Doh! I can think of only 19 reasons why the Shroud image was made by thermal imprinting (“scorching”) onto linen from a heated effigy


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:



Yup, only 19 reasons why the Shroud image was scorched onto linen, using a heated effigy of a naked man as template (or, more probably, an assembly of more manageable ‘spare-part’ -effigies – one for the head, one for torso, separate ones for arms and legs).

Nope, the Shroudie knocking brigade on that Other Site will never buy it – not with a mere 19 ticks in 19 boxes. Must do better. Anyway, here are those 19 which I shall list, not in any particular order, so as to avoid duplication when trying  – desperately – to bring up to a nice round 20.

1. Twin image, frontal and dorsal, no imaging of sides. No top of head.  Explained by thermal imprinting, with separate heated templates for front and rear.

2. Highly prominent nose, chin etc.  Explained by thermal imprinting: prominences of heated effigy make best contact with linen.

3. Non-directional nature of the image.  Explained by thermal imprinting. No directional light source – just a unidirectional source of conducted heat (high to low temperature).

4. Negative image, i.e. with reversal of normal light/dark tones from an illuminated subject. Explained by thermal imprinting.  Reflective prominences and/or contour planes that would look light in a photo look dark in a thermal imprint.

5. Encoded 3D information. Explained by thermal imprinting.  Easily modelled (see banner)

6.  Sepia colour. Explained by thermal imprinting (scorched linen is sepia in colour)

7. Highly superficial image, localised predominantly on the crowns of the weave.  Explained by thermal imprinting, with template making best contact with the highest parts of the weave.

8. Lack of uv fluorescence. Explained by thermal imprinting at temperature high enough to produce a light scorch, but not high enough to produce carbonisation (the latter having precursors that are benzenoid aromatics with delocalised pi-bond systems – prime candidates for uv fluorescence).

9. Tenting effect (poor imaging around highest points, e.g. crossed hands).  Explained by thermal imprinting:  cloth does not access every hollow or crevice.

10. Twin track crease marks below chin, above forehead. Explained by thermal imprinting. Scorched in crease. Permanent.

11. Lack of wounds at sites of bloodstains. Explained by thermal imprinting. There were no wound marks on the template.

12. The half-tone effect/annular scorching.  Explained by thermal imprinting. The pyrolysis of hemicelluloses is reportedly exothermic. There could be an all-or-nothing effect operating at the level of individual fibrils, or rather the highly superficial PCW of those fibrils.

13. Intactness of cellulose birefringence. Explained by thermal imprinting. Cellulose pyrolysis is endothermic, and has a higher activation energy and higher temperature for onset of pyrolysis than that of hemicelluloses.

14.  Reverse side coloration (“second face”). Explained by thermal imprinting. Superheated steam from pyrolysis of top surface can pass through pores of fabric, and then heat the thermosensitive hemicelluloses of the reverse side. Crystalline cellulose may also function to conduct heat to reverse side without being appreciably affected.

15.  Shroud image neither a photograph nor painting: Explained by thermal imprinting. Absence of pigment or photosensitive silver salts etc.

16. Hair does not look like hair at high magnification (try the fabulous Shroud Scope). Explained by thermal imprinting. The template did not have real hair.

17. Lack of thumbs, ears: Explained by thermal imprinting : difficult to do these features well with, say, a plaster cast replica – difficult to cast or they break off too easily. So a decision was made to dispense with them.

18. Mask-like face, with sharp cut off at sides. Explained by thermal imprinting: the template for the face WAS mask like, and indeed had to be mask like, i.e. shallow bas relief, to minimise distortion effects.

19. The sepia image has the general characteristics expected of  chemically-dehydrated polysaccharides. Explained by thermal imprinting. Pyrolysis,  independent of oxygen (i.e. thermally-induced  chemical breakdown) results in chemically-dehydrated polysaccharides.


Time to stop there for now methinks. But seriously folks, IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THE SHROUD IMAGE THAT IS NOT EXPLAINED BY THERMAL IMPRINTING?  If so, please let me know. I’m always open to new ideas.

Afterthought: Tuesday am  Have just realized I’ve left off the most important reason of all, the one that gives scorching pride of place compared with all those other scarcely credible hypotheses (radiation, diffusion):  thermal imprinting explains why there is an image, without needing magical collimation of rays that ensure orthogonal projection onto cloth, or without needing converging lenses or photographic emulsions (radiation), without needing chemical constituents other than untreated linen (diffusion). That makes a nice round 20 reasons.

