Beware: with each passing decade and century, the Shroud image sheds vital evidence as to its origins.



The three faces are a supposed time sequence – there seems little doubt that the Shroud image has been fading over the centuries.

The second row of images underneath is part hypothesis, part common sense. It relates fading to the loss of degraded linen fibres (regardless of mechanism of image imprinting, whether by mysterious radiation, or as I prefer to imagine (see site banner) by contact scorching from a heated bas relief metal template).

The first fibres to break off and be lost would be those that are degraded all the way to the central lumen of each fibre, with visible coloration of what Rogers described as the “medullas”, i.e. the interface between empty central lumen  (“hole”) and secondary cell wall.  Coloured “medullas” probably represent scorched remnants of the long-deceased flax cell membrane and cytoplasm.

Less degraded fibres, with degradation confined to the hemicelluloses of the outermost primary cell wall (PCW, dark brown)  and thick secondary cell wall (SCW, yellow) would be next to fracture and detach.

The image we see today probably represents the population of minimally-degraded fibres, with damage to the highly superficial PCW only, with largely unaffected SCW cores.

The third horizontal row is an attempt to portray the shed fibres collecting in a heap.

Expect similar attrition, i.e. progressive flaking off,  of the bloodstains, regardless of the origins of the blood.

The Shroud image is not frozen in time. It is subject to entropy like everything else in this world. Order proceeds to disorder, because there are more disordered than ordered arrangements, because random change is more likely to create disorder from order than vice versa, at least in open systems in which energy can dissipate.

More later on the implications of progressive image attrition on some misguided attempts to exclude proposed mechanisms of image formation, notably contact scorching.


As before, I am giving search engines, Google  especially, no assistance in tagging this post (no image captions, no keywords etc) for reasons previously stated.


Back again (now 09.00 local time).

Some might consider this posting to be a statement of the obvious – even if the focus on events at the individual fibre level is a bit sciency (but then, I am a scientist, albeit long since retired). So why bother posting?

If the truth be told, I should have done this post two years ago. Then, on the scores of occasions when the  sciency “200nm” card is played, I could have come back with this. The 200nm card, for the uninitiated is the one that was introduced to shroudology by the STURP team leader Raymond N.Rogers. He went to Turin in 1978, and pressed sticky tape onto  various Shroud locations, and took them back to New Mexico to analyse. One of his memorable and much cited findings was that one that described how one could grab the end of an image fibre with forceps, and when one pulled, the coloured image stayed in the adhesive as a “ghost”. It was so thin one could not resolve it by light microscopy. Given the range of wavelengths of visible light, the mantra was born that the Shroud image layer is a mere 200nm to 600nm thick – amazingly thin. (Reminder: 1cm = 10mm; 1mm =1000micrometres; 1 micrometre=1000 nanometres).

Fast forward to Shroudie forums, and one is informed time and time again that no man-made scorch, at least off a hot solid template, could be so incredibly thin, and that one has to invoke some kind of radiation. (Cue uv excimer lasers, corona discharges, neutron bombardment from earthquakes and fracturing rock etc etc).

OK, so it’s a tall order (maybe) to create a 200nm thick scorch that never goes deeper into the weave. But it’s not a tall order if one is then allowed to come back a few centuries later when all the more deeply scorched fibres have broken off, leaving just those with the PCW scorched. Reminder: the PCW of flax/linen fibres is reckoned to be of the order of 100nm thick!

Oh, and 200nm is not so  impossibly thin as to defy human comprehension. It’s the thickness of gold leaf that was used to illuminate medieval manuscripts, balanced on the end of a paintbrush by the master gilder.

One encounters other forms of the “impossibly-thin-to-forge” mantra. Like: “the image is restricted to the outermost fibres of each thread”.  Well, it could seem that way centuries later, when what one is looking at are lightly coloured fibres that are now on the outside, but weren’t initially.

Or there’s the mysterious “half-tone effect”.  That also comes with the anti-scorch mantra. All the fibres in the image are either a fixed intensity of yellow or are uncoloured. There are no in-betweens. What may seem like a darker image area is “simply” due to having a greater ratio of coloured to uncoloured fibres. Yes, I know. This is starting to get monotonous. What if there had been darker fibres to begin with, but being mechanically weaker they have simply broken off, leaving a population of stronger, weakly coloured fibres that can rejoice for ever after under the tag “half-tone” effect, anticipating 19th century photographic reproduction technology by several hundred years?

