Modelling the Shroud of Turin with white flour, olive oil and a real face – in pictures.

By popular demand, here’s the result of using my flour imprinting model on a real human face, well, my own…

We’ll let the photos tell their own  story, postponing  the discussion for Comments (mainly), though as before, I might tack additions onto this posting  later in the light of comments, further thoughts or both.

Yes, this site and its content, started some 4 years ago, should be seen as a work in progress. All findings are preliminary, all conclusions are tentative.

To business: here are the results from today’s experimentation, dare one say model building:


1 polys DSC03632

Here’s a piece of thick expanded polystyrene. A hole has been inexpertly cut out. The purpose is to allow me to imprint my own flour-coated face onto TAUT linen that goes under the chin, so as to stand a better chance of imprinting the nose, lips and chin. (The nose has previously been an obstacle to complete imprinting off a fully 3D human face, as distinct from ‘soft option’ bas relief).


2. polys

Here’s the wet linen spread out across the cut out region of polystyrene, ready to receive a flour-coated face. The linen will be gripped at the sides, closer to the bottom than the top, to ascertain whether nose AND lips AND chin can be simultaneously imprinted. (Yes, I pushed my face into the linen before taking this picture, as a dry, correction, wet run).

polys frame photographed from other side DSC03789

Here’s a late addition to the photo gallery, This afterthought was prompted by what seemed like a beard on the final imprint. Here it’s not at all difficult to see how imprinting onto the semi-transparent water-soaked linen, stretched taut like a drum skin (or maybe allowed a little slackness and sag to allow limited moulding to 3D relief)),  should produce an entirely artefactual beard and possibly moustache too. Indeed, this prediction was made on this site many moons ago, suggesting there was a ” face pressed up against the glass” quality to the TS image that could have made the facial “hair” of the Man on the TS an imprinting artefact. Note too how the technique can generate trapped creases that subsequently get ‘baked in’ (see prominent one on TS at chin/neck level).

polys before and after flour imprinting

That’s me on the left, with face first smeared with olive oil, then dusted with plain white flour. Can you see the difference on the right? The flour is missing in places – most places in fact except the lower relief. Why? Because the picture was taken AFTER pressing my face down into the wet linen, stretched over the polystyrene cut out.

5 polys

Here’s the oil/flour imprinted linen, suspended in a hot fan oven (up to 200 degrees C). Note the browning of the imprinted regions. Note that it’s not necessary to have the linen stretched out.


Here’s the initial ‘raw’ imprint of my face, prior to washing to achieve that fuzzier attenuated TS look. No, it does not look immediately promising, but bear in mind that the primary aim in this experiment was to achieve imaging of the lower half of the face (nose, lips and chin). The eyes are ‘white space’, no attempt having been made to image the (closed) eyelids. But then the eyes are poorly imaged on the TS too, as expected from a contact-imprinting model – the eyes being recessed in the bony eye sockets.


my face stretched linen DSC03681 40,30,-10 inverted

Here’s the same image, after tone reversal and 3D rendering/enhancement in ImageJ. Nope, not King Neptune, but yours truly. I seem to have acquired a beard. Why is that one may ask? What about the ‘beard’ on the TS? Is that a real beard, or is that too an artefact of contact-imprinting? Discuss….


Late addition (29th Jan): the technique of smearing oil onto the template was first introduced on this site way back in October 2014 when exploring direct scorching from heated metal templates. As soon as the idea arrived that a cold template could  be used to create a flour imprint on linen, heating the imprinted linen instead of the metal, then an agent was needed to help the flour adhere to the metal. That’s when oil put in its first appearance here, and has since been routinely used with an increasing number of template materials – terra cotta, plastics and now human skin -hands initially.   (The oil only became necessary when the switch was made from imprinting with  (a) wet flour slurry onto dry linen,  to imprinting with  (b) dry flour onto wet linen – that being a late stage of method development designed to achieve a fuzzier more TS-like image). But vegetable oil, even as virgin olive oil, is not the most user-friendly of substances to have to smear on one’s face, eyelids especially, as has currently needed to be done. Or does it? An agent introduced initially for use with metal is not necessarily needed for skin (while noting that oil was found to speed image development in the oven).

So a quickie comparison has been done of three pretreatments of skin (my fingers) before coating with dry flour and imprinting onto wet linen:

  1. None (flour dusted onto skin directly with no binding agent)
  2. Smeared with oil, then dusted with dry flour.
  3. Smeared with a thin slurry of white flour in water, then dusted with dry flour.

Here’s a gallery of pix showing appearance at different stages. The captions describe the facts. Discussion of results and final choice of imprinting medium is in the Comments attached to this post.

hands before and after imprinting

3 (Left): precoating hands with flour paste then dry flour. 2 (Centre): precoating hands with olive oil then dry flour  1. (Right): dry flour only. (The numbering is in reverse, having been used for the reverse side of the linen, left to right, before imprinting) Top row: before imprinting onto wet linen Bottom row: depleted coatings after imprinting onto wet linen.

roasted flour imprint before v after washing

Top row: appearance of imprints immediately after removal from the oven, same numbering system as above. Bottom row: the same, showing final more TS-like attenuated images after thorough washing/grinding action with soap and water. Part of a bleached linen shirt was used in this experiment.


Extract of comment, received yesterday  (29 Jan) from Thibault Heimburger:

Looking again and again at the TS image of the face (positive and negative), the mystery remains. How is it possible for a medieval forger to produce BY CHANCE an imprint that after tone reversal gives a perfect (absolutely perfect) human face ?
It is NOT a question of aesthetic.
It is a question of subtlety of the imprint.

See my reply beneath it, to which I would add this image,  one that needs no further comment or explanation:

composite image

“Perfect” face? Perfect by what criteria? Scientific or non-scientific?


Update: 31st Jan 2016. 

Here’s a screen grab from two of yesterday’s comments. the first my own, and the holding answer from Thibault Heimburger:

comments CB and TH 30 Jan 2016

Comments, this site, 30 Jan 2016

I greatly look forward to hearing what Thibault Heimburger has to say regarding the density gradients in the TS image. It’s a topic that I explored a while ago, using the Thermal LUT mode of ImageJ to perform ‘easy’ visual analysis of  TS facial density gradients, avoiding a welter of numbers:

image gradient before and after thermal LUT in ImageJ

Grayscale density gradient (left) versus the same graphic’s response to Thermal LUT 3D mode in ImageJ (right)


scope face as is no extra contrast thermal lut trimmed

Shroud Scope, nose, “moustache” cheeks etc analysed in Thermal LUT mode in ImageJ (part of the 3D -rendering menu, but note there was no raising of the z-scale above the default(0.1) setting. What one sees here is the basal “needle forest” of the digitized image with minimal 3D and zero smoothing.