Stop press: I see there’s a proposal to put Rogers’ diffusion/Maillard hypothesis to a long-overdue feasibility test. But the protocol is rigged, given that it intends to use glucose-impregnated cloth. Yes, the Maillard reaction needs a source of reducing sugar. Not even Rogers had the brass neck to suggest glucose, the closest substitute being “starch fractions”. Reminder: starch itself is a polysaccharide, not a sugar, and only becomes reducing if extensively degraded chemically or enzymatically to small fragments with aldehyde functions. It was always hard to conceive of naturally-degraded starch ever becoming a realistic source of reducing sugar. To substitute glucose is at best a cop-out, or at worst a reprehensible sleight-of-hand unworthy of anyone who wishes to be taken seriously as a professional chemist.

But I realize I will need more than that to convince everyone. “Colin’s most significant contribution is not his scorching hypothesis. He, who claims to be “the voice crying in the sindonological wilderness camp,” is not winning that argument” (Dan Porter). What argument, Dan? Since when has a series of hit-and-run attacks on your site (at least 4 to date) from the big beasts of Shroudology or round-the-clock sniping  from a handful of true-believers ever counted as “argument”? Still, I thank Porter for his generally favourable reception to my idea of involving the Royal Society in the continuing Shroud enigma. “Enigma” in this instance refers to the Shroud’s miraculous resurrection following supposed death by radiocarbon dating, accompanied some say by a blinding flash of uv radiation, blinding (intentional or otherwise) being the operative word …

Oh, and one other thing. In trying a few moments ago to find out precisely how Rogers did the oft-quoted  separation of image layer from fibre (sticky tape experiment) I came across Dan Porter’s posting from way back in February. It was a blunderbuss attempt to rubbish the scorch theory – assisted by his pal Barrie Schwortz attempting to make a big (too big) deal of uv fluorescence, and not bothering to respond to my explanation – since amplified (see Point 8 above). Porter’s major pitch was that a heat scorch could never be as superficial as the Shroud image – later reinforced by Paolo Di Lazzaro crashing in on his site with “evidence” from a one-temperature-point study (that temperature being one that just happened to serve his purpose) and again not bothering to respond to my critique of the design fault in his protocol.

Ultra-superficiality is not an easy area to investigate, not even with the phase-contrast microscope that Rogers employed. It needs systematic studies of controlled scorching with a range of techniques (e.g. freeze-etch scanning electron microscopy) as alternatives to wet methods or sticky tape, e.g. simple low-tech mechanical abrasion, as I have proposed recently. For the moment, I would simply draw Dan Porter’s attention to my preceding post, which he may not have seen, where simply teasing out the individual fibres in a lightly scorched (sepia-coloured) thread suggests that the scorched fibres are a tiny minority of the large number per thread (scores at least), and thus highly superficial, the inner core fibres being unaffected.  Here’s an image from that post, one that he does have my permission to use, as long as its caption and link accompanies it.

Original caption (see post for context): Here’s the reverse side in close-up. Apart from making it easier to tease out the individual fibres, the WD40 sticks them to the glass as a bonus. There is still no sign of scorched fibres – though they are no doubt in there somewhere. It would appear that only a minority of them were scorched, the most superficial ones, with underlying fibres unaffected.

There is also my derided single-cell onion epidermis experiment that showed that while conducted heat may penetrate deeper layers in a fabric it is a mistake to assume that linen constituents below the most superficial cells – even if just a single cell thick – are highly sensitive to pyrolysis and scorching. That’s where I now have the advantage over the Porters and the Di Lazzaros. I have extensive experience of scorching under a wide range of conditions, and to put it baldly – linen is a tough old material, and far more resistant to deep-layer scorching than they or anyone for that matter might imagine, at least in the temperature range 200-225 degrees C.  One can produce highly superficial scorching. Whether it is 200nm or less (i.e. below the resolving power of light microscopy) I cannot say. But then, can anybody else, bearing in mind that the much-bandied around 200nm figure was not a direct measurement, as many would have us believe, but purely a guesstimate based on INABILITY to measure with light microscopy? That 200nm is just one instance I could cite of soft puffed-up findings being elevated to the level of incontestable hard data.  Dan’s site, sad to say, has played a major role over the years of disseminating that kind of hasty, cobbled-together largely STURP-derived soufflé-science as if it were written on tablets of stone  – then brought down by Dan from the mountain as commandments to harken-and-obey.

