Shroud Debunked—Again

December 29, 2009

“In all the approximately 1,000 tombs from the first century A.D. which have been excavated from around Jerusalem, not one fragment of a shroud had been found,” stated Shimon Gibson, an Israeli archaeologist. That is—none was found until 2009, when a newly excavated tomb yielded a shroud that represented bad news for the infamous “Shroud” of Turin.

The tomb, discovered in a first-century cemetery, contained the remains—bones, hair, and burial wrapping—of a man whose DNA, interestingly enough, yielded evidence of both leprosy and tuberculosis. Because the tomb had been sealed with plaster 2,000 years ago, the hair and cloth had been spared the high humidity of Jerusalem cave burials and could be radiocarbon dated. They were in the A.D. 1–50 range.

In contrast, the Turin cloth was radiocarbon dated to between 1260 and 1390. That is consistent with the time an artist confessed to having “cunningly printed” it—with the front and back images of an apparently crucified man—circa mid 1350s. It is also consistent with the red ocher pigment found on the “Shroud” image, and with the red ocher and vermilion tempera paint composing the “blood” stains. (See my Inquest on the Shroud of Turin , 1998, chaps. 1, 11, 12.)

The real shroud from the sealed tomb—now called the Tomb of the Shroud—casts still more doubt on the Turin cloth’s antiquity and therefore its authenticity. Whereas the newfound shroud is described as a “patchwork” of linen and wool cloths of simple weave, the Turin “Shroud” is a single fourteen-foot length of linen woven in a complex, striped twill pattern. That weave, observed archaeologist Gibson, was not known to have been available in the Jerusalem area until the Middle Ages. (See Mati Milstein, “Shroud of Turin Not Jesus’, Tomb Discovery Suggests,” Dec. 16, 2009)

Indeed, I made this very point in my book (1998, p. 35): “The weave of the cloth of Turin is a three-to-one-twill, striped in the herringbone pattern. This is suspect in itself, since most linens of Jesus’ time—whether Roman, Egyptian, or Palestinian—were plain weave.” I quoted the Rev. David Sox (who turned from Shroud believer to skeptic when the evidence warranted it): “ All of the ancient Egyptian linens extant are different. All of the extant Palestinian linen, including the wrappings from the Dead Sea Scrolls, is of a regular weave—quite different from the shroud.”

Although the newly discovered cloth is the only shroud found in a Jesus-era tomb, another Jerusalem tomb yielded clothing. Both examples argue against the belief that the Turin “shroud” is from first-century Jerusalem—not that any more evidence against authenticity is really needed.


#1 asanta on Sunday January 03, 2010 at 3:33pm

God did it. It was a special weave sent by god to wrap his only begotten son in. You don’t really think he would wrap his son in a regular old woven cloth used by you? (just anticipating the responses!!)

#2 Reggiano (Guest) on Sunday January 03, 2010 at 11:07pm

100 pieces of evidence in favor of the shroud—and one against, which may indicate something, but actually proves nothing.

Do you not think it conceivable that a leper might have a different grade of cloth than say, a rich man who provided the burial tomb?

The import of this discovery was completely over-played by the media.

#3 Reggiano (Guest) on Sunday January 03, 2010 at 11:23pm

OK, I did some digging and learned that the graveyard housed priestly or aristocratic types.

Still, the idea that this cloth somehow “debunks” the shroud is nonsense. It simply does not follow.  It says nothing at all about the Turin shroud itself—unless you inhabit a universe in which all shrouds must be made of identical materials and therefore, the shroud of Turin is necessarily a fake.  It doesn’t cast “serious doubt” as the Discovery Channel says (while failing to inform readers of the updated carbon dating), nor does it “disprove” as another article said.

It’s an interesting find, and an interesting bit of information, but, by itself, nothing more.

#4 shroudie on Tuesday January 05, 2010 at 4:06pm

Reggiano put it well. One wonders why so many people try repeatedly to debunk it. And each debunker has a new explanation unlike the previous one. You say it was debunked again. Exactly.

Joe, you fail to mention the new and growing evidence that supports authenticity. You know the carbon dating was a bust. You know there is no paint on the Shroud.

Even so, a single example of cloth does not make for a norm. This is the worst example of archeology in recent times.

#5 Kevin (Guest) on Thursday January 07, 2010 at 4:11pm

You notice they say the weaving style of the region.  Looking at the cloth types.  Why would the shroud have a weaving style not found anywhere else.

Okay, lets say that the cloth is from the period.  What evidence is there that it is the shroud of the the mythical figure Christ?  None,  just people that say it is.  Is there genetic evidence,  documentaiton, or physical comparison of images?  Not one,  so it is only hopeful thinking that it could be.

