Of course heat can produce a superficial coloration – I ask those who say it can’t to do my simple experiment


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:



Yes, naming no names (at least for now) there is a simple way of demonstrating that heat CAN produce a superficial coloration, contrary to those who trumpet otherwise.  So attempts to dismiss the Scorch Theory (yes, THEORY) as the means by which the Shroud image was produced on the grounds that heat cannot produce a superficial scorch, above or below the oft-quoted 200nm thickness,  are not just an assault on common sense, as I have long maintained, but lack any kind of scientific rationale or experimental justification. Repeat: a scorch can be as faint OR superficial OR both simply by adjusting the main experimental variables – temperature (obviously), or contact time, or contact pressure primarily. Why am I having to state the obvious?

Don’t believe me? Well here’s an experiment that anyone can do in their own kitchen. I have just this minute done it, taking snapshots at each stage. Look at the photographs, read my captions, and, as I say, if you are in any doubt as to my conclusions above, then I urge you to repeat the experiment for yourself.

Incidentally, photographs of my own experiments are copyright, and should not be reproduced elsewhere without my permission. They are available, free of charge, for genuine research purposes, though I reserve the right to be the judge of that.

Step 1: tease a single thread from the edge of a linen sheet

Step 2: lay the thread on top of a sheet of linen with a floor cloth or similar as underlay, then find yourself a small metal object to serve as template – I used a pencil sharpener…

Step 3: Heat the template, then serially “brand” the single thread and the underlying linen, as shown above.

Step 4: place treated thread under hand lens. Illuminate well. Locate scorched regions. Then rotate thread through 180 degrees. Is there scorching on the opposite side? If yes, then a scorch is not superficial at the level of the thread. If no, as I have consistently found, then YES, a scorch IS or CAN BE superficial at the level of the individual thread.

The above experiment shows that a scorch can be superficial, at the level of the individual thread, and  is a counter to those who claim otherwise, e.g. based on a one-off experiment with a heated coin.

Whether the faint AND superficial scorch above is more or less than 200nm in thickness, affecting only part of the individual FIBRILS, of which there may be scores or hundreds per thread, I cannot say. But then neither I doubt can anyone else, given the absence of SYSTEMATIC studies on scorches, linen and depth of pyrolysis.  The 200nm figure that is bandied around as a “criterion” for modellers to achieve is  an estimate based purely on STURP members being unable to discern/resolve the cross-sectional profile of a stripped image layer under a light microscope. It is NOT based on actual direct measurement. One cannot make a criterion from a number that was not measured directly, and which still cannot (apparently)  be measured by present technology. So I will continue to assert that a scorch can be as faint or superficial as one wishes, with no scientific grounds for thinking that a scorch has to be more than 200nm in thickness and, ipso facto, (wait for it) of no relevance to the Shroud of Turin.

Obviously I would like to see if that view is falsifiable, but the onus of falsifying does not rest solely on the originator of a hypothesis.

The immediate imperative is not for me to (attempt to ) falsify my own hypothesis. The chief imperative at present is for those who trumpet that a scorch can NEVER be “superficial”  to desist from doing so,  as they do a disservice to science in making an assertion for which they lack a single shred of hard scientific evidence – or indeed any plausible theoretical model to underpin so counter-intuitive (and some might say self-serving) a claim. It’s time to stop misusing that “s” word ( “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone,”it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” ). Reminder: science is concerned purely with propositions that are testable. One should not attack a theory or even hypothesis for allegedly lacking features that are not measurable or testable by present technology.


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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