As far back as September 20, 1988, the BOSTON GLOBE reported a dispatch from London:
"A London newspaper said Sunday the results of tests carried out in laboratories in England, Switzerland and Arizona would show that the Shroud of Turin depicting a shadowy image of Jesus Christ was a medieval fake. "'Papal representatives in Italy will announce next month what religious skeptics have long suspected: That the Shroud of Turin is a medieval fake. . .forged between the years 1000 and 1500,' the Sunday Times said. The shroud, last displayed in the public in 1978, is known in Italy as La Sacra Sindone. It has a shadowy image of a body with a bearded face bearing apparent bloodstains from a crown of thorns and a large wound to the chest. (UPI)." Indeed the secular media was very pleased to report "the results" of the 1988 carbon-14 tests that the supposedly objective "Oxford scientists had leaked" to it, "ahead of any official announcement":
"Test Results Leaked Before any official announcement of the carbon-dating test results, The Times in London reported on 27 August 1988 that Oxford scientists had leaked the results. Several weeks later, still ahead of any official announcement, the press mercilessly blasted the Shroud's repute. The Times carried a front-page story on 18 September, captioned: `OFFICIAL: THE TURIN SHROUD IS A FAKE', without disclosing the name of its official source. The New York Times headline on 22 September was: `TEST SHOWS SHROUD OF TURIN TO BE A FRAUD, SCIENTIST HINTS'. The New York Post wrote on 28 September: `SHROUD OF TURIN LEGEND IN TATTERS: Carbon Tests Date it to the 14th Century'. None of these respected newspapers published any corroborating details. Intent on exploiting the news value of the leak, the media went overboard in sensationalising an unconfirmed report that the Shroud was carbon-dated only back to the Middle Ages. The Vatican's response to these blaring headlines was eagerly awaited by many of the world's Christians who believed the Shroud had covered the body of Christ. On 13 October, at a press conference in Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero stated the Church's acceptance of the laboratories' results, but he qualified his statement by saying, `the problem about the origin of the image and its preservation still remain to a large extent unresolved'. This measured reaction was ignored by the mainstream media. England's Daily Telegraph blatantly misreported the Cardinal with the headline `TURIN SHROUD IS A FORGERY, SAYS CATHOLIC CHURCH'." (Whiting, B., "The Shroud Story," Harbour Publishing: Strathfield NSW, Australia, 2006, p.141. Emphasis original)
However, all a radiocarbon dating can do is show a radiocarbon age (not the actual age), and certainly not that an artifact is a "fake" or a "fraud" (since there always could be other explanations), as the `unbiased' Professor Edward Hall, stepping way outside his field of expertise as a nuclear physicist, famously declared, "Someone just got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it":
"In the late 1970s, he was quick to see the value of the revolutionary new method of radiocarbon dating then being developed (called accelerator mass spectrometry or AMS dating) and became fully committed to establishing the method at Oxford. In the early days of setting up the AMS facility at Oxford, he could be found crawling inside the accelerator tank, or discussing design modifications, or even sweeping the floor. Such total involvement got its reward especially in his participation in the dating of the Shroud of Turin in 1988. Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero, the Archbishop of Turin, had authorised the removal of samples of the shroud for testing by three laboratories: in Arizona, Zurich - and Oxford. Hall's laboratory dated its sample to between 1260 and 1390. The mix of good science, intricate instrumentation, the attention of the world's press, the ambivalence of the religious authorities and sheer importance of the outcome for so many people appealed to him immensely; he also took pleasure in, as he saw it, the debunking of any conviction that could not be rationally demonstrated. `There was a multi-million-pound business in making forgeries during the 14th century,' he bluntly told a British Museum press conference. `Someone just got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it.' And again, `Some people may continue to fight for the authenticity of the shroud, like the Flat Earth Society, but this settles it all as far as we are concerned." (Hedges, R., "Obituary: Professor Edward Hall," The Independent, August 16, 2001).
