Scientist reproduces the Shroud of Turin with medieval materials

Luigi Garlaschelli, an organic chemistry professor at the University of Pavia, says he has reproduced the Shroud of Turin using only materials and techniques available in the Middle Ages.

The Shroud of Turin is said to be the sheet in which Jesus was wrapped after the Crucifixion. It bears an image of a bearded man, with wounds on his head, wrists, feet and side.

In 1988, three independent laboratories radiocarbon-dated it to between 1260 and 1390 A.D. This set off a major controversy and some people questioned whether the small samples taken from the edges of the cloth could have been contaminated from hundreds of years of handling. (The Church itself took no stand on the question and never has. The shroud is a symbol of the Passion of Christ, as far as they’re concerned, and they leave it at that.)

Before then, in 1978, a team of American scientists from NASA, the Navy and a variety of universities and research agencies carefully examined the shroud. They found microscopic protein evidence that the linen came from the first century Middle East.

They also found that the bloodstains were in fact blood, and that the image wasn’t made of paint or pigment. Scientists still haven’t been able to pin down exactly how the image on the linen might have been created at that time.

Enter Garlaschelli and his team.

They placed a linen sheet flat over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid. A mask was used for the face.

The pigment was then artificially aged by heating the cloth in an oven and washing it, a process which removed it from the surface but left a fuzzy, half-tone image similar to that on the Shroud. He believes the pigment on the original Shroud faded naturally over the centuries.

They then added blood stains, burn holes, scorches and water stains to achieve the final effect.

It looks pretty damn good, I must say. The original is on the left, the reproduction on the right.

Shroud of Turin on the left, Garlaschelli's new one on the right

Of course this doesn’t prove anything other than that it was physically possible for people to have rigged themselves up a miraculous shroud in the Middle Ages. As Garlaschelli notes, folks who don’t believe the carbon dating results from some of the most reputable labs in the world aren’t likely to believe him either.

The study was also funded by an Italian association of atheists and agnostics, so people who don’t trust their motivations and Garlaschelli’s integrity obviously will not trust the findings.

The Shroud of Turin is kept out of sight most of the time. In the past 300 years, it has only been viewable by the public 17 times. The last time it was on public display was in 2000. To catch a rare glimpse of the Shroud of Turin, make your way to the Guarini Chapel in the Turin Cathedral next year between April 10 and May 23.

Fun fact: a displaying of the Shroud actually has a name. It’s called an “ostensione” — an ostentation in English — after the shameless way in which the royal house of Savoy showed it off back in the late 16th/early 17th century when they first got it.

14 thoughts on “Scientist reproduces the Shroud of Turin with medieval materials

  1. Actually, I have to say I’m more interested in the microscopic protein evidence found in the 70’s. One would, as Eric has said, naturally assume it didn’t predate the Medieval period, so anything that would suggest otherwise would be a little boggling.

      1. Being not particularly science-y I have to ask, would it be possible for particles from before the Medieval period to find there way to the shroud WITHOUT it pre-dating that period?

        One would like to assume that such well established government agencies did the science right, even if they did it a long time ago.

        1. I’m sure there are all kinds of things that might have gotten stuck on the shroud over the 700+ years since it’s been known to exist.

          It’s been on public display since the 14th century. Who knows who and what brushed up against it.

  2. A shame that the source of funding for this will be such a convenient excuse to disregard it. Ah well, if it wasn’t that it would be this. Like the man said, if carbon dating didn’t do it what will? 😥

  3. Your ” fake shroud” does not hold up to the authentic, You didn’t get a negative image on your fake.
    Failed experiment, you just proved that the original shroud is authentic, and you couldn’t duplicate it.

  4. I had nothing to do with the experiment beyond reporting on the story, so it’s not “mine” and I didn’t prove or disprove a thing. I’m glad you feel reassured in your pre-determined assumptions, though. 🙂

  5. Another important point is the ” fake ” that was reproduced just disqualified itself.

    QUOTE:They placed a linen sheet flat over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid.
    Doing this would require a direction, in rubbing acid onto the cloth, the authentic shroud has no such directionality.
    So to duplicate it shows failure.
    Also blood was poured on after the image was created in this fake, but the original shroud, the blood was on the cloth “BEFORE” the image was made.

    So the fake does not hold up, to the original.
    I doubt Garlaschelli will allow it put under scientific scrutiny because it won’t pass the test.

  6. Full scientific discussion of Garlaschelli’s attempt can be found at various places on the web. Go find it!
    The Garlaschelli version is lacking in three-dimensional perspective information. This information is one of the most mysterious qualities of the shroud. The Garlaschelli version also failed to duplicate the color and appearance of the image at the microscpoic level.
    The 1988 carbon dating has been scientifically proven to be accurate only for the patched corner where the sample was taken.

  7. Oh, lawd!

    first, how, pray tell, are you privy to the information of which direction the acid was spread around on the reproduction?

    Further, where do you get the idea that the blood was on the cloth BEFORE the image was made? And how does that disprove the way in which the reproduction was made proves the original is real?

    And finally your last sentence:

    “The 1988 carbon dating has been scientifically proven to be accurate only for the patched corner where the sample was taken.”

    How does that disprove the age of the original shroud? Are you trying to say that the corner from which the sample was taken was somehow made at a later date than the actual image on the shroud itself? I don’t get it.

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