very good company, however, as all the material of history, archaeology, and evolution could also be so described, following Croce. In Dent's highly ideological comment, he points out that ideology is a mask and genuinely appears to believe that, armed with his own particular one, he is able to "pierce this mask" and perceive that the crucifixion is "mythologically real but materialistically [sic] and empirically unreal." Regardless of what mask he adopts, I do not see how on earth Dent can know the latter. Perhaps he really intends to refer to the resurrection. If not, for Dent there is no history, only ideotechnic constructions. He would presumably use the same terms to describe the assassination of Gandhi or the reconstruction of Australopithecus.

For one major misunderstanding that has crept into some comments I admit responsibility by omission. In concluding that the case for authenticity is very strong, I had no intention to imply that further study is not necessary or desirable. The work done thus far does indicate the direction of future research projects, as I stated, and there is a sense in which studies of the Shroud will always be incomplete. Similarly, in pointing out the limitations of C14 dating I would not for a moment argue that it need not be done. To the contrary radiometric dating ranks as the highest priority at present.

Beyond misunderstanding lies invective, and the comments of Cole, Nickell, Schafersman, and Mueller are phrased in an emotive tone not conducive to reasoned discussion. They bristle with intemperate rhetoric: "gullibility," "credulous bias," "notoriously subjective," "sheer whimsy," "blatant example of human credulity," "conceit," and "so-called evidence," to mention but a few examples. Doubts about personal competence or expertise emanate from Schafersman (graduate student) and Nickell (English instructor) like stones from inside a glass house: Frei's work is "questionable," STURP members may be pseudo-scientists, Heller and Adler are "nonforensic scientists," Filas and Whanger "nonexperts," and Bucklin and Gambescia "religious devotees of the 'relic.' " Those with views supporting the skeptics are mirabile dictu described in lavish terms: the Turin Commission consisted of "forensic experts;" McCrone is "probably the best-known forensic microbiologist in the world" and "a distinguished expert"; Baden is not only "one of America's foremost medico-legal experts," but "one of the world's most distinguished pathologists." Naturally, the former group are subject to a pro-authenticity bias, make "subjective inferences," and find "artifacts of their own hopes," whereas the latter conduct "impressive analyses" and make discoveries and "positive identifications." I leave it to the reader to decide whether this is the type of rhetoric usually associated with a carefully reasoned argument, not to mention a "powerful case."

Turning to some of the disputed points of data, the latest summary of STURP findings (Dinegar 1982:7) does give credence to both the pollen and the chin band. PeIlicori's doubt on the pigtail has not to my knowledge been published. I did not intend to give the impression that STURP was monolithic in its thinking, and several divergences were noted; I did attempt to relate what appears to be a solid STURP consensus. The Turin Commission did not report that blood penetrated the cloth (Frache, Rizzatti, and Mari 1976:50-51; Fleming 1978:62). The three-dimensional effect indicates that the image has correct tonal gradations, i.e., contour information of a type not seen in medieval paintings, rubbings, or black prints. The Shroud image may have faded slightly since 1357, but it is incorrect to state as a fact that it has faded radically. My suggestion of a possible "Kirlian effect" was rather speculative, but the Volckringer phenomenon should have definite applicability, being essentially a cellulose dehydration process producing exact, negative images.

The Mandylion's semilegendary history (Wilson 1978:158, 322) puts its discovery at the time of a Persian siege of Edessa in 544. I find the Mandylion/Shroud equation extremely difficult, for the reasons Cameron (1980) cites, especially the absence of mention of its revelation as a full-length body image and the lack of discoloration of the exposed portion of the cloth. On the other hand, the case made by Whanger, Wilson, and Vignon (1938) before them for the Shroud image's having been known and copied in early Byzantine times is quite compelling. I would suggest, therefore, that the Mandylion was a very early copy of the Shroud face, perhaps as early as the 1st or 2d century if the Abgar legend contains a grain of truth, and that the concept of images miraculously imprinted on cloth by Christ's face derives from a residual folk memory of the Shroud and the Mandylion copy of it.