As I posted to my Yahoo list on 28-Jan-05 (a day after my first post provisionally accepting the Shroud as the actual burial shroud of Jesus), based on the following quote from my son's university physics textbook:
"Radioactive decay has many interesting applications. One is the technique of radioactive dating by which the age of ancient materials can be determined. The age of any object made from once-living matter, such as wood, can be determined using the natural radioactivity of 14/6C. All living plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and use it to synthesize organic molecules. The vast majority of these carbon atoms are 12/6C, but a small fraction, about 1.3 x 10^-12, is the radioactive isotope 14/6C. The ratio of 14/6C to 12/6C in the atmosphere has remained roughly constant over many thousands of years, in spite of the fact that 14/6C decays with a half-life of about 5730 yr. This is because neutrons in the cosmic radiation that impinges on the earth from outer-space collide with atoms of the atmosphere. In particular, collisions with nitrogen nuclei produce the following nuclear transformation: n + 14N --> 14/6C + p. That is, a neutron strikes and is absorbed by 14/7N nucleus, and a proton is knocked out in the process. The remaining nucleus is 14/6C . This continual production of 14/6C in the atmosphere roughly balances the loss of 14/6C by radioactive decay. As long as a plant or tree is alive, it continually uses the carbon from carbon dioxide in the air to build new tissue and to replace old. Animals eat plants, so they too are continually receiving a fresh supply of carbon for their tissues. Organisms cannot distinguish 14/6C from 12/6C, and since the ratio of 14/6C to 12/6C in the atmosphere remains nearly constant, the ratio of the two isotopes within the living organism remains nearly constant as well. But when an organism dies, carbon dioxide is no longer absorbed and utilized. Because the 14/6C decays radioactively, the ratio of 14/6C to 12/6C in a dead organism decreases in time. Since the half-life of 14/6C is about 5730 yr, the 14/6C/12/6C ratio decreases by half every 5730 yr. If, for example, the 14/6C/12/6C ratio of an ancient wooden tool is half of what it is in living trees, then the object must have been made from a tree that was felled about 5730 yr ago. Actually, corrections must be made for the fact that the 14/6C/12/6C ratio in the atmosphere has not remained precisely constant over time. The determination of what this ratio has been over the centuries has required using techniques such as comparing the expected ratio to the actual ratio for objects whose age is known, such as very old trees whose annual rings can be counted. Carbon dating is useful only for determining the age of objects less than about 60,000 yr old. The amount of 14/6C remaining in older objects is usually too small to measure accurately, although new techniques are allowing detection of even smaller amounts of 14/6C, pushing the time frame further back." (Giancoli, D.C, "Physics: Principles with Applications," , Prentice Hall: New Jersey NJ, Third Edition, 1991, p.817. Emphasis original)
radiocarbon dating depends for its validity on "three essential assumptions" namely: "1) that the sample originally contained the normal background ratio of C-14 to C-12; 2) it has not been contaminated by younger material; and 3) there has been no additional neutron source that would be creating C-14 from N-14."
But, as I pointed out, in the case of the Shroud, all three assumptions are problematic for the following reasons:
"1) the original flax could have come from an area of higher background radiation, meaning there was a higher ratio of C-14 over C-12 than normal"; "2) it his highly likely that over hundreds if not thousands of years, the linen has been invaded by bacteria, nematodes, fungi and other microorganisms that were themselves younger than the original linen and so would make the sample appear younger" and "3) Stevenson & Habermas mention that the Shroud has been for much of its history stored in vaults in castles and monasteries. If those vaults were stone and those stones contained uranium and uranium decay products (which is likely), then they would be a source of neutrons that would have had the effect of reducing the Shroud's radiometric age."
As far as I know, no one has ever addressed "1) the original flax could have come from an area of higher background radiation," and it is hard to know how they could. That is the problem of testing a unique object. Normally in science, the same test is carried out repeatedly on similar items in order to cancel out any unique factors that may be biasing the result one way or the other. As I wrote in my Yahoo group post of 28-Jan-05:
"It should always be borne in mind that the Shroud is a single sample, and the normal practice in science is to test multiple samples to eliminate stochastic effects."