PS: Here’s a comment I sent some two hours ago to David Rolfe’s Shroud Enigma Challenge re the proposed testing of Rogers’ diffusion hypothesis (still hasn’t appeared yet):

“Dangerous stuff here methinks. Rogers’ diffusion/Maillard hypothesis is not supposed to be put to the test. Rather it’s to be endlessly mulled over, treated like a proposition for how best to set about accurately enumerating the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. (Anything to avoid having to seriously address a rival hypothesis – having first discarded a lot of woefully-biased STURP baggage – one that if true would nail its medieval provenance. The latter WAS demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt by the radiocarbon dating despite the attempts of a dying man to rubbish with a shed load of ad hoc chemistry and “believing is seeing” brand of microscopy).

The real story, Mr. Rolfe, is not that piece of medieval linen, with its thermally-imprinted image. It’s to do primarily with appearance and reality, with the use and abuse of science as a close runner up.

In the meantime, have fun in Rogers’ cloud-cuckoo land, all you determined modellers of advanced cadaver decomposition, all conveniently shoe-horned into a highly compressed time frame.”

newsjunkie (aka Colin Berry)


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.

11 Responses to Doh! I can think of only 19 reasons why the Shroud image was made by thermal imprinting (“scorching”) onto linen from a heated effigy

  1. Rick says:

    With specialized photography that filtered for scorch, the real scorches from the 1532 fire show while the image disappears. The scorch was ruled out by STURP in 1978. A scorch would penetrate the cloth more than the few microns of the Shroud image. A scorch could not touch selected fibers 1/500th of an inch while not touching adjacent fibers. Also, the scorch does not account for the many other properties…3Dimensionality, image not beneath blood, But if it is a scorch, than just make one. Surely with 21st century technology we should have a shroud duplicate from medieval technology.

  2. colinsberry says:

    What makes you think that a motley crew of self-selected and/or co-opted scientists – most of whom few had heard of in terms of prior research achievements – should have the last word on the Shroud?

    I shan’t try to respond to all your points – being somewhat tired of checklist Shroudology. But if it’s 3D enhancement of a scorched-on image, you seek, I suggest you take a look at my banner, especially the image at the extreme right.

  3. Thibault HEIMBURGER says:

    ” But if it’s 3D enhancement of a scorched-on image, you seek, I suggest you take a look at my banner, especially the image at the extreme right.”

    Just a short comment, Colin.
    Your so-called 3-D “image at the extreme right” is NOT a true 3-D image of the adjacent image (in the sense of the 3D “VP8” characteristics of theTS image) .
    You own scorch experiment shows only obvious “artistic effects” that have nothing to do with the true 3D characteristics of the TS image. The “nose” of your template is flat although it is one of the more bright part, the borders are artificially bent etc…
    This has nothing to do with the 3D MAP (it is truly a map) of the TS image. (Just compare with the image at the extreme left of your banner);
    In fact, I have tried to find on your blog an image coming from your scorch experiments having the TRUE 3D characteristics of the TS. I found none, except the coins (i.e the smallest objects).

  4. colinsberry says:

    It’s totally absurd to talk about “true” 3D characteristics.of the TS. How can you say the characteristics of any TS re-processing are “true” when you have never laid eyes on the original subject that was imaged, and are not even prepared to say how the TS image itself was formed? (Reminder: this blogger says the evidence it was formed as a contact scorch is vastly greater than the feeble mystique-preserving reasons advanced for saying it was not, and any 3D processing is purely arbitrary, settings being chosen to best show what one thinks the original subject MAY have looked like).

    This is supposed to be model-building – not an aesthetics contest…

    Richard Dawkins and others are right to ignore Rolfe’s Enigma Challenge – they know they will/would encounter this kind of nitpicking objection – which I have to say is all we ever seem to get from you TH – nitpicking.

    * I shall add a link later to an earlier post in which I tried to make the settings in ImageJ for processing the TS image less arbitrary by normalising on scorch images first in a situation where it was possible to compare processed scorch image with the ORIGINAL 3D subject. I say that my digital processing is done SCIENTIFICALLY.

    Here’s the link – from over a year ago. Note the title (a reference to ‘normalisation’)

  5. Thibault HEIMBURGER says:

    Nitpicking ? Yes “le diable est dans les détails”. I forget your (usual) graceful comment.

    I could explain in detail what I mean by “true” 3D and why in my opinion there is something wrong in your digital processing.

    First, could your provide the links explaining in detail how ImageJ works to provide images in relief starting from a 2D picture ?

  6. colinsberry says:

    No. Why should I do your homework? ImageJ is available to everyone, not just me. Produce your own scorch from a template, process it in ImageJ to get a reasonable facsimile of the original, then apply those same settings to the Shroud ‘as is’ sepia image. Do that, as i have done and reported, and you should find that the 3D enhancement is every bit as good if not better than Jackson’s and others’ VP8 result.