The presence of coins or flat objects on the eyes seems well established by the three-dimensional reconstructions of Jumper and Tamburelli. The letter-like shapes are discernible in the earlier Enrie photographs, and several numismatists see the possible imprint of a Pilate coin. This is certainly not a baseless claim or a Rorschach effect, but it may be the result of a peculiarity of the Enrie film and technique, not replicated by STURP. Whanger (personal communication, 1983) points out that there are discrepancies between the 1931 and 1978 photographs which are not explained by STURP) and which may be the result of minor damage to the image in the interval. I fully agree with Pellicori that, until new strategies are devised, the point is moot.

Several comments are directed toward my caution with regard to C14 dating. It is not an infallible technique, and, as any field archaeologist knows, contamination either in situ or after excavation is always a possibility to be taken seriously. Maloney is correct to point out that pretesting cleansing will remove most of the normal contaminants (humic acids and lignins), but he errs in assuming that the quoted margin of error reflects in any way the possibility of contamination. One can never be certain that material of more recent age has not been trapped in the structure of the cellulose, that hydrocarbons have not formed, that ion exchange has not taken place, etc. Stuckenrath (1965:280) notes that the result is often more recent than expected and cites the wide divergence-from 1750 to 800 B.C. - of a series of 16 contemporaneous wood and charcoal samples; Peacock (1979:212) and Codegone (1976:40) cite same-sample inconsistencies; Hamilton (1965:43) cites conflicts between the C14 results and known historical ages. Alcock, McCrone, and Schafersman may find my lack of absolute faith in the method "sheer whimsy," "invalid," or "absurd," but it is based on experience: more than 50 samples excavated and prepared and submitted for dating and liaison with major C14 laboratories at Oxford, Canberra, and Teledyne. I believe that most archaeologists and radiocarbon scientists would agree that to trust the method to Produce an "absolute date" for a single artifact is what is absurd. It may, however, be comforting to Alcock to believe that an ancient date can easily be accommodated by the skeptics' position while a recent date would settle the matter. The truth is that no serious question in archaeology can be settled by a single date, especially on an artifact subjected to so many contamination possibilities. I would reject the claim that there are dated objects "more exposed" than the Shroud. In any event, what archaeologist worth his salt would give any credence to a date on an excavated sample which had been handled by hundreds of workers, kept in CO2-rich and high-humidity atmospheres, remained missing for a long while, been boiled in oil (mentioned in a 16th-century text), washed, burnt and repaired, and touched to the sick and to fresh paintings, had wax dribbled onto it, etc.? Unless, of course, the result was to his liking after all! Backward contamination is so rare that it may be dismissed, and the eventual dating of the Shroud will at least provide a minimum age.

The evidence for blood is a point of empirical data on which the skeptics reveal the weakness of their position and methods. Nickell quotes the unpublished opinion of "forensic expert"; Fisher to the effect that the chemical tests were not specific for blood; McCrone claims that his work (published in his own magazine) shows no blood. But according to the work of Heller (Professor of Life Sciences at the New England Institute), Adler (Professor of Chemistry at Western Connecticut) and Bollone (Professor of Legal Medicine at Turin University) - all published in peer-reviewed scientific journals - "there is nothing else on earth which could give this battery of positive criteria other than blood" (Heller, personal communication, 1982). Claims that false positives could be obtained from a tempera paint are undemonstrated and incorrect. Nickell counterposes the Commission's "highly sophisticated tests" - really quite standard forensic tests, apart from neutron activation, which Nickell wrongly assumes to have a bearing on the identification of blood. In his use of their data, Nickell ignores the conclusions of the Commission experts that ''generic and specific diagnoses of blood on material of a very ancient date . . . can have a real probative value only with a positive result" and that their negative finding "does not allow us to make an absolute judgement on the exclusion of haematic remains" (Frache, Rizzatti, and Mari 1976:51, 54, emphasis in the original, translation mine). In view of the positive microchemical evidence for blood and the positive identification of the blood as primate by both Bollone and Adler (personal communication, 1983), the presence of blood traces on the Shroud must be considered as proven. And, as Maloney points out, there is now strong evidence (Jumper et al. 1983) that the bloodstains were on the cloth prior to the body image. Finally ultraviolet fluorescence and microchemical identification of serum albumin in the clear areas within the blood flows provide conclusive evidence that the bloodstains on the Shroud derive from direct contact with a corpse and not from an artist's brush.