Update: Monday 1st Feb 2016: Am still fining-tuning the procedure for taking a minimally-distorted imprint off a REAL human face.

TS versus masked face

TS face (Enrie negative) versus R&D to find the optimal technique for modelling via facial imprinting. The creases (left) need no longer be a mystery (or ignored altogether by most pro-authenticity advocates).

Simple experiments with a hood have confirmed the importance of pulling the linen taut UNDER the chin, so as to stretch it over the nose and lips, together with a little diagonal tugging down over both cheeks so as to prevent creasing. But the technique does not prevent creasing altogether. Does that matter where matching the TS image is concerned? I’ve chosen the Enrie negative to remind folk of the two prominent creases at TOP and BOTTOM of the head. Why is there so little discussion as to where they came from???  My model provides a simple answer.

DSC04164 flour coated face cropped

Reminder: flour imprinting allows one to decide in advance which parts of the face will be in the final image, and which excluded, notably a preference for frontal over lateral planes so as to avoid image distortion. The underside of the chin can also be wiped, allowing one to pull the linen taut as described above without imprinting that area. In other words, the ‘mask’ like look of the TS, with those severe lateral cut-offs, are easily accounted for in the flour-imprinting model. Note too the sides of the nose have been wiped.  But as I had to remind a commentator here, models are for using, not believing. Much still remains to be done to get something that matches the subtlety of the TS image (while recognizing that some of that may be due to centuries of ageing).

2nd update: Feb 1

Have just received this comment from Thibault Heimburger regarding the use of ImageJ’s Thermal LUT mode to visualize image density gradients.


TH Feb 1 comment re Thermal LUT

Since this posting is already becoming too long, I’ll simply insert a graphic and caption here that responds to the first point raised (the use of the Min.% control bottom right). Further discussion can be found under Comments.

use of min% as scaler

The top row shows the lower face of the Ts at 3 different levels of contrast/brightness/midtone value. One cannot expect of all them to respond equally well to the Thermal LUT mode of ImageJ, displayed above with the circle and the colour-coded cone. The first picture, lower row left, is what one sees with the Min.% set to zero. It works well on the high intensity image, showing a range of elevations, less well with the lower intensity levels (smaller range of colours). One can improve the response of the latter by increasing the Min.% level (shown at 33%) but that setting is too high for the dense image, giving excessive elevation and lopping off of the tops of cones. The Min.% control is a trial-and-error scaling device that one sets to get the maximum numberof colours in the Thermal LUT mode from blue through white and yellow to red. It expands the scale between a fixed maximum (100%) and a variable minimum value.


New update: Tue 2nd Feb 2016

Re the second part of Thibault Heimburger’s question, I think I’m now in a position to explain the subtlety of the TS image (which I’ve always acknowledged) if as I now believe it is reasonably well modelled as a flour imprint – even if that is not the precise technology that was employed. The model merely serves as an example of how a seemingly mundane way of producing a contact imprint can give rise to “subtlety” which mirrors that of the TS image. But first it’s necessary to address the specifics, namely the intermediate levels of image density that are present in the TS image. In fact, one can see those in the standard images of the TS, viewed with the naked eye, whether as positive or negative images, whether as Enrie or Durante images. But the focus right now is on the tool offered by ImageJ to view image density mapped as colour coded artificial relief, as shown above with the simple example of a circle with increasing image density towards the centre being converted to a colourful conein the Thermal LUT mode (LUT= Look Up Table).

Yes, the same Thermal mode shows the expected gradation of image density in the TS, or as Thibault correctly observes, the highest relief (shown as red) having beneath it an intermediate relief colour (yellow). What was he expecting? The lowest relief immediately (blue) with no gradation? Why? Had that been the case the TS image would have looked like a rubber stamp imprint, a crude all-or-nothing imprint, showing a total absence of “subtlety”, read crudeness. But even my flour imprints (and before it the Mark 1 direct scorch imprints off a heated template) pass that test of “subtlety” in ImageJ’s Thermal LUT mode, as shall now be shown.

First, here are flour imprints off my own fingers shown earlier in this posting that will be used as indisputably an entirely man-made image:

roasted flour imprint before v after washing

See original caption above. Basically, images straight from oven in top row, the same after washing in bottom row.


fingers from flour imprinting in Thermal LUT, Min. 13%

Min. % = 13 (scale lower right)


fingers thermal Min. now  raised to 27%

Min. % raised to 27.

Note then that the intermediate yellow zone beneath the red is NOT exclusive to the TS image. Put another way, if that yellow zone is a marker for “subtlety” then the flour-imprinting model could be said to pass the subtlety test with, er, flying colours (well, partially elevated ones anyway, if not totally airborne).

I shall shortly be adding two images that I hope will demonstrate the manner in which  two entirely independent mechanisms of 3D image capture, mutually reinforcing, synergistic one might say, come into play that result in the semi-photographic like character of the final imprint. Time to get my camera out, and a bag of flour, and a sheet of linen…

If one set out to find a contact imprinting method that was most likely to capture 3D-ness, computer software-aided that is, it’s hard to imagine one that is better than the flour-onto-wet-linen  method.

3D–ness is captured in the very first stage of sprinkling flour from above the recumbent subject, since the flour settles under gravity  (read orthogonally in those radiation models) mainly but not exclusively on the flattest relief.

hand series composite 1 to 3

Left: flour sprinkled onto hand from above; Centre: excess shaken off; Right: flour attaches mainly but not exclusively to the flat relief, which tends to be the highest relief.

 In a recumbent human subject (e.g. the Man on the TS)  the flattest relief IS the highest relief!

Then there’s the moulding of wet linen to the body relief.

hand series composite 4 and 5

Wet linen pressed down onto hand. Note (left) the closer adhesion (additional transparency) to parts with hard underlying bone – about which more later. Note too (right) the somewhat bony skeletal look when fingers are held together such that the linen forms short bridges over the crevices between fingers, creating the impression of gaps in the final imprint that are not there, viz, the allegedly “X-ray” fingers of the Man on the TS in those radiation models (supposedly internal source of X-rays!).

