Shroud of Turin: one man’s scrutiny and interpretation of what he calls “clack” (i.e. dribbles of reddish-brown pigment) in real time


Late addition (July 2019)

Please forgive this postscript, correction, “prescript”,  correction, intrusion, added many years later – based on some 350 and more postings here and elsewhere.

That’s including some 7 years of my hands-on investigation into image-forming techniques, chosen to be credible with simple, indeed crude, medieval (14th century) technology etc etc.

(Oh, and yes, I accept the radiocarbon dating, despite it being restricted to a single non-random corner sample, making all the oh-so-dismissive, oh-so-derogatory statistics-based sniping totally irrelevant – a ranging shot being just that me dears- a single ranging shot, albeit subdivided into three for Arizona, Oxford and Zurich).
Sindonology (i.e. the “science” , read pseudoscience – of the so-called “Shroud ” of Turin) can be simply summed up. It’s a re-branding exercise, one designed to pretend that the prized Turin possession is not just J of A’s “fine linen”, described in the biblical account as used to transport a crucified body from cross to tomb.

Oh no, it goes further, much further, way way beyond the biblical account. How? By making out that it was the SAME linen as that described in the Gospel of John, deployed as final “burial clothes”. Thus the description “Shroud” for the Turin Linen, usually with the addition “burial shroud”. Why the elision of two different linens, deployed for entirely different purposes (transport first, then final interment)? 
Go figure! Key words to consider are: authentic relic v manufactured medieval icon; mystique, peaceful death-repose, unlimited opportunity for proposing new and ever more improbable image-formation mechanisms etc. How much easier it is to attach the label “Holy” to Shroud if seen as final burial clothes, in final at-peace repose – prior to Resurrection- as distinct from a means of temporary swaying side-to-side transport in an improvised makeshift stretcher !
As I say, a rebranding exercise (transport to final burial shroud) and a very smart and subtle one at that . Not for nothing did that angry local Bishop of Troyes suddenly refer to a “sleight of hand” after allegedly accepting it when first displayed. Seems the script was altered, or as some might say, tampered with! It might also explain why there were two Lirey badges, not just one. Entire books could be written on which of the two came first… I think I know which, with its allusion (?) to the Veil of Veronica… yes, there are alternative views (the face above “SUAIRE” a visual link to the face-only display of the Linen as the “Image of Edessa” or as that on the then current “Shroud” per se.


Face shown  (left) on mid- 14th century Machy Mould (recently discovered variant of the Lirey Pilgrim Badge) above the word “SUAIRE” (allegedly meaning “shroud”). Inset image on the right: one version among many of the fabled “Veil of Veronica” image.  I say the two are related, and deliberately so, but this is not the time or place to go into detail.

No, NOT  a resurrectional selfie, but instead a full size version of, wait for it,  the legendary VEIL OF VERONICA , product of inital body contact – no air gaps- between body and fabric, but with one important difference. The Turin image was intended to look more realistic, less artistic.

How? By displaying a negative tone-reversed image implying IMPRINT (unless, that is, you’re a modern day sindonologist, in which case ‘resurrectional proto-photographic selfie” becomes the preferred, nay, vigorously proferred explanation assisted by unrestrained imagination, creation of endless pseudoscience etc etc, with resort to laser beams, corona discharges, nuclear physics, elementary particles, earthquakes etc etc – the list is seemingly endless! 
Welcome to modern day sindonology. 
Personally, I prefer no-nonsense feet-on-the-ground hypothesis-testing science, aided by lashings of, wait for it, plain down-to-earth common sense.

Start of original posting:


“Clack” is the term I have coined for the reddish- brown puddles, trickles and smudges  on the Shroud of Turin. Some describe them as blood, even though their uv/visible spectrum is  atypical of blood, causing the late Alan Adler to postulate they were some kind of association between oxidised haem and bilirubin. I have expressed my views on that hypothesis in the previous posting, and for now decline to describe those red-brown marks as blood, or even “blood”, or clunky terms like “alleged blood” or “putative blood”.  Until someone can convince this sceptic they represent real blood, acquired at approximately the same time as the body image, then I shall refer to them as “clack” (again, see previous posting for how I conjured up that term, and why I like its connotations in view of the generally weird and wonderful atmosphere that pervades Shroudology, given that anything is possible when New Age Resurrection science takes over when conventional science is said to have given  up in despair. This retired science bod has  most emphatically not given up in despair, and will continue to plough his lonely furrow, using whatever resources are available on the internet (like those recently discovered Shroud Scope images that respond beautifully to a little photo-enhancement using mainly the contrast control).

