Shroud Question 1 from David Goulet: it’s to do with the testability of my 14th century flour-imprinting model.


It’s from that wise and perceptive Canadian author  (“Looney Tombs”) David Goulet, and was in fact posted nigh on a year ago when this researcher first unveiled his dry flour/wet linen imprinting model. (Thanks to sustained flak I was getting from others on the site in question for daring to challenge Shroud authenticity and/or my abject failure as a writer, scientist,  human being, properly blokeish male of the species etc etc I did not get round to answering it then – sorry David).

September 3, 2015 at 9:26 am

What would be interesting is to find a scientist, or two, who is not a Shroudie and present him Colin’s linen/shroud and see how long it takes him/her to discern how the image was formed. This would provide a baseline of sorts. If the scientist quickly deduces that flour/oil and heating was used then we would have to ask ‘how is it the mechanism was more easily observed on Colin’s shroud vs the actual one?”

If Colin’s model is ‘the answer’ what tell-tale signs would we have to find on the Shroud to corroborate his theory?

Or is my presumption wrong here and Colin is not saying this model is exactly how the Shroud image was created, but rather his model merely demonstrates that a simple mechanism can account for certain Shroud properties, which had previously been attributed only to complex mechanisms (lasers, etc).

Just trying to wrap my head around the various repercussions of the theory.


Thank you David. Splendidly put.

My long-mulled over answer, 11 month gestation period?

Please, give me time, more time…  Well, a few more hours at least while I look out suitable photos and other graphics to illustrate my answer with the results of recent experimentation and/or new interpretation. First, I must hit the SEND button such that visitors to the site, new ones especially,  see a posting that relates to the new site title (see comments and previous posting for why I  have decided to try the new Q/A format).

Watch this space folks. Back in a few hours (at most), barring  the arrival at my door of the sindonological thought-suppression police. (Just kidding, though it’s educational to input (shroud of turin flour-imprinting model) and see how many returns one gets that are NOT from my own postings, despite the several highly-commented upon secondary reports thereof that appeared in late 2015  on Dan Porter’s now lapsed shroudstory site).

10:30, Aug 4

Back again. First, it’s important to make one thing clear: there are two stages in the flour-imprinting method. Here’s the appearance at the first (intermediate) stage.


DSC07629 crucifix v warrior stage 1

Fig. 1 Intermediate stage with semi-3D imprints from both 3D figurines (plastic toy, brass crucifix).


What one sees above is the appearance of the linen after (a) imprinting onto wet linen after applying  a dusting of white flour onto the oil-smeared figurines, followed by (b) a heating regime up to approx 190 degrees C, followed by (c) GENTLE washing with soap and water so as not to detach the soft. encrusted material. Let’s call this the Stage 1 image.

Is it important? Is it relevant to the Shroud of Turin? Answer: not to the Shroud as we see it today. But it’s possibly relevant to the Shroud as seen by the first cohorts of pilgrims who descended on Lirey in their hordes in 1355 approx, possibly earlier, as can be seen by showing the Stage 1 image alongside the Lirey Pilgrim’s badge:

lirey badge v double flour imp crux plus warrior

Fig.2  central section of Lirey badge (top) verus Stage 1 imprint bottom).

I may have more to say later about the similarity of the two above, separated in time by more than 600 years. For now.let’s leave it at saying that the Stage 1 imprints have a pliumped-up “bas relief” i.e. shallow 3D appearance not dissimilar to the first known artistic representation of the TS on thbat Lirey medallion.

Let’s move now to the final Stage2 appearance of the imprint, after vigorous flexing  and rubbing of the soaped linen to detach the encrusted material, leaving a mere ‘ghost’ of the Stage 1 imprint.


Fig.3: Stage 2 image, after washing, only just visible, no photo-enhancement.

DSC08035 10,70,-80

Fig.4: as above, after adding photo-enhancement showing that the imprints are still present, but exceedingly faint.

