A group scientists in Italy have claimed that neutron radiation caused by an earthquake in 33 AD could have induced the image that many believe to be Christ on the Holy Shroud of Turin.
They also believe the seismic activity at that time led to false carbon dating of the cloth in 1988.
Until now, no plausible physical reason has been given to explain how the image appears on the Shroud through radiation. But the group of researchers, led by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, has proposed these findings in an article published in Springer’s journal Meccanica. The findings were published online on Feb. 11.
Carpinteri’s team believes that high-frequency pressure waves generated in the Earth’s crust during earthquakes are the source of such neutron emissions. Their findings are based on piezonuclear fission reactions, which can be triggered when very brittle rock specimens are crushed under a press machine.
Analagously, the researchers believe that neutron flux increments, in correspondence to seismic activity, could be a result of the same reactions. A group of Russian scientists found a noticeable increase in neutron flux in earthquakes over a certain magnitude, leading the researchers to consider the possibility that neutron emissions could have induced the image on the Shroud.
Carpinteri’s team experiments have confirmed that “oxidative phenomena” generated by earthquakes can provide 3D images on cloth. “Moreover, a further effect of neutron irradiation could have provided a wrong radiocarbon dating due to an increment in C14-6 nuclei in the linen fibres,” they wrote. The 1988 findings claimed the Shroud was at most 728 years old.
The earthquake theory is backed up by historical records which show that major tremors in Old Jerusalem took place at that time – 33 A.D., the time widely believed to be of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. The accounts of such seismic activity in connection with the Resurrection are also mentioned in the Gospels.
Matthew the Evangelist wrote that there was a strong earthquake at the moment of Christ’s death: “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”, he wrote (Matthew 27: 54).
He also wrote there was another even stronger earthquake at the time of the Resurrection: “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:2–4).
Joseph of Arimathea also wrote in ‘The Narrative of Joseph’: “And, behold, after He had said this, Jesus gave up the ghost, on the day of the preparation, at the ninth hour. And there was darkness over all the earth; and from a great earthquake that happened, the sanctuary fell down, and the wing of the temple.”
Further evidence of strong seismic activity at the time of Christ’s Death and Resurrection was also recorded in ancient Greek literature. A historian named Thallos, who probably lived in Rome in the middle of the first century, also spoke of the darkening of the sky and an earthquake on that day.
The work of Thallos has been lost, but the quotation of the passage about Jesus had been inserted in the Chronographia of Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian Palestinian author who died in Nicopolis around the 240 A.D.
Julius Africanus criticizes Thallos for asserting that there could be an eclipse on the day of Passover, which occurs in the full moon period, but he does not dispute that the same day there was an earthquake.
“Recent neutron emission detections have led to consider the Earth’s crust as a relevant source of neutron flux variations,” Carpinteri’s team conclude in their article, and present the “hypothesis that neutron emissions from a historical earthquake have led to appreciable effects on Shroud linen fibres.”
They add that considering the historical documents attesting a “disastrous earthquake” in the “Old Jerusalem” in 33 A.D., they “assume that a seismic event with magnitude ranging from the 8th to the 9th degree in the Richter scale could have produced a thermal neutron flux.”
“Through thermal neutron capture by nitrogen nuclei, this event may have contributed both to the image formation, and to the increment in C 6 14 [carbon dating] on linen fibres of the Shroud.”
The radiation theory still needs further tests, leading to a group of scientists currently petitioning Pope Francis to allow further analysis of the Shroud that will confirm or rule out the radiation theory.
The Vatican, although never definitive about it, has always hinted at the Shroud’s authenticity. On a visit to the Shroud in 2010, Benedict XVI said it is “an Icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and whose right side was pierced. The Image impressed upon the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life.”
Pope Francis last month announced an exposition of the Shroud would take place between April and August of 2015 in Turin.