Yet more ‘Fanti-sy’ from Fanti, Faccini et al, this time on the spear so-called “wound”…

Here is a screen grab from a fairly recent (2008) review by Faccini, Fanti  et al.(pdf), the first two of whom I have strongly criticized previously for making extraordinary unsupported claims re scourge marks on the Shroud. (I’ve since been told  by Giulio on The Other Site to address any complaints to the Journal editor, but being a public domain WYSIWYG retired science bod/blogger – as distinct from olde-worlde wielder of the pen and adhesive postage stamps I have declined to do so)

They claim to be able  to see the spear wound in the side of the Man in the Turin Shroud. Just in case you cannot, they have circled the area in yellow.

Here’s a close-up of the circled area:

They then go on to say that the blood has flowed in rivulets downwards from the wound (fitting the idea that the Man in the Shroud had been vertical at the time the non-wound was inflicted – you know, like, er, um, being nailed to a cross?).

Here are Shroud Scope images of the same blood area. The first is on plain vanilla Shroud Scope default settings.

The second enhanced version has merely had adjustments made to contrast and brightness to get better colour-differentiation)

After adjusting brightness,contrast and mid-tone value in MS Office Picture Manager (-7,100,15 respectively)

My observations

1. There is no spear wound. Circle it in yellow if you wish,  Prof. Fanti et al  but the spear WOUND is entirely a figment of your imagination.

2.  There is nothing to suggest that the blood below the circled area had got where it is by flowing downwards, whether in rivulets or less poetic dribbles. The idea of gravitational flow is also a figment of your imaginations, Prof Fanti et al, as is so much of what you publish.

What we do see on the Shroud Scope images are three distinct colour zones, only two of which can be confidently identified. The first is a thinnish plum-coloured stain that we can call “blood”. The second are yellowish-grey areas which are body image. But there is a third – a red-brown colour – that is superimposed on blood  in some places –but  not all.  I was referring just recently to similar red-brown  patches coincident with plum-coloured blood when discussing bloodstains on the forearm.

So what is responsible for the mysterious red-brown stains? (late ed:  I am ignoring the 1532 scorch here – which I omitted to mention initially)

I have two working hypotheses at present, both of which are linked to my original, somewhat daring (indeed, some might say outlandish)  ‘medicinal leech’ theory. The first is that the leech digesta deposited a variety of substances on the Shroud, only one of which was red blood pigment, the latter in progressive stages of digestion (intact RBC -> haemolysed RBC -> free haemoglobin -> partially to completely digested globin component -> free haem -> iron and free porphyrin). The other(s) could be leech digestive juices, including symbiotic bacteria, anticoagulants etc that congregated into the same or separate areas from the red blood pigments, and which look “red-brown” instead of plum-coloured.

The other hypothesis is that the leech digesta deposit uniformly on the cloth initially , and then the soluble red or plum-coloured pigments (undigested haemoglobin, porphyrins etc) bled through into the linen. The leech digesta initially dried and set solid  to form a kind of hard red-brown skin, or dare one say scab, that could be mistaken for aged blood (which it was, in a sense). With time (decades, centuries) the scab flaked off in some places but not others, exposing the underlying water-soluble plum-coloured blood pigments that have migrated into the weave of the cloth.

So which hypothesis do I prefer? Answer: the second. Why? Because if you look carefully you will see an irregularity in the weave of the linen with a hang-up of red-brown pigment.

Note red-brown pigment lodged in the cavities of the horizontal weave irregularity.

That suggests that maybe the entire stain was red-brown initially, from which the rigid skin then gradually flaked off in places, but tending to get retained in the open box-shaped cavities of the irregular weave.

Note I am careful to differentiate between fact and hypothesis.  The two should always be kept in watertight compartments. Maybe if Prof Fanti were a marine engineer he would better understand the need for ‘watertight compartments’. From where I am standing (just a retired science bod)  the ship on which he sails, and of which he is arguably the Captain, is looking more and more like the Titanic, due to certain non watertight compartments

Takeaway message: there is no spear wound visible on the the  Shroud of Turin. Blood certainly, though not necessarily 100% human blood, and in my opinion, probably painted-on blood, the latter probably from an engorged medicinal leech. But spear WOUND?  NO!   Personally speaking, I consider it totally unscientific to make claims that are not supported by data or other hard evidence, at least in science. I cannot speak for mechanical engineering….

Related reading


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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6 Responses to Yet more ‘Fanti-sy’ from Fanti, Faccini et al, this time on the spear so-called “wound”…

  1. Hugh Farey says:

    Do you pick up comments on older posts? I do hope so. I’m finding it difficult to read your blog in detail from start to finish as I keep getting distracted and having to look things up elsewhere!
    The marking on the shroud referred to above has an upper-left edge which is different from the other edges, if so they may be termed. The upper-left edge has a distinct slightly elliptical curve, each end of which terminates in an abrupt, almost right angular corner. The edge is quite distinct (although it has a lighter-coloured fringe), and the area below it is darker than the rest of the alleged stain, in an approximate cigar-shape which some have likened to the cross-section of a spear. The left hand edge is also very distinct, but does not have a regular shape, and the rest of the stain has patches of light and dark which could be interpreted as twisted-rivulet shaped, even if they aren’t actually anything of the kind.
    I’m not sure about your identification though. If I’m right, you are not denying the existence of the distinct (possibly spear-shaped) section, but you are saying that it is not qualitatively different from the rest of the stain. What I’m wondering is what sort of difference might be expected if it WAS a wound. Would laying a sheet over a stabbed body be able to differentiate between the source of some gore and the oozings derived from it? When you say “There is no spear wound,” are you suggesting that there was not even an intention to represent a spear wound, or simply that the whole marking is made of the same materials. Does that observation OF ITSELF prove that no wound existed?

