Further to my post, "New experiments on Shroud show it's not medieval," about the Vatican Insider article on Shroud researcher Giulio Fanti, an engineering professor at the University of Padua, Italy. Prof. Fanti
had carried out three different experiments which showed that the Shroud of Turin could have dated from the first century AD, and could not have been a medieval forgery. Prof. Fanti has submitted his findings to a peer-reviewed scientific journal and has written, with the help of a journalist, Saverio Gaeta, a newly published book in Italian, "Il Mistero della Sindone" ("The Mystery of the Shroud"), about his experiments.
There has since been an explosion of news articles reporting on Fanti's findings. Here are exerpts from some of them, with my comments bold:
"Turin Shroud 'is not a medieval forgery'," Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2013, Nick Squires ... The Turin Shroud is not a medieval forgery, as has long been claimed, but could in fact date from the time of Christ's death, a new book claims. ... Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua in northern Italy have dated the shroud to ancient times, a few centuries before and after the life of Christ. ... The analysis is published in a new book, "Il Mistero della Sindone" or The Mystery of the Shroud, by Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at Padua University, and Saverio Gaeta, a journalist. The tests will revive the debate about the true origins of one of Christianity's most prized but mysterious relics and are likely to be hotly contested by sceptics. Scientists, including Prof Fanti, used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud, which is kept in a special climate-controlled case in Turin. ... The tests dated the age of the shroud to between 300 BC and 400AD.
According to the Vatican Insider article:
"the dates given to the Shroud after FT-IR testing, is 300 BC ±400, 200 BC ±500 after Raman testing and 400 AD ±400 after multi-parametric mechanical testing. The average of all three dates is 33 BC ±250 years."
This can be summarised as:
- Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy: 300 BC ±400, i.e. 700 BC-AD 100;
- Raman spectroscopy: 200 BC ± 500, i.e. 700 BC-AD 300; and
- Multi-parametric mechanical: 400 AD ± 400, i.e. AD 1 - AD 800.
- The average of all three dates is 33 BC ± 250 years, i.e. 283 BC-AD 217.
The experiments were carried out on fibres taken from the Shroud during a previous study, in 1988, when they were subjected to carbon-14 dating. The late Prof. Giovanni Riggi di Numana, a Turin microanalyst, cut the sample from the Shroud in 1988 for the three radiocarbon laboratories to radiocarbon date. But Riggi kept for himself, with unofficial approval by the then Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero, but apparently without official approval by the Vatican, a "reserve sample" of fibres he trimmed from the Shroud :
"Providing further fuel for the conspiracy theorists was the fact that the Turin microanalyst Giovanni Riggi, Gonella's friend and personal choice to perform the actual cutting of the Shroud samples in place of Mme Flury-Lemberg, seems to have had something of a hidden agenda. Instead of cutting off just the sample that was needed by the laboratories, he would cut off twice the amount, halve it, and divide only one of the halves into three for the laboratories, retaining the other. On his discovering that he had made the Arizona portion too small to meet the agreed weight, he snipped off a small portion from the retained piece. Arizona thus received its sample in two parts (for a complete scheme of this apportionment, see fig. 24). It is also little known that he kept the trimmed edges, trimmings that are no longer extant. There is some dispute in Turin concerning whether he did this with official approval, though photographs of the trimmings that I have seen certainly show Cardinal Ballestrero's seal. As for the rest of the retained portion, probably enough to do another carbon dating, whoever may have this and where it is by no means clear, though it is said to be personally held by Cardinal Saldarini." (Wilson, I., "The Blood and the Shroud," 1998, pp.186-187).
[Above: Sketch of sample cut from the Shroud in 1988 for carbon-14 dating by three laboratories, and showing in red, the `reserve sample' kept by Giovanni Riggi: Wilson, I., "The Blood and the Shroud," 1998, p.189.]
It is these fibres from the same area of the Shroud as the 1988 carbon-dating, that Prof. Fanti apparently obtained after Riggi's death in 2008 and used in his three dating tests.
