What can one conclude from looking at the point of closest contact between frontal and dorsal Shroud images?

This posting is prompted by a discussion on Dan Porter’s shroudstory.com site initiated by veteran commentator daveB of Wellington New Zealand.


It began with him claiming that the frontal and dorsal images of the head abutted directly on each other with no gap. He was curious to know how that could have happened.

Well, I did not agree with his observation anyway, and was tempted to provide a link to this graphic below, extracted from the indispensable Shroud Scope.


Click to enlarge
Yellow ticks show the symmetrical distribution of water stains, due to the compact folding of the linen, presumably  when a single bolus of water entered.

Note that the discoloured region between the frontal and dorsal heads  (central yellow tick) is a water stain, as is clear from the symmetry. Mentally subtract the water stain, and what are you left with? Answer: probably an image free area, ie. gap in common parlance, which rather restricts debate as to the nature of the imaging process, notably imaging of frontal and dorsal surfaces but not sides, and NOT (arguably) the flat of the head either (which is a kind of side).

But I decided against that, wishing to see what other contributors had  to say, and loath anyway (for reasons discussed previously) to use that site to voice my opinions and risk attracting the usual snidery, insults and putdowns. This is where I share my ideas – not there.

So I simply asked DaveB to clarify his ideas, and he duly obliged, with useful input from others.

But no one mentioned the symmetry case you see above.  Another, more subtle argument was invoked involving the reverse side of the frontal sheet (the one that was concealed from the world’s view by backing Holland cloth until the ‘restoration’ in 2001.  Thanks Hugh Farey for tracking down a photograph.


(scroll down to lower of two graphics)

Anyway, everyone now seems agreed that that the two heads are not in direct contact, that there is a space or gap separating the two, and interest is now centred on the length of that gap, relative to the circumference of a human head to see what clues it might offer to body-shroud relationship at the instant of imaging.

Here’s a close up of the area in question:


Click to enlarge

Already there are hints appearing on the other site that the distance between the frontal and dorsal heads is “just right”  in order to correspond with a corpse placed in a shroud that is wrapped up and over the head maintaining close cloth/body contact. There’s a hint too that the evidence for close-wrapping in the authenticity narrative must somehow weaken the anti-authenticity case.  Er, not so. If someone set out to simulate the “thought experiment” of a corpse leaving an imprint on an up-and over shroud, he would have taken care to get the distance right (or rather CREDIBLE) in the gap between the two heads. If the gap were too small, observers would have declared it physically impossible for there to be so short a distance of separation. If the gap were made too large, then quite apart from economic considerations (linen is pricey) or practical considerations (a corpse should be a snug fit in its shroud so as not to slide around if moved) there are artistic/aesthetic considerations too: one wants to see a distance of separation that looks “right” and looks “neat” – a kind of  Goldilocks zone of visual comfort if you like.

Finally. Hugh Farey mentioned the use that can be made of 3D image-enhancement programs for assisting with image interpretation, with specific mention of ImageJ (used extensively on this site).

So I took the enlared image above of the abutment region of the two heads, and entered into that same ImageJ. Here’s the result. There seems little doubt that there is no image density worth speaking of in the region between frontal and dorsal heads.

twin head after 3D croppedClick to enlarge

Interestingly there may be a hint of ‘wrap-around’ imaging of the otherwise non-imaged top of the head on that right hand dorsal side of the head. That’s a provisional opinion until a wider area has been examined.

Postscript: I have said nothing above as to my preferred  mechanism by which the head images were produced (thermal imprinting from a heated bas relief using a particular procedure  (“LOTTO”) that results in a faint fuzzy image). But I see from my stats counter that there was a visitor this morning who had clicked on the link to my “scorch” ideas in the wiki entry to the Shroud of Turin (see section headed Image Analysis)

“Shroud researcher Colin Berry has observed that the scorch marks and holes in the shroud also produced clear 3D images under the VP8 analysis.[125] He deduced from this that the shroud image was produced by light scorching, and has produced 3D images from scorches using appropriate software.[126]

Below that, under the subheading “bas relief” is this passage:

Instead of painting, it has been suggested that the bas-relief could also be heated and used to scorch an image onto the cloth. However researcher Thibault Heimburger performed some experiments with the scorching of linen, and found that a scorch mark is only produced by direct contact with the hot object – thus producing an all-or-nothing discoloration with no graduation of color as is found in the shroud.

I have previously written extended critiques of the Heimburger studies, which incidentally were never ‘covered’ on the Porter site, despite the permanent adverts there on the Home Page to that and another  Heimburger paper (commenter-unfriendly pdf formats).  The chief criticism was the use of a template with flat planes only, ie. no smooth rounded contours that present to linen at different angles to the normal and thus different impact force per unit area  (i.e. fabric-impacting pressure).

Be that as it may, I strongly urge folk to look at the new banner on the top of my Home Page, and note especially the prominence of the nose relative to other features. What price the idea that there is an “all-or-nothing” discoloration with no graduation of colour?  What’s more, it’s commonplace to see references in the Shroud literature to the nose especially being more strongly imprinted, which is entirely consistent with (and required of)  a bas-relief model, and with fundamental physics too (requiring no recourse to dubious, nay, credulity-stretching  radiation models that ask us to accept “orthogonal projection” of  unspecified high energy electromagnetic or other radiation.

