My checklist of key criteria that need to be reproduced in modelling the Shroud image mechanism – and the extent to which thermal imprinting (“scorching by direct contact”) could be claimed to meet those criteria


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:

The previous posting here expressed my  somewhat jaundiced view of the criteria set out in the Enigma Challenge (see previous post).  They were supposed to represent  a consensus view, at least of those who attended a particular symposium in Valencia. Whether new research findings of any substance emerged there we have still to learn. The absence of a detailed post-conference  communique or press headlines would tend to suggest otherwise, but one remains hopeful.

Regardless, this retired science bod has never taken his cue from conferences and their “consensus views” and has no intention of starting now. Consensus has its role in certain situations, occasionally ones to do with science policy, but has no place in Shroud studies, given that the sum total of hard chemical information on the Shroud image can be summed up in one word – zilch. Y es, amazing , isn’t it, that after some 30 years or more investigation by STURP and others, nobody knows for certain which constituent of linen has been chemically modified, far less how, except for vague talk about dehydration, condensation and crosslinking reactions. Those are the kind of chemical changes that carbohydrates undergo when subject to pyrolysis, i.e. heating and stepwise thermal degradation, but woe betide anyone who suggests that the Shroud image is a “scorch”. Such is the weird and wonderful world of Shroudological research, one that in chemical terms at least leads a demi-world  double-life one might say.

For my part I have little doubt that the Shroud image IS a thermal imprint, one that involved direct contact between cloth and subject, the major mechanism of scorching being conduction, not radiation, whether the latter envisages a role for radiant heat (infrared rays) or exotic  flashes of ultraviolet light.

Here’s MY preferred checklist, together with a (needless to say) subjective rating of how well I consider my scorch theory fits those criteria on a 5 point scale. A question mark substitutes for stars where I have not found it wise or possible to assign a star rating. There may be some criteria that have slipped my mind. If so, let me know… The important thing is to distinguish criteria from mere descriptive characteristics that are not germane to the issue of physical and chemical feasibility.

1 Negative (light/reversed image) *****

2 Lack of directionality, ie. no lateral illumination effect.*****

3 Superficial image, medullas not coloured.  ?  Depends on temperature etc. More systematic studies of image thickness v temperature

4 Ease of stripping off image with adhesive tape

5 The strong imaging of prominences/protuberances, the failure to image in what appear to be ‘tented’ areas (cloth stretched between prominences creating an air gap *****

6.Encoded 3D information  *****

7 Imaging of creases *****

8 Evidence of tenting, e.g non imaged area between hands and abdomen  *****

9 Chemical bleaching of image with the powerfully reducing diimide (?) Systematic studies needed (scorching at different temperatures)

10 Alleged annular scorching and half-tone effect  (?)  Discrimination needed between scorching of PCW versus SCW polymers, especially between stable celluloses and more reactive hemicelluloses.

11 Fuzziness **  Scorches tend to be sharper than Shroud image, but effect of ageing over centuries  etc introduces an unknowable component.

12 Lack of most superficial detail in fact, like finger nails (?) What is being imaged? A real person or a representation thereof?

13 Exceptionally, some might say unrealistically long fingers (?) As above

14 Failure to image surfaces that are at right angles to the horizontal to plane of image (which includes sides and top of head, but much else besides). ****

15 The imaging of the eyes, despite being deeply recessed. ****

16 Imaging of underside of feet in dorsal view ***** (assuming Shroud pulled up against soles of feet).

17 Lack of fluorescence under uv in contrast with borders of 1532 burn holes. * (model studies needed at range of temperatures that selectively pyrolyse hemicelluloses v celluloses)

18 Ability to 3D image the burns ***** (the software interprets image density as height)

19 The failure to image essential or expected detail, like nail wounds, scourge marks, (except as “blood” **  – depends on what is being imaged.

20  The relatively strong imaging of the head relative to the rest of the body.  ***  (head has plenty of angular prominences relative to rest of body)

21 No extra nitrogen in image areas (to verify or falsify Rogers’ Maillard reaction hypothesis) ?

22 Addditional iron in all the areas deemed to represent “blood”, and a convincing explanation if absence of potassium is confirmed

23 Confirmation by conclusive analytical procedures that “blood” has a high bilirubin content complexed with methaemoglobin (to verify or falsify Adler’s explanation for the longevity of the red colour.

“Blood stains” receive only token mention in this list, and then with a degree of hesitation, indeed reluctance. Unless one can be absolutely certain that all the alleged bloodstains are genuine blood, acquired at approximately the same time as the image, i.e. on a time scale of hours or at most days, and that there has not been “touching up” subsequently with real or simulated blood, then “blood stains” have no place in a list of criteria for authenticity, except to compromise authenticity if found to be fake.