Those tests, conducted by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Arizona, appeared to back up the theory that the shroud was a clever medieval fake, suggesting that it dated from 1260 to 1390. But those results were in turn disputed on the basis that they may have been skewed by contamination by fibres from cloth that was used to repair the relic when it was damaged by fire in the Middle Ages. As mentioned in a previous post, the late Ray Rogers, a Los Alamos chemist, in 2005 had shown by an alternative test of age, vanillin residual content, that the linen of the Shroud is "between 1,300 and 3,000 years old":
"The Shroud of Turin is much older than suggested by radiocarbon dating carried out in the 1980s, according to a new study in a peer-reviewed journal. A research paper published in Thermochimica Acta suggests the shroud is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old. ... In the study, he analysed and compared the sample used in the 1988 tests with other samples from the famous cloth. In addition to the discovery of dye, microchemical tests - which use tiny quantities of materials - provided a way to date the shroud. These tests revealed the presence of a chemical called vanillin in the radiocarbon sample and in the Holland cloth, but not the rest of the shroud. Vanillin is produced by the thermal decomposition of lignin, a chemical compound found in plant material such as flax. Levels of vanillin in material such as linen fall over time. ...The fact that vanillin cannot be detected in the lignin on shroud fibres, Dead Sea scrolls linen and other very old linens indicates that the shroud is quite old," Mr Rogers writes. `A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggests the shroud is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old.'" ("Turin shroud 'older than thought," BBC, 31 January, 2005).
So these three new tests by Fanti make four different tests of age which show the Shroud of Turin is old enough to have been Jesus' burial shroud, versus only one test, radiocarbon dating, which claimed the Shroud was dated between AD 1260 and 1390, against the overwhelming preponderance of all the other evidence.Mr Fanti, a Catholic, said his results were the fruit of 15 years of research. He said the carbon-14 dating tests carried out in 1988 were "false" because of laboratory contamination. ... Scientists have never been able to explain how the image of a man's body, complete with nail wounds to his wrists and feet, pinpricks from thorns around his forehead and a spear wound to his chest, could have formed on the cloth. This is an important point. If the Shroud had been forged by a 14th century or earlier artist, modern science would be able to explain how the Shroud image was formed, and modern artists would be able to replicate it. But modern science has been unable to explain, naturalistically, how the Shroud's image was formed, as Philip Ball, former physical science editor at Nature, admitted:
"It's fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever. Not least, the nature of the image and how it was fixed on the cloth remain deeply puzzling." (Ball, P., "Material witness: Shrouded in mystery," Nature Materials, Vol. 7, No. 5, May, 2008, p.349)and modern artists have been unable to replicate it.
Mr Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of "exceptional radiation", although he stopped short of describing it as a miracle. See my post "Italian study claims Turin Shroud is Christ's authentic burial robe" for Fanti's evidence that the image on the Shroud was caused by radiation. He said his tests backed up earlier results which claimed to have found on the shroud traces of dust and pollen which could only have come from the Holy Land. ...
"Shroud of Turin returns to spotlight with new pope, new app, new debate," NBC News, Alan Boyle, New research has found that the Shroud of Turin, a mysterious relic previously believed to date back only to the Middle Ages, was actually created between 280 B.C. and 220 A.D., around the time of when Jesus would have lived and died. ... The claim immediately faced a wave of criticism, including a harsh statement from Turin's archbishop that some say has driven a stake into the book's heart. See below on the Archbishop of Turin's false claim that "there's `no degree of security' as to the authenticity of the fiber samples. ... The new book refers to those past claims, plus a new angle. That angle has to do with single fibers that were purportedly vacuumed up from the shroud during scientific testing. Riggi was also involved in vacuuming "any debris or loose materials from the underside of the cloth" in STURP's ( Shroud of Turin Research Project) 1978 examination and tests on the Shroud:
"Around 10.45 pm on the night of Sunday 8 October  twelve young men arrived at the suite carrying a 5 m long sheet of 2 cm plywood draped with an expensive-looking sheet of red silk. When the silk was pulled back, the Shroud was revealed beneath ... Then, with the aid of Poor Clare nuns, one of the Shroud's sides was unstitched from the backing cloth sewn on to it in 1534, allowing parts of the normally inaccessible underside to be viewed for the first time in four hundred years. This was done to enable Prof Giovanni Riggi and his Italian scientific team to perform their experiments. Given only two weeks' notice that he would be examining the Shroud, Riggi had developed several impressive experiments. .... Riggi's next experiment was to use a special vacuum with sterilized filters to remove any debris or loose materials from the underside of the cloth but little of importance was found in the results." (Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," 2000, pp.68,70).
