Modelling the Man on the Turin Shroud using medieval technology: are we nearly there yet?

Here’s an update on my 4 years of progressive fine-tuning of the much-maligned “scorch hypothesis”. It’s  a single photograph, obtained just an hour ago, but as I say, some 4 years of work have gone into producing it.

DSC02322 before v after washing

No, it’s not linen, it’s cotton. What’s more it’s pre-baked cotton. Why those particular conditions? Answer: because they generate a result that is simple and straightforward to perceive, with no straining of the eyes, no asking to take anything on trust.

What you see are contact imprints, before and after washing with soap and water, obtained from those two metal  bas relief templates (“horse brasses”). The washed images are the cut-outs closer to the horse brasses (extreme left for prancing horse, extreme right for King George VI).

No, they were not heated and pressed onto the fabric. That’s “old” Mark 1 technology.

No, the templates were smeared with olive oil, dusted with white flour (wheat), then draped with wet fabric that was pressed down to obtain a flour imprint. The imprinted fabric was then heated in an oven to approx 200 degrees C to obtain the image. The latter, presumably formed by a Maillard browning reaction (like toasted bread)  survived washing with soap and water in the case of cotton. (Had linen been used the washed image would have been much, much  fainter – more  Shroud-like one might say).

As I say, conditions have been chosen to give a photogenic result with a simple hand-held digital camera.

No, the images do not fluoresce under uv light, unlike the lettering from the marker pens. That needs to be said, to counter the hoary old chestnut that all “scorch” images fluoresce under uv light. Oh no they don’t (see previous postings), neither the thermal-imprints seen here, obtained by oven roasting, nor direct scorch imprints obtained directly in a single step (by heating a metal bas relief template and pressing down onto fabric to get a classical scorch).

Take away message: while the Shroud of Turin is a tone-reversed negative, as per a photographic negative, its production in medieval (14th century) France would not have required anachronistic light photography.  Negative images are obtainable by contact-imprinting, as shown here.

Profound apologies if I’m destroying mystique or fond illusions, but there’s been far too much over-hyping of the Turin Shroud, much it coming from agenda-driven scientists and technologists (more often the latter) who should know better (or capable of keeping their science and their religion in separate mental compartments). There’s a sense in which both science and religion are mental constructs. That’s no reason to assume they are facets of a single unified mental construct. The brain is known to have two halves. Maybe it has quarters, eighths etc too.



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 contact imprint, Shroud of Turin, Turin Shroud and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Modelling the Man on the Turin Shroud using medieval technology: are we nearly there yet?

  1. Colin Berry says:

    It’s naughty and probably unwise to blow one’s own trumpet, but I’m frankly amazed at the quality of those images, especially the one on the right (the king’s head). Using simple materials – metal castings, olive oil, white flour and an oven one can obtain images that while blurry could be mistaken for 19th century photographic negatives. What’s more, they are not necessarily my best images that are obtainable from those two horse brasses. I had started yesterday substituting rice for wheat flour as imprinting medium, leaving an area of the fabric (linen and cotton) free of imprint that could be removed after oven-baking and tested for its ability to take a fresh imprint after that pre-baking step. Yes, images were obtained with the rice flour onto the unbaked linen and cotton, though not as good as MIGHT have been seen with wheat flour. In other words, wheat flour has still to be tested on all four combinations of wheat/cotton/unbaked fabric/baked fabric. The image in this posting was from just one of those 4 (wheat/baked cotton).

    Today I shall test all 4 combinations in the same session, and see which gives the best result. Regardless, one has a technology that delivers results that are reminiscent of those obtainable when bas relief objects cast in metal, or carved into softer materials – lino, raw potato even- are used in conjunction with paint as a means of printing images (as with modern day T-shirts). The difference is that mine is a thermal imprinting technique that appears to produce a final image that is chemically bonded onto the heat-resistant cellulose fibres of the fabric, at least some being resistant to washing with soap and water. Might we be seeing here the technology that was deployed in the 14th century to produce the image of the man on the Shroud?

    More work is needed to characterize that final wash-resistant image, whether obtained on linen or cotton, used ‘as-is’ or pre-baked, and to try and understand the mechanism by which the colour migrates from the roasting flour with its ongoing Maillard reactions into the underlying weave of the fabric. Might oil play a role in the migration, as suggested previously by this investigator last year when first reporting on the flour-imprinting model? That model seems to me to be gaining in strength and hopefully credibility with each passing day, but there will be no counting of chickens, not just yet anyway.

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