'The pollen is another case of empirical data subjected to unreasonable doubt. Frei's pollen evidence does indicate a Middle Eastern origin for the cloth, which is not too surprising, as several other linen "shrouds" were brought back from the Crusades as relics. Pellicori misses the significance of the pollen as a marker, percentages would be useful in determining the immediate environment represented by a deposit but not at all in proving that certain types are intrusive. The presence on the Shroud of a wide variety of Palestinian and Anatolian species is ipso facto evidence of an exposure to air in those regions, unless a similar presence can be documented in Holocene pollen deposits or on other medieval artifacts in France or Italy. It may be, as Mueller contends, that few STURP members give the pollen data any credence, but this does not detract in the least from the hard evidence Frei's work has revealed, especially in the identification of halophytes found almost exclusively around the Dead Sea. Riggi (1981), a member of STURP, has reported preliminary findings of Shroud pollen and minute animal forms "extremely similar in their aspects and dimensions" to those from Egyptian burial fabrics.

Cole and Mueller challenge my statement on the unanimity of medical opinion. Obviously, this was not intended to include every doctor or biologist who has seen a snapshot of the Shroud and formed an opinion. Baden's remarks are repeated in no fewer than four comments, but he is a lone sniper laying siege to a fortified city. Regardless of his prestige, his opinions appear off the cuff. He has not seen the Shroud, nor does he appear to be familiar with the vast medical literature or to have been in contact with other scholars; he has not published on the subject; he is said to be "something of an iconoclast" (Bucklin in Rhein 1980:50); his opinions were given on the basis of magazine photographs; he cites the fact that linen sheets in his morgue had never developed an imprint like the Shroud's, which was termed "too good to be true." This is not to say that Baden may not have something useful to contribute to Shroud studies, but the fact that skeptics quote him at this stage demonstrates their desperation in the medical arena. In the same vein (apologies!), Nickell's claim that the pathologist I cited have all been "religious devotees of the relic" is not merely incorrect, but preposterous, as is Schafersman's unverifiable notion that skeptical medical authorities have just not bothered to make their opinions known. The fact is that a number of investigators (Delage, Barbet, Modder, Cameron) approached the Shroud with an initial skepticism. It remains true that all informed and published medical opinion concurs in interpreting the Shroud image as the imprint of a crucified body. This evaluation comes from Protestants, Jews, and agnostics as well as Catholics, but even for the latter it is totally unjustified to pronounce them all religiously biased, with scientific judgement impaired. In sum, I stand by my statement that the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from this body of evidence is that cited from the respected archaeological scientist Stuart Fleming - that the Shroud image is neither medieval nor artistic in origin.

McCrone and others contend that I have ignored strong arguments for human artifice, but suggestions that the image might be a painting, rubbing, or print have been thoroughly disproved by the recent analyses. It is established that the visible body image does not reside in a pigment, ink, or other coloring agent and that it has distinctly different characteristics from the bloodstains. My dismissal of McCrone's claims is more than amply justified by the battery of Commission and STURP tests. Even Mueller, Nickell, and Schafersman now accept the STURP interpretation of the image as a cellulose degradation product, but McCrone still insists that it is a water-color painting with a layer of pigment. Not only are the iron oxide and other possible pigment particles present only in trace levels far below the visible range, but their identification, origin, and distribution pattern are disputed. Heller and Adler (1981:93) identify three types of iron compounds on the Shroud - cellulosic and heme-bound iron and Fe2O3, the latter concentrated in the water stain margins and possibly derived from either of the former, from airborne dust, or from contact with jewellers' rouge on glass. Further, Riggi (cited in Heller and Adler 1981:97) found no evidence under electron microprobe of the mineralogical contaminants (Mn, Co, Ni, Al) invariably associated with iron-earth pigments of medieval artists, nor did Heller and Adler find such impurities in microchemical testing. The few isolated examples of undisputed paint particles, e.g., cinnabar, are completely consistent with dust deposition. Indeed, among the millions of particles on the Shroud surface, it would be surprising not to find traces of pigment, as the Shroud has been copied at least 60 times.

