Calling all Shroudies: have you ever seen a Shroud image fibre in close-up? If so – where?

Here’s a picture I took of a lightly-scorched linen fibre last January.

Lightly scorched linen- note the high density of pigmentation at those dislocation nodes,

Lightly scorched linen- note the high density of pigmentation at those dislocation nodes,

The concentration of tan coloration at the nodes was reported, but at the time there was no obvious explanation.

Now, after experiments with strong alkali, designed to extract hemicelluloses, while probably leaving most if not all crystalline cellulose  in situ and relatively intact, there is now a possible explanation (see previous post) namely that there is a particular kind of carbohydrate at the nodes that is alkali-resistant but susceptible to scorching. I have proposed that it is amorphous cellulose, i.e. relatively non-crystalline cellulose. So, contrary to received wisdom (to which I too have previously subscribed) that cellulose is unlikely to be the prime target molecule for any kind of chemical dehydration (“scorching”), due to crystallinity  and accompanying chemical resistance, it may be that more disordered regions are a prime target, especially if there are relatively small amounts of the more chemically reactive pentosans of cell wall hemicelluloses, as seems to be the case for linen (as distinct from cotton). The so-called dislocation nodes of linen fibres, absent in cotton, are variously reported to be the site of less crystalline, i.e. amorphous cellulose.

But how would Shroud image fibres look like at a similar level of magnification, capable of showing the nodes?

Has anyone ever seen such pictures (“photomicrographs”)  or,  better still, know where they are and whom to contact?

They must surely exist (it being the simplest thing in the world to place some back-lit linen on a microscope slide).

Colin Berry

email: sciencebod01 (insert @ symbol)

Update:  Friday 14:00

Comment posted to Dan Porter’s site

November 1, 2013 at 9:54 am | #98

Now we are back discussing image formation, this seems as good a moment as any to announce something I discovered earlier today from looking at a pdf accessible on this site.

It’s from Thibault Heimburger MD, and displays photomicrographs from the Mark Evans collection. Previously I had assumed that they were not of sufficiently high magnification to show the nodes on linen fibre, which is true. But if those nodes become pigmented for whatever reason, the sites of those nodes show up as banding, with relatively white/transparent areas in between.

One such Mark Evans picture shows up precisely that kind of banding on a Shroud image thread. That makes the pigmentation consistent with what I see in my model systems, using scorching/pigmentation by direct contact with heated solid, and thus consistent with medieval fabrication. However it is not, repeat NOT consistent with the Rogers’ impurity coating hypothesis, unless one tries, late in the day, to build in qualifying assumptions about starch sticking preferably to the nodal regions. (Reminder: scientists, whether regarded as “true experts” or not, do not care much for qualifying assumptions, certainly not defensive ones).

I’ll post some enlarged/cropped pictures from that Evans archive later today on my own site, which Dan Porter is free to post here if he so desires (see my latest posting).


Circled area, lower left, before enlargement (from Mark Evans archive)

Circled area, lower left, before enlargement
(from Mark Evans archive)

As above, enlarged. Note the interrupted pigment distribution along the fibre, consistent with concentration at the linen nodes.

As above, enlarged. Note the interrupted pigment distribution along the fibre, consistent with concentration at the linen nodes.

Here’s a close-up of the second circled region on the right. Again, despite the poor resolution, one can clearly see  the distribution of pigment along the strand to be  interrupted, consistent with concentration at linen nodes.

2nd interrupted distribution of pigment from same Mark Evans field of Shroud image fibres.

2nd interrupted distribution of pigment from same Mark Evans field of Shroud image fibres.

The pattern we see here fits the one obtained in model experiments with a hot solid template pressed agains the linen to produce a contact scorch – one that targets susceptible nodes.  Conversely, it does not fit the Rogers’ “natural” tomb scenario of a continuous impurity coat of acquired starch (allegedly 1st century AD linen technology)  as the image-receptive layer.


I’ll search the remaining Evans archive for more close-ups of those interrupted pigmentation areas. But what’s needed now, as per title, is high magnification, high definition close-ups that show the nodes more clearly. They must surely exist. Why are they not in the public domain? What was the point of STURP if we do not have the kind of photograph that a 9 year old could take with a toy microscope?


Update:  19:40:   Caveat: who’s to say those pigmented regions in the Mark Evans pictures are not inter-nodal. rather than nodal?  Until we have some higher magnification photographs,  anything one says now is provisional.

I must also get the microscope out again and check what happens to pigment density distibution at different stages of alkali treatment (at least I can home in at high magnification). At present, I’m assuming that that because ones sees nodal pigmentation before alkali treatment, then any remaining pigmentation after alkali is also nodal. That may seem self-evident, but needs checking.


Update (cold light of day) Sat 2nd November  06:30

Parts of microscope

Parts of microscope

So why are there no close-up photographs of Shroud image fibres, at least none that I’m aware of, forcing me to do blow-ups of those Mark Evans pictures?

Could it be something as simple as the fact that a microscope has an arm, see diagram above, which prevents one from looking at the centre regions of a large (say 4.4 x 1.1 metre) sheet of linen? Hand lens – no problem, but microscope – no! In ordinary forensic work, one would simply excise a sample, and place it on a microscope slide. But one’s not allowed to do that with the Shroud. What about the sticky tape samples! Were they never photographed at high magnification? It is bizarre, truly bizarre, that 25 years post-STURP I am bemoaning the lack of a decent high mag picture of a Shroud image fibre and having to ask these questions.

Having got the microscope out yesterday, and trained it on scorched linen fibres, I am also beginning to doubt my “node ” story. It’s possible that it’s an artefact of light microscopy, possibly related to rear-side illumination that makes the nodes look more pigmented than they really are. I may be moving into dissolving perspective, egg-on-face territory, not through an excess of subjectivity, but one of unconscious selectivity – the brain has a tendency to filter signals from noise, and the trouble with the modern USB-connection microscope is that one clicks on and stores the fields that show a pattern, omitting to do the same with those that don’t. Result – one returns later to an unbalanced archive.









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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