Again, it’s the highest flattest relief that gets the most contact, the linen tending to make bridges  between one prominence and another where there are intervening crevices and hollows. So one has a second entirely independent mechanism that favours the highest relief over the lower relief, such that a 2D imprint will have gradations of light and dark that give visual clues to the 3D relief of the parent template.

That’s the imprinting in general terms. One also has detailed aspects to consider where particular features of anatomy are concerned, like the nose, mouth, chin, the crossed hands, the feet. Let’s postpone further discussion on those for a day or two. Suffice it to say that flour imprinting can and does deliver the goods!


 Two more images, by request from Thibault Heimburger (see Comments, this posting, 4th Feb, re his need for highest definition pictures).



Flour imprint of fingers, before washing, 164KB, 72dpi







After washing, 168KB, 72dpi


Afterthought, added Friday 5th Feb

Have just remembered that one can use one’s printer scanner to obtain higher resolution pictures if desired (in this case it is Thibault Heimburger who has made the request which I’m only too happy to oblige). Fortunately I had not thrown away the linen with those flour imprints from my fingers. Here’s some images from the first scan, with the resolution set at its maximum (300dpi), approx 4 times greater than those above from the camera (and without camera shake!).

minimally cropped printer scan 1.08 MB, 300 dpi

Approx 1MB file size, 300dpi. Oil-assisted imprinting on left, control (flour-only) on right. Both after vigorous washing in soap and water to dislodge encrusted material.



scan 300 dpi oil v flour only control magnified then screen grab

Slight enlargement then cropping of previous picture. Note that the weave is clearly visible in the scanned image, with no obvious pixellation, unlike standard photographs from the digital camera. These are ‘as is’ images: no adjustments have been made to contrast, brightness etc or other photoediting.


Final update: Thursday 11th Feb, 2016

OK, that’s it folks. I’ve now said all I want to say on the Turin Shroud. Have added this as my final comment.

This blogging investigator has been reporting his findings online for 4 years. Having chosen to use the internet as his medium of communication, he has quietly been monitoring the manner in which the major search engines allow his research to reach his target audience, namely those who input either “shroud of turin ” or “turin shroud”.

Google has largely delivered the expected performance, based on visits to my sites, links on other sites, whilst noting that is (which US-based searchers will access) demotes my postings relative to That is tolerable, while hardly conducive to the sharing of international research and scholarship, But as soon as one looks at the alternatives to Google, naming no names. one disappears almost completely off the listings, at least the first 10 or 20 pages of returns.

What is the point of carefully composing my flagged-up Manifesto, work in progress, if the Internet and its search engines are likely to disregard it completely?

After much deliberation I have decided to keep thoughts and suspicions to myself as to why my postings fail to appear on`those (it has to be said) mainly US-based search engines, while those on other “Shroudie”, mainly pro-authenticity sites do. Nuff said.

OK. maybe I’m boring or too sciency. But how do the search engines and their algorithms know that? Or is there human intervention that we’re not told about, or commercial influences via advertising, feeding through to what appears on search returns?


mountain view california google operations centre

Just some of the buildings comprising Google’s Mountain View HQ in California. How many employees? See next image.


number of fulltime google employees mountain view california

Yes, Google employs well in excess of 50,000 full time employees. How likely is it that the search engine rankings are entirely algorithm -driven courtesy of electronic robots when one has this number of employees?


As indicated earlier. Google is not the worst offender where returns for (shroud of turin) are concerned. Indeed, it might be said to be the best offender. But try casting your eye, dear reader, down that list of returns, page by page. Notice anything? Notice that homogenized quality, indicative of selection/rejection- or at any rate promotion/demotion? Yes. those homogenized returns put this investigator in mind of those squat little jars of food he used to spoon-feed to his sons and daughter at weaning stage – smooth, bland, pureed – totally TOTALLY  homogeneous and surprise free, and thus the total antithesis of the spirit of genuine scientific enquiry – always unsettling, always springing surprises.

Shame on you Stateside search engines for your PC, your control freakery, your attempts to stifle the agenda. You claim to be the guardians of a free society.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…..

My Manifesto now goes on the back burner indefinitely. It will not appear unless or until I detect some signs of objectivity and neutrality in the listings of the major internet search engines. That might take months, It might take years, But until it does, this hitherto internet-based research project is at an end.


Personal emails still welcome to sciencebod01 (at), replace (at) with@,  but this site is now closed. Thank you for your interest and contributions.

Note added May 24 2016

There are many more enigmas in this old world of ours than that scarcely visible image on a piece of linen, carbon dated to the 14th century. To quote just one example, there are those mysterious Neolithic and Bronze Age circles of standing stones, of which Stonehenge is probably the best known.

Care to see a view on those megaliths that you’ve maybe never encountered before (maybe because there are too many vested interests who don’t wish you to know something that  – I have to say in all honesty – struck this blogger as immediately obvious, way back in 1998 when the 4000 year old “Seahenge”  a rough-and-ready downmarket version of Stonehenge – was uncovered by storms on the East Anglia coast)?

Here’s a screenshot of my posting yesterday to ‘the other site’, namely science buzz.

stonehenge get real posting may 23 2016










Posted in Shroud of Turin, Turin Shroud | Tagged , , , , , , , | 100 Comments

More original, cutting edge stuff from Hugh Farey appears in his latest BSTS Newsletter No.82 (December 2015)

Newsflash, added Thursday Jan 21, 2016

The latest edition of the  BSTS Newletter  No.82 has just appeared online, courtesy as usual of a dedicated page on Barrie M.Schwortz’s site.