Postscript: Here’s a comment that appeared on the other site levelled against me, and in typical mudslinging mode where that site is concerned :

Gosh, it must be a scorch-mark since he states it so many times. Of course, it it were a scorch mark, one would see it in the back-light photos Barrie Schwortz took in 1978. But darn, let’s ignore that evidence since it doesn’t fit his theory.

It’s typical in more ways than one. It is arrogant and pretentious. It seizes upon a difference, and without any attempt to provide any scientific legitimacy, it weaponises that difference to turn it into a holier-than-thou internet debating point. Typically it ends with the usual smear (nope, let’s not mince our words – SMEAR -i.e  that I am attempting to inflict an agenda – a partisan one-sided case, despite a career in research and education.  (For the record, I present a case that I have developed through doing my own research for some 7 months,  and apart from barely credible alternatives, such as Rogers’ untested vaporograph hypotheses,  or  Fanti’s  comic book “corona discharges” or Di Lazzaro’s Star Wars fantasizing with excimer laser beams, then I as yet have no other realistic alternatives to evaluate).

As I say, the onus is unfairly placed on me to account for Barrie Schwortz’s difference. If  I really had low cunning I would invite him to explain it, reminding him what he said the other day, namely that he went into Shroud studies as a photographer and emerged as a scientist. (No comment).

There is no low cunning about this retired science bod. If I have an idea, I will express it. If I spot a serious flaw in my case I will express it (while not unburdening myself of run-of-the mill day-to-day doubts on readers).

I don’t pretend to understand all the subtleties of the way that light interacts with matter, or the fine discrimination that the eye can exercise re images seen by reflected/scattered light as compared with transmitted light.  I could venture an explanation for the difference that Barrie Schwortz observed, which may be right or wrong, but unless someone knows that the difference deserves to be regarded as a make-or-break criterion, as my ad hom critic suggests, then I’ll say no more, except for a  hint as to the way my first thoughts are going:  the Shroud image is faint and sepia coloured and reckoned to be exceedingly thin – of the order of 200nm. The linen itself is also discoloured, off white, even yellowed we are told. The much thicker linen may be thought of as thousands upon thousands of 200nm layers placed behind the image. So it’s hardly surprising that the image is easier to see in scattered light that penetrates just a few of those surface layers before being substantially reflected than if it has to travel first through all those backing thought-experiment layers from a rear-mounted light source,  each of which abstracts a little light before it  reaches the superficial image layer and thence our retina. The cumulative absorption of multiple faintly coloured layers may match or even exceed that of the final one, reducing the contrast between image and backing linen… So move along folk, nothing to see here, no mystique, just basic boring old physics…

Incidentally: the site’s host took a pop at me yesterday for being “rude” to David Rolfe, and flippant re his consensus.  Perhaps he needs to look at the kind of comments he allows on his site. Some might consider that the constant impugning of a man’s integrity is far, far worse  than my fairly mild criticism of a high-profile individual like Rolfe  for what he says and writes.  (Film producers who go along to a scientific congress to push an agenda – as much religious/anti-Dawkins  as scientific  – should be prepared to receive flak, and not go blocking  mine and others’ comments on his own self-promotional site  for weeks on end as soon as he deems them less than adulatory or off-message – Rolfe’s distinctive and somewhat peculiar message). 

Finally, though reluctant to get involved in bun fights, methinks Dan Porter and his backers maybe need to take look at their own performance where blogging etiquette and fair play are concerned.  They could start by deleting comments that use science (or in this case  pseudo-science) as a pretext for making  snide and gratuitous character attacks – such as the one I quoted above.  If Porter wants to know why I no longer place comments on his site, even in response to reasonable enquiries re my views, then he need look no further.

PS: here is second comment on the same site, in much the same vein as the first, attempting again to ‘weaponise’ that somewhat humdrum aspect of the Shroud image, and throwing in the fluorescence anomaly for good measure.

Yes and he conveniently ignores this in his response to point 2 above. In the past I’ve heard him state something along the lines of “I wish I had the lamp equipment to test a lower intensity scorch”. Well as a much self hyped prominent scientist, you would think he would be able to access one if he really wanted to, or at least get an ex colleague or someone to do it for him. It seems very convenient that he hasn’t.
Until he does, I for one will continue to be totally unconvinced by his “scorch theory”, not just for the lack of flourescence, but for a multitude of other reasons too.

Again, it’s laced with the usual ad hom.  Incidentally, I seem to recall telling that same individual how I would tackle the fluorescence question if only I had a uv lamp – and no, not  just any old uv lamp, but one that could deliver different parts of the uv spectrum, AND have a means of measuring the emitted fluorescence. Apparently, I’m supposed to get on the phone and persuade a colleague from days of yore  to deliver the stuff to the house (note – I retired 10 years ago… and it’s 20 years since I did white-coat laboratory research  having been promoted to management  and then gone off to teach – most of my closest colleagues from those days have also long since retired).

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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