Reminder: this blog (actually one of three) is a kind of Star Trek journey, one that began back in December last year on my science buzz site, in which I keep a warts ‘n’ all log of all my efforts to understand the Shroud. Some say it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Indeed it is – if this blog serves to get just one youngster interested in scientific research – to experience the buzz of going boldly – or  even as today – tiptoeing gently – where no man has been before then I will feel that something has been achieved. Finding whether the Shroud really is genuine, or likely to be genuine, or confirming it to be a medieval fake, is for me a bit of sideshow. What matters is the ability to relive the Sherlock Holmes nature of genuine scientific research, unfettered by commercial or other pressures, the ability to do one’s own thing, and having this wonderful internet for putting one’s ideas- right or wrong-  instantly into the public domain. As I said yesterday, my hemicellulose theory continues to get views each day, now totalling well over 550, so I must be doing something right, despite all the detractors who think I should root out everything that moulders in dusty archives, many with a STURP label, before venturing my own interpretations.

Here’s the first area of clack I want to examine today. I will add comments as they come to me. Others are free to comment and criticize. OK, it may seem somewhat self–indulgent to build a posting in small instalments, but as I said above, this blog describes a journey, a  foray, and contrary to what some might think, I still retain an open mind. If I see anything that supports authenticity, then I will report it, and neither repress nor distort. Do you cheat at Patience? I don’t. What’s would be the point?

Wishbone-shaped clack – upper left side of subject’s head, and coincident with the imprint for hair.

Wishbone-shaped clack at highest magnification in Shroud Scope

More to follow (later today)

To continue: before I start on that image above, there’s a crucial point that needs re-iterating: clack sits primarily on the same track of the herring bone weave as body image.

Left panel: clack at top of right forearm surrounded by body image (marked by yellow and blue stars). Right panel is a close-up of the stain above the yellow star. Note that the body image and clack are on the same parallel tracks of the herringbone weave, with scarcely any pigmentation between those tracks.

Since body image is known to reside on the most superficial part of the weave, i.e. the ribs as distinct from the furrows, then we deduce that clack is also on the ribs. I wish I could verify that for myself – and for readers here.  Thus, I wondered if 3D imaging might help, on the assumption that if clack were in the furrows, then one might see the ribs slightly higher than the pigment on the peaks. Sadly the resolution is not quite good enough to make that distinction: the peaks are smooth and there are signs of pixellation meaning that further magnification will not resolve ribs from furrows.

3D imaging of clack (inconclusive)

Click any picture to enlarge

3D imaging of clack at higher magnification – still inconclusive

For the moment, then, we’ll just have to assume that if body image is on the ribs, rather than furrows, then the same must be true of clack, correction, or rather the major concentration of pigment, as seen when viewed with the unaided eye, sufficient to discern the herringbone weave. What one sees under a lens or a microscope is another matter: it may cause one to qualify the previous statement, and perhaps to say there a minor intrusion  into furrows as well ,  but it cannot falsify  the major qualitative observation : the vast majority of clack resides on ribs, not furrows. The implications of that will be discussed later, or rather re-iterated.

Having dispensed with preliminaries. Let’s take a closer look at that wishbone-shaped clack. Here it is again, numbered for convenience:

Wishbone-shaped clack, top left hair.

Observations and interpretation:

1. While the overall footprint is wishbone shaped, there are enormous variation in the clack intensity, being higher at the top and the two tips.

2. There is an irregularity in the weave between roughly along the line 2,3, 4. Just to the right of 3 one can see small cells of trapped clack. The reasonable interpretation would be that the entire footprint was originally intense red-brown, that most has flaked off or otherwise disappeared, with a little hang-up in the cells of the irregular weave where presumably the clack had a better purchase, i.e. grip, on four sides as well as a base.

3. That means that the pale pinkish areas of the wishbone represent denuded areas. However the colour of these denuded areas varies, and it is instructive to look at where they occur relative to body image areas (which in this instance includes those that correspond with hair when viewing the entire head).

