I’m glad you asked me that Paul (even if posted to The Other Site) …

Piltdown skull v Man in the Shroud: it  took science a mere 40 years to prove one of these was a forgery… Reproducing the forger’s trickery played no part in arriving at a scientifically-based conclusion …

 Comment from “Paul” on The Other Site:

“…if an object can not be reproduced in over a 500 year period was it ever made… ?”

First one has to ask about motivation: who might wish to reproduce the Shroud, and for what reason?

I am an avowed sceptic of the Shroud as the burial cloth of Christ, or indeed anyone from the 1st century AD, just as Waterston, Boule and Miller (see below) were sceptical that the Piltdown Man was a genuine humanoid skull.

Those sceptics were content to muster scientific arguments based on inconsistencies. They did not try to reproduce the skull – why should they? What point would have been served?

From wiki:

The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilized remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex , England. …  The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was (ed: finally, some 40 years later) exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutang that had been deliberately combined with the skull of a fully developed modern human.

As early as 1913, David Waterston of King’s College London published in Nature his conclusion that the sample consisted of an ape mandible and human skull. Likewise, French palaeontologist Marcellin Boule concluded the same thing in 1915. A third opinion from American zoologist Gerrit Smith Miller concluded Piltdown’s jaw came from a fossil ape.

In any case, from a forgery point of view, there are, I would humbly maintain,  TWO separate and superimposed Shroud images – the Shroud of the body image and the Shroud of the blood stains. The crucial question is which of the two came first.

We are assured it was the bloodstains, making it difficult (although not impossible) to forge. But the evidence for the ‘blood first’ dogma, as I have said recently, rests on a one-off spot test with an enzyme performed on a microscope slide. Fibres stripped of their blood with proteolytic enzyme look, we are told,  like “clean non-image fibres .  Ipso facto the blood must have been imprinted before the image. That’s a major conclusion to be based on just one incidental finding, and it’s one that I have questioned based on a close look at HD Shroud Scope images where one sees evidence not just for superimposed blood and body image, but no strong grounds for thinking that blood is under body (indeed, some instances where it appears to my admittedly subjective eye to be the latter).

So if one wants to be scientific, one breaks down the task of a forger into two independent steps – applying the body imprint, applying the blood, and NOT specifying the order in which they are done.

Let’s consider it done the easier way – with body image first. Now here’s a fact that you will see rarely acknowledged in the Shroudie literature, and one that needs yelling from the rooftops.

If you look at the body image alone, divested of all the bloodstains – and that includes the scourge marks that are unquestionably a subset of bloodstains – there is NOTHING to indicate that the individual had been crucified, and thus nothing to suggest the individual was Christ. What one sees is simply a somewhat vague and blurred impression of a naked man, with hands crossed over groin region, with little impression of feet (frontal view) and what looks like the underside of a foot in the dorsal view. There is nothing visible that could unequivocally be identified as a wound of any description, not even an “anatomically-correct” wrist wound once the bloodstains are filtered out. The evidence for “wounds”  depends on a blood stains only, not on puncture marks, skin lacerations etc.

What is more the image, especially the face, is unattractive, with gaunt features and staring eyes.

Cue negative- to- positive reversal, ie photographic or computer-aided inversion  of light and dark. Cue the miraculous transformation as first seen by Secondo Pia, cue the entirely reasonable idea that something that looks so “right” as an image of Jesus – radiant, serene etc –  despite enduring a hideous death by torture and crucifixion MUST represent a kind of photograph of the real man who had been placed in a linen shroud, and that the image we see on the original was the real quasi- photograph, produced by some kind of chemical or radiation-mediated means.

That kind of thinking is/was  reinforced by the later discovery that the light/dark reversed image responds magnificently to 3D enhancement, described initially as  “unique encoded 3D information”. That we now know is not the case. Indeed any image that has gradations of light and dark intensity responds to 3D software, even a crude charcoal sketch, or scorch marks (Irene Corgiat’s pyrography being a prime example that far outshine by far my own humble experiments with horse brasses etc). (Links to follow).

But it’s not just 3D enhancement that has been over-hyped. It’s that pseudo-negative image too, the one that shows the “real Christ”, the one that is now the iconic man in in the Shroud, the one that is now the gold standard (or should one say silver standard  – silver bromide emulsion that is). You see, that “so right” image that emerges on light/dark reversal seemingly as if by magic is not actually anything special, although one could be forgiven for thinking that to be the case. If our tail-end of 19th century photographer  had been capturing a range of images, especially amateurish charcoal drawings, and looking at his negative plates and films before printing off, he would have found that almost any blotchy B/W sketch transforms into a luminous, ghostly “negative”  on light/dark reversal.

Don’t believe me? Then look at a quick sketch I did a few weeks ago, before and after light/dark reversal, with a touch of 3D enhancement.

Why does the image “inversion” (light/dark reversal) work in so spectacular a fashion, not only on the sepia Shroud image but on any amateurish charcoal sketch as well?  Answer: when an amateur draws a sketch,he or she does not  generally  strive for a professional photographic image, with prominences like the nose shown relatively light (on account of light reflection aka scattering). They take a short cut, making a cartoon-like  line drawing first, and then, if adding shading, doing so inappropriately (since having drawn the nose as a line, it’s then too late, so to speak, to represent it as blocks of light and dark with no hard defined outline). In short, an amateurish sketch is generally closer to a light/dark reversed image than the real subject, or a positive photograph thereof, OR to a professional portrait in charcoal or soft pencil that resembles a photographic positive.