But there are no other 1st century linen shrouds of crucified victims to radiocarbon test and compare them with the Shroud of Turin, and even if there were, they would not have had the same unique history as the Shroud, nor it theirs.
As for "2) ... microorganisms that were themselves younger than the original linen and so would make the sample appear younger," I later discovered that there is fact something called a "bioplastic coating":
"The evidence I have found has broad implications. For example, my research has clarified many puzzles about the age of the Shroud, particularly the 1988 radiocarbon dating, whose proponents concluded that the Shroud does not date from the time of Jesus of Nazareth. I now know that this conclusion was mistaken, but the reasons were not apparent back in 1988. I have discovered on the Shroud what I call a bioplastic coating, a type of clear encasing that is invisible to the unaided eye. Today, it looks to viewers like a shiny lamination, which is why some eyewitnesses say the Shroud has a surprising `surface sheen'. It is not, however, a manmade coating; it is actually composed of millions of living microbiological organisms that have formed over time, somewhat like a coral reef. This is a natural process I had earlier noted while doing research an other ancient artefacts. When the scientists used carbon dating on Shroud samples in 1988, they did not realize that they were dating, as one entity, both the original ancient fabric and this living bioplastic coating. Their mistaken result was off by centuries. My conclusion, based on evidence I have gathered, is that the Shroud of Turin is not a medieval fake, as was suggested, but is quite possibly a relic of the time of Jesus of Nazareth." (Garza-Valdes, L.A., "The DNA of God?," Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1998, pp.2-3).
or as leading sindonologist, historian Ian Wilson called it, "a natural, plastic-like biofilm, comprising millions of micro-organisms" which "had accumulated on the Shroud's surface," especially on its "top ... two corners by which it was traditionally held up for exposition over the centuries" from one of which, namely "its top left-hand corner" that "the sliver of Shroud that was taken for the 1988 radiocarbon dating was snipped":
"A potentially much more viable explanation has been pioneered by Mexican-born Dr Leoncio Garza-Valdes of San Antonio, Texas who, although a paediatrician by occupation, has had a life-long passion for microbiology. At a Shroud conference in Rome in 1993 he presented a paper suggesting that a natural, plastic-like biofilm, comprising millions of micro-organisms, had accumulated on the Shroud's surface, much in the manner of the build-up of a coral reef' Although little studied except by professional microbiologists, such biofilms unquestionably exist very widely on innumerable surfaces in nature, including our skins, our intestines and even inanimate rock in the form of the so-called `desert varnish' that covers weathered boulders. Garza-Valdes' startling suggestion was : that, because many of the micro-organisms comprising the Shroud's biofilm remain alive, their mass could easily have skewed the radiocarbon dating, thereby giving a much too recent reading. Unlikely though such a hypothesis might sound, Garza-Valdes had good reason for advocating it. As a collector of ancient Mayan jades, he had discovered a very similar biofilm on one specimen in his collection, the Itzamna Tun, which had been used in Mayan blood-letting rituals. When scrapings of the blood were sent for radiocarbon dating, the laboratories' pre-treatment or cleaning procedures should have removed any contamination, but, as Garza-Valdes discovered, the living bacteria coating these and the rest of the jade successfully resisted the solvents, as a result of which they caused the Itzamna Tun to be radiocarbon dated as some seven centuries younger than its true age as reliably known from its : artistic style. Inevitably, such a finding led him to consider its possible relevance to the Shroud carbon dating. Accordingly in April 1993 he visited Turin, where he met up with Professor Giovanni Riggi, the microanalyst who had been responsible for cutting off the sliver of the Shroud for carbon dating in 1988. As Garza-Valdes discovered, Riggi had personally retained some excess fragments which he had trimmed off from the sample of the Shroud that was divided between the radiocarbon-dating laboratories. And, when he viewed these fragments under the microscope, he immediately found himself staring at much the same biofilm as he had observed on the Itzamna Tun blood, except in this instance significantly thicker. As he was keenly aware, if such a film had not been removed prior to the radiocarbon dating process, then it might easily have skewed the Shroud's dating, exactly