Yes, the elaborate blood stains on the Shroud were indeed a true work of art, Dan Porter…

Top marks for artistic merit (especially the intricate blood trails on the forearms).


Still more baiting and needling from The Other Site

Under the heading:  “Reality- get real Colin Berry”,  Dan Porter writes:

“And then I think about Colin Berry’s statement:

. . . Any real blood on the Shroud of Turin that still responds to tests for “blood”, e.g. porphyrins, albumins, physiological electrolytes (Na, K, Ca, Mg,P etc) is unlikely to be medieval blood, far less 1st century.

And I wonder if some scientists even know what reality is. Was the blood painted on recently? Is history part of reality? What is Colin thinking?

Well, I suggest you try this for reality, Dan Porter.

The chances of the blood on the Shroud being medieval blood (never mind 1st century) are remote. Why do I say that?

I say that on two grounds. Firstly from first principles. Moist blood is a nutrient medium par excellence for a range of bacteria and fungi and maybe larger organisms – insects etc. It has proteins (albumins and globulins supplying a good mix of amino acids), it has, or should have, mineral salts (shame Alan Adler could not find potassium etc),  it has some carbohydrate and fats too. All that a dried-on blood stain  lacks to be a near-perfect culture medium is liquid water, especially as absorbent linen is likely to wick away any occasional liquid water that might form briefly, e.g. as a result of temperature change with condensation of water vapour that has reached its dew point.  But microorganisms are versatile. There are those, especially fungi, that work slowly and intermittently over months and years, providing the air has some moisture, slowly degrading a food source.

Yes, the blood looks painted on. It is almost exclusively confined to the ribs of weave, being indistinguishable from body image in that respect (see my earlier Shroud Scope series). But there is the colour difference that allows one to be distinguished from the other.

Ah yes, that colour – red or red- brown, indeed (astonishingly “bright red” some say).  How can blood that is centuries old still be red you may ask, when it a matter of common observation that blood stains go brown within a few weeks (due to oxidation of haemoglobin to methaemoglobin – the Fe+2 ion in the first becoming Fe+3)?

Cue Alan D Adler’s permanently red “bilirubin –para hemic  methemoglobin complex” for which there is only one place on one’s laptop – the recycle bin (nope, NOT ad hom, just a candid expression of chemical/biochemical opinion).

But at least  the late Alan D Adler realised that the extracted red brown  pigments  in the “blood stains” had atypical spectra for porphyrins (if indeed that is what they were). Shame then he did not characterise the porphyins as protoporphyrin IX, the type that is present in blood, instead of rushing to invent a whole new field of cruci-fictional physiology-cum-theology.

Nope. I do not engage in ad hom, I just denounce sloppy, shoddy bad science whenever and wherever see it, and I don’t care whose reputation is offended – living or dead. Bad science has to be rooted out, especially when is trotted out on an almost daily basis by the mantra- intoning tendency on Dan Porter’s site and elsewhere.

When Adler moved from reporting an atypical porphyrin (?) spectrum to positing a biliribin-porphyrin complex, the latter assisted he said by the trauma of crucifixion, unsupported by hard analytical data, he moved from good to bad science. Somebody has to blow the whistle, and indeed should have done so a long time ago.  Maybe then we would not be reading Barrie Schwortz saying he personally was a sceptic until won over by the Adler explanation for the permanently red “blood”. Did Barrie Schwortz ever consider seeking a second or third opinion from those who know something about bilirubin? That’s what scientists do – consult others – never taking the word of any one individual, no matter how esteemed.  (I mention that in case Mr.Schwortz has forgotten another recent sound bite of his, namely that he went into Shroud studies as a photographer and now considers himself to be a scientist too ; -).

As I say – the blood looks painted on. As for when it was painted on, that is anyone’s guess.  Radiocarbon dating might provide a ballpark answer. My guess would be medieval at the earliest, but more probably post-medieval, say 17th century and later. Some may be real blood. Some may be a fake blood-like pigment (iron thiocyanate?) added perhaps in the 19th century.

Personally I think it improbable that blood could survive relatively intact – ie. as a porphyrin-iron complex linked to a globin protein – for more than a century or two unless kept in very dry air (as is presently the case).  Alan Adler’s findings spoke of highly denatured, at least partially-chemically degraded rather anything remotely representing native blood.

Fungi and bacteria would gradually degrade the blood, the latter representing  a rich balanced source of nutrients. Even in “dry” rain-proof garages one can see  spots of black  or even pink mildew forming on one’s decorating cloths – there’s enough moisture in air to permit the growth of cellulase-secreting fungi – ones  that gradually break down tough cellulose fibres. Imagine how much easier it must be to effect biodegradation of proteins, sugars etc as exist in whole blood.

How anyone can look at those intricate chain-like “bloodstains”  on the forearms and back of the Man in the Shroud, and imagine them to be anything other than the work of an artist with a brush or swab doth truly pass all comprehension – at least in my version of reality. Admittedly the latter may differ from that of Dan Porter and his small band of pro-authenticity anti-sceptics. But then I have spent my entire career in experimental science and the teaching thereof. Scepticism is second nature when you see folk walking the scientific tight rope, attempting to keep facts and ideas in perfect balance and harmony. Few succeed first time, and a lot fail. Shroudology has had more than its fair share of abject failures …


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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