Essay: Turin shroud


The Turin shroud is an interesting archaeological issue because it is believed to be Jesus’ burial cloth. It makes individuals want to believe in God’s existence but also question religion and science. The media presents numerous perspectives, but it is difficult to determine which ones are accurately presented. Therefore, the purpose of this assignment is to critically evaluate the legitimacy of an online newspaper article about the shroud of Turin. The assignment leads with the summary of the article, followed by the analysis, which is subcategorized into different topics, and ends with a conclusion that highlights information regarding the shroud’s validity.

The article begins with stating its ideology of the Turin Shroud being an authentic burial robe of Christ and provides evidence for its ideology by discussing the scientific experiments that were conducted by Italian and American scientists (Squires 2011). Experts from Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development conducted experiments that consisted of using short-term vibrations of ultraviolet light to duplicate the burial cloth marks (Squires 2011). They determined that the cloth imprints could only be made with the help of ultraviolet lasers, which is a technology that was unavailable in medieval times (Squires 2011). However, they cannot provide a scientific explanation as to how it is possible (Squires 2011).
In addition, their research supports the data of an American group called the Shroud of Turin Research Project, who carried out x-rays and ultraviolet light tests on the shroud (Squires 2011). They determined that pigments, dyes, paints or the work of an artist cannot create the shroud marks (Squires 2011). However, modern science cannot explain their results (Squires 2011). The article proceeds to state that the shroud cannot be a medieval forgery and invalidates a radiocarbon test that proves it to be between 1260 and 1390 (Squires 2011). The radiocarbon dates from laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona are dubious because a Middle Age fire contaminated the cloth (Squires 2011).


Does the article follow standard scientific thinking?

Primarily, the article does not follow standard scientific thinking. For one, both expert groups ignored historical and scientific evidence indicating the shroud is a medieval forgery (Ateo 2009; C 2009). For example, microscopic evidence disclosed that the image was made by red ochre and vermilion, which is consistent with a fourteenth-century artist’s forgery confession (Nickel 2011).
Secondly, they used faulty, non-scientific logic to support their hypothesis (Nickel 2011). They cannot determine how the image was created, so they claim it is created by a phenomenal surge of radiant energy when Christ was resurrected (Nickel 2011). They utilize circular reasoning and have no scientific standard to test that miraculous energy blast created it (Nickel 2011).
Moreover, STURP researchers’ committed additional errors. For one, they considered a limited number of simple explanations for the image on the shroud that include watercolours, oil paints and oil stains used to smear the corpse (Feder 2014). Then they applied sophisticated equipment in testing these hypotheses, found none of the explanations to their liking and ended up suggesting that the image were scorch marks made by an unexplainable radiation burst (Feder 2014).

The article’s source.
One source of the article is Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development. It is a public research and development agency that works in the areas of energy, environment and technologies to encourage competitiveness and employment (Nickel 2011). Other than this, there is no additional information. Another source is the Shroud of Turin Research Project group that includes accredited professionals like nuclear physicists and forensic pathologists, that conducted experiments and analyses on the shroud between 1970 -1980 (Squire 2011). An interesting fact is that thirty-nine of the forty members were devout believers, which raises the concern for cognitive bias (Ateo 2009; Rachel C 2009).
Is it one sided? / Are alternatives mentioned?

The alternative view is that the shroud is a medieval forgery, however this view is not greatly emphasized and denied. This makes the article unrepresentative because it does not expand on skeptical views and does not provide missing critical information. It briefly mentions the radiocarbon results of scientists from three laboratories and denies the results because of contamination, but without any critical analysis (Squire 2011). For the shroud to be contaminated enough to skew the radiocarbon dates, the sample would have to be at least one-third contaminated and two-thirds cloth (Gove 1996). This is an improbable situation and would been obvious to the naked eye (Feder 2014). Additionally, a textile expert ensured that the shroud was sampled and not patches added later to cover holes burned in a fire (Feder 2014). Moreover, the process was videotaped in order to provide a chain of evidence and control samples were also provided to the labs (Feder 2014). Also, none of the labs knew the identity of the fabric samples because they wanted to ensure it was a blind test (Feder 2014).

Is there enough information to determine the article’s legitimacy?

The article does not have enough information to make an informed decision regarding the article’s legitimacy since it overlooks vital information that can contradict its position, it is vague and does not answer numerous questions.
‘Firstly, a question that it does not answer is that is the shroud a regular part of Jewish burial? (Feder 2014). Since Jesus was Jewish, he must have had a Jewish burial ceremony. However, the shroud disputes this (Feder 2014). Firstly, the Old Testament and Gospel of John descriptions imply that the Jesus’ corpse was wrapped in linen strips with a separate strip for the face (Feder 2014). However, the shroud contradicts this because it is a single sheet. Secondly, the blood on shroud cannot be Christ’s because if it was, Christ’s body was not ritually cleaned according to Jewish customs (Feder 2014). Corpses were washed before burials, so bloodstains could not be present on the shroud. Another predicament is that the herringbone pattern of the shroud weave has never been uncovered in Egypt or Palestine in Christ’s time (Feder 2014).
‘Another question that needs to be clarified is whether early Christians described the shroud? (Feder 2014). The gospel of John mentions the linen cloths, but does not offer details of any image, which is unusual because such a phenomenon should have been cited (Feder 2014). Moreover, there is no reference of an image on Christ’s burial attires anywhere (Feder 2014).
‘Furthermore, the article does not ponder if the shroud is historically traced to Jesus? (Feder 2014). The earliest reference to the shroud is AD 1353 and there is no evidence of its presence beforehand (Feder 2014). Also, between the death of Jesus and AD 1353, there is no historical reference or proof for its presence (Feder 2014). It is strange that a shroud with Christ’s image was unnoticed for more than 1300 years (Feder 2014). Moreover, bishop Henri de Poitiers started a shroud investigation and sent Pope clement VII a report about it (Feder 2014). The report concluded it was forged in order to generate income for the church at Lirey and as a result, the Pope declared the shroud is unauthentic and a representation of the true shroud (Feder 2014).
‘Lastly, the article does not question the composition of the image and blood. The image showed the existence of red ochre, and the bloodstains showed the occurrence of synthetic mercuric sulfide, a component of the red pigment vermillion (McCrone 1990). The traits of the vermillion pigment on the shroud are consistent with a type made in A.D 800 Europe (McCrone 1990). Also, bloodstains tested negative when forensic blood tests were completed (McCrone 1990). From this it is concluded that the shroud has no blood, only red pigment ( McCrone 1990).

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