It’s this final Stage 2 imprint that is considered a model for the Turin Shroud. For example, it responds to 3D-rendering in ImageJ:

imagej final washed cruc v warrior

Fig.5 Final stage imprint after 3D enhancement. (Apologies for the boldness of the central long axis, a result of experimenting with a space-conserving folded state at the heating stage.).

OK. That’s the visual preliminariws attended to. Back now to David’s first question. What if typical Stage 1 and Stage 2 imprinted linens had been submitted to an analytical laboratory without accompanying notes? Would the chemists have been able to figure out the methodology used to obtain the images?


Answer: YES, without a shred of doubt. They woud have taken one look at the Stage 1 image, quickly deduced that the encrusted material was ‘doughy’ and probably flour-derived, then done confirmatory tests for starch, total protein, wheat gluten etc. They would than have deduced that Stage 2 was what remained after detaching the encrusted Stage 1 material. They woukd have deduced (probably) that what remained was thermally-modified flour, the endproduct of complex chemical reactions that are either due to pyrolysis of carbohydrates alone (“caramelization”) or to interaction between reducing sugars and proteins to generate melanoidins via so-called Maillard reactions..

But what if the lab had been supplied with the Stage 2 imprint only? Would they have been able to arrive at the same conclusion?

With no encrusted material on the surface, there is nothing to detach and analyse. Had they looked under the microscope, they would see NO particuate material, merely discolored fibres, yellowish, maybe brownish. It’s unlikely that the cloth would respond to tests for either starch or protein, due to the vigorous washing.

So what’s left to analyse? A superficial tan-coloration, exceedingly thin, maybe a micrometre or less in thickess (probably less), a tiny fraction of the total fibre diameter, maybe 1/50 say (the figures are guesstimates).

So where does one go from there, starting as it were with a blank sheet? Do a uv/visible reflectance spectrum.? But there’s no reference point, as per Turin Shroud, one that would allow the analysts to spot a similarity between, on the one hand  the mysterious image chromophore, i.e. chemical pigment responsible for absorption of specific wavelengths of light and thus colour and the less-than-mysterious burn holes with charred edges on the Shroud, the result of the 1532 fire.

Maybe someone would have spotted a resemblance between image and “scorch” marks on fabric. due to ironing mishaps etc, and formed a hypothesis: “we’re looking at heat-degraded linen fibres” but with nothing else to go on.  But that’s no open-door to routine chemical tests. Enter melanoidins into one’s search engines and try to locate specific tests, or detailed information on their chemical structure. Chances are you will find the briefest of mentions, such as this one, stating that little is known about the structure of the melaoidins, being complex polymeric high molecular weight substances. One would quickly find oneself at the lonely coalface of analytical chemistry, which is not to say there are no analytical means available (there, are, pyrolysis mass spectrometry being one of them, as the above reference mentions) but one would need a strong motive to venture into so poorly-researched a field of chemistry.

Would the lab have been able to make sense of the Stage 2 image?  Answer, essentially no, except for vague references to chemically modified carbohydrates, possibly with a suggestion for protein involvement, probably not (so one would not even know if the images were due to simpler caramelization or more complex  Maillard suger-protein reactions).

Ring any bells?

I say yes. The flour-imprinting scenario, with the  final Stage 2 image only, essentially reconstructs the predicament in which the 1978 STURP taskforce under Raymond N. Rogers (chemical team leader) found themselves, with nothing but a faint tan discoloration and little else to go on, except for a scorch-like appearance and reflectance spectrum that closely matched the edges of the burn holes.

Did STURP pursue the idea of superficial scorching, not necessarily classical contact-scorch, as from direct contact between a hot solid e.g. metal object and linen or something more subtle and indirect, and if not why not?

Answer: sadly no. Why not? Sadly (again) faulty chemical logic seems to have been the reason. But that can wait. Back to the question as put.

