Professor Revives Shroud Of Turin Riddle

By | June 3, 2008

Scientists at three laboratories using radiocarbon dating in 1988 and 1989 determined the shroud was a medieval forgery, though they could not explain how the image was created. Millions of faithful believe the shroud’s bloodstained image of a battered, crucified man is the miraculous image of Jesus, formed as he rose from the dead.Professor Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, has agreed to test Jackson’s hypothesis that contamination by carbon monoxide could throw off radiocarbon dating by more than a millennium. It is possible, Jackson said, that even minimal contamination of the shroud by environmental carbon monoxide could have skewed the dating by 1,300 years — making it not medieval but contemporaneous with Jesus’ life.

Jackson, who must prove a viable pathway for that contamination, is working with Oxford to test samples of linen under the various conditions the shroud has endured, such as outdoor exhibitions and exposure to extreme heat during a 1532 fire. “Science still has much to tell us about the shroud,” said Jackson, a Catholic.

A physics professor here has resurrected the mystery of the Shroud of Turin, the fabled burial cloth of Christ that 20 years ago scientists declared a fake.

“If we are dealing with the burial cloth of Christ, it is the witness to the birth of Christianity. But my faith doesn’t depend on that outcome.” Ramsey also acknowledged the need to reconcile radiocarbon-dating results with other forensic and historical evidence that indicate the shroud is much older than 600 to 700 years old. Scientists must arrive at a coherent story about the enigmatic shroud, Ramsey said. The shroud is either authentic or a hoax so ingenious that state-of-the-art scientific analysis has yet to explain how it was done, said David Rolfe, director of a new documentary, “Shroud of Turin.” “The shroud is brilliant and unfathomable,” Rolfe said.

The Vatican keeps the shroud locked away in a special protective chamber of inert gases in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. Yet the Catholic Church makes no claims about the relic’s authenticity. – tdc

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