  2. colinsberry says:

    My approach is probably different from yours, Hugh. I try to look at these images as if seeing them with no prior knowledge of what I am supposed to see (according to others whose observation and interpretation I regard as no better or worse than my own). When I look at the area in question, I do not immediately say “Ah, there’s something there that is not just blood, but a wound from which blood flowed”. In fact, while I see the sharper outline on that upper part you refer to, I still don’t see it as “spear-shaped” notwithstanding elliptical curves and right angular corners. And while with the eye of faith I might see your “twisted rivulet shapes” would one not see a higher density of pigment lower down if there had been flow under gravity?

    The drawback in the approach you and others take in focusing on particular areas in search or one or other feature that matches the biblical account is that you do not apply the same level of scrutiny to the rest of the Shroud. So whose to say that your elliptical curves and right-angular corners are not to be found elsewhere, like the feet etc where the putative wound is from a nail rather than a spear? (Nope, I haven’t checked and am unlikely to do so).

    What you have to bear in mind is that I was not saying there is definitely no spear wound. I was taking issue with Giulio Fanti for circling an area in yellow, stating categorically that was the site of a wound. That is not objective science, as he could show by giving that same image to people in the street, and asking them to circle the site of a wound.

    Sorry, but my position is that if ain’t objective science, then it’s not science at all, and if proselytised as if it were science, by Associate Professors of Mechanical Engineering etc. then this retired science bod feels compelled to label it “pseudo-science”. I’m prepared if necessary to canvass the Royal Society on this and the other liberties that are being taken, such is the strength of my feeling on the matter. It was Paolo Di Lazzaro’s pseudo–science with his excimer lasers and uv beams in the UK national press, just before Christmas,which first alerted me to what has been happening in the (up till now) largely secret garden that is Shroudology. I was appalled – truly appalled – and said so (initially) on my sciencebuzz site.

  3. Hugh Farey says:

    Thank you. I liked what you say about the difference of approaches. I tend to read an account, preferably one I disagree with, and ask myself why somebody might come to that conclusion, however flawed. Probably something to do with teaching children, who come up with some wacky ideas, but often based on some kind of weird logic. So I don’t begin with a tabula rasa, but ask myself, why does so-and-so think it’s blood rather than jam, and look for the flaws in the reason. If somebody says “that looks like a spear-hole,” then (apart from the fact that to me it looks more like a cigar) I can see why he thinks so. I then ask, would there be more to the image of a wound than just its shape. If so, and there is no sign of it on the shroud, then it’s not a spear hole, whatever it looks like, but if a real wound-mark would have the same composition as all the other smears around it, then we have not disproved that it is a wound on those grounds alone. Of course, if the blood turns out really to be jam, then the wound is disproved on other grounds.

  4. colinsberry says:

    You are looking for reasons for disproving it’s a wound. I’m looking for reasons for thinking it might be a wound. Your position involves multiple assumptions (or at any rate working hypotheses) namely that the linen had been in contact with a wounded man haemorrhaging blood, that an unknown imaging process had succeeding in detecting a difference between intact and injured skin and flesh, despite the (masking?) presence of blood or blood clots.

    My position requires no initial assumptions. Indeed it is looking for the kind of evidence that might underpin YOUR initial assumptions, while being willing to entertain other explanations that do not posit that the Shroud ever enveloped a real person.

    Your position is one of empathy without final icy detachment. My position does not preclude empathy or any other kind of mindset that assists in understanding someone else’s views, but it INSISTS on adopting a final icy detachment. That at any rate is the ideal, if a counsel of perfection. I would assert that it is that same ideal – of finally divesting oneself of subjective thoughts and feelings – of FINALLY viewing with a cold detached eye – that is the essence of the scientific method. Not everyone is able to make that final retreat from subjectivity to objectivity. Not everyone is cut out to be a scientist. Some scientists manage the crucial mental manoeuvre on some days and not others. Some manage with certain topics and not others. Some imagine themselves to be as objective in researching a religious icon/artefact as any other – when it is painfully obvious to others that is not the case…

  5. Hugh Farey says:

    Oh dear. I’m afraid I’m not a very good scientist at all…..
    I suppose it’s because if I have a position and want to try to get others to agree, I like to try to understand their point of view first, and then undermine it. That way, they are more likely to come round to my point of view. The cold icy detachment of the ideal scientist, perhaps such as yourself, is not, I think, very common in any field, least of all one that impinges on deep seated religious convictions. Nevertheless, I wish you luck… (there, failed again…)

  6. colinsberry says:

    OK, let’s agree to differ in our approach to the Shroud, shall we? I’d offer to shake hands, but would not want to give you frost bite…

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