Who says science can’t explain the Shroud of Turin?

The picture on the left is a small brass crucifix, purchased off a stall at an Antibes Saturday market.  Next to it on the right is a negative image obtained from it that has been 3D-enhanced in ImageJ.


for new blog crucifix versus 3D-enhanced flour imprint onto linen


There’s a reasonably close resemblance, yes?  How was the image obtained? By primitive photography?

Nope, it was obtained by a simple technology developed by this Shroud investigator, one that he calls THERMOGRAPHY.

(Late edit: maybe that should be qualified to “FLOUR THERMOGRAPHY”, given that there’s already a printing technology that uses that name, i.e. “a printing technique in which a wet ink image is fused by heat or infrared radiation with a resinous powder to produce a raised impression.”).

Was the image obtained by heating the crucifix, and pressing onto linen to get a contact scorch? Nope. That was this investigator’s Mark 1 technology. The Mark 2 technology, the R&D for which has been developed over the last year or so, did NOT require heating the crucifix, and indeed can be used with templates that cannot be heated, like one’s own hand (see precious postings). Sure, it used heat – a hot oven – but that’s used to develop the primary image on the linen, the latter being heat-resistant.

So how was the negative image  obtained?  (Late edit: see below* what the negative imprint looks like when tone-reversed in ImageJ).

Answer – with simple materials, all available to an enterprising medieval entrepreneur, wishing to simulate the image that Jesus might have left on Joseph of Arimathea’s  linen when his sweat/blood covered body was taken down from the cross.

Ingredients? Linen, obviously, olive oil, white flour, a hot oven, soap and water. Yes, that’s all that’s needed to imprint a negative ‘thermograph’ off a 3D template.

I’ll be back later with a series of photographs showing how the above image was obtained earlier today in a few simple steps that anyone can perform in their own home.

So how much longer before ‘sindonology’ sits up and takes notice? I’m not holding my breath.

Comments invited. Please keep them relevant to the posting. Thank you.

Here’s the nuts and bolts, arriving in easy instalments.

flour sieve

Smear the crucifix with a thin coating of vegetable oil. Then, using a sieve, sprinkle flour from on top. Note how the flour settles on the approximately horizontal surfaces only. This explains how the final imprint does not have the wrap-around lateral distortion that some assume to be an inescapable result of imprinting off a 3D template.



knock off surplus flour

Grip the crucifix at the sides, then tap the ‘feet’ gently on a hard surface to knock off surplus flour. One wants a fine dusting only.


wet linen draped over crucifix

Drape wet linen over the coated template. Use the palm of one’s hand initially to get  contact over the majot areas. Then use one’s fingers to capture the smaller relief, e.g. of the face, hands, feet etc.


oven stage

The imprinted linen is suspended vertically in a fan oven, and heated until the image appears. A clip-on oven thermometer (largely hidden behind my hand) is optional. Browning generally starts about 180 degrees C. Remove from oven as soon as the linen starts to yellow (>200C usually).

Finally, to achieve that authentic-looking Shroud of Turin look, soak the imprinted linen in warm water, coat liberally with soap on both sides. Fold or roll up, leave for an hour or so, then using both hands, flex the soaped linen back and forth to dislodge the surface encrustation, leaving just the resistant ‘ghost’ image. Hang out to dry, then iron to remove creases. Hey presto, you have your miniature ‘Shroud of Turin’ body image. We’ll worry about the blood another time.

Oh, and this is the result from the rest of today’s experiment, flagged up in the comment attached to yesterday’s posting. The aim was to ring changes on using two types of fabric (linen v cotton), each used either ‘as is’ or ‘pre-baked’ in the oven (described by Luigi Garlaschelli as pre-ageing).

LABELLED 8 crucifix imprints

Key: A is ‘as is’ LINEN; B is pre-baked LINEN; C is ‘as-is’ COTTON; D is pre-baked COTTON.

