Shroud Scope 1: Let’s take a closer look at the bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin. Correction – the images that are interpreted as bloodstains.

Here are two close-up images of bloodstains on the face of the Man in the Shroud – or at any rate what are interpreted as bloodstains. For the purposes of this exercise I am using my new toy called Shroud Scope (thanks Mario Latendresse)  which allows one to zoom in on high definition photographs of the Shroud taken in 2002.

I shall post the pictures first, without comment and interpretation, and notify Dan Porter’s site that I have done so – allowing folk there to form their own judgement before posting my own observations and conclusions later today.


Here’s the prominent bloodstain on the forehead, the one that looks like a reversed ‘3’, before and after adjustment of brightness and contrast.


This one is a closeup showing the bloodstain on the brow ridge(right  “eyebrow”) that is just below the ‘reversed 3’ stain. One can see the lower portion of the latter for reference.

OK, it’s 9:30 pm UK time, and there’s been no response from the other site. That’s despite being earlier told I was seeing things in those pictures above that weren’t  there, and failing to see things that were there.

OK, here’s my observation and interpretation. Picture 1 – the reversed 3: that image is not what I would expect for a blood stain. There is not evidence of a spread-out blood spot that exists mainly in the lowest parts – the furrows- with at most a little on the highest part – the ridges.  Ah, but wait you might say. How do you know what are ridges and what are furrows?  Answer: I do not. One cannot tell from a plan view what are the ridges and what are the furrows. But we are told that the Shroud image generally, i.e. the anatomical features are localised on the crowns of threads , i.e. the points that are highest where one thread loops over another.  If one looks beyond the immediate blood zones one sees that image intensity is indeed greatest on a parallel series of strands – that represent the high points so to speak. trace those same strands back to the blood zone, and one sees that the “blood” image is largely confined to those same strands. In other words, there is little or nothing to distinguish the blood from the surrounding skin, except for image intensity. That is hardly what one would expect, given that blood is a liquid that flows, and will tend to soak into all fabric, furrows included, unlike skin that is in a fixed layer.

Now look at the second picture, which is the spot of blood that sits on the brow ridge (“eyebrow”). it’s exactly the same story. there is nothing to differentiate between “blood” and, in this instance, what one would presume to be hair (eyebrow hair).

In other words, there are no a priori grounds for believing that that “bloodstains” really are blood. They are merely areas on the face that one assumes to be blood, based on the supposition that the Man on the Shroud is the crucified Jesus, made to wear a crown of thorns, when there is in fact nothing to indicate that the image really does represent blood.

Without knowing how the image was produced, and, more to the point, what causes differences in image intensity, then we need to keep an open mind about those “bloodstains”, and maybe much else besides.

Here is a picture of a spot of modern blood, applied to linen. Note that it shows no preference for ridge or furrow.

Modern blood on linen

In fact there is a serious objection to my suggestion that blood on the face of the Shroud should behave like the blood above, and soak evenly into the linen. The linen was presumably ON TOP of the face, with blood having to move into the linen against the force of gravity. Leaving aside the fact that gravity is notoriously weak in preventing capillary action (think what happens when paper is dipped in liquid), there is an  easy way of testing and excluding the hypothesis, namely by looking at the blood stains on the dorsal side of the linen – on which the Man in the Shroud was laid, with the fabric under the body.

Frequent reference is made to a pooling of blood under the small of the back, attributed to haemorrhage from the spear wound, so that was the site examined next with the Shroud Scope:

Blood stain from the dorsal side of linen – small of the back

There is no essential difference from the previous pictures. The image is again confined mainly to the ridges, the same ridges on which the skin etc is imaged. So the congregation of “blood” on those ridges in the frontal view was not due to gravity preventing migration into the furrows of the fabric.

Provisional conclusion: either the two so-called “bloodstains” looked at so far – the reversed 3 and the one on the brow ridge -are not bloodstains, but something else that imaged in the same way as body features but “more so”  OR they are bloodstains, but something must have happened during image-imprinting to confine them to the superficial crowns of the fibres,  at least when viewed centuries later.

If the first, then the Shroud image may not have been created from a real person, living or dead, but a bas relief, statue etc (“tin man”) on which beads of say molten solder were placed and allowed to solidify, such that they give an appearance of “blood” spots and stains in the imaging process, e.g. by some contact process as previously proposed.

If the second, then maybe real blood did transfer from a body to fabric, but became instantly fixed or coagulated/denatured etc, such that further penetration into the fabric was not possible. if by heat, that would contradict a claim by Raymond Rogers that the blood showed no evidence of having been heated. I have previously said that I found that claim somewhat questionable.

There is of course evidence that there is something on the fabric in the “bloodstained” regions, that, if not blood, could be degraded blood, or an applied pigment intended to resemble aged blood. I refer of course to the colour difference that is well documented, and which is apparent in the following picture in which “reversed 3” and “eyebrow” are shown together in the same screen grab at less than maximum magnification:

An “eyebrow” region lower centre has a different hue from the “bloodstains” to the left and right, which is more the typical sepia colour of the Shroud image area, unlike the curious colour of the “bloodstains” that are perhaps better described as plum coloured – though hardly the brown colour of aged blood.

These two alternative possibilities will be considered further as we progress further round the Shroud image with our “Shroud Scope”.

Addendum: I was minded to put the following as a comment on the Other Site to the individual who took issue with the observations described here. Here’s what I was going to say, but decided against it.  There are some who interpret Shroud scepticism as provocation – so there’s not a lot of point in engaging with them. This site is for those who are keen to establish the facts, and to interpret those facts objectively – without preconceptions of any sort.

There seems to be a problem of semantics. As far as I am concerned the “bloodstain” IS an image. There is nothing to distinguish it visually from other image-bearing regions – e.g. the nose, hair etc. except for intensity though I recognize that chemistry can give – or seem to give-  confirmation (while being a veritable can of worms due to chemical degradation, or the possibility of there having been  “touching up” over the centuries with blood or blood-like pigments, some which are too good to be true e.g. remaining permanently red, notwithstanding Adler’s attempt to explain that away  by invoking largely speculative  complexation between trauma-induced oxidised haemoglobin and bilirubin).

All these image regions represent a concentration of colour on the ridges of fibres with little if any in the intervening furrows. Based on the image alone, there is no evidence that the “bloodstains” represent real blood, anymore than the “hair” represents real hair. There is no reason that I can think of for why blood should congregate along ridges.  Modern blood –  if I may so describe my own blood – certainly does not, and I don’t see that trauma blood should differ greatly in its bulk physical properties, whatever its bilirubin or lactic acid content.

If the image is not real blood, then what price the dogma that “there is no image under bloodstains”, a statement that is routinely deployed as an argument against the Shroud being a forgery?

Note added 19 Feb 2013:  I have since changed my view on the blood. Initially the concentration  on the ridges of the weave made me think it it was the same as body image. But there is another explanation: that a highly viscous pasty form of blood could have been applied with a dabber of some sort. A possible source of that blood?  How about the gut contents of a well-fed medicinal leech used in medieval (and current!) bleeding. I’ll add a link later(alternatively google  # Shroud Turin medicinal leech # and look for links to this site).


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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One Response to Shroud Scope 1: Let’s take a closer look at the bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin. Correction – the images that are interpreted as bloodstains.

  1. Pingback: Shroudie-Alert: Day1 | The Turin Shroud: medieval scorch? Separating the science from the pseudo-science…

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