BSTS Newsletter No 82 appeared Jan 20 or 21 , 2016

BSTS Newsletter No.82, December 2015, Editor Hugh Farey

There is much of interest there, especially original ‘hands on’ research by Hugh Farey that bravely attempts (and at least partially succeeds) in modelling the 1532 fire and its alleged mechanism of action and consequences, notably  the resultant symmetrical pattern of burn holes. There is also  some welcome  and long overdue re-thinking about the “scorches always fluoresce under uv, quite unlike the non-fluorescing TS body image” mantra (see too this investigator’s recent contrary  postings) and much else besides (which I’ve yet to read)  e.g. that claim for allegedly ‘invisible’ not to say hypothetical mending that we’re routinely told invalidates the radiocarbon dating .  Enjoy, or don’t, according to one’s sindonological sensibilities…

PS. Work proceeds apace on my “Shroud Manifesto”,  flagged up recently in  “Comments”  now up to its 25th bullet point. There’s no immediate urgency to post, especially as there’s much refreshing of memory, re-checking of references etc still to be done.DSC03170 doll versus flour imprint

It will have some photos of my latest template for flour-imprinting – a 21cm long vinyl baby doll with a cute face and smile.  There’s one striking imprint  thus far in some half dozen trials, all with the expected  3D properties, but it’s proving difficult to get consistent results. Technique is all important when needing to transfer flour cleanly and completely from reduced-scale 3D synthetic polymer  to linen. One never had this trouble with a 1:1 scale human appendage (my hand!).


Update: Saturday 22nd Jan

Have decided not to bother any more with the doll. Handy though it is size-wise for modelling purposes (less linen needed!) its plastic “skin” is simply not the equivalent of the real stuff, like my hand: while it coats well when first smeared with oil or beaten egg yolk (a new test) and then sprinkled with white flour, the latter – the vital imprinting medium – fails to transfer cleanly and completely to the wet linen, leaving gaps in the image.

However, one good thing came out of the doll test: I decided to try egg yolk versus egg white in place of vegetable oil as the initial ‘adhesive’ on my hand, and obtained (dare one say) a somewhat spectacular result, probably my best to date, as shown by these 3D renderings of the positive and tone-reversed imprints after baking .

yolk v white all 3d pre and post inversion

Left: positive flour imprints using (a) egg yolk and (b) egg white. Right: the same after tone-reversal in ImageJ. The fingers were deliberately spread apart when using egg yolk, and deliberately bunched together with egg white.


Not bad eh? Note the spindly fingers, as per the Real Thing. It’s a consequence of imprinting cylindrical appendages where the cloth is pressed down ONTO them, not between them, ie. the linen makes bridges between  the fingers such that the top surfaces only are imprinted, making them seem thinner than is really the case.

The spindly fingers of the TS are frequently commented upon and have been the subject of some exotic physics and biology – like emission of X-rays!  Contact imprinting offers a more prosaic explanation.

I may well substitute egg yolk or white for vegetable oil in future work. While not as convenient as oil straight from the bottle, it’s less messy and easier to rinse off hands etc afterwards. The humble egg is just as ‘medieval’ as vegetable oil, especially in a region of France (like Lirey in the Champagne region) which lies well north of the sun-kissed Mediterranean and its olive trees.

Final postscript: 24th Jan 2015

Once again, this retired scientist is being lectured, nay chastised, by the French physician, he of the prescriptive – and all too often wrong – PDF-penning tendency,  on what are the priorities where MY OWN research programme is concerned. yes, see comments attached to this thread.

This is neither the time nor place to discuss the philosophy of science (and the scientific method) with physicians who while using the fruits of scientific research are generally not scientists (unless holding a PhD or UK-style research MD or similar). Suffice it to say that science is NOT about establishing the correct answers. It’s about asking the right questions, assisted by model-building.  The answers to those questions, obtained with one’s increasingly-refined model,  hopefully improve the probability that one’s answers are correct. But as I say, science is about asking the right questions. It’s not a skill that can be taught, but is one that with patient observation can be learned, by working with a team leader who asks the right questions (thus the attraction of the university environment where there’s a recognized “prof” heading a department who’s good at asking the right questions, often leaving it to his students and research fellows to deliver the answers – right or wrong.

Do i practice what I preach? Yes, I believe so, and here’s the proof from some model-building I did some 2 weeks ago using a home-made, small scale  terra cotta bas relief to model the TS face.


0 terra cotta DSC02635

Home-made terra cotta face, after painting to seal the baked clay.


1. terra cotta template DSC02654

Fresh flour imprints, immediately after oven-baking, obtained from the template using LUWU (Linen Underneath With Underlay) or LOTTO (Linen On Top With Overlay).  LUWU = face down; LOTTO = face-up. The latter is more ‘complete’ but is arguably less imprint-like with greater wrap-around elongation/distortion. That is not to say that the TS face was obtained by LOTTO rather than LUWU. It is still a moot point, an important question needing to be addressed before making any formal attempt to replicate the TS image at full scale (real face or bas relief?)

2. washed terra cotta for inversion and 3dDSC02727

Here are the arguably more TS-like attenuated imprints from the terra cotta bas relief after washing with soap and water, ready for tone-reversal and/or 3D rendering in ImageJ.

3. washed terra cotta DSC02727 after inversion

As above, after Secondo Pia-style tone reversal (“positive to negative”).

4. terra cotta after 3d no inversion

Positive imprints after 3D rendering in ImageJ. Important:  the z scale slide on right has been left at its default setting , i.e. 0.1.  What one sees is the software’s default 3D-enhancement, one that also elevates simple plane figures on an imaginary z (vertical) axis. In other words, what one sees here might be entirely artefactual 3D generated by the software that creates ‘fake’ relief through raising image elevation in proportion to image density. The same might be true needless to say for 3D renderings of the TS.


Response to Mutant Buzzard (Comments, this posting): here’s one I did earlier (June 2012) – response of those scourge marks on Shroud Scope, given extra contrast, then 3D-enhanced in ImageJ:


Scourge marks (blood imprints) from Shroud Scope, with restored contrast and 3D-rendering in ImageJ.


I see no reason why scourge marks could not be replicated, at least in principle, do you MutantB? All one would need are miniature dumbbell-shaped templates of some description  that are painted with fresh blood or something made to resemble blood, and then serially imprinted across the entire body image, front and back, all 372 of them! (Personally, from reading the NT and the exchange of conversation between Pilate and Jesus, and then Pilate and the baying mob, I’ve never believed that Pilate ordered a scourging anything like as severe as would be indicated had the TS been radiocarbon-dated to the first century. The recipient would have been in no state to carry a protest banner, far less a cross or transom thereof).

Also needed for Comments is this image:

cropped hood with eye cut outs DSC03618


Posted in Shroud of Turin | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Contact prints from a 3D figure will always be wider and suffer from wrap-around distortion. True or false?

