One very good reason why the Turin Shroud could not POSSIBLY have been produced by scorching onto linen – and 10 even better ones why it could.

Just when you think you’ve proved your point, a sceptic comes along…

Stop press (added 12th March):

I have added  to the end of this post a section on the work of Irene Corgiat, pyrographical artist par excellence, who has produced a remarkable simulation of the face on the Shroud using her “electric pyro-tool”.

Another stop press added July 29 2012: see this later post of mine for an explanation as to why 1532 burn holes fluoresce under uv whereas Shroud body image does not (it’s due to aromatic fluorochromes).

1. The Shroud image does not fluoresce under uv light – in the way that any self-respecting modern-day scorch image does. So it could not possibly have been produced by branding technology, could it?  RIGHT?

2. The image is front and back only – without sides – exactly as expected of branding technology.

3. The image exhibits most if not all the chemical characteristics of a scorch mark,  like carbohydrates that have been dehydrated, oxidised etc. –  in other words the kind of chemical changes that accompany pyrolysis, aka thermal degradation, the ones that result in caramelisation, browning,  formation of Maillard reaction products etc.  – exactly as expected of branding technology.

4. The image is like a photographic negative, i.e. light/dark reversed – exactly as expected of branding technology.

5. The image is superficial – confined to the outermost layers of the fabric, exactly as expected of branding technology

6. Not only that, but the image is largely confined to the crown fibres, where one thread loops over another  – exactly as expected of branding technology. 

7. The image is interrupted by creases in the fabricexactly as expected of branding technology.

8. The image area of the cloth is mechanically weaker than adjoining non-image areas – exactly as expected of branding technology

9. The image does not depend on painting, primitive photography etc., inasmuch as there are no traces or pigments, photographic emulsions etcexactly as expected of branding technology

10.  Computer-aided  analysis and processing can generate a 3D-like impression (like a bas relief) but the resultant image fails to show the familiar topological relief resulting from conventional lateral illumination, as in a photograph or paintingexactly as expected of branding technology.

11. The Shroud is arguably much wider (1.1m, 3.7 feet) and thus wasteful of material than would be expected of something intended to serve purely as a burial shroud,  but does provide the required ‘work-around’  surplus for medieval forgers – exactly as expected of branding technology.

Psst: I only added that last one to make up a nice round 10 for the blog title (oh,  and to give something for the shroudies to rubbish).  Cue lots of brickbats in the next day or two about needing space inside the Shroud for those Gospel of St. John sackloads of myrrh and aloes.  Yup, I too expect to be thermally imprinted (“branded”) yet again as an upstart ignoramus. They have been queuing up to do it – Dan Porter (3D imaging), Barrie Schwortz (fluorescence),  Dr.Di Lazzaro (failure to embrace his uv radiation model)…  

C’est la vie for the Doubting Thomases of this world…

Colin Berry PhD, aka sciencebod

PS:  I now firmly believe the Shroud image to be a ‘scorchograph’. Don’t bother googling – you encountered that term here first.

My next posts will be a heavy critique of the so-called (misleading and deceptive) mantra of the Shroud as possessing  ‘encoded 3D information’. I shall present evidence that 2D -> pseudo 3D imaging software is simply more responsive to scorchographs than to photographs ( – or to hand-drawn pyrographs?)

Further postscript, added 12th March. Yes, that final comment in brackets was prompted by my having been made aware yesterday of the work of Irene Corgiat.

Irene Corgiat with her pyrographical realization of the face on the Shroud

I have taken her image of the face on the Shroud, produced with the aid of an ‘electric pyrotool’, which I assume to be something akin to a soldering iron (without the solder), given it some extra contrast and brightness, and then checked it out in the ImageJ 3D-enhancement program. Here is the before-and-after result:

Irene Corgiat’s pyrograph

This is the best result I could manage after much experimenting with the settings in ImageJ 3D software, with which I now have some familiarity through enhancing my own thermal-imprinted images(‘scorchographs’).

Irene’s image does respond a little to the 3D software, being recognizable (just about) as a face, but clearly does not have anything like as much “encoded 3D information” as the thermo-prints I have produced with metal templates, or that of the Shroud image for that matter.  I think it is interesting that she was able to produce so good a simulation artistically, but the 3D evidence suggests that if the Shroud image was produced through pyrography (“scorching”) – as I firmly believe to be the case- then it was more likely to have been done by a printing process.  There would have been little by way of human input at the scorching stage (except for choosing temperature, contact time, contact pressure etc).

It is probably the semi-automated aspects of the latter that give rise to the smooth graduated changes in image density that the software can more readily respond to and process, as distinct from more individualistic variations that arise when it is a discriminating artist deciding how much scorching to apply here or there for best artistic effect.  So don’t take that personally, Irene. Take it as as a compliment in fact. I’m saying your art is not sufficiently robotic to be easily analysed for cues to 3D relief by a pre-programmed computer.

But your input is welcome all the same, dear lady,  showing how versatile the pyrographical approach can be, applied in different ways. Who knows? Maybe the chief features of the Shroud image were obtained with a hot metal template, with secondary touching-up here and there with a hand-held hot iron.