It’s implicit from what I’ve said so far that modern photography is of no help – we’ve arrived too late, that all the more intensely-scorched fibres will have detached a long time ago, leaving a homogeneous collection of yellow fibres, with nothing so undignified as a singed bristle in sight. Hmmm. I’m not so sure about that. While close-up photographs of the Shroud, at a magnification large enough to see individual fibres are as rare as hen’s teeth, there was one  (under copyright protection) that one SSG member was able to liberate from another’s archive and insert in his anti-scorch pdf. Here’s a screen grab – justified here as being used for research/education purposes only.



Is it my imagination, or are there not hints of broken fibres in various locations that seem darker (“more heavily scorched”) than those that are still aligned with the threads. Could this be the smoking gun for my entropy focus?  Are there more pictures hidden away in private archives that could be brought to bear on the crucial issue  and, more importantly, chief mechanism of wear-and-tear?

Late edit: in fact I was looking at the same photomicrographs way back in October 2012 and arriving at the same conclusions re broken ends ends.

Back later (to discuss fluorescence and other issues that have been fashioned as weapons by the anti-scorch polemicists)

Update 20:40

It’s over two years since this blogger/scientist picked up on a brief reference to the PCW and hemicellulose in linen fibres (Feb 13th 2012 to be precise, the second posting on this site) and quickly made a case for those two being the likely site for a faint and superficial  200nm thermal imprint by direct contact. By rights, in a sane and rational world, that hypothesis should quickly have edged out Rogers’ impurity coating (for reasons I don’t intend  to enumerate now, but may do so in the next day or two). Yet here we are two years later with the same fixation with Rogers’ impurity coating being expressed on Misinformation Central. I use that M word advisedly, given the quaint belief over there that Rogers was advancing a serious hypothesis with his low temperature Maillard scenario. He wasn’t. It does not stand up to close scrutiny (again, the reasons can come later). What’s more, Rogers had a total blindspot for the PCW and its heat-sensitive hemicelluloses, and having argued (correctly) that cellulose was too resistant towards heat to be the prime target, and being clearly unaware of the botanical facts of life, like the PCW being external, really left himself nowhere to go except in the direction of dreaming up impurity coatings. But that’s no reason for the host of Shroudieland’s premier blog site and one of its Rogers’ disciples to continue to preach 24/7 the Gospel according to St.Raymond, and to fail to acknowledge the strength of the case for PCW as the image-receptive surface. Is it any wonder that this site, with its 200 postings that have consistently developed the PCW hypothesis continues to be virtually invisible in the search engines under (shroud of turin) when a highly tendentious and  outdated version of events is still promoted and/or hankered after. My postings simply have the life sucked out of them when those cover versions appear in the Shroudie digest, and its quite clear from my flag counter that the same old broken records get played without visits here first to check what I have said in its entirety, instead of Daniel R.Porter’s spoon-fed milk-and-water version.

Rogers probably believed he was heading in the right direction, given the gap in his education (plant science).  But for that other site to persist with his fantasy, and to close its eyes to the PCW thinking  is something different altogether. I say its agenda-driven pseudoscience we are seeing over there. As I’ve said many times before, I heartily detest any kind of pseudoscience. What has real science (and this real scientist) done to deserve this kind of shabby dismissive treatment – one of being contained, neutralised, decontaminated. Maybe that’s the real raison d’etre for that site. It’s all about CONTROLLING THE INTERNET to allow the promotion of the Shroud and associated agenda elsewhere. It’s about fire-fighting, damage limitation etc etc.

Update: 10:23 from Mike M (Canadian pharmacist as I recall)>

“I think what comes out of CB post is simply an implied admission that his scorch hypothesis can’t replicate the superficiality at the fibre level… So it must be time (i.e. don’t ask me to replicate it because it happened over hundreds of years and I can’t replicate that) what about the real scorches on the shroud? Why are those still there, after the same time has passed and all the foldong and unfolding why are they still there, Full with Lumen discoloration, UV Fluorescence and transmitted light presence?”

First, let me say that I see no difficulty with selective scorching of the PCW,  even if it is a mere 100nm, or a few multiples thereof. As I’ve said over and over again, one can have a scorch as faint and superficial as one wishes, since there are no theoretical of commonsense grounds for thinking that a scorch at the limit of visibility would penetrate deeper than the SCW PCW.