    I repeat: the scientific way is to start with a known 3D object, and then go to 2D, then back to a 3D facsimile via optimized settings, then apply those same settings to the 2D Shroud image.

    Trying to do it the other way round, i.e. enhancing the Shroud image, from 2D to semi-3D, and then claiming. as you have done, that the result is (aesthetically) more pleasing than anything that can be achieved from digitally-processing a model scorch, is simply NOT scientific. I repeat: you do not know what the 3D image was like that produced the 2D Shroud image. You are not even prepared to say how it was formed ( radiation? chemical imprinting?). You are simply twiddling knobs on your VP8 or ImageJ until you get a pleasing image of “Jesus”, and then declaring your settings to be the gold standard that everyone else must emulate. Call that science?

    • Thibault HEIMBURGER says:

      You wrote: “No. Why should I do your homework? ImageJ is available to everyone, not just me.”

      I have ImageJ but I am unable to find how to produce a relief.
      Thank you for your help !!

      • colinsberry says:

        So why make out that VP8 is needed for “true” 3D, implying that ImageJ is irrelevant, and then say you need assistance with using ImageJ? Why knock something of which you have no experience?

        I would say that my 3D Shroud result with ImageJ to be every bit as good (indeed, probably better) than any published VP8 result. What’s more, I understand what ImageJ is doing – it is merely converting image density to height on a z axis, so it’s conceptually not difficult to see how a contact scorch from a 3D object can produce a credible 3D or semi-3D effect, and why the same settings work well on the Shroud image, even if the Shroud image had not been produced by scorching, but by some other mechanism capable of capturing 3D relief as image density.

        If you are genuinely interested in using ImageJ, then you have only to say, and I will give a brief list of instructions. However, a word of advice. There is no “true” result if you do not know what your original 3D subject looked like… The best approach, scientifically speaking, is to select a model (e.g. a contact scorch). If the results do not appeal, then try a different model. You may get to prefer some models over others. The worst one can do is dispense with model-building, relying purely on aesthetics and preconceptions in a knob-twiddling exercise.

        • Thibault HEIMBURGER says:

          For example, your “x11-cropped-final-x2.png” image.
          How is it that the blood stains do not show any kind of relief, contrary to the VP8 images ?

          You wrote: “If you are genuinely interested in using ImageJ, then you have only to say, and I will give a brief list of instructions. ”
          Yes, I am.

  7. colinsberry says:

    So – on a different topic – what about that explosion at the fertilizer plant then? I’ve just this minute resurrected my sciencebuzz site to provide an hypothesis that folk won’t have read elsewhere.
    Update: 22 April: Here’s a summary of my ‘nitrous oxide’ hunch that I have submitted to New Scientist:

    Letter to New Scientist sent 21 April 2013-04-21

    “So what caused the devastation at the Texas fertilizer plant? Ignoring the initial reports that it was simple combustion of anhydrous ammonia (highly improbable except at elevated temperature or with oxygen enrichment) the later implication of large stocks of ammonium nitrate (said to be as great as 270 tonnes!) did not make a lot of sense either. That would surely have left a huge crater had even a fraction decomposed explosively and caused devastation on an even wider scale.

    The key feature surely is the video footage that shows a sudden conflagration with flames soaring up hundreds of feet – a fireball in other words. That speaks of rapid combustion rather than a classical explosion resulting from detonation and instant decomposition. Is there a mechanism by which that could have occurred, involving ammonia and/or ammonium nitrate?

    I believe there is, based on the following equation:

    2NH3 + 3N2O -> 4N2 + 3H2O (+ heat and light energy)

    ammonia gas + nitrous oxide – > nitrogen + steam

    The ammonia gas was stored on site as the liquid under pressure. Any rupture of the tanks by fire would have produced an abundance of ammonia gas. The nitrous oxide, N2O, aka laughing gas?

    N2O, a powerful oxidant, roughly comparable to molecular oxygen (both relight a glowing splint) is formed when ammonium nitrate is decomposed by heat:

    NH4NO3(solid) -> N2O(gas) + 2H2O

    In other words, both the ammonia AND the ammonium nitrate were involved. Ammonia was the fuel, and nitrous oxide was the prime oxidant.

    The above mechanism might explain why the tragedy was not made worse by release of unburnt ammonia fumes, a deadly asphyxiating agent (paralyses respiratory muscles), given the reaction products are innocuous nitrogen and water vapour only.

    Chemistry aside, whose bright idea was it to store tons of ammonium nitrate so close to human settlement? More to the point, why did the regulatory authorities allow it, or overlook it?”

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