If a scarcely-visible modern-day imprint is arguably too great a challenge, even for a modern well-equipped laboratory, then there are two conclusions:

  1. It’s pointless submitting samples of my model Stage 2 imprints unless the lab is specifically-geared up to test for traces of melanoidins or caramelised sugars.
  2. Any Mark 2 STURP  re-analyisis of the TS would also be a waste of time unless the lab was specifically set up to test for traces of melanoidins. Is that asking a STURP Mark2 to give pride of place to this researcher’s model? Answer?  No, because mine is not the only model to propose that the TS image comprises Maillard reaction products, i.e. melanoidins. So too did Raymond Rogers’ vaporigraph hypothesis, albeit for very different reasons, based on a pro-authenticity scenario involving amine vapours  (ammonia, cadaverine, putrescine etc) emanating from a decomposing corpse as the source of amino-nitrogen. A  conjectured “Pliny-era” starch-coating onto linen, a claimed technological aid, provided the reducing sugar, notably gluose, maltose etc, we’re told, the mechanism of starch de-polymerization unspecified. My flour-imprinting medium on the other hand provides BOTH the reducing sugars and the amino-nitrogen.  Whereas the Roger’s mechanism involves a problematical air gap between body and linen (problematical for sharp imaging) mine obligatorily requires actual physical contact. No contact  (i.e. the smallest air gap) would mean no imprinting. That is not a problem in my view, given that the TS image looks like an imprint, its negative character being diagnostic for a contact imprint (like a footprint in the sand where there are discontinuities  in the image corresponding with hollows and other recessed areas, e.g. between toes and ball of foot, those regions being unable to make direct contact).

Final part of question: do I think that flour imprining technologyt was the actual one used, or merely a method that has accidentally, so to speak, generated a TS-like image via a different mechanism?

I’ve had a year or more in which to consider the pros and cons.  I am now firmly of the belief that it was indeed THE method (though there might have been a different flour or other food source that supplied the necessary protein and reducing sugar for a Maillard reaction, and the heating may have involved something other than a standard oven, there being a promising  alternative currently under test,  conditions for which still  remain to be fully optimized).

Reasons? This response to David’s question is long enough already. Time now for me to take a break* and see what comes back, if anything, from cyberspace. Support? Brickbats? Only time will tell.

Signing off for now, but hoping to be re-engaged later.

* but am making a list of supporting observations (NOT polemical points) with  12  21 already for release when a suitable opportunity arises.

Update: Friday 5th August

Thanks first to David Goulet for visting this post yesterday, leaving three comments no less.

Things are looking up as regards search engine visibility too. Before posting this site was languishing on Page 6 of returns on a Google (shroud of turin) search. It’s now on Page 3, albeit near the bottom. Never mind, that’s solid progress. There’s no point using the internet as one’s prime means of communication if one’s invisible, or nearly so, to anyone imputting the major search terms free of restrictive qualifiers.

Moving on: I now have 24 points to make in response to the second part of David’s question as to whether I believe the flour-imprinting technology was a possible means of reproducing the TS image, or THE ACTUAL MEANS deployed (assuming in my case a 14th century provenance).

Having just this minute added No.24 to the list, I would say it’s probably the one that should feature prominently, either made first, or as now, made last as ‘take-away message’.

What is it, you may ask, No.24 that is (the rest can wait for now).

It’s this. Why does the image of the Man on the Turin Shroud have that washed-out look to it – scarcely visible it is claimed to observers of the real thing,  and not helped by looking too closely (it’s said one has to stand back a metre or two to discern that it’s an image of a naked man etc?)

Answer: Simple. It IS A WASHED-OUT IMAGE, as per Stage 2 of my model. Need I say more? That explains why the body image so subtle, faint, fuzzy, superficial etc etc. That explains why STURP was able to learn next to nothing about its chemical character. That explains why a second STURP investigation would be a complete waste of time unless one knows/knew exactly what one is looking for, with equipment capable of detecting the merest traces.

What should a STURP Mark 2 look for? Answer:high molecular weight MELANOIDINS, whether (a) linen-derived, or (b)  derived from a washed-out imprinting medium, or rather the bulk thereof,   with white flour as the chief missing-entity candidate, or  (c) a combination of the two. Yup, one  still has to establish ‘ownership’ of the final posited melanoidin image. Does it belong to the linen OR to the missing imprinting agent – a tiny carry-over of the latter having been left behind as a faint visual and chemical signature or  a combination of the two?