It began by asking a simple question. Suppose one dusted a 3D figure completely with white flour (now this blogger’s preferred imprinting medium, admittedly requiring an oven to ‘develop’ the image to a visible brown colour). Suppose one imprinted the two sides separately. Would there be a ‘frontal’ image and a ‘dorsal’ image, as per the Turin Shroud, with no imprinting of the sides, or would one see unsightly imprinting of the sides as well,  through having used a printing mode dependent on physical contact. ?

5.warrior coated evenly all over DSC02671

Fig. 1 Template entirely coated with flour,  sides included.

Using my “Galaxy Warrior” again as template, I  first smeared it all over, front, back and sides, with vegetable oil, then dusted liberally with white flour, then knocked off the excess. It was checked carefully to see that no parts had been missed, adding extra flour where necessary and again knocking off the excess. It was now ready for imprinting.

The frontal side was imprinted onto wet linen first, using what I call the LOTTO mode (Linen On Top, Then Overlay). The dorsal side was then imprinted onto the same piece of linen, reproducing in miniature the distinctive, some might say iconic Turin Shroud head-to-head configuration using the LUWU configuration ( Linen Underneath With Underlay).   The flour imprints were of course somewhat faint and indistinct at this stage, but on close inspection  there did not seem to be imaging off the coated sides of the template. So far, so good.  It’s presumably the vertically-applied pressure onto the template (LUWU) or the overlying linen that allows one to imprint off the frontal and dorsal surfaces without imprinting the sides as well (which would make for a unsightly end result).

The imprinted linen was then suspended vertically in a fan oven supplying  hot air by forced convection – the only source of thermal energy (i.e. no conduction, no radiation).  Some 10 minutes later there were the expected reddish-brown imprints, presumably the result of Maillard reactions between reducing sugars and protein in the flour. Again, on quick inspection, there was no obvious wrap-around distortion. Was that surprising? Some might think so, given the manner of imprinting, and indeed a photograph taken at the stage when linen was pressed onto the template in LOTTO mode shows considerable ‘wrap-around’ suggesting that the images would be too ‘expanded’, and suffering consequently from accompanying lateral distortion. Was the image expansion maybe there, but too small to be easily detected, and if so, why? These seem important questions needing to be asked, so I make no apology for using  a convenient 3D template, the ‘Galaxy Warrior, what was described today in comments as a “curious toy”.  If nothing else, it’s more economical on pricey linen than using my hand as template (see previous postings).

Here’s the double imprint. It seems OK at first sight, viewed alongside the template. There’s certainly no grotesque distortion, indeed scarcely any.

1. cropped double image with warrior comparison DSC02715

Caption here

Note that the buttocks have been imprinted on the dorsal surface, unlike the previous session. Why?  There was insufficient underlay (the second U of LUWU) last time. This time. several layers of woollen pullovers with plenty of ‘give’ under pressure were placed under the template. Problem solved.

Here’s a close-up of the dorsal imprint (left). Any lateral disortion due to wrap around effect?

2. cropped dorsal with warrior DSC02718


If it’s there, it’s not immediately obvious.  Neither was it apparent when the template was placed down directly  on top of the imprint:



Enough of the eye-balling. Let’s do some measurements to compare dimensions of the template and the imprint.


The distance between the two shoulders is essentially the same for template and imprint – 3.5cm.

Let’s do one more check from the frontal image – those thighs:



Again, the match is almost perfect.  How come? What am I doing NOT wrong?

Let’s take a look at the dorsal side too, bearing in mind that the imprinting method was different  (LUWU not LOTTO).



Is there not something wrong here? Should there not be a larger width for the imprint, compared with the corresponding two points on the template? Or are we taking too simplistic a view of the ‘wrap-around’ effect, assuming that it always results in expansion of image relative to template?  Let’s put pencil to paper and do some calculations.

geometry DSC02745


Here we imagine, purely as an intermediate starting point, that we are seeing a portion of the anatomy in cross-section, represented as a circle (yes, a simplification)  and that it is pressed down into a yielding linen underlay, represented as a thick blue line. What’s more the depth of penetration is 1/3rd of its circumference, which means there is an angle of 120 degrees (1/3rd of 360) subtended at the centre of the circle.

Now, the maximum width of the anatomical feature that is perceived by the eye or a camera is the diameter, shown in red.  How does the length of the imprint compare with that diameter, after the linen has been straightened out?

Let’s take the coward’s way out initially and use coloured cotton, red and blue, to compare those two  relative lengths.One sees that that circumference, or rather 1/3rd circumference, is longer than the diameter, due to that ‘wrap-around’ effect, but only SLIGHTLY LONGER, at least for the partial embedding of the circle/cylinder/sphere (whatever) in the linen and underlay. What if the half the circumference of the circle had been embedded, or any other fraction?  Can one derive a mathematical expression that compares the width of the image (“buried circumference”) with that of the template (“diameter”)?

The circumference of a circle is 2πr, so 1/3 of the circumference is 2πr/3. That is now to be compared with the diameter D, which is 2r. So let’s derive an expression for the partial (buried) circumference that finally gives the width of imprint:

Partial circumference (shown in non-wavy blue above) as a percentage of the diameter (real width of template) is (2πr/3 x 1/2r) x 100%, or more simply, 100π/3 = 104.6%. So yes, the length of blue cotton was just slightly greater than red. So for partial embedding of the template in  linen, as shown in the diagram, there is in fact scarcely any elongation of imprinted image relative to template, explaining no doubt my finding the same by experiment.

In fact, one can calculate the angle subtended at the centre of the circle where image width exactly matches that of template. It is 114.5 degrees, slightly less than the arbitrary 120 degrees used in the diagram. So it’s already obvious, or should be, that the wrap around effect only creates artefactual enlargement of contact imprint with respect to template when the subtended angle at the centre is greater than 114.5 degrees and/or the buried circumference is appreciable greater than a third (approx).