4. Look again at the numbered image above, checking against the clean image below.  Look especially at regions where the grey-brown body image encroaches on or close to the areas most denuded of  clack. Look at 7 and 8. Look at the gap between the two prongs between 3 and 6.  And look at 5 and 6. What do you see?

Notice anything?

5. The preliminary conclusion that I draw from looking at where body image and denuded clack is concerned is that there is no abrupt transition from one to the other – that what one sees is a superimposition of one on the other , without specifying at this stage which is on top of which – or, to put it more dramatically, which of the two arrived first on the linen.

7. There is a much quoted claim in the literature that the blood arrived first, the image later. It is supported by evidence like finding that addition of a protease to a putative blood spot removed the blood to reveal an image-free area ( ? and that the same treatment of non-blood body-image areas did NOT remove body image).   Parentheses around something from memory – but I need to check that essential control was included)

8. What seems certain from above is that if blood did arrive first, with an image placed on top, then removal of the blood with an enzyme has failed to remove the body image. But how can that be possible? Without that enzyme spot test, I would have said that the body image arrived first, then the blood, and when blood subsequently flaked off with age, the body image became exposed once again, and exposed in a way that showed it was contiguous and continuous with (i.e. “ran into”) the body image.

Conclusions and summary to follow. First I shall endeavour to obtain closer views of the some of these critical conjunctions of body image and clack regions – no easy task since one is working at the limit of resolution where pixellation becomes the main problem.

Continued:  here is a phot0-enhanced view of the head as seen in the dorsal image. Problems with uploading…

Dorsal view head

OK, it’s not quite as large and magnified  as the one I had intended, but one can click to magnify.  Can anyone seriously doubt that there is abundant overlap between body image (“hair”) in this image and clack? As before, it help to have a magnification at which the herrringbone weave is visible, allowing one to follow a particular rib on the weave from one type of area to another, and asking: do we see an abrupt transition, or do we see a mixing, indicative of overlap? I shall now try cropping some key “overlap” regions from the above image.

Each picture has its pros and cons from the point of view of examining body-image v clack. The ideal would be to find one where there is abundant evidence of flaking, with sufficient remaining to see a “before and after”, while having a strong body image area that abutted and perhaps intruded on a denuded area, such that unequivocal evidence for or against overlap and hopefully chronology was possible. The famous wrist “wound” looks attractive at first sight:

The problem with this image is that while there is abundant evidence of body image – see the greyish areas at the top  and right especially, there is that problematical chestnut brown region that sits on or under the clack. What is that? Is it just high-intensity body image, or does it represent something else, e.g. Mark 1 clack that was later augmented with the plum coloured pigment that I have so far termed “clack” pure and simple. I would say there was suggestive evidence for the typical greyish body image intruding on some denuded areas, especially on the lowest part of the “nail wound” area.  I certainly would not see this image as representing prima facie evidence for a blood first, image second sequence of events. Regardless of chronology there is a complex overlap of image types here that hints that the Shroud as it exists today may have undergone subsequent additions.

The search continues:

Here’s a foot on the dorsal view (the underside of the foot, needless to say). Might this be the Rosetta Stone for interpreting those stains on the Shroud?

Why do I say that? Answer: because if offers a comparison on clack on body image and the same blood that has leaked off onto an adjacent stretch of linen without body image. So the latter offers a ‘clean’ reference point. There are also enigmatic features, like that vertical ruck in the linen that has somehow escaped being imaged by anything, and those curious streaks across it that are quite strongly imaged. But first we must look at conjunction of body and clack regions on the underside of the foot, and comparing with that valuable reference area to the right.

First,  there can be little doubt that the pinker areas that previously I have interpreted as “denuded” are a lot lighter and cleaner on the right than on the left.  Body image and clack do seem to be superimposed on the left, such that few areas on the foot match the pink denuded look that is so prominent a feature of the right.  Clearly some close-ups are needed, hoping that there will be sufficient resolution.

To be continued:

Here are two cropped portions taken from the previous picture, one from the underside of the foot, the other from the adjacent non-body image area on the right.

This one needs close and careful scrutiny.  Does the body image intrude on the pale pink regions that are interpreted as clack-denuded? If they do, then that must be presumptive evidence that the body image was there before the clack. I may try fine-tuning the contrast and brightness to optimise the differentiation between body and denuded clack.