Here then in a few words is my explanation for why the washed-out looking TS image has eluded analysis and explanation for so long.  The external agent needed to produce it was indeed washed out , leaving nothing for the analyst to see or even suspect. We don’t even know if the final ‘ghost’ image was derived from that missing agent, or whether it’s merely a scorch-like impression the agent deposited on the linen per se – a kind of tide-mark, maybe from the ejection of hot fluid from the Maillard reaction mix which percolated via capillary action into and between the fibres of the linen threads, behaving essentially as a hot,  momentarily LIQUID yellow dye, accounting for those peculiar microscopic properties of the TS image (half-tone effect, discontinuities etc).

Might there be evidence lurking in the historical record that the Shroud may at some stage, early on perhaps,  have been exposed to water deliberately, maybe even SOAP and water?

How about this from the STERA site’s History page:

lalaing testimony

Yes, it’s Antoine de Lalaing being quoted, by all accounts  well-connected and with highly regarded admin skills, not one to be taken in by frivolous rumours. See his cv/resume on wiki.

The font’s a bit small above, so here is the relevant passage again from inside my yellow box:

“Lalaing adds that the Shroud’s authenticity has been confirmed by its having been tried by fire, boiled in oil, laundered many times ‘but it was not possible to efface or remove the imprint and image’.

There’ s another possible gem of information there that I may return to later. See my earlier photograph in which the “cooked” flour imprint had a fold down the middle. Can anyone suggest why I chose to fold the linen, and how the heating regime allowed me to do that so as to create a compact package? Clue: the final washing step with soap and water was not optional. It was OBLIGATORY!!!

Who can guess what the imprinting medium was in this photograph from my early archives?


DSC02410 thermostencilled TURIN

Clue: all traces of the imprinting medium were washed out before the photo was taken. Clue: the imprinting medium served as a trap for inputted energy, but the energy was neither conducted nor convected heat.

Suppose this image had been given to analytical chemists (or STURP for that matter). Would they have  been able to figure how it had been produced? I doubt it.

So how was it produced?  Answer: by what I called THERMO – – – –  – – – – ING.

Moral: beware images with a fuzzy washed-out look to them. One may never know what was washed out, or even know or suspect that something had been there originally and subsequently washed out. Analytical chemistry, whether armed to the teeth or not with modern instrumentation, has its limitations.

The imprinting agent used above (washed out)?  It’s in the pot at the back, with a brush for applying.  The energy source?  It’s almost directly above (out of picture) – power rating 60W.

Link to my posting with the above picture.

 Saturday 6th August:

Here’s a diagram of my current experimental set up, seen in vertical cross section (the toaster being flat-bed with a horizontal rack on which the slide assembly can be laid flat, directly over a heating element).slides toaster rack labelled


Note that the sequence of ‘layers’ from the top dowwards – oil, flour, wet linen – matches the geometry of my flour-imprinting off human skin. All that’s missing is the skin…

Can anyone guess what’s being investigated? Clue – there’s a gap between the two flattened mounds of flour, bridged by wet linen. In some experiments I take out the cross threads of the weave leaving just the long ones which run like ‘cables’ between the two heaps of flour.

Aug 6, pm

Am quietly pleased with the result of today’s experiment using the above set-up.

DSC09133 washed test linen flat bed toaster mic slides

What you see are the test linen samples after thorough washingwith soap and water  to dislodge all encrusted material, leaving just the ‘ghost’ image – a crude model for the TS.

Why am I pleased? Think oil, introduced initially as an aid to achieving an even dusting of skin with dry flour, but which was later found to have another entirely independent action later (in the oven!), confirmed here. There are other useful data and insights from this experiment, for which a hand lens is helpful, which I can discuss if anyone’s interested.





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 new theory, Shroud of Turin, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Shroud Question 1 from David Goulet: it’s to do with the testability of my 14th century flour-imprinting model.