The above results might suggest that it is the predominant component of the fabrics, namely the heat-resistant cellulose, that is the target for the imprinted chromophore, whatever that might be chemically, rather than the minor more chemically-reactive non-cellulosic polysaccharides, such as the hemicelluloses and pectins. Why? Because all 8 images have approximately the same intensity before washing, and all are reduced roughly the same by washing, leaving the fuzzier ‘ghost’ images that are largely indistinguishable. Yawn.




final 3D crucifix inverted in Image J

Tone-reversal of the ‘thermograph’ in ImageJ, i.e. initial contact negative digitally processed to produce a pseudo-photographic positive.


Latest stats for this site (from WordPress), showing a small but steady increase in visitors this last month which this small but persistent voice in the sindonological wilderness finds most heartening.


stats jan 7 2016


Addendum (in response to comment received yesterday from Thibault Heimburger – see below).

It concerns the “negative” characteristics of the Turin Shroud image, and whether my modelling thus far has used templates that are large enough to demonstrate those same  (though ill-defined) negative characteristics.

What about the use of my own hand as template, for which I’ve published numerous flour imprints, both ‘as is’ and after image inversion/3D enhancement in ImageJ? This might be a good time to mention one particular result obtained back in August last year using thick cotton instead of thin linen.

Here’s the actual image in question:

DSC08925 3D imprint of hand on thick cotton

A bas relief imprint – totally unexpected!


Amazing don’t you think? I had made a flour imprint of my hand, using a wet flour paste onto dry cotton (old technology) that was flat when it went into the oven. As the temperature increased, the fabric began to heave and buckle, making a glove like 3D version (or at any rate bas relief) facsimile of my hand.  It finally set stiff  as if a plastic casting – a permanent 3D record!  I must see if I can find it some 5 months post-manufacture – a truly remarkable artefact n’est-ce-pas? How’s that for Shroud-like negativity and ACTUAL 3D properties, requiring no modern day software?

Further update: Friday 8th Jan. Have just been rooting through drawers, looking for that “3D-ish” flour thermograph of my hand, captured last August and briefly reported. Nope, I had not thrown it away, and here it is again, photographed a few minutes ago, held up to the net curtains of home-sweet-home.


It’s still rigid, note, almost like a composite fibre-glass moulding. The natural world (with or without anthropogenic outcomes) never ceases to surprise.


Still raiding my old photo-archives, here’s a brass rubbing from the medieval era. The couple are of course instantly recognizable as people, even ones one could warm to, despite the image being non-photographic and what today we would call a “negative”(though I doubt that term or even concept existed at the time the image was made).

brass rubbing 1


How old would you say the man was? Maybe 60s? 60s even? Both look arguable ‘beady-eyed’, some might say somewhat hostile and intimidating.

Now take that same image and do a tone-reversal (e.g. using Edit Invert in ImageJ as here):

brass rubbing inverted in imagej


The change is amazing is it not, the man especially looking so much younger and having  that seemingly wider-eyed (?! same size) hypnotic gaze. Best methinks that we keep negative/positive image transformations in two completely separate mental compartments – one that is strictly definable, measurable and scientific (the one that concerns me here on this blog, wearing my scientist’s hat) and the other which is aesthetic/psychological, enormously fascinating, but NOT the chosen province where this practical, down-to-earth, nuts-and-bolts blog is concerned.

While on the subject of that  negative image, taken simply to mean a tone-reversed (highest relief dark, lowest relief light), how many positive sightings are there in the artistic or written historical record, prior to the mid-14th century Lirey display, accompanied by that pilgrim’s badge?  The latter bore would seem the very first appearance of the iconic ‘two-fold’ image in art, in bas relief no less. Am I not right in thinking that there are also no unequivocal sightings of the negative image pre-Lirey? Admittedly less can be made of that as regards the authenticity debate than the absence of the iconic double image:  artists may not have properly appreciated the concept of a negative image, or have considered it quirky and best ignored, or simply wished to make the face more human like – like giving it either fully open eyes, or definite closed eyelids. But it’s one more instance of the absence of positive affirmative evidence for the Shroud having a pre-14th century existence which, taken with the radiocarbon dating, will lead many to conclude that it was indeed a 14th century artefact, albeit an original and ingenious ‘one-off’.


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 latest research,, scientific evidence,, Shroud of Turin, Turin Shroud and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Who says science can’t explain the Shroud of Turin?