What is the effect of ‘burying’ one half of the circumference, were that physically possible in the template/linen situation, such that the subtended angle above increases from 120 to 180 degrees?  The buried circumference now becomes one half of 2πr, i.e πr, while the diameter stays the same at 2r. So the corresponding percentage of partial circumference relative to diameter can be calculated as (πr/2r)  x 100%. Now that is a big and indeed somewhat alarming number, i.e. 157%.  So there’s a huge shift in the ratio of apparent to real width in going from 1/3 to 1/2 of ‘buried’ circumference. But that’s not a basis for taking the worst case scenario where half is buried, and assuming that to be the routine norm for a template pressed into linen (LUWU)  or linen pressed onto a template (LOTTO) and declaring that ALL contact images must suffer from distortion due to wrap-around effect. Indeed, if the template were buried with appreciably less than a third of the circumference, then the image width would be LESS than actual: partial embedding, provided it is not too much, can actually IMPROVE the look of the imprint, making it a better match with actual width than would be the case if there were no wrap-around effect.

Finally, added as an afterthought (Wed 13 Jan) let’s generalize on the maths. Instead of choosing particular numerical values for the buried fraction of the circumference (e.g. one  1/3 above). let’s represent the fraction by the symbol F.  Let’s then introduce the ratio R, which is (width of imprint/width of template).

It’s then a simple matter to show that R= 2πrF/2r, or simply  πF. In other words, R is a simple linear function of F, with π as the proportionality constant. This can be seen by plotting R (vertical axis) against F (horizontal).

R versus F for imprinting from 3D DSC02850

Graph of R, the ratio of image to template width, against F, the fraction of the circumference of a spherical or cylindrical template being thrust into linen to make increasing degrees of physical contact.

As already stated, the most ‘virtuous’ zone of the graph when it comes down to the fidelity of contact imprinting is where the fraction of total circumference that is buried is close to a third, as indicated above by the orange lines.

(ed, 14th Jan:  I have removed the section that was here in the original posting, having had second thoughts about the the theory, and having realized there’s a simple experiment that can be done to make the intended point. It’s been tacked onto the end of this posting as a series of 10 photos. See Late Addition,  in large red font).

So what’s the more realistic scenario? Half the circumference buried, with gross image enlargement and distortion, or a more modest third?  Let’s continue the debate in Comments should anyone be interested in what they have read so far.

Afterthought: here’s a simple experiment anyone can do with a bottle and with thick padding (I used several layers of woolen pullover). Actually, it’s two experiments, one in LUWU mode the other with LOTTO (the mechanics  are different in the two instances, but arguably lead to the same conclusion).

bottle and woollen pullover test

See if you can get more than a third or so of the bottle’s circumference to make contact with the padding in the two situations: (a) by laying the bottle on top and pressing down hard, i.e. LUWU mode or (b) by draping the padding on top of the bottle, with or without pressure applied from above.


Late addition: here’s an extra experiment that’s just been done to see how much image elongation is generated when one imprints off a perfect cylinder (a cider bottle!) applying downward pressure with one’s  slightly cupped hand to capture surface relief, being careful to imprint off no more than half the facing circumference. White discs were attached to the bottle to provide the surface relief, which were then painted with vegetable oil, flour coated (sprinkled vertically), imprinted onto wet linen, followed by oven-roasting. In other words the bottle test conformed as closely as possible to the imprinting procedure developed here and unique to this site.

bottle 1 to 3



bottle 4 to 6



bottle 7 and 8


bottle 9 and 10


So, to repeat the question: how serious is the ‘elongation’ effect when imprinting off a curved surface onto linen?   (I’ll attach numbers later to the template v image widths you see above).

Is not the term ‘lateral distortion’ somewhat misleading? The shape of those discs – circular – did not distort on imprinting. How could it, given the linen stayed tangential to each disc at all points of contact? If the truth be told, it’s not the imprint that is distorted, excluding the elongation relative to the cross-sectional width of the bottle, i.e. diameter. It is the “appearance” of the template to the eye or camera that is distorted, inasmuch as those discs appear progressively slimmer and more oval-like as one moves away from the centre.

In fact, the problem with contact imprints, potential or realized, is not lateral distortion, but lateral non-distortion, in as much as repeated motifs, if present, maintain their shapes to the periphery INSTEAD of becoming distorted from the viewer’s perspective on the original template.  In fact, the eye depends on a number of cues for detecting that something is round rather than flat. the obvious one is light and shade, generated by oblique illumination, whether from daylight or artificial light. But there are those other subtle clue that come from shape changes, or rather APPARENT shape changes linked to curved surfaces.


What about the Shroud? What visual cues if any are we given to 3D-ness or otherwise? Answer. NONE, absolutely none that I can see. Firstly, the image is famously ‘non-directional’, i.e. lacking patterns of light and shade that give a clue as to direction of incident light (meaning there was no incident light, and effectively ruling out a brush-painted portrait – unless the artist was deliberately trying to imitate  the look of an imprint, but making too good a job of it, given the negative image).

What a pity then that we don’t have a recurring motif, like my little discs, or links on a chain, spanning the entire width of the body that could allow us to detect a maintenance of shape consistent with imprinting . Or at any rate,  we don’t with the image as we see it now. But what if it’s been altered or otherwise been tampered with?  What about that peculiar ‘coiled rope’ at waist level that one sees on the Lirey badge, and better on discoverer Arthur Forgeais’ line drawing? It’s not a lot to go on, admittedly, but it’s time maybe to take another long hard look at that ‘coiled rope’to see if there’s evidence of an initial image that was later seen as maybe too imprint-like*, and amended accordingly  (while acknowledging that it’s easier to add to a roasted flour imprint than to take away). Of course, one could always add something else on top, like blood, to mask what was underneath, turning a coiled rope into Wilson’s somewhat stylized “blood belt”.   Or there again, considering this blogger’s aversion to 99% of conspiracy theories, he might decide not to go down that road…


*This needs a little word of explanation, or at any rate qualification. The TS image may have been designed to look like an imprint of a crucified man, and then executed as such, i.e. by imprinting off a template, whether human or inanimate.

But there was a fine line to be trod: while looking at first sight to the medieval eye like an imprint, correction, double imprint on up-and-over linen (as might have been left by a real man 1300 years earlier)  it must not on any account have looked  like an obvious  ‘modern’ imprint (modern being mid-14th century). Indeed, there had to be a certain ‘ghostly’ quality about it, with fuzzy and indistinct features,  indeed, more ambitiously, an enigmatic negative image that may or may not have been immediately recognized as signalling an imprint rather than an artist’s portrait.