as had happened with his Mayan jade. Riggi gave him some Shroud fragments to take back to the United States, and he accordingly tried on them the very same chemical cleaning procedures that the official Nature scientific report on the Shroud dating [Damon, P.E., et al., "Radiocarbon Dating of the Shroud of Turin," Nature, Vol. 337, 16th February, 1989, pp.611-615] described the radiocarbon-dating laboratories as having used on their Shroud samples. As he discovered, even when the cleaning solvents were used at extra strength, they hardly affected the contaminating `plastic' biofilm, instead doing rather more damage to the linen itself. And, although the radiocarbon-dating laboratories have calculated that for the Shroud's date to have been skewed by thirteen centuries a contamination layer amounting to an astonishing 60 per cent of the entire sample is needed, Garza-Valdes regards this sort of proportion as perfectly feasible. For it is a matter of firm record that the sliver of Shroud that was taken for the 1988 radiocarbon dating was snipped from its top left-hand corner, one of the two corners by which it was traditionally held up for exposition over the centuries. In countless engravings of Shroud expositions back through history, bishop after bishop can be seen clutching the Shroud at this very point. Now, as microbiologists are fond of demonstrating, microbes from even the cleanest hand will grow impressive colonies in an agar dish in a matter of days. So, if there is any point on the Shroud on which the maximum amount of microbiological contamination could be expected to have accumulated, it would have to have to have been these corners." (Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, 2000, pp.98-100).
This "bioplastic coating" explanation of why the Shroud's radiocarbon age could be centuries younger than its actual age received support from a microbiologist Prof. Stephen Mattingly who could see no reason why "micro-organisms ... should not comprise more than 50 per cent of the weight of a centuries-old linen" cloth like the Turin Shroud:
"Although most scientists would rightly feel that this was overoptimistic, the highly respected microbiologist Prof. Stephen Mattingly, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, having similarly studied the Shroud samples under the microscope, shares much of Garza-Valdes' optimism. While careful not to become too embroiled in the Shroud debate, he fully supports the view that a substantial microbiological biofilm is present: `There is no doubt that the Shroud has a major layer of microbial contamination on and within the cellulose fibres.' [Mattingly, S., e-mail to Dr. John Jackson, December 1999] Mattingly further supports Garza-Valdes' contention that this contamination was not removed by the laboratories' cleaning procedures, pointing out that the radiocarbon laboratories left themselves wide open to their result being challenged by their failure to perform either a preliminary or a post-test chemical analysis of the samples that their AMS radiocarbon-dating process had to destroy. In Mattingly's words, `This is the first step in quantitative analysis in college chemistry. I can remember my lab instructor sending me back to the bench because the recovery mass of my unknown did not agree with the known value.' Had the radiocarbon-dating laboratories performed such a chemical analysis, then the presence of contaminating material to the tune of 60 per cent would have become very readily apparent in a way that no optical method could provide. But, focused as they were on their own science of nuclear physics, they assumed that they were testing pure Shroud and nothing else, and therefore worked blind. Although Professor Hall said in 1989 that he would be amazed if even 1 per cent contamination remained on the cloth, Mattingly rejoins: `I can assure you that you cannot look at any object and assume that it is appreciably free of microbial contamination. You might be surprised to know that every square millimetre of your skin is coated with a substantial layer of micro-organisms. They are contributing, along with your gut microbial flora, in a significant way to your overall body mass.' [Ibid.] Were a proper chemical analysis of Shroud samples conducted, certainly any from the area sampled for radiocarbon dating, what should be revealed is the presence of muramic acid. In Mattingly's words, `If it is present, this is proof that bacteria are present. Muramic acid is only found in nature in the cell walls of bacteria. It is widely used as a marker for the presence of bacteria. The quantitative level of muramic acid can then be used to estimate the mass contribution of bacteria to the overall mass of the linen.' [Ibid.] Mattingly's overall assessment is that, since micro-organisms make up 80 per cent of the mass of