Are the Godfathers of Shroudology really so ignorant of elementary chemical principles?


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:




I’m still trying to come to terms with that comment of Daniel R Porter’s, see my previous posting yesterday, viz:

“I guess you can do that if you ignore or alter facts. However, the Drs. Jackson, Rogers, Di Lazzaro and Heimburger, all independently at different times, have adequately shown that such a theory, hypothesis, wild-ass-guess is wrong by pointing out that heat cannot form a physically superficial discoloration of linen fibers.”

It is truly staggering in its implications. Can the Godfathers of Shroudology really be so ignorant of elementary chemical principles as to subscribe to that statement? One unfortunately is no longer with us (Mr. Raymond N Rogers RIP), but do the other three concur with that statement?

I may not be the most politic or  courteous person in the world, especially when I see the love of my life (science) sullied by agenda-driven pseudo-science. But I think it only fair to hold off venting my spleen at Porter’s trashing of physical and chemical principles until I have given an opportunity for the gentlemen on whose behalf he claims to speak to issue correctives if they see fit. (Whether the enigmatic Porter himself has scientific qualifications or not we have never been told – indeed he says next to nothing about himself except for being an Anglican, having until recently used ‘episcopalian’ as his monicker –  but I for one am now left in no doubt whatsoever that he has no formal scientific training or background worth speaking of).

Effect of decreasing temperature v contact time on scorch intensity and likely degree of superficiality

In the meantime, here are the results of a quickie experiment I did this morning. It’s not one I would have normally have thought of doing, given that the results were in my view  entirely predictable. But given the yawning chasm of ignorance out there about the nature of pyrolysis (aka scorching) of linen, which like all chemical reactions needs a push start in the form of heat to get it over the Arrhenius energy hump, I thought it time to demonstrate the relationship between time, temperature and scorch intensity/superficiality.

Above that blue line are results I have shown previously, where two heated metal objects   (a pencil sharpener and bas-relief trinket) were pressed down onto the linen for 2-3 second approx, then pressed on a new area of linen for approx. the same time etc etc. The result, not surprisingly, is a falling off in the intensity of the scorch intensity until the final scorch is barely visible, if at all. That final image will be exceedingly superficial needless to say. I have not measured it, indeed I doubt if the technology exists to do so, even to this day, but common sense says that the linen is scarcely affected, and any image would be superficial in the extreme.

Below the blue line is the new experiment. There, the heated metal was pressed into the linen for some 2 seconds approx, then pressed into fresh linen for 4 seconds approx, then 8 seconds, then 16 seconds etc.

Note that the first image was exceedingly faint, making a nonsense of the ludicrous claim (see above) that “heat cannot form a physically superficial discoloration of linen fibers.” The second image (4 secs) was this time more intense, and the third (8 secs) more intense still.  Thereafter the image intensity decreased, despite the exponentially-greater contact times, due clearly to the progressive cooling of the metal template.

As I say, I am reviewing the situation, For some 8 months now it has seemed like I  have been banging my head against a brick wall in getting scorching recognized as the most probable means of image formation.  Indeed I can think of no other credible alternatives (and that includes the Rogers’ Maillard reaction which Porter showcases on that shroudofturin4journalists site as if it were proven fact (it is anything but – being a highly tendentious hypothesis that lacks theoretical clout, much less experimental support).

I think I now see what I am up against, and  what I see has little to do with science, and everything to do with unimpeded progress of the pro-authenticity Shroudie road show, despite the radiocarbon dating,  the latter unceremoniously trashed needless to say (now there’s a surprise).

Unless I can be convinced to the contrary, then Dan Porter and those other folk he mentions who are still alive can safely assume that from now on the gloves are off. As I say,  I hold a deep and abiding contempt for agenda-driven pseudo-science, chicanery by any other name, and will not hesitate from now on to “tell it the way it is”.

Colin Berry (retired science bod)


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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2 Responses to Are the Godfathers of Shroudology really so ignorant of elementary chemical principles?

  1. Jean says:

    Scorching or a combination of scorching and other elements has always seemed the most like scenario for the production of the image on the shroud, especially after I observed the damage direct sunlight (just sunlight!) did to a beloved set of linen curtains over a particularly long hot summer.

  2. colinsberry says:

    Shhh. Don’t mention sunlight (“uv”) Jean. You’ll just encourage Paolo Di Lazzaro, he of the uv excimer laser beams. (I’m busy right now writing a new post that I hope will cut the ground from under his feet, once and for all)… Call me traditionalist if you like, but I have neither time nor patience for headline-grabbing Mickey Mouse science (shame on ENEA for allowing its equipment to be used out of hours to push an (arguably) Vatican-inspired agenda).

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