Postscript: This comment has just appeared from ChrisB:

January 17, 2014 at 6:47 am | #4
Click on that numeral above  against the # to access.

Didn’t the Italian lab that fired uv photons at a piece of cloth and got a result similar to the image on the Shroud demonstrate that image formation is feasible when quantum mechanics is applied?

They were more than your common-or-garden “uv photons”,  ChrisB.  They were produced in a vacuum uv excimer laser, so are ‘coherent radiation’ in which the wave peaks and troughs are all in step. To the best of my knowledge, such radiation is essentially man-made having no counterpart in the natural world,  needing as it does a precise alignment of internal laser hardware to achieve. What’s more, there was no image in those ENEA experiments – just a faint discoloration on linen. Nor did I care for the hyping up of the “unique superficiality” of that surface discoloration, considering that the authors should have done a lot more experimentation with conventional forms of energy transfer (including conduction and convection) before (probably) myth-making as they did re ‘unique superficiality’ as a pretext for resorting to laser beam technology. Some might think that their high-tech approach creates more problems than it solves especially re the enormous amplification of energy output that would be needed to produce a Shroud-sized image ( which they themselves acknowledge)  to say nothing of how that radiant energy could be focused or collimated to produce an image.


January 15, 2014 at 2:42 pm | #5

Yes. It would seem as though DaveB has misread a water stain as part of the head.

January 17, 2014 at 11:15 am | #6

Yes Colin, it is a known water stain. Where do you think it comes from ?


One can but speculate, but one has to speculate to irritate, sorry, accumulate.

The symmetry of the multiple water stainswould indicate that the Shroud was folded up both length and breadth-wise at t he time that it came in contact with water. If as a neat parcel, then presumably it was housed in a chest or reliquary.

One reads first hand accounts of delayed fire-fighting operations, e.g. in 1532 (late arrival of  blacksmith without keys) with suggestions that the intense heat in that Chambery fire (accident? arson) melted silver to account for the major burn holes (excluding the earlier L-shaped ones). So maybe the melt-hole provided a means of introducing cooling water if, say, smoke had been seen billowing out. That version of events  lacks some credibility, however, given the difficulty of melting silver (or maybe it was a lower-melting silver-based alloy).  Sorry, the honest answer is  “I really haven’t a clue.

Update: 18 Jan 2014: considered reply to anoxie’s question placed on the Porter site:

January 18, 2014 at 4:39 am | #49

anoxie :
Yes Colin,  it is a known water stain. Where do you think it comes from ?

That’s a question I’m addressing right now on my own site, anoxie. From first impressions (modelling with cutouts) I suspect the water entered as a single bolus, and that the Shroud may have been both folded and rolled to create the particular symmetrical pattern of water stains we see. I’m thinking of doing a separate post on the latter, probably in a day or two.


Modelling – first step. Cut out the water stains. Then fold along the two scorched long axes as shown. More to come.


January 18, 2014 at 6:45 am | #52

… the intense heat in that Chambery fire (accident? arson) melted silver to account for the major burn holes (excluding the earlier L-shaped ones). So maybe the melt-hole provided a means of introducing cooling water if, say, smoke had been seen billowing out.

Maybe not.
The folding of the shroud during the Chambéry fire (burn holes) is not consistent with the pattern of the water stains.


Agreed (as discovered, or it would seem, confirmed 30 mins ago  with another cut-out – the burn holes being consistent with a folding pattern alone).   I was vaguely aware that this kind of experiment has already been reported in the literature, but it’s sometimes quicker to do the experiment oneself, and at the same time acquire hands-on experience.  More later.

And thanks to Hugh Farey for providing a link to the Aldo Guerreschi paper on water stains and burn-holes


Final update: Monday 20 Jan: on second thoughts, why bother? Why bother doing post No. 201, or whatever?  Virtually the entire post-radiocarbon dating shroudosphere is essentially a hard-core residue of recalcitrant pro-authenticity true-believers, willing to give an ear (or platform) to anyone who provides a “explanation” for the discrepancy, and ready to pour scorn and worse on those of us who seek alternative explanations.

Why bother engaging? Why waste time attempting to reason with those whose minds are made up? They will be proved wrong in the fullness of time. Meanwhile, there’s still mileage for some in pushing the pro-authenticity line. Why? Because there will always be some who want to believe in it – and will place their trust in anyone who can provide a half-convincing narrative that says there was incompetence, conspiracy or worse back in 1988/1989.

It’s become an ugly business – this so-called sindonology.  Best to sit back and see how  things develop. Personally, I’d like to see Pope Francis commission a re-dating of the Shroud. I’d be happy to provide some input into how that should be done, so as to provide least opportunity for the pro-authenticity knocking brigade to once again go trashing  the methodological procedures so as to preserve their own wishful thinking.

Daniel R.Porter“What has happened to science? When did it lose an open mind perspective?”

It has not lost its “open mind” perspective. It’s the blatantly closed-mind perspective of most of those promoting authenticity (self-styled and ex-scientists included) that is the problem.  Scientists (genuine ones that is) sometimes need to struggle hard to maintain their own objectivity, which is why lack of objectivity in others is usually so easy to spot.


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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