But Mike M may not  be aware of my thinking that the Mark 1 Shroud was made as a tribute to a roasted Templar, probably Jacques de Molay of Geoffroi de Charney, and there would have been no attempt to produce the exceedingly faint scorch we see today. That would hardly have been a crowd puller.  So the original scorch was more intense, but has since become faint as a consequence of the more heavily scorched and thus more brittle fibres snapping off over time. There may have been proactive attempts to speed up that process in the early days when Mk1 Shroud was being reinvented as Christ’s burial cloth (see the references to boiling in oil, repeated laundering etc).

As for the “real” scorches on the Shroud, they weren’t done by an artist/artisan. They are the edges of burn holes where the entire thickness of the fabric has been charred. Sorry, not a fair comparison. The same goes for those other properties (fluorescence etc) – entirely different scenario, involving much higher temperatures in the 1532 fire.

The chief point is that one cannot go listing differences between modern scorches and proposed ancient ones, using them as evidence for or against scorching, without considering the effect of wear and tear. The latter is unavoidable, especially given the time scale, and, given the exotic nature of some Shroud image characteristics (“half tone effect”) one is entitled to seek explanations that involve not only the initial energy input, but the subsequent degradation too. Might it be the failure to consider ageing effects that explains why the Shroud has been regarded as an enigma for so long.

Update: 12th March am

March 11, 2014 at 4:53 pm | #11

That’s true.

To work seriously one has to consider the differences between fiber, thread and fabric levels.


I dealt with an aspect of events at the fibre level in the previous posting, warning against a particular optical illusion that involves the interstices of the weave and back-reflection/scattering of coloured light. It’s so far not been spotted or relayed elsewhere as far as I’m aware.Thanks Google etc. You and your fellow search engines really are a dead loss at failing to report  the serious attempts being made to solve the Shroud enigma, despite the frequent appearance of a “News” tab on the first page of listings under (shroud turin).

As regards events at the thread level, see Hugh Farey’s comment that followed yours, and my reply.


Hugh Farey
March 11, 2014 at 7:23 pm | #13

They’re not still there, are they? In fact, so much of them was being crumbled away that it was thought there was a danger of the charred fragments damaging the rest of the shroud, hence the 2000 restoration.

That is to say, of course, that there are degrees of discolouration, from the lightest image colour to the blackest char, and quite possibly the most friable parts of all of it have been crumbled off. The darkest burns have been rubbed away to nothing – hence the enlargment of the ‘burn holes,’ and the lightest discolourations have been excoriated the least. Possibly the non-image areas haven’t been rubbed away at all. All the remaining marks, from burns to faint image, are what remains, not the original undamaged surface. Doesn’t that make sense?


March 12, 2014 at 2:26 am | #15

Thank you Hugh. You put things so much better than me, which is perhaps why I rely a lot on diagrams. In fact you have given me an idea for today’s posting, which will show diagramatically the effect of that great equalizer – mechanical attrition – at the thread as well as the fibre level. It will plagiarize the cable-like portrayal of threads in cross-section from that splendid paper of Fanti, Di Lazzaro, Heimburger et al on Macroscopic v Microscopic Aspects.


Here’s a cut-and-paste of the abstract of that open-access 201o Fanti et al paper. (My bolding. What a pity that Raymond Rogers did not live to see it, or appreciate the importance of the PCW, especially its EXTERNAL location on plant cells, including those that have acquired a secondary cell wall.)

The “superficiality” of the Turin Shroud body image is a characteristic frequently described in scientific papers but too often in vague terms. Originating from a discussion among the members of the Shroud Science Group, this paper was compiled thoroughly describing the unique characteristics of the body image superficiality. This concept of superficiality is here described at the fabric, thread and fiber levels. At the fabric level, we show the importance of the geometry of the fabric. At the thread level, the very specific distribution of the color is emphasized. Finally, at the fiber level, we confirm that the color is a chemically altered layer about 200 nm thick found at the surface of the colored fibers (the inner part remains uncolored). We suggest that the chemical alteration that produced the discoloration is related to the primary cell wall of the linen fiber. The description of image superficiality here reported will be useful for the formulation of future hypotheses about the body image formation process.


To which this blogger would say “Amen” and simply add a few extra words to the end :

“… and subsequent fading via mechanical and/or other attrition.”

Update: Thur 13 March: It slipped my mind earlier to mention that Thibault Heimburger published an extensive and valuable collection of photomicrographs from the Mark Evans collection (STERA copyright).

See also this posting for more discussion and links:


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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