The genius of the TS was to create an image that was not immediately capable of being mentally pigeon-holed into this or that artistic genre, one designed to mystify. The rest as they say  is history – with many  layers of  ‘mystification’ added in later centuries by those who have fallen under its spell. Never underestimate the creativity and resourcefulness of the human mind, once  encouraged, determined  and no doubt rewarded to achieve a certain pre-set goal, especially if that is defined as curing the sick, averting ill-health or saving wayward souls.

Update: 23rd Feb 2016

Suppose, just suppose, that the TS image we see on the linen had suffered a degree of ‘lateral distortion’, or at any rate, lateral expansion, as a result of imprinting off a 3D subject. What would the “real” subject look like if one could somehow correct for that effect?

What you see below is a very crude attempt to make that correction. I have taken the Durante face from Shroud Scope, printed it out to get a photo that is approx. 1/3rd the circumference of a wine bottle, then stuck it to the side of the bottle, then re-photographed with the camera ‘square on’.

Here’s the very first result, with factors still to be controlled, especially colour, but which give an idea of the likely degree of distortion generated by a contact-imprinting model.


before and after curvature reconstruction

“As- is” TS face (left) from Shroud Scope.. As the real life/death face might have looked (right) if the image had been generated by contact imprinting. Note the curvature towards the wine bottle’s neck  near the top.

Ouch. The colour difference is a huge distraction, and the bottle-mounted image has been cropped too severely. Here’s the same after after tweaking:


That’s  “as is” control v bottle-mounted, positive orange images on the left, and the corresponding images after light/dark inversion on the right. The blue colour is an artefact of inverting a non-grayscale image.


Postscript, Feb 26, 2017

Here are some additional pix obtained from a larger plastic mannequin (approx half human scale) that I’m placing here first in order to upload to another very accommodating site! (At least as regards images, nuff said).







Posted in contact imprint, Shroud of Turin, Turin Shroud | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Here’s how a medieval entrepreneur could have produced the iconic two-fold image on the Turin Shroud.

Note the title refers to the two-fold aka double body image on the Turin Shroud. Up until now this blogger/retired scientist has been content to model either the frontal OR  the dorsal surface, using his latest white flour imprinting technology, but not both together. However he was challenged yesterday to produce both images on the same sheet, with a suggestion that it might be difficult to get the two correctly aligned.

Well, one is not given to passing up a challenge, so out came the usual ingredients and materials  this morning – plain white flour, olive oil, linen etc. But what to use as template? It would have been more dignified to use the brass crucifix, but there’s a problem with those outstretched arm still in crucifixion mode if wishing to model the head-to-head frontal v dorsal alignment. So it was back I’m afraid to my plastic Galaxy Warrior, the same one whose imprints adorn the banner of this blog. His arms don’t cross the groin region, for full TS authenticity, but do park neatly at his sides.

Brass crucifix (left) or plastic Galaxy Warrior (right).

Brass crucifix (left) or plastic Galaxy Warrior (right).


Let’s cut to the chase: here’s the end-result of imprinting off the Galaxy Warrior to get the iconic two-fold image of the Turin Shroud.


Two-fold imprint, produced using white flour, olive oil, linen and hot oven.

Two-fold imprint, produced using white flour, olive oil, linen and hot oven.


Two-fold imprint  with parent template (Galaxy Warrior) alongside for comparison.

Two-fold imprint with parent template (Galaxy Warrior) alongside for comparison.


Close-up of the frontal imprint

Close-up of the frontal imprint.Note the ability of the  powder technology to imprint fine detail of the template’s 3D relief.


The same for the dorsal relief. Note the failure of the buttocks to imprint, a noteworthy feature for discussion.

The same for the dorsal relief. Note the failure of the buttocks to imprint, a noteworthy feature for discussion.


This gives a clue as to why the buttocks failed to imprint. One also needs to know that the template was pressed down onto linen to imprint the dorsal side, whereas a different procedure was used for the frontal surface (draping linen on top and using manual pressure to mould the linen  to 3D relief.  The latter is better at capturing detail needless to say, especially sunken relief.

This gives a clue as to why the buttocks failed to imprint.  Note their sunken location relative to the shoulders and calf muscles. One also needs to know that the template was pressed down onto linen to imprint the dorsal side, whereas a different procedure was used for the frontal surface (draping linen on top and using manual pressure to mould the linen to 3D relief). The latter is better at capturing detail needless to say, especially sunken relief.

Here’s the double-body imprint after tone-inversion and 3D-rendering in ImageJ:


3d enhanced inverted double imprint

That’s enough for now. Comments and discussion relevant to the posting are invited.  Photographs are available of each step in the imprinting process  should anyone be interested.

Postscript: here’s a composite collection, using the above images:


Note the amazingly close correspondence between the 3D-rendered flour imprint and the  3D figurine from which it was derived.!


Posted in contact imprint, Shroud of Turin, Turin Shroud | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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’.

Posted in latest research,, scientific evidence,, Shroud of Turin, Turin Shroud | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

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.


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Which type of flour is better for modelling the Man on the Turin Shroud? Aristocratic fine white wheat or monkish rye wholemeal?

This posting is simply a record of yesterday’s experiments, caught on my digital camera. In other words it’s just the facts, although my title hints of a broader context – to do as much if not more with medieval French history than borrowed bread-baking technology.

To keep things simple (I like simplicity), I’ll postpone discussion of the facts in relation to the Shroud’s likely provenance – authentic 1st century (highly improbable) versus medieval fabrication (consistent with the radiocarbon dating) to my own COMMENTS section.  See inconspicuous tab at end of posting. Feel free to participate, with just two ground rules: stay civil, and no attempting please to flummox  readers with pseudoscience. This blogger loathes pseudoscience. It damages (and indeed HAS damaged) real science enough already, so-called sindonology  (Shroud studies) being a prime example.

Wholemeal rye flour, approx 10% protein, 17% dietary fibre. Compare with typical white wheaten flour (sieved to remove bran flakes) which is also about 10% but only 3% or so dietary fibre.

1. Wholemeal rye flour, approx 10% protein, 17% dietary fibre. Compare with typical white wheaten flour (sieved to remove bran flakes) which is also about 10% protein  – good for Maillard browning reactions –  when reducing sugars are present – but much less  dietary fibre (typically 3%).


