Has carbon testing finally revealed the age of the Shroud of Turin?
The face of Jesus Christ has inspired artists throughout the ages. But how did they know what Jesus looked like? A piece of linen may hold the answer. It is called the Shroud of Turin. Many believe it is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ, and his image was imprinted on its threads. Fr. “Kim” Dreisbach, Jr. has spent the majority of his career studying the shroud:
The shroud was first exhibited publicly in France during the Renaissance period. No one seemed to know where it came from. Then in 1578 A.D., the shroud was moved to Turin, Italy, where it was rarely shown in public. Three centuries later, in 1898, the shroud was photographed for the first time. According to Fr. Dreisbach, the photographer’s negatives showed more detail than could be seen by the naked eye:
From that point on, the Shroud of Turin became more and more an object of scientific inquiry. Dr. Robert Bucklin, a forensic pathologist, has examined life-sized photographic negatives of the shroud:
The crucifixion of Jesus has traditionally been depicted with nails driven through his palms. But according to Fr. Dreisbach, modern research has confirmed that at the time of Jesus’ death, nails were driven through the victims’ wrists:
In 1978, the shroud was made available to a number of scientists for the first time. Using particles lifted from the shroud with adhesive tape, biophysicist John Heller and chemist Alan Adler determined that there was blood on the cloth. They found chemical evidence of severe torture, consistent with crucifixion. Their findings however, are not universally accepted.
Some scientists, like Dr. Walter McCrone, have claimed that the shroud is a forgery—the work of a highly skilled artist who painted with tiny brush strokes:
However, Fr. Dreisbach disagreed with that theory:
In recent times, other scientists have used computer technology to study the shroud. Optical specialist Kevin Moran claimed his computer analysis revealed that the image has unique optical qualities that confirm the shroud’s authenticity:
In addition to Moran’s findings, believers claimed that the absence of brush strokes on the shroud proves it is not a painting. However, skeptics have pointed out that Leonardo da Vinci’s brush strokes were often invisible. In an effort to resolve the controversies surrounding the shroud, the Vatican allowed samples to be cut from its outer edges in 1988. Three universities were given a tiny piece of linen for carbon dating.
Dr. Paul Damon, at the University of Arizona, headed the carbon dating team in the United States. His findings placed the shroud’s origin between 1290 and 1360 A.D.:
The Vatican accepted the results of Paul Damon’s carbon dating. At the same time, carbon dating tests in Switzerland and England confirmed Damon’s findings. Since then, questions have been raised about the carbon dating process. The Vatican has refused to allow further testing, but it did approve a major restoration. Critics say that restoration will make further research even more difficult. But for true believers, further testing will make little difference. For them, the shroud has always been a matter of faith.