Even if one ignored the very compelling evidence to the contrary and granted McCrone's interpretation of the iron particles and protein, all one could conclude would be that minute traces of a solution or ointment containing pure haematite are present in the body imprint. This is of course a far cry from proving the image to be a painting. As STURP responded to McCrone's first pronouncements, "microscopic observations do not exist in a vacuum" (quoted in Sox 1981:61). McCrone is somewhat like Mearns's little man who "wasn't there again today." He declined at least two invitations to discuss his findings in the multidisciplinary framework of STURP; he has declined invitations to present his work at scientific congresses. He did not follow the STURP "covenant," which he signed, to publish in peer-reviewed scientific literature. And, as he admits, he has not responded in print to the arguments of Heller and Adler, Pellicori, Riggi, and Schwalbe and Rogers on the physics and chemistry of the image. He has abandoned his earlier claims of a synthetic iron oxide (post-1800) in the image and of a pigment enhancement of the genuine image.

I should interject at this point that the established facts as reviewed above are more than sufficient to refute the medieval-clever-artistry hypothesis. A forger could have obtained a Middle Eastern cloth, could have used some primate blood (and serum), and could have depicted the body in flawless anatomical detail, and the pigment could have disappeared, leaving a faint dehydration image - but that all of these unprecedented circumstances should have coalesced in the production of a single relic is virtually impossible to imagine. And yet, there are much greater problems in the "viable hypothesis of image formation" trumpeted by Mueller and Nickell.

Apart from McCrone, the skeptics have moved on to a more refined position not dependent on the identification of any pigment in the cloth, i.e., that the cellulose degradation was produced by a paint or coloring material formerly present. It should be noted that the earlier vaporgraphic theory could be resurrected with the same logic: that a reaction of bodily vapors occurred with a sensitizing material on the superficial fibers of the linen only or was provoked by sunlight, all evidence of the initial reaction now having "evaporated, been washed away, or otherwise disappeared." Because the Shroud is unique, every hypothesis of image formation must involve a set of unique conditions, and none can be rejected on this basis alone. Body imprints are invariably distorted, as Mueller remarks, just as paintings and rubbings invariably contain pigment layers (and distortion in three-dimensional projection). The new hypothesis of a "post-pigment image" has a certain built-in immunity, like postulation of an ancient occupation in regions where artifacts would not have survived. Clearly, to be testable and viable, the hypothesis must derive from or at least not conflict with the known elements of 14th-century art.

This it manifestly fails to do. In addition to the four unprecedented features described above, there is no rubbing from the entire medieval period that is even remotely comparable to the Shroud, nor is there any negative painting. Nickell's wet-mold-dry-daub technique was not known in medieval times, according to art historian Husband (cited in Sox 1981:88), and even that technique fails to reproduce the contour precision and three-dimensional effect, the lack of saturation points, and the resolution of the Shroud image. The bas-relief used would have been far more accurate than any example of 14th-century wood carving or sculpture known; even later carvings by 15th-16th-century masters of bas-relief do not have the fine detail of wounds and postures which would translate into the undistorted three-dimensional projections of Tamburelli, confirmed as accurate anatomically by the forensic pathologist Zugibe (1982:169-76). Similarly, even the blood flows painted in the greatest 14th-century works of art are not at all comparable to those on the Shroud.

There are many more flaws in the "powerful case" for medieval artifice, and I must beg the reader's forbearance for what must begin to seem like the whipping of a very dead horse. There is no medieval depiction of scourge marks of such realism (radiation and fine detail) or correspondence to the Roman scourge. The nude figure of Christ is extremely rare, unheard of in an object for public veneration, and Shroud copyists generally saw fit to correct it. The wrist-nailing is unique, according to art historian McNair (1978:35): "I have studied hundreds of paintings, sculptures and carvings of Christ's crucifixion and deposition, from the 13th to the 16th centuries, and not one of them shows a nail wound anywhere but in the palm of the hand." Depiction of a non-circlet crown of thorns severing the head is extremely rare. The Shroud is unlike any 14th-century or earlier artist's conception of the deposition and wrapping in linen. The portrayal of the face is extremely close to the Byzantine style, as Whanger has shown. It is clear, therefore, that clever artistry simply cannot be stretched to cover such a wide range of extraordinary circumstance, Innovation, even at genius level, is bounded by the cultural context and cannot diverge therefrom to the extent that the Shroud contradicts the 14th-century milieu. From this massive conflict between the Shroud and medieval art 1 believe there can be only one conclusion - that the Shroud image belongs to the 1st millennium, with the corollary that it is the imprint of a body. There conclusions should now be considered well-documented archaeological judgements, approaching the level of certainty if normal standards are applied, especially since they agree exactly with the evidence from medical studies.