My hand coated with either wheat flour (left) of rye flour (right). Note the hand is vertical in both cases, signifying that one attempts to dislodge as much surplus flour as possible. The imprinting technique works best with a LIGHT DUSTING of flour onto the skin that has been lightly smeared with vegetable oil, the latter acting as weak adhesive.

2. My hand coated with either wheat flour (left) of rye flour (right). Note the hand is sloping downwards in both cases, signifying that one  has endeavoured  to dislodge as much surplus flour as possible. The imprinting/modelling  technique works best with a LIGHT DUSTING of flour onto the skin that has first been lightly smeared with vegetable oil, the latter acting as a weak adhesive. Too much flour creates problems at the final washing step.


We've now jumped some steps (like imprinting the flours onto wet linen, drying in warm air, then transferring to a fan oven at max temperature setting - see previous postings for details. Here are the flour imprints immediately after 10 mins or so of roasting, their colour being due mainly (one considers) to Maillard reactions between reducing sugars and protein, as in bread baking, toasting etc. That's wheat flour on the left, rye flour on the right. Which has worked better?

3. We’ve now telescoped the photographic record  (like omitting the imprinting  pix of the flours onto wet linen, drying in warm air, then transferring to a fan oven at max temperature setting – see previous postings for details). Here are the flour imprints immediately after 10 mins or so of roasting, their colour being due mainly (one considers) to Maillard reactions between reducing sugars and protein, as in bread baking, toasting etc.
That’s wheat flour on the left, rye flour on the right. Which of the  two has worked better?


4. Here are before and after comparisons of the final washing step (step) for each of the two flours. The washing step is needed to convert the intense red-brown imprint one sees straight from the oven into the much fainter, ghostly, arguably more Shroud-like body image.

4. Here are before/after comparisons of the final washing step for each of the two flours. The washing step was needed to convert the intense red-brown imprint one sees straight from the oven into the much fainter, more ghostly, arguably more Shroud-like  image. Is that final image still a Maillard product, or merely scorched linen that was in close proximity with a Maillard reaction? Answer: PASS. 


Here's a screen grab from a page of a book written by two of this blogger's colleagues at the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association, Chorleywood, Herts, UK, now part of the CCFRA  (Chipping Campden).  It's included to disabuse folk of the common misconception that white flour is a 19th century innovation that arrived with roller milling. Not so. White flour, obtained by sieving wholemeal flour to remove bran flakes, has been an article of commerce for centuries, probably millennia, albeit for the better off, like the aristocracy of medieval France, but not for humble monks in monasteries. Why the need to make this distinction? See the Comments under this posting, to be added in the next day or two.

5. Here’s a screen grab from a page of a book written by two of this blogger’s colleagues at the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association, Chorleywood, Herts, UK, now part of the CCFRA (Chipping Campden).
It’s included to disabuse folk of the common misconception that white flour is a 19th century innovation that arrived with roller milling. Not so. White flour, obtained by sieving wholemeal flour to remove bran flakes, has been an article of commerce for centuries, probably millennia, albeit for the better off, like the aristocracy of medieval France, but not for humble monks in monasteries. Why the need to make this distinction? See the Comments under this posting, to be added in the next day or two.


To see the initial response to this blogger’s ‘flour imprinting’ model, one could do worse (but sadly better too, at least in an ideal world) to see the reception it received on Dan Porter’s now retired-from-the-fray shroudstory site back in September last year.

PS: something’s that’s just occurred to me is that the ‘flour imprinting’ effect could have been discovered purely by accident. Where?  In a bread or other bakery. How? A baker with floury hands (or dough-coated ones) wipes his hands on a cloth. The cloth is left close to or even inside an oven by mistake. Hey presto, our baker comes back later to find an image of his hands and/or fingers. Imagine the effect on someone who lived centuries before the discovery of photography to see the kind of detail (possibly) that one sees on my flour imprints, the white wheaten flour one especially, where even the crumpled skin folds at the finger joints are imprinted.

Did our baker immediately rush out yelling “Eurkea”, disclaiming that he had obtained negative images that were possibly 3D-enhancible, given the right technology, still to be discovered?

Nope. Bit I’m willing to bet he slipped it into conversation with his friends and relatives, and somebody’s ears pricked up. Hmmm. Might there be a small or even huge fortune to be made if/when a practical application could be found for the ‘floury fingers’ proto-fax machine?

Now imagine a remote location like medieval Lirey, with a tiny population where everyone, the lord of the manor included, probably bakes his own bread.  It only takes one baker, private or commercial, on friendly terms with his neighbours or customers,  making small talk. to provide the germ of an idea for fabricating an imaginary sheet of linen, bearing not just a hand, but an entire two-fold body imprint of a crucified man…  Wounds? Substitute bloodstains  for actual wounds? Hmmm.  Thinks…

New addition: 5th Jan 2015

Here’s a test with corn starch, known in the UK (misleadingly) as cornflour, in the new(ish) flour imprinting using my own hand as template . It’s the same starch I tested back in October 2014 under a range of experimental conditions, obtaining ambiguous or unsatisfactory results, but that was before the present methodology had been fine-tuned).

Why the importance of testing corn starch?


It has only 0.3% protein so is unlikely to give a strong Maillard browning reaction, assuming reducing sugar is present. Can that prediction be confirmed?


Prediction confirmed: there’s a far more intense image of my hand after oven-roasting with the white wheat flour, 10.2% protein, right, than with the corn starch, 0.3% protein, left.

.compare corn starch with white wheat flour labelled

Here’s the appearance after the final soap/water washing stage. No surprises here.

See Comments for discussion of these and earlier results.

As indicated earlier, this blogger had begun to experiment with flour as an imprinting agent well over a year ago though using metal horse brasses etc as template instead of my hand.

Link to sciencebuzz posting, October 24, 2014

Here’s a screen grab from that posting:


cropped first flour imprinting october 2014 sciencebuzz.

Why the disenchantment, due to the image being so fragile, such that one could brush it off the linen? Answer: although the technology was similar to that used here on my hand, i.e. first smear the brass with vegetable oil, dust with flour, imprint onto linen, roast in fan oven, there was one crucial difference. The linen was DRY instead of being pre-soaked in water. Use of dry powdered flour as imprinting agent is what gives the TS-like fuzzy image, even before washing, but the imprint has to be made onto WET linen to get proper bonding of flour particles to the surface of the fabric.









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