  1. David Goulet says:

    Hi Colin,
    Thanks for answering my question. Your theory continues to hold up well. As I’ve said before, and I believe Thibault agrees, of all the medieval provenance theories yours is the most promising.

    I have a follow up question spurred by part of your answer, “there might have been a different flour or other food source that supplied the necessary protein and reducing sugar for a Maillard reaction”.

    I recall your earlier musing about the image being of a roasted Templar. Was part of the thinking then that a roasted human body could produce a contact imprint because of the Maillard reaction of the roasted human proteins?

    Just curious as to what other food candidates might work, besides flour (which understandably is the more obvious candidate).

  2. Colin Berry says:

    Hello again David

    One of my greatest regrets in well over 4 years of this voyage of discovery was in referring to my “Hot Templar” theory. The Templar in question was Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Order, burned at the stake in 1314, or maybe his lieutenant, Geoffroi de Charney (with an e in the surname), Preceptor of Normandy who was burned, or rather slow-roasted alongside de Molay, and said to be uncle of the better known Geoffroi de Charny, Lord of Lirey, first known owner of the Shroud. It was nephew (?) de Charny (no e) who commissioned the Lirey Pilgrim’s badge for the 1355 display (or maybe his wife/widow, Jeanne de Vergy).

    Nope. I never imagined for a moment that the roasted or semi-roasted Tempalrs were used directly to produce a scorch imprint on linen. They were probably reduced to ashes, ase some contemporary accounts would lead us to believe.

    No, what I suggested was that his presumed nephew sought a means of commemorating his uncle, and commissioned someone to make a bronze statue or bas relief of Geoffroi de Charney .that was then heated up to make a scorch imprint, the latter serving as a visual metaphor for the manner in which he went to meet his Maker.

    That theory was based on some peculiar details on the Lirey Pilgrim’s badge, notably the presence of what looks like a coiled rope or chain around the waist which has no obvious role in crucifixion but features in lithographs etc of burnings at the stake, de Molay’s included.

    To cut a long story short, I dropped the (disastrously named) “hot Templar” theory on becoming acquainted with the Mark 2 version of the Lirey Badge, or rather the Machy mould for one, with its inset image of the Veil of Veronica. I’ll spare you and other the details of why that led to dropping the ‘hot Templar’ hypothesis, and my switching instead to the notion that the TS was designed from the word go to be a whole body version of a Veronica-like imprint in sweat and blood, but whole body, not just face, and post-, as distinct from pre-mortem.

    The suggestion that something other than flour might have served as the imprinting medium was simply to cover myself, there being an abundance of different cereal and other solid powdered foodstuffs that have both reducing sugars and proteins, ones that can be relied upon to give yellow or brown melanoidins (Maillard reaction products).

    My money’s on wheaten white flour. Incidentally, I’ve found that a pinch of sodium bicarbonate to the flour, or use of alkali limewater to wet the linen, greatly speeds up the browning of flour imprints in the oven, making it almost certain that one is looking at Maillard products (alkali being known to facilitate their formation).

  3. David Goulet says:

    Oh, that’s right, it was a bas relief. I recall now the theory. It’s been so long since I’ve been on a Shroud site, I’ve rather lost track of some of the backstory. I miss Dan’s site, though I’m more productive at work these days with its absence. It’s too bad a new investigation on the Shroud can’t be organized (dare to dream) – knowing better today what to look for I’m certain that even without another C-14 round definitive evidence could be obtained as to age of provenance. But what would we do with our time then?

    • Colin Berry says:

      I seem to recall Dan saying I had placed over 2000 comments on his site. In retrospect I now regret every single one. When Dan did his instant covers on my postings, invariably inserting his own pro-authenticity spin, and all too often I’m loath to say, attempting to ‘infantilize’, I should have responded here on my site, and my site only. Dan to put it mildly was ‘feeding’ off mine and other people’s content, though the polite term I believe is “curating”. But he said appreciative things about me in his final 2 postings, which helps to prevent too much grinding of teeth…

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