  1. HEIMBURGER says:


    About negativity.

    It seems to me that we do not have the same definition.
    Je suis désolé mais je dois m’exprimer en français car les choses sont subtiles.

    La photographie (positif) de l’image du Linceul au niveau du visage est facilement reconnue comme celle d’un visage (à une certaine distance) MALGRE les contradictions évidentes avec notre expérience quotidienne d’un visage humain. C’est ainsi que travaille notre cerveau: tenter à tout prix de donner du sens à ce que nous voyons.

    Au contraire, le négatif de la photographie de l’image du Linceul restitue naturellement une image qui est totalement en accord avec notre expérience quotidienne d’un visage humain véritable. Notre cerveau n’a pas besoin de donner du sens à ce que nous voyons: le sens est immédiat.
    Il est vraiment dommage que je ne puisse pas poster des images sur votre blog pour montrer celà.

    Pour l’instant, je ne vois pas celà dans les différentes images de vos expériences.
    En d’autres termes, je n’y vois pas la négativité (au sens de l’image du Linceul).

    Il est possible que celà soit du à la petite taille de vos modèles.

    Pourquoi ne pas utiliser un modèle de grande taille ?

  2. Colin Berry says:

    Google Translate, French to English:

    Photography (positive) of the Shroud image at face level is easily recognized as that of a face (at a distance) DESPITE the obvious contradictions with our daily experience of a human face. This is how our brain works: trying at all costs to make sense of what we see.
    On the contrary, the negative of the photograph of the Shroud picture naturally restores an image that is completely consistent with our everyday experience of a real human face. Our brain does not need to make sense of what we see: the meaning is immediate.
    It is a shame that I can not post pictures on your blog to show that.
    For now, I do not see that in the different images from your experiences.
    In other words, I do not see any negativity (in the sense of the image of the Shroud).
    It is possible that this is due to the small size of your models.
    Why not use a large model?

    Well, there’s one very obvious difference between the Shroud image, whether viewed the as-is negative, or the Secondo Pia tone-reversed positive. Both of them lack the ‘directionality’ of conventional photographic images. That’s easily explained, of course, by the fact that we usually see real things and people by the light they reflect, i.e. their albedo, with the highest relief reflecting the most light, and, importantly, that the incident light that falls on the subject is invariably at a more or less oblique angle that creates shadows and thus the tonal contrast that allows us to perceive ‘3D-ness’. That is not the case where the TS image is concerned, so I’m at a bit of a loss to understand why you say that we perceive the as-is image as that of a real person. I certainly don’t, but I don’t worry unduly about that, for the simple reason that I see that image in scientific terms as a contact imprint where’s there’s no possibility of tonal contrast. So why one may ask the remarkably human-like look of the tone-reversed image, where we would seem to concur?

    While it looks human-like, everyone comments on a distinctive quality – the luminous soft-focus serenity of the image (“Christ-like” some might think). I would suggest there are two reasons for that. One is the removal of harshness when the tones are reversed, since the major topography of the initial topography is changed from predominantly dark to light, with the final denser tones having been promoted from what initially was white space.

    However, there’s another factor at work that moves us from the realms of science to psychology. If one takes an imprint by the method described here, one is getting a highly symmetrical capture of the topography around the vertical long axis of the subject, since the technique cannot discriminate between left and right as is the case with unilateral illumination in photography. I suspect it’s that bilateral symmetry that makes the TS image, the tone-reversed one especially, so unusual, dare one say subtly captivating.

  3. Colin Berry says:

    PS. Sorry about the obvious typos above – WordPress still has not Edit facility on one’s own comments.

    Here’s something I did quickly in May of 2012, using charcoal to do a crude sketch of the TS (VERY crude). When it was uploaded into ImageJ, then tone-reversed and 3D-enhanced, it arguably began to acquire that TS-like luminosity and serenity, not necessarily more human-like, just more appealing in an aesthetic sense (while recognizing that aesthetics are highly subjective and as such outside the realms of objective measurable science.


  4. Colin Berry says:

    From TH: “It is possible that this is due to the small size of your models.
    Why not use a large model?”

