ADNKRONOS Press Agency, Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Shroud, a new chemical method will say how old it is


Rome – An Italian chemist has set up a twofold method of analysis that will be able to reveal the exact age of the Holy Shroud. The method has been realized by Luigi Campanella, (full) professor of Chemistry of the Environment and the Cultural Assets at the University La Sapienza of Rome, who, in an interview to ADNKRONOS, reveals the secrets of his discovery and explains how, through his innovative chemical analyses on the cellulose of the precious sheet, it will be possible to succeed in knowing the age of the sacred find. In particular, those set up by Professor Campanella are two enzymatic methods based on the alteration processes that the cellulose endures in time: the carboxylation and the methylation that could also be used in order to supply new elements on the true age of the Shroud. In fact, at the moment the datings of the famous find vary according to the interpretation of the analytical data found on the sacred cloth, from 2000 years ago to the medieval positioning of the Shroud in the 14th century, supported by the more recent papers, but questioned by the researcher Ray Rogers, of Los Alamos Laboratories, California. “The Sacred Shroud – Professor Campanella explains then – is officially dated to the 14th century, but a fire could have altered the diagnostic components who have led to these datings with the traditional methods. That is, the uncertainty on its true age remains.” “I am convinced, instead, – the Italian chemist asserts –  that my methods, composed in fact by two different types of analyses, will be able, instead, to give us precious indications on the age of the Holy Shroud and, above all, on the effects, on which not all the scholars agree and which are not, therefore, clear at the moment, that the fire of Chambéry, in 1520 approximately, can have had on the diagnostic components of the Shroud fabric.” So, what is the method set up by Professor Campanella all about? “The method, indeed, the two different methods of analysis, are of an expressly chemical nature – the Italian scientist explains – and they are based on the fact that in the cellulose, component of textiles as well as of paper and wood, and, therefore, also a component of the Holy Shroud, modifications can be evidenced”. “The first method, therefore, – Professor Campanella continues – examines the reactions through enzymes, that is, with specific proteins, and on the basis of the extent of these reactions, it is possible to trace back to the age of