living organisms on the earth today, `why they should not comprise more than 50 per cent of the weight of a centuries-old linen should not be a major leap in credibility'. To demonstrate this, shortly before the March 2000 Symposium he cultured his own skin bacteria in his laboratory, concentrated these in pellet form and then repeatedly smeared the mixture over a 1 gram square of linen until the combined weight of linen plus bacteria reached 2.30 grams. Having thereby achieved a 57 per cent degree of contamination, he heated the bacteria to render them harmless, then sent the result to Drs Adler, Jackson and myself, together with an untreated sample as a `control'. As he pointed out in a covering note, because of the coating's artificial and now sterile nature it cannot be considered a replication as such of that on the Shroud. Instead the clear message of his samples is that a 57 per cent layer of coating is nothing like as obvious and obtrusive as non-microbiologists expect it to be. And, because the radiocarbon laboratories failed to conduct a proper chemical analysis of the samples they destroyed, no one can deny that such a coating could have been present and have seriously affected the dating result. In the light of Prof. Mattingly's comments, the confident claims made by the radiocarbon-dating laboratories in their Nature report of 1989 that they had `conclusively' shown the Shroud to date from the Middle Ages may be considered effectively to lie in tatters" (Wilson, I. & Schwortz, Ibid, pp.102-103. Emphasis original)
Why this seemed so likely to me in 2005 is that I had completed my biology degree the previous year and I well remember one of my zoology lecturers having made E.O. Wilson's point that microorganisms were so numerous that if everyone in the lecture theatre suddenly vanished, where we had all been sitting could still be seen in the outline of nematodes that were on our bodies and clothes:
"Spokesman and popularizer though he may be, Wilson remains above all a scientist enraptured by the mysteries of life. The Pheidole project, he says, represents a `celebration' of this most abundant group of ants. Cataloging them comprehensively, he says, was a step toward unraveling the unsolved problem of why some species are `so profusely evolved'; the work itself was `the taxonomist's equivalent of figuring out the hemoglobin molecule.' Lest graduate students fear there are no more such challenges, Wilson is ready with dozens. Bacteria and archaeans, he writes, are `the black hole of biological systematics.' Only about 6,000 have been formally recognized-despite the potential threat and benefit they represent to human health and commerce-but that many, `almost all new to science, can be found in only a few grams of rich forest soil.' Nematode worms, he says, account for four of every five animals living on Earth-and are so abundant that if the planet's surface vanished, its `ghostly outline' could still be made out in the biomass of nematodes, almost all of species unknown." (Rosenberg, J.S., "Of Ants and Earth: E.O. Wilson's view of life takes in all things small and great," Harvard Magazine, March-April 2003 )
This ties in with Prof. Mattingly's point above that "every square millimetre of your skin is coated with a substantial layer of micro-organisms. They are contributing, along with your gut microbial flora, in a significant way to your overall body mass" (my emphasis).
Now some have misunderstood Garza-Valdes' argument that it claims to explain the entire discrepancy between the Shroud's claimed actual age of ~2,000 years and its apparent radiocarbon age of ~1,300 years. But as I pointed out in my post of 28-Jan-05 all these factors, i.e. under points 1) to 3), "would all combine ... to make the radiocarbon age younger than the real age":
"Note that these [factors] would all combine (they are not mutually exclusive or dependent) to make the radiocarbon age younger than the real age."
I have covered the first two of the three classes of such factors, namely, "1) that the sample originally contained the normal background ratio of C-14 to C-12" and "2) it has not been contaminated by younger material." These alone would make accurate radiocarbon dating of the Shroud not just difficult but practically impossible.
And that is without even considering factor "3) there has been no additional neutron source that would be creating C-14 from N-14." This I will cover in part #3.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
Exodus 33:1-5. 1Then the LORD said to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants.' 2I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." 4When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5For the LORD had said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, 'You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.'"