    Are you aware of this image I published back in August of last year TH? It’s not only a negative image of my hand, but an actual semi-3D (bas relief) replica obtained purely by chance using wet flour slurry onto dry linen (a technique you criticized as giving imprints that weren’t fuzzy enough, , to which I responded with the dry flour/wet linen variant).

    I’ve added a postscript to this posting with that same amazing image. A hand is admittedly not an entire person, but I see myself as concerned less with life-size modelling, where the results tend to be judged on subjective/aesthetic criteria, as you yourself are doing, and more with establishing the scientific principles.

    • Colin Berry says:

      Correction: It was dry COTTON, not linen, as the in situ pen-written label shows. How I wish WordPress would allow me to edit-out my own typos.

      • piero says:

        I think you have to compare your image with
        the hands of the Holy Shroud!

        In other words: show us what is the result from
        a comparison with the hand of the Holy Shroud.
        In this manner we can understand what is the
        level you have reached with your attempt.
        If you want to be honest with us, you have
        to show us what is this result.
        Otherwise your science can only be
        at level of a feeble “fairy tale”…

      • piero says:

        I think your science can only be at level of a feeble “fairy tale”…

  5. Well done berry, can you do one that shows both sides, front & back, on the same cloth like the SoT does?
    feet at the end head in the middle with the “fold” as the dividing line

  6. Colin Berry says:

    Ah, you’ve flagged up the problem of keeping both images, frontal and dorsal, perfectly aligned relative to each other with regard to the long axis, MB. Any deviation, read wonkiness, left or right would have immediately signalled “forgery”, so our medieval entrepreneurs had to get it right.

    While aware of the problem, it’s not one to which I’ve given a great deal of thought so far, mainly because I’m still uncertain as to whether the two images were obtained in the same presentation mode – template to linen, i.e. LOTTO or LUWU, or one in LOTTO, one in LUWU.

    LOTTO = Linen On Top, Then Overlay; LUWU = Linen Underneath With Underlay

    LUWU probably makes it easier to get the alignment right, but has downsides, like lacking manual control over precisely what relief is imprinted, especially hollows, and what is deliberately omitted. It also depends on the nature of the full-size template – whether a real bendy person or a rigid effigy that can be hoisted with ropes and pulleys etc.

    Now you’ve posted the challenge, I shall give some thought to the problem in the coming days (maybe weeks), and then try imprinting a two-fold imprint, head-to-head, as near perfectly aligned as possible. It could make the subject of a new posting, so here’s thanking you in advance, MB, for adding further grist to the mill.

    Sorry I cannot give an immediate answer.

  7. Colin Berry says:

    OK. I think I’ve figured it out, Mutant B. First I took another look at Shroud Scope, and traced what I believe to be a ‘baked-in’ midline crease from one end to the other, noting which half of the image – frontal or dorsal – had the more prominent crease.

    I then took a sheet of A4 paper, folded in half down the long axis, the fold to act as a guideline, and then decided how to imprint each surface, frontal v dorsal, LUWU v LOTTO, so as to get best alignment of the two images along that midline fold, the latter having conveniently left its signature on Shroud Scope.

    I could describe it in words now, or, if you’re prepared to wait a while, could try modelling the predicted result using linen and flour. I expect to get two well-aligned images, with one more completely imprinted than the other…

  8. Colin Berry says:

    Update Saturday midday

    Righty Ho, Mutant Buzz. I am my oven have just developed thermographically the image your requested, i,e, two fold, frontal v dorsal aligned on the long axis head-to-head.

    I used LOTTO for the frontal side, and LUWU for the dorsal, the result bearing some interesting resemblance with the TS especially re “missed bits” – what John Jackson called “discontinuities” notably as regards the buttocks.

    The present post is already too long, so I’ll be putting up a new one later this afternoon under the title: “Here’s how using white flour and olive oil, one can quickly model the Turin Shroud”

    Yup, sounds like kitchen chemistry I know, and indeed it is. That’s science bizz for you – the answer can often turn out to be a lot a simpler than one dared imagine (like 4 years ago, almost to the day).

  9. Colin Berry says:

    Typo: “I AND my oven”.

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