Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Shroud of Turin and the Mystery Surrounding Its Authenticity

A Startling Revelation

Based on recent studies of the shroud and previous examinations of it during the five-day scientific investigation in 1978, Dr. Raymond Rogers, a former member of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) and a retired physical chemist believed that the techniques used to date the artifact were flawed, Bijal P. Trivedi reported in April 2004 for the National Geographic Channel. Rogers recommended that there be a new scientific investigation, using more advanced technology and better samples to date the shroud. Carbon dating in 1988 dated the cloth to medieval times, thus discrediting the theory that it was Jesus burial cloth. However, Rogers alleged that there was a chance that it was actually much older.

Thus, Rogers conducted a new experiment to date the shroud, which he hoped would disprove the premise that it was from medieval times. In December 2003, Rogers received radiocarbon thread samples taken from the Turin shroud, which he closely scrutinized. He made a surprising discovery, which he published in a January 2005 article in the Thermochimica Acta.

Metal container containing a piece of the Shroud, stamped with the seal of the Archbishop of Turin
Metal container containing a piece of the Shroud, stamped with the seal of the Archbishop of Turin

Rogers found that the sample used in the 1988 investigation did indeed date to medieval times but the threads examined were from a patch, likely sewed on by nuns sometime around 1260 to 1390, in an effort to restore the shroud after it was damaged by fire. In fact, the rest of the shroud proved to be much older. According to a January 2005 Associated Press article, Rogers said he analyzed the amount of vanillin, a chemical compound that is present in linen from the flax fibers used to weave it, which is known to slowly disappear from the fiber over time at a calculated rate. The samples he studied had hardly any vanillin on them, indicating that the shroud was between 1,300-3,000 years old rather than around 700 years old as previously purported.

Rogers was further quoted in the article saying, The chemistry says it was a real shroud, the blood spots on it are real blood, and the technology that was used to make that piece of cloth was exactly what Pliny the Elder reported fort his time." Pliny the Elder was an ancient Roman scientist and author who lived between 23 and 79 AD. Based on Rogers research and historical data, the shroud has been accurately dated to around the time of Christ. The discovery rekindled the age-old debate of whether the shroud was or was not the actual burial cloth used to wrap Jesus body. Chances are we will never know.