Oh, and I raise my hat to you for “painting” a light/dark reversed image that produced that amazingly Shroud-like pseudo-negative, with its serene countenance.  It is invariably the latter reversed image that is chosen by the media (not the original with the tortured facial expression that pilgrims had to be content with for centuries).

Irene Corgiat’s “pseudo-negative” on left, with the more serene, more “Christ-like” reversed image on the right.



Directory of my posts to date (here and previously on my Science Buzz site)

E – indicates experimental content

1.  The Turin Shroud – could it have been produced by photo-stencilling    Dec 30  2011 (E)

2. How to make your very own Turin Shroud at home – while choosing your own image.       Jan 1 2012 (E)

3. Tom Chivers – re that Turin Shroud: you are the first (possibly second) person to be thermo-stencilled  Jan 3 2012(E)

4. More progress in improving my thermo-stencilling technology for simulating the Turin Shroud  Jan 3 2012 (E)

5. What produced the image of a crucified man on the Shroud of Turin? Was it really formed from a corona discharge of ultraviolet light?  Jan 5 2012

6. Weblog: further experiments to reproduce, albeit approximately, the Turin Shroud by non-supernatural means, e.g. by thermo-stencilling
Jan 6 2012 (E)

7. The Turin Shroud elicits ever more bad science etc …   Jan 7 2012

8. The Shroud of Turin- was a lightly baked mummified skeleton and thermosensitized fabric used to produce the image by thermo-stencilling? Jan 8 2012

9. Sure, the Turin Shroud has a 3D-encoded image of a crucified man. So how come the 1532 scorch marks come up in glorious 3D as well? Jan 11 2012

10. Why the cavalier and disrespectful treatment of the Turin Shroud – folding it down its midline? Jan 15 2012

List not yet complete


About Colin Berry

Retired science bod, previous research interests: phototherapy of neonatal jaundice, membrane influences on microsomal UDP-glucuronyltransferase, defective bilirubin and xenobiotic conjugation and hepatic excretion, dietary fibre and resistant starch.
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6 Responses to One very good reason why the Turin Shroud could not POSSIBLY have been produced by scorching onto linen – and 10 even better ones why it could.

  1. Pingback: If the Turin Shroud is just a heat scorch, then why does it not fluoresce under uv light? (The late Ray Rogers provides a possible answer). | Casting a critical eye at that Shroud of Turin

  2. Pingback: A scientist’s eye view of how the iconic Turin Shroud image could have come into being – a happy accident of thermographic and photographic inversion? | Casting a critical eye at that Shroud of Turin

  3. Pingback: Comments I would have placed on Dan Porter’s “Shroud of Turin” WordPress site – but for his block on free speech … | Let's take a closer look at those straws – the ones still clutched at by Turin Shroud investigato

  4. colinsberry says:

    Have just added this comment to the same thread:

    (Your comment is awaiting moderation). Thank you for that Dan Porter.

    “Anyone would think this banding hypothesis (neat, plausible but wrong) had been written on tablets of stone.

    A few moments of thought about the imprinting of a certain transverse crease should be sufficient to demolish any notion that vertical banding was the cause of the gaunt-looking features. There is another explanation for the cut-off peripheries of the face, and it’s nothing to do with colour variations in the yarn, and everything to do with the mechanism of image imprinting,

    But I’m not here to debate technical matters – not any more.

    I’m thinking of setting up a new site that will specifically address this and the rest of Shroudology’s received wisdom, which all too often strikes me as little more than tendentious pseudo-scientific twaddle. And no, I will not be intimidated by “Fourier transforms” and similar injections of computer mumbo-jumbo, which in this instance has contributed precisely nothing.

    I’ll give you a link when my new site is ready.”

  5. colinsberry says:

    Correction: “Firstly, the image shown is NOT the as-is Shroud image (a pseudo-negative)…”

  6. colinsberry says:

    Here’s a comment I have just this minute placed on my other site, science buzz

    “A post has just appeared on the Shroud of Turin site which as ever is being highly dogmatic, and in all probability wrong, wrong, wrong about “banding” in the linen.

    link to banding

    It claims that the gauntness of the face is due to the presence of “darker” bands of linen that effectively narrow the image (presumably by obscuring image).

    Firstly, the image shown is the as-is Shroud image (a pseudo-negative) but light/dark restored positive obtained on a silver salt emulsion, so the putative bands are not darker bands, but lighter bands, contrary to what is stated.

    But more importantly, the blogger has omitted to consider the implications of the scorched-in crease mark at approx beard level. If a band had influenced the intensity of the image, making part of it seem to be invisible, or scarcely visible, then it should have affected the scorched-in crease mark too. But it did not – the latter with its twin track appearance looks roughly the same all the way acroos, including the right and left cheeks.

    What seems more probable is that the non-imprinted regions are little if anything to do with the colour of the yarn. They represent parts of a statue or bas relief template that failed to imprint – the most likely reason being that plane of the metal was sub-optimal relative to linen to have pressure and close contact, and consequently less intense scorching.

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