I have not invented this historical knowledge (dating and assessment) or failed to present it, as Schafersman and Pellicori maintain. The identification and dating of artifacts by their cultural affinities is part and parcel of archaeology. A web of intricate, interlocking, field-tested evidence is usually taken as proof, though not exactly comparable to proof in the natural sciences, as Maloney and Otterbein point out. With the medical, pollen, blood, pigment, and art historical evidence all pointing away from medieval forgery and collectively indicating the Shroud's origin in the ancient Middle East, the issue of Stage 1 authentication should have been settled after the archaeological confirmation of three cultural traits first hypothesized from Shroud studies - the Roman wrist-nailing and the 1st-century Jewish placing of coins over the eyes and supine, hands-over-pelvis burial posture. The skeptics, however, posit such miraculous qualities in the "clever artist" that, by the same criteria, no artifact, manuscript, or work of art could ever be dated or authenticated. And contrary to Alcock, science and history do proceed by decisions of validity and authenticity.

The possibility that the Shroud is ancient but not the burial cloth of Christ is only mentioned by Cole, who merely states a series of propositions without substantiation. It is difficult to build a case on this possibility, but it is not the hopeless case of medieval artistry. I do not believe it a "ritual" to examine all the Stage 2 alternatives, but there is of course a very compelling argument for the representation of Christ in the Shroud figure, virtually ruling out accident. The only real, though highly unlikely, alternatives to the full authenticity of the Shroud are therefore the early-forgery and imitation scenarios. The skeptics would do well to redirect their energies into these possibilities, if they are quite determined to remain skeptics.

Establishing the authenticity of the Shroud does not, of course, hinge on convincing every investigator, still less on resolving all difficulties and unknowns.. Rather, authentication results from a process in which a minimum set of unique conditions and imposing probabilities has been established. Among these prerequisites is not, contrary to Jackson, a satisfactory explanation of the Shroud's early history and the image formation. Being confronted with genuinely ancient objects of unknown provenance is a common experience for the museum curator, and ancient technology cannot always be reconstructed by the archaeologist. The "lost" 1,300 years and the image origin may always remain unexplained - indeed, this prospect is beginning to appear likely - but data sufficient for authentication have been obtained from other aspects of the Shroud. The dating, geographical origin, and association with Christ are indicated not by an isolated feature or datum, but by a web of intricate, corroborating detail as specific as that used in the authentication of a manuscript or painting and certainly as reliable as many other archaeological/historical identifications which are generally accepted. This consistent mesh of detail, with layer upon layer of data from various disciplines, is more than circumstantial, but it is less than irrefutable. Perhaps the reason Pellicori and STURP support only Stage 1 is that they are not accustomed to the methodologies involved, a problem often encountered when, to paraphrase Pellicori, nonarchaeologists attempt to make archaeological judgements. The proper scrutiny of the evidence requires more of a legal than a laboratory method, and qualification by elimination rather than quantification is the determining factor.

As noted in the conclusion to my article, there can be no irrefutable proof of the past, since it cannot be repeated, and conspiracies on a massive scale, forgery of documents, bungling of excavations, etc., are always possible. In each of the examples of historical "fact" which I have compared with the Shroud - Tutankhamen's tomb, the dating of the Parthenon, Shakespeare's authorship, Hitler's death, the Lascaux paititings, the Shang dynasty - there is an element of the circumstantial, and nothing irrefutable, but careful investigation of the pattern of interlocking data, unique features, and the extraordinary circumstance required by alternative explanations leaves no reasonable doubt, and no substantial reason to doubt, unless one has a particular axe to grind. So it is with the Shroud.

The epistemological element in the question of authenticity of the Shroud is of equal fascination with the relic itself. Cole's espousal of extraordinary standards for emotional issues is a splendid example of the manner in which our preconceptions filter empirical data, especially in the degree of proof we require. And, as Burridge points out, so many of our supposed certainties, even in the natural sciences, are actually possibilities or probabilities that we need to be continuously reminded of the frailty and lack of absolute certainty inherent in our knowledge. But in an epistemological framework no stricter than that normally operative for judgements of history and science, the image on the Shroud of Turin can, I submit, be confidently ascribed to the body of Christ.

References Cited

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