Reminder: one can click to enlarge images.The image on the left has a very distinctive coloration for the body image, namely a yellow-brown colour that (not surprisingly) is absent from the image on the right. What’s more there does appear to be intrusion of that body image into the image of the clack, in particular where there are “denuded areas”. But it is not conclusive. Those “denuded areas” could be ones where there was never clack in the first place – shame they are not more pink in places to suggest they did have intense pigment initially. That is the trouble – if they were denuded, but have a body image imprint underneath, then they will no longer look bright pink, but may not be typical body-image colour either. One can’t have it both ways!  My gut feeling is that there is remnants of clack ON TOP OF body image on the underside of the foot, but I shall continue to search for better images elsewhere on the Shroud that might verify that (or disprove it!).

Thanks once again Mario Latendresse for making Shroud Scope available free of charge, and without copyright restriction (but I do make an effort to include your ‘logo’ in pictures that I publish here).

Whoops. I think i have finally found what I was looking for – any in the least likely place, namely the foot region on the frontal image – the one that everyone recognizes as being the least well imaged. (Caveat: added after the following was written: the stain about to be described has penetrated by a large water stain that may have carried colouring matter with it contributing to the brown colour interpreted here as body image)

Can you tell where body image ends and clack image starts – or are the two thoroughly mixed up with each other? If the clack region is denuded of most of its original pigment, it is not easy to account for admixture UNLESS the body image was imprinted first, and the blood was acquired later (a personal view, nts).

Put another way, if the clack had been applied first, and the body image on top, one might predict that as clack progressively flaked off over the centuries, it would reveal a clean pinkish layer. Alternatively, if image had been acquired first, and clack applied on top, then as the clack flaked away, it would present a somewhat “muddy” appearance, due to increasing exposure of the yellow-brown body image.

Looking at the picture above, I would say that the second of those two alternatives was the more likely one. How about you? So did those guys with their enzyme spot test get it wrong when they said it was blood first, image second?  And was it really blood – originally at any rate – or some kind of pigment that was chosen to resemble blood. Has any genuine blood on the Shroud been added later – as a touching up exercise? Or was real blood added in one touching up exercise, and “clack ” in another – fake-blood with the ability to retain its red colour indefinitely?

Iron thiocyanate – formed by mixing solutions containing the yellow or orange iron (III) ion, Fe +++, and colorless thiocyanate ions, SCN-. Iron (III) thiocyanate is intensely blood red in colour. The graphic , from a Russian site, shows what you would see when iron and thiocyanate-containing solutions are mixed together.

Yup, if this (bio)chemically qualified science bod were wanting to fake blood,  his first thought would be to use iron thiocyanate.

Stains on heel, dorsal side of Shroud, top magnification in Shroud Scope.


Here’s another stain – a heel on the dorsal side. So near yet so far: it has all the elements present that one could wish for, and none that one would not. But the body image, while there, is simply not strong enough to be certain if it is superimposed on the clack. Look at it, and decide for yourself if I am being too perfectionist.

Final note where this post is concerned: despite looking at all the major so-called blood stains on the Shroud under Shroud Scope, I have not been able to establish whether they preceded the body image or not.

As a desperate last resort to seeking an answe rto this question, I thought about taking another look at the scourge marks, all 372 of them according to Fanti et al. Why? In an earlier posting I said I could find no evidence they represented lesions on the skin, merely marks that presumably represented blood stains.  If the latter assumption were true, they would be faint blood stains, which if overlaid  underlaid with body image, should make  the chronology easier to determine.

The trouble is that on going back to those scourge marks I have so far been unable to establish that they are blood or even what I call clack. They are merely brown markings, scarcely distinguishable from body image. Oh dear, things just get steadily more complicated. I shall end this posting now on an inconclusive note, but take a much closer look  at the image characteristics of those scourge marks. If I can determine what they are, relative to body image and “blood”, I  may be able make sense of the Shroud image in general, and hopefully be able to come at “blood v body image” question from another perspective… That’s for tomorrow.Another day, another posting..

Addendum: August 4 2012:

I called it “clack” here, on the grounds that the red stains were blood-like but not typical blood. See this later post for a novel suggestion for what a medieval forger used (no need to worry about clotting!):

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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