1988 Test on Shroud Is Disputed

Carbon-14 Dating Wasn’t on Original Fabrics, Says Chemist

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ROME, FEB. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A 1988 carbon-14 test on the Shroud of Turin was faulty because it involved a rewoven piece of the cloth, resulting in incorrect dating, says a research group.

The American Shroud of Turin Association for Research, a scientific organization studying the shroud, announced Jan. 19 that the widely publicized 1988 testing was not carried out on the original material of the cloth that tradition says was used to wrap the body of Jesus and bears his image.

The carbon-14 tests carried out in three laboratories in 1988 had dated the shroud between A.D. 1260 and 1390.

However, professor Raymond Rogers, a member of Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, says that «chemical examinations indicate that the linen of the holy shroud in fact is very old, much older than the radiocarbon date published in 1988.»

The American scientist’s discoveries have been published in Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, Nos. 1-2, Jan. 20, pp. 189-194), a scientific chemistry review.

Rogers’ contribution has sparked debate. Last Jan. 22, in an article in the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Shroud Commission of the Archdiocese of Turin, said: «Swiss Dr. Mechtild Flury Lemberg examined the shroud with great care and has absolutely not seen any sign of added textile.»

According to Monsignor Ghiberti, «The lining was also removed and for the first time in 500 years we saw the reverse side of the cloth: There is no sign of a mend. Moreover, a reconstruction is done only where there is a hole, while the sample was taken from a corner area, where it would be unreasonable to think of any medieval interweaving.»

«I am surprised that a specialist like Rogers can fall into such lack of precision in his article,» the monsignor said. «I should expect, rather, that the C-14 dating could be rectified, but not on the basis of the patch hypothesis.»

For his part, Rogers clarified for ZENIT the result of his research. The chemist said he has been misunderstood, because it is not an issue of a sample of an invisible mend.

He said that there is an obvious «difference between the sample used for the radiocarbon analysis and the main part of the shroud.»

To this end, Rogers said that the ultraviolet fluorescent photographs, taken by Vern Miller in 1978, should be studied.

«They show the area of the sample as a dark area and this demonstrates that the relative chemical composition was not the same as that of the principal cloth,» Rogers said. «The dark area is not the result of dirt or a shadow. I can explain the fluorescence in great detail, but it is based totally on the chemical composition.

«I am not a textile expert, but I have found a strange joint with the extremities in contact between the threads that the expert in fabrics Gilbert Raes had extracted in 1973,» said Rogers.

«The joint is completely different. It is moreover obvious that the two extremities of the joint are different: One is fleecy and white, the other is colored and tightly weaved,» he added.

«Although I am not a textile expert, I am a respected expert in chemistry, and my article in Thermochimica Acta was submitted to the review of colleagues,» Rogers added. «Few people held that the determination of the radiocarbon age could be mistaken: It was difficult to convince the skeptics.»

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