#6 asanta on Thursday January 07, 2010 at 11:41pm

The soldier who ‘discovered’ the shroud in the 1300s admitted to the hoax. the catholic church did not accepted it until forced by popularity fairly recently. It had always been considered a hoax by the church. So, exactly WHAT proof do you have that it is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus. All you have done is attack the debunking without providing proof. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Your claims are extraordinary, and you have no proof. Occams razor:  When competing hypotheses are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question.

#7 shroudie on Friday January 08, 2010 at 5:48am

Good grief, asanta, what does any of this have to do with anything I wrote. You wrote, “So, exactly WHAT proof do you have that it is indeed the burial cloth of Jesus. All you have done is attack the debunking without providing proof. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Your claims are extraordinary, and you have no proof.”

I never claimed I had proof. I don’t. On balance, all things considered, I think that the Shroud is authentic. I can’t prove it. I very much doubt that proof is possible. I came here as you suggest to “attack” the debunking, although I might say criticize the posting by Joe. That is what the comment box is for: to comment on what Joe wrote.

Among skeptics and proponents of authenticity we have a multitude of hypotheses. It was a painting, some say. There are at least four versions of this: McCrone’s, Nickell’s, Craig’s and Costanzo’s.  No, others say, it was a proto-photograph. No, it wasn’t that either. It was a masked bleaching of unbleached cloth. The Shadow Shroud it was called.  Why we even have the silly conspiracy theories in the skeptical camp. One is that it is a chemical imprint of Jacques deMolay. The other is that the face is a photograph of Leonardo da Vinci. The latest skeptical approach was Luigi Garlaschelli’s attempt at bas-relief and body-relief rubbing using pigment laced with acid.

No, some who are inclined towards authenticity, say, it is none of these things. It was an amino/carbonyl reaction. No, it was not that; it was something called auto-oxidation. Then there are the explanations tinged with miraculous implications or even causation. These include corona discharge and radiation produced by dematerialization. Not one of these is proven and to a significant extent all can be severely criticized or disproven.

Parsimony (Occam’s Razor) cannot be applied to any of these skeptical or pro-authenticity speculations for none of them meet sufficient criteria. Only a miracle could qualify and that fails the test that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” I quite agree.

The debunking argument that the Shroud is unlike a norm established by a single example of one burial cloth is silly, archeological folly. Linen was manufactured throughout what we now call the Middle East during the Hellenistic period, which of course included the time that the Roman Empire controlled Palestine and in particular the time of Jesus of Nazareth. The great weaving centers for linen, cotton, wool (and even asbestos) were in Alexandria and Damascus. But weaving was certainly not limited to those two cities. Cloth was produced in Rome, Athens, Antioch, Caesarea, Jerusalem and any number of smaller cities. We have samples of many kinds of plain-weave and twill, including patterned twill. Twill was stronger. Herringbone is simply one of many twill patterns. Granted we don’t have examples from Jesus’ era. But we don’t have samples from the 1300s either. We do have samples from earlier times and other times. The notion that one pattern found in one tomb signifies a norm is silly. Given the multi-tiered society of Romans, Hellenized Jews, rich and poor Jews and people from different lands, we can imagine all manner of linen cloth sold in the markets of cosmopolitan Jerusalem.

Believe what you want. I don’t care. In one sense I don’t care if the Shroud is real or not, for it has nothing to do with my faith as a Christian. But given the overwhelming scientific and historical evidence I think it is real. Extraordinary proofs are not needed for a reasoned inference. Of course, that doesn’t rule out a miracle if you believe in miracles. I just happen to be someone who does.

The Shroud needs to be debunked again and again and again because nothing sticks. That was my point to Joe Nickell along with the point that his other arguments are very selective.

#8 asanta on Friday January 08, 2010 at 11:18am

The Shroud needs to be debunked again and again and again because nothing sticks. That was my point to Joe Nickell along with the point that his other arguments are very selective.

You are wrong, it is NOT being debunked again and again. It is being dismantled. It has been debunked in countless ways. In the 1300s there were dozens of ‘shrouds’ circulating around Europe, mostly by mercenary soldiers trying to survive by making a buck. We DO have cloth samples from the 1300s, why would you think there was no surviving cloth from that time?

#9 shroudie on Friday January 08, 2010 at 11:47am

Herringbone twill! Look, I’ve made my point. Joe has made his. I respectfully disagree with him. I’m well aware of the other shrouds. Have you looked at them. They are copies or fake relics. But the Turin shroud is a very different case.

I’m out of here. I’ve made my point.

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