Since Riggi in 1988 kept back for himself a significant piece of the Shroud, he presumably also had kept for himself the dust, including fibres in it, from his 1978 vacuuming of the Shroud, and these fibres were also included in those obtained by Prof. Fanti after Riggi's death.
... Fanti's claims drew a quick reaction from Joe Nickell, a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry who regularly counters claims from Fanti and other shroud researchers. "As is typical of a religious rather than scientific agenda, their news was shrewdly released just in time for Easter," Nickell said in a blog posting. "That alone casts doubt on the claims, but there is more." Nickell, is the master of the ad hominem fallacy which he employs here. As he would know, having had books published himself, the date of a book's publication is usually determined by the publisher not the author. Besides, it is obviously irrelevant to the truth of a series of scientific experiments, when they are published.
Nickell pointed out that Fanti's tests "involve three different procedures — each with its own problems — which are then averaged together to produce the result." This is also fallacious. Every scientific test (including radiocarbon dating) has its problems. And it is simply false that the three different tests were "averaged together to produce the result." Even without the averaging, each test produced a result: a date range which covered the year of Jesus' death (see above). Besides, the 1988 radiocarbon date range of 1260-1390 was an average of all the tests on the Shroud sample by the three laboratories (see below). If Nickell was consistent (which he isn't) he should reject the 1260-1390 radiocarbon date of the Shroud!
[Above (click to enlarge): Fig. 1 from the paper, "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16 February, 1989, showing that the "AD 1260-1390" radiocarbon date of the Shroud was a "Mean", i.e. an average of each of the three laboratories' multiple tests.]
He said that stands in contrast with 1988's mass spectrometry tests, which yielded a date range between 1260 and 1390.The "spectrometry tests" were the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) method usued in carbon dating the Shroud. But see above that the "date range between 1260 and 1390" it yielded was an average of multiple tests carried out by three different laboratories. Nickell is either ignorant of that fact (he has no scientific qualifications) or he is banking on most of his readers being ignorant of it. Fanti says those earlier tests were not "statistically reliable," but Nickell and most scientists are sticking with the verdict rendered in 1988. Are "most scientists" sticking with the 1988 1988 radiocarbon date of 1260-1390, i.e. 1325 +/- 65 years? Most scientists are not nuclear physicists specialising in radiocarbon dating and those that are would be unlikely to know much about the carbon dating of the Shroud. A scientist outside his field is just another layman. Besides, even a scientist who was involved in the 1988 radioarbon dating of the Shroud and is today a Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Laboratory, Dr. Christopher Bronk Ramsey, now has his doubts about that 13th-14th century date, given that "There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the Shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow":
"There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the Shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow and so further research is certainly needed. It is important that we continue to test the accuracy of the original radiocarbon tests as we are already doing. It is equally important that experts assess and reinterpret some of the other evidence. Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the Shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information." (Ramsey, C.B., "Shroud of Turin Version 77," Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, 23 March, 2008).
As a professional skeptic, Nickell can be expected to voice doubt about the book. But criticism also came from Archbishop Nosiglia. Because there's "no degree of security" as to the authenticity of the fiber samples, the shroud's custodians "cannot recognize any serious value to the results of these alleged experiments," Nosiglia said in a statement quoted by La Stampa's Vatican Insider. The Archbishop is just repeating the false `party line' that started after Riggi gave some of his blood-stained fibres from the Shroud to Mexican-born paediatrician and microbiologist Dr Leoncio Garza-Valdes, in May 1993. After male DNA was isolated from those Shroud samples in 1996, Garza-Valdes faxed his results to Cardinal Ballestrero's successor as Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Saldarini. But Cardinal Saldarini reacted by stating falsely that, "there is no residual material from that sample in the hands of third parties" and therefore, "there is no degree of certainty about whether the material in question ... actually comes from the fabric of the Shroud":
"Following the successful cloning of the three gene segments from the samples of blood on the Shroud, I sent a fax to Cardinal Saldarini, telling him of our success. I received no acknowledgement. The first indication I had of trouble was when I heard that Cardinal Saldarini had issued a statement following `recently published press reports concerning the Holy Shroud'. The gist was that: `... while the Church recognized every scientist's right to carry out research that he feels to be suitable in his field of science, in this case it is necessary to point out that: a) no new sample of material has been taken from the Holy Shroud since 21 April 1988, and, as far as the Custodian of the Holy Shroud knows, there is no residual material from that sample in the hands of third parties; b) if such material exists, the Custodian reminds everybody that the Holy See has not given permission to anybody to keep it and do what he wants with it. The Custodian requests those concerned to give the piece back to the Holy See; c) as there is no degree of certainty about whether the material in question on which these aforesaid experiments have been carried out actually comes from the fabric of the Shroud, the Holy See and the Papal Custodian declare that they cannot recognize any serious value in the results of the alleged experiments.'" (Garza-Valdes, L.A., "The DNA of God?," 1998, pp.75-76).
But as Garza-Valdes pointed out:
"... I had been caught in a political situation in which the words of Cardinal Ballestrero would be disregarded once he relinguished his custodianship of the Shroud to Cardinal Saldarini, as happened in September 1990 ... When I obtained the samples in Turin in May 1993 ... I believed that Riggi and Gonella had the authority to give me the samples. ... Were the samples from Riggi truly from the Shroud of Turin? I have the photograph of Cardinal Ballestrero's seal on the container in which the samples were kept. There is no doubt, as one looks at the samples, that they are from the Shroud. Also, during my conference at the Polytechnic of Turin, where I showed the photographs of the samples, Dr Franco A. Testore, who had actually done the weighing of the Shroud segments, recognized the three trimmings as being from the borders of the segment cut on April 21, 1988." (Garza-Valdes, 1998, pp.76-77. My emphasis).
The archbishop's comments "put stakes into Fanti's work," Vatican Insider reported. This is false. Just because the Turin authorities are in denial that Prof. Giovanni Riggi kept his own private `reserve samples' from the Shroud does not mean that he didn't. It has been well-documented over the years that Riggi had his own `reserve sample' of the Shroud and the Turin authorities must have known it but apparently did nothing about it. Garza-Valdes himself faxed all the details to Cardinal Saldarini in 1996 but he was ignored.
It is bad enough that this current Turin Archbishop is continuing in the telling of a lie about this matter, but it is even worse that he is in effect accusing Prof. Fanti of scientific fraud, as well as giving false comfort to Shroud anti-authenticists like Joe Nickell and his ilk. Somehow I suspect that shroud science is not truly dead ... Indeed. Shroud science is very much alive! It will be this Archbishop of Turin, and not Prof. Fanti, who will come off second-best in this truth-contest.
See also: "Shroud Of Turin Real? New Research Dates Relic To 1st Century, Time Of Jesus Christ," The Huffington Post, Meredith Bennett-Smith, 03/29/2013; "Turin Shroud Going on TV, With Video From Pope," The New York Times, Elisabetta Povoledo, March 29, 2013 & "Rare TV appearance for Turin Shroud, Christianity's famous relic," CNN, Laura Smith-Spark and Livia Borghese, March 29, 2013.
Stephen E. Jones