Now here’s the crucial point. When that crude sketch is light/dark reversed, all the “wrong” lines and wrong shading are demoted to white or plae grey space, and all the original white space is promoted to grey or black. Miraculously all the cartoon-like short cuts are toned down (literally), the remaining white space is promoted and the result can be a luminous and often serene image causing the cartoonist to think “Blimey, did I really do that?”.

Conclusion: hard though it may be for some to accept, the iconic image of Christ is NOT the real one that we see on the Shroud, and NEVER WAS. The iconic ghostly, haunting luminous image is an accident of light/dark reversal of an artefactual ‘pseudo-negative’. What’s more that ‘pseudo-negative’ is not a photographic negative, captured by some mysterious photography inside a cave or tomb. The pseudo-negative (pseudo- in the sense that it is not a photographic negative) has to be looked at objectively, with a cold detached eye, with a view to asking “How was this image imprinted on cloth, if not by photography?” such that it produces a pleasing result when light/dark reversed, the latter being the ONLY photography involved.

The Shroud image, stripped of its bloodstains looks to me like a superficial heat scorch. It’s the right colour, and from the little we know about its physical and chemical properties, e.g. the ability to bleach it with diimide, a powerful chemical reducing agent, it probably IS a heat scorch. But there is only one way I know of to scorch linen with heat reliably, and which some learn the hard way when using an electric iron for the first time. That is by direct contact between hot metal and fabric, ie heat conduction. The smallest air gap prevents scorching at temperatures below red heat. White linen and other fabric are adept at scattering light and heat radiation. Intimate atom-to-molecule contact between metal and fabric is required to produce the range of chemical changes that produce scorching. The technical term for the latter is pyrolysis – degradation by heat – which may or may not involve oxygen and oxidation (heat alone being sufficient to break chemical bonds with subsequent new and different ones being formed). Pyrolysis of linen carbohydrates, with hemicelluloses in the outermost PCW (primary cell walls) being more susceptible that celluloses (link) produces chemical dehydration (loss of hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a 2:1 ratio as steam) followed by a range of secondary reactions, with or without involvement of stage 1 superheated steam, such as formation of chemical double bonds, some conjugated, i.e.  -C=C-C=C-  alternate single-double-single bonds etc which confers yellow colour, chemical cross-linking etc.

I have seen objections made to “scorching”, some from those who should know better, ones that might be described as trivial or just downright nitpicking and indeed perverse, but the fact is that scorching by direct contact ticks most if not all boxes for the Shroud image.

Beware those who attempt to blind with science – or rather pseudo-science-  with highly abstruse arguments intended to deter technophobes.  How can they acknowledge on the one hand that the image is chemically indistinguishable from pyrolysed carbohydrates (dehydrated/cross-linked/conjugated) while instantly rejecting thermal degradation as the cause? Beware also the cop-out that the image is the result of “accelerated ageing”. Insist on proof that ageing (natural or “accelerated”) produces exactly the same spectrum of chemical products as pyrolysis at elevated temperature. Beware words that are not backed up with hard data. Talk is cheap. Beware MIT graduates (nope, not the prestigious Boston-based  centre of excellence – but of the Mantra-Intoning Tendency)

How could the scorch be produced to resemble that of a man?  It could be done by hand with a hot tool, as shown by Irene Corgiat, but I doubt that any forger, medieval or otherwise, would attempt to produce an image that is so “negative” and thus unappealing.

The image is almost certainly a thermal negative, like a brand mark (think cattle, think hide), produced using a 3D  replica of a head and body or a bas-relief (flattish semi-3D) template.

The sharp cut- off at both sides of the face, roughly at the position of cheekbone extremities that some pro-authenticity observers interpret as due to “banding” in the linen (amazingly symmetrical about the mid-line if that were the case) is a hallmark of some kind of heated template with the sides being poorly imprinted due to less contact-pressure. As such the hair would not be real hair but a representation of hair in whatever material was used for constructing the template (bronze, fired or unfired clay etc). That explains why one does not see evidence for individual strands of hair on the Shroud image (indeed, the “hair” is indistinguishable from “skin” and other body image.

To be continued… but already one is well on one’s way to describing how the Shroud image could or might be reproduced – if one was so inclined.  As for the question of the blood stains (ah yes, those highly stylized blood stains that still managed to imprint so perfectly after clotting, and which Joseph of Arimathea decided to leave in situ, despite knowing that the ladies,one of them being the victim’s own mother no less, would be arriving the next day for the purpose of anointing with oils).

As I say, I am no more minded to embark on a “replicate-the-forgery” exercise than were those early sceptics where the Piltdown skull was concerned. I’m content to point out the features that are either too good to be true, or which we are told “defy scientific explanation” or which a handful of so-called scientists say are only explainable by inventing new science (but beware  Mickey Mouse  ‘cutting edge science’  emblazoned across the media by Mickey Mouse scientists  – which is where this long-in-the tooth retired  science bod, this so-called “Johnny-Come–Lately”,  came in – last December). As I say, to be continued … First I must dig out some links and maybe another image or two to accompany what has been written so far.


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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