My ranking of spurious and/or unsupported claims made by Shroudologists


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:


As an anti-piracy measure I shall assemble this post at leisure, in several instalments, and postpone ranking as a league table until last:

Now listed in reverse chronological order (most recent at the top)

Latest update (#4) posted Saturday 7:10 UK time

But what is somebody else’s car doing on HIS forecourt?


Latest update #4: 

The radiocarbon dating of the Shroud fabric to 1260-1390 by the three laboratories (Arizona, Oxford, Zurich)  has been contemptuously rejected:  “Sample not representative”. 

Well no, of course it was not. A representative sample would have required random sampling from a grid, leaving the Shroud looking as if it had been used for target practice at a shooting range. Taking a corner may not be ideal, but was practical and realistic as a first step.

The result made the probability of the Shroud being 1st century AD virtually zero. Would there have been all the trashing of methodology if the result had come back as 1st century? No, of course not – and shame on all those who impute incompetence or, worse still, conspiracy theories (there’s even a film now to disseminate that mischievous and paranoid view).  As for the claims of “repair” and “invisible reweaving” in the corner sampled, with Raymond N. Rogers himself claiming “end-to-end splicing” and “dyeing” to disguise a new thread – it beggars belief that STURP’s Director of Chemical Investigation ever entertained such ideas, far less published them.  That was not science – it was pique at  finding he and STURP had been studying a medieval artefact.

If repair of damaged regions had ever been a priority, is it not likely that the “L-shaped poker holes” or  the 1532 burn marks would have been dealt with first, rather than expend time in “invisibly” repairing one  inconspicuous corner?

Score:  5/10


#3   “We may think the image we see on the Shroud is that of a face. It may only look like a face, like those claims for images on toast or in clouds etc. There are no objective means of distinguishing between real and illusory”.

Oh yes there are “objective means”, and they are summed up in that substantial branch of knowledge called  ‘probability theory and statistics’, or simply “stats”  (and I don’t mean Mickey Mouse stats either). In the case of images of faces or (as in this case, entire bodies) the task of applying stats is rendered absurdly simple by a phenomenon that exists widely throughout the plant and animal kingdom – namely that of bilateral symmetry. When one half of an image about an axis, in this instance the long axis, is a near perfect mirror image of the other, at least at the level of gross appearance, then the probability that the entire image representing a real person is a figment of our imagination becomes essentially ZERO.  Nitpickers may claim is not zero, maybe small but not zero, but then the same could be said of the probability that all the air molecules will rush out your home simultaneously, leaving you to explode in the vacuum thus produced. (Oh, and there’s the small matter of the frontal and dorsal images that are mutually complementary).

I recall a geography teacher at school telling us about the Sphinx in Egypt and the different theories as to its origin. It could have been partly carved by wind, she said, and then improved upon. But there was a snort of disbelief and disgust when she added there were some who maintained that the entire Sphinx was an accident – carved entirely by wind… I was  one of the snorters… There are things in life that do not need statistical analysis – where one can- and should –  be able to rely on intuition and commonsense…

Score: 0/10


# 2: “I hope now that nobody will claim that there is no Maillard reaction and no color at room temperature.” Recent comment (from someone who should know better).

Chemistry does not work on the basis of proving there is no reaction – since one in a thousand or million molecules may be of the “right sort”.  Chemistry is about how far and how fast (thermodynamics and kinetics respectively).

Most if not all the available evidence indicates that a Maillard reaction could not occur far enough, or fast enough in the normal range of environmental temperature to produce the image we see on the Shroud, whether the image is instant or latent. More to the point there has been precious little attempt to underpin a Maillard-type reaction with model studies, except for one dubious “experiment” with purely hypothetical and poorly defined reactants as specified by Pliny (1st century AD) – interpreted as modern semi-degraded starch and saponins) and no attempt to characterize the yellow end product as a Maillard product with fixed organic (C-bonded) nitrogen. In scientific terms, this is just about as bad as it gets….

It’s the same old process – pursue a line of enquiry just far enough to get a trophy result – or in this case hypothesis – and then call it a day….  Still more pseudo-science…

Score 1/10  (would have been 0/10 but  for some  literature research on the part of the commentator that provided useful spin-off).


#1: The blood came first, the image later.  Often cited as a ‘trophy result’ in Shroudie literature, since blood first/image second would present a major challenge to forgers.

Evidence that blood came first is based on a cheap-and-cheerful one-off spot test with a protein-digesting enzyme – one which falls far short of providing conclusive evidence. There has been a strange reluctance to confirm this “crucial” result  by independent means – Shroudologists much preferring to capitalize on some  kitchen chemistry  – just one of many trophy results – than risk “unconfirming” it, that being the nature of Shroudie pseudo-science.

Score:  4/10


To be continued. So do call in from time to time if you have a minute or two to spare  (but don’t expect new additions any time soon). Civil comments always welcome. Ad hom goes straight in to the bin…

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.
This entry was posted in Shroud of Turin and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My ranking of spurious and/or unsupported claims made by Shroudologists

  1. Jean says:

    I’m intrigued by your claim #1.
    Could you post up just why there’s no real collaboration for this?

  2. colinsberry says:


    I assume you meant to say ”real corroboration’ 😉

    A single experiment describing loss/non-loss of colour from fibres that have scarcely any colour to start with, as seen under the microscope when wetted with enzyme solution, hardly constitutes definitive evidence for the view that blood came before body image. It’s non-quantitative evidence, and one is being asked to take too much on trust.

    A great deal hangs on the truth or otherwise of the blood-first claim, yet it has been raised to the level of dogma, and dogma that is cited at every opportunity by those keen to reject any idea of forgery.

    Sorry, but I don’t think there is any place for dogma in science, and that applies not just to this particular claim of Adler’s, but to two others of his as well – the weird bilirubin conjecture – now elevated to dogma – and his equally weird clot-retraction/serum exudation suggestion – also dogma.

    The blood first dogma needs re-examining from as many approaches as possible. I suggested one a while ago, based on mechanical abrasion and microscopy.

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