(Skip to Approach below if you are familiar with Shroud controversy, and simply want to know what’s new in this posting that could justify its choice of title).
We are told repeatedly that the bloodstains on the Shroud are underneath the body image. That fits neatly with the Biblical account, needless to say, in which the body of the crucified Christ, covered in blood, was first wrapped in the linen Shroud, long enough for imprinting of blood to occur. Ingenious and in some cases complex explanations have been advanced for how clotted blood could liquefy and then imprint on the linen, but they do not concern us for now.
The evidence for the ‘blood first, body image second’ dogma has been somewhat sketchy to say the least. The one most often cited was a spot test performed by two members of the STURP ensemble with a protease (a class of enzyme that nicks one or more peptide bonds in a protein, breaking it down into smaller fragments – polypeptides etc). When digested away in this fashion, no image was found under the blood stains, at least the ones that were tested, but apparently the image survived intact when there was no overlying bloodstain. Conclusion: if there is no image under a bloodstain on the body, then the blood must have been acquired first, the image later, matching Biblical chronology.
There are objections one can make to a reasonable but no doubt simplistic interpretation of a spot test of this nature, bearing in mind that one knows next to nothing about the image and even less about the forces that hold it on to the linen, but again they need not concern us for now. What does concern this retired science bod is the corollary to the ‘blood first, dogma which is that it renders forgery less probable. It would be much easier for a forger to imprint an image first, then to smear or trickle on blood in all the right places with meticulous attention to detail, than to have to apply the blood first to a blank linen sheet.
But there is another corollary to the blood/image story. Suppose the protease test had for whatever reason given a misleading result. Suppose there were a body image UNDER certain blood stains, waiting to be discovered by other methods, and recalling that the body image is at best patchy (age-related flaking?). If the image came first, and the blood second, that would deal a devastating blow, would it not to the ‘blood first’ dogma, and, more importantly to the authenticity of the Shroud? What’s more, if the blood came second, then the Shroud has to be a forgery.
In the last seven months or so I have posted some 60 or more times here and on my two other sites, e.g. science buzz,, or somehat neglected strawshredder site, covering a range of topics – the scorch hypothesis, a detailed consideration of hemicelluloses as the target molecule for imprinting, the Lirey badge, aka Cluny medal, as a clue to the real origins of the Shroud as a grim post-Templar tribute to Jacques de Molay, Geoffroi de Charney and others.
This posting today is by far and away the most important one of all, and will probably remain so whatever I write in future. So I won’t say “sit up and pay attention”, but I will say that this one cannot easily be dismissed or ignored, unless someone can provide better evidence that the blood really did arrive first, and more importantly, falsify the following visual data.
My detailed examination of the Shroud images using the splendid Shroud Scope (with over 10 postings to date) says it was the BODY IMAGE ARRIVED FIRST and the BLOOD LATER. How much later is anyone’s guess, as also whether it was added in one session or several, and whether it was always real blood that was added or something to simulate blood, or to reinforce the impression of blood. (Previous posts have dwelt on the strangely permanent red colour of the blood stains, on their atypical blood or porphyrin uv/visible spectra, on the absence of potassium and other mineral ions etc, all of which preoccupied the late Alan Adler of the STURP team, the subject of a previous posting, none of which could be said to favour authenticity, even without the new images here).
This preamble has been far too lengthy, my only excuse being that I wanted to make the post user-friendly to all visitors, not just those steeped in Shroud lore. For the rest of this post I shall content myself relating how I set about distinguishing between body image and blood stains, summarising the crucial observations and conclusions. Fuller documentation will come later, probably in follow-up posts, from my now extensive archive of Shroud Scope images, one that that is still growing by the day.
Approach – a telegraphic account.
Here was an image I was looking at some two weeks ago, and despairing of ever making sense of it.
Click on image to enlarge
It’s a Shroud Scope image that has been lightly photo-edited using just brightness and contrast controls to optimise the difference between body image areas (greyish) and blood stains (red brown). Clearly those two areas impinge, and probably overlap, but what is on top of what?
There were interesting and unexpected features that I have reported previously, namely that the densest red-brown pigment (“blood”) was on the same elevated ribs of the herringbone weave as the body image. Why? We know that body image is highly superficial, and said to be located on the crowns of fibres, evidence that I have always interpreted as due to surface scorching by direct contact. But why blood as well? Surely an ample seepage of blood should flow into furrows as well. In fact, there is something in the furrows around the densest blood stains: a faint pinkish coloration – representing probably a soluble component. It is that pinkish coloration that was making it difficult or impossible, at least with an untrained eye, to differentiate body image from blood, especially in regions where it seemed that red-brown pigment had flaked off or otherwise disappeared, hopefully to reveal either clean linen or body image. Instead there was pink, but was it pure pink, or pinkish grey?
What was needed were fainter blood stains, of colour saturation comparable to the grey body image, but without the pink background colour. So what are the faintest bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin? Answer – the scourge marks, all 372 of them, a subject of a previous posting here. Yes, contrary to what some might assume, the scourge marks have the image characteristics of blood – NOT body image (I personally have never seen evidence of skin lesions or lacerations under or beside a scourge mark, in contrast to some literature claims: yes, dumb-bell shaped marks, linear streaks certainly, but no broken skin or other evidence of real-life wounds – just a thin smear or imprint of blood).
If scourge marks image differently from body image, hopefully red-brown instead of grey, WITHOUT THAT PESKY PINK background, then it might be possible to decide which was there first. Lady Fortune also came to my assistance. There is abundant evidence that blood image, even in the superficial scourge marks,has FLAKED OFF in places, often leaving just a few flecks along a particular rib of the weave to mark out its original track.
Well, to cut a long story short, I have examined all the major areas where there are scourge marks: here’s a screen grab of my archive.
In every image examined, without exception, there is strong visual evidence that body image (grey) is below blood image (red). In other words, where there are gaps in the blood image, presumably the result of flaking off, ones sees the vacated gap occupied by grey body image (provided there is other evidence for the proximity of body image) . To prove my case and/or convince the sceptics or diehards, I could take any of my images at random to illustrate what I have just stated (sadly only too aware of the reception these images, or rather their interpretation, will receive in certain quarters, but all constructive comment welcome and/or honest non-agenda-pushing expressions of opinion).
Here are just three from my scourge archive – the rest will come later. Click on any image to magnify. The 3 figures in brackets represent the settings of image brightness/contrast/midtone value respectively in MS Office Picture Manager.
Conclusion: There is no evidence from the Shroud Scope images that blood was acquired first. On the contrary, the evidence from viewing scourge marks (weak blood stains) especially regions in which the blood image is discontinuous, i.e. interrupted, presumably the result of flaking off with age etc is that the body image was acquired first, the blood later (how much later one can only speculate).
Scourge marks are of course just one feature of the Shroud. It might be that the scourge marks were forged, maybe decades, centuries later than the original body image, so I must temper my conclusions and refrain from overstating the implications of present findings for authenticity. Put another way, the Shroud could be a partial forgery.
Deciding if all the blood stains came after the image is tricky, at least to the untrained eye, on account of the pink background problem mentioned earlier. However, it can be approached cautiously by looking at the major non-scourge mark blood stains, starting with the weaker ones where the pink background is not too strong, and choosing regions of the Shroud in which the body image is most strong. If one could find even suggestive evidence that body image was underneath more intense bloodstains – more intense that is than scourge marks – it would surely constitute prima facie evidence that the Shroud of Turin was a forgery, notwithstanding that spot test with the protease enzyme. (I can think of at least one reason why it may have given a misleading answer, and it’s to do with overlying blood protecting ageing body image from flaking off, but only while the similarly ageing (but younger?) blood was itself adhering – more on that later).
PS The following comment appeared on the other site. 10/10 for bravado, 2/10 for appreciation of the scientific facts.
“If one accepts the reality of all scientific evidence showing that an actual body was enfolded in the Shroud, and this is quite evident and deduced by many forensic experts and other scientists, I will assume you’ve done your reading and know of whom I speak here. With that in mind; The fact that the victim of the Shroud was crucified in the Roman style, places the victim and Shroud before 340 AD when crucifixion was abolished. (Unless you want to believe some artist first tortured, then murdered a victim and showing absolute forensic knowledge of Roman crucifixion and a method of transference to the cloth, still not understood by some of our best scientists). (section on stitching, sorry not my forte). There is other evidence found on the Shroud but is controversial amongst the experts, but which can place the dating much more accurately and also place (pin-point) it’s origin, but I’ll sit tight for now.”
Where is the evidence on the Shroud that the figure had been crucified? One iconic and probably over-interpreted bloodstain, and a stylised one, on the wrist, plus bloodstains, and highly stylised ones too, on the forearms? Where is evidence for actual puncture wounds? I see none on the wrist or feet. Crown of thorns – again, it’s all bloodstain, not lesion etc etc. Maybe I have forgotten something… but from what I see there is no real evidence for crucifixion – just an assortment or blood stains, whether real, look-alike or a mixture of the two. And if as seems the blood came after the image, not before, then all this certitude is … bravado … typical internet bravado…
Afterthought: how come I am the first to report that most of what the eye or camera perceives as blood on the Shroud is confined to the ribs of the weave ? How come that was not reported by STURP investigators? They have had over 30 years to document the crucial defining features of the Shroud. What is their answer – that the camera lies? What? Are Durante’s digital HD as-is (non-light/dark reversed) images not recording faithfully what STURP investigators should have seen with the naked eye, or with the benefit of a hand lens, and then reported? How come I get emails saying I am looking at the wrong images, that I should be using THEIR images, showing that there IS blood in furrows etc? Nope, there is NO blood in furrows worth speaking of, except for that pinkish bleed into the deeper layers of the linen.
What faith can one have in any of the (largely self-selected) STURP investigators if they could have missed or failed to report so crucial a detail about the blood – one that is hardly what one would expect of seeping blood from a corpse, assuming that is that cadavers, crucified or otherwise, really do seep blood. Blood that is confined largely to the ribs of the weave, ignoring that pinkish exudate, is more suggestive of blood applied sparingly and with care – like being dabbed on manually, perhaps with a mask or stencil. Cue those wonderful chain configurations on the forearms and back, then compare with the bas-relief images on the Lirey badge, the dorsal view especially.
Colin Berry, aka sciencebod, retired biochemist/nutritionist, pioneer of ‘resistant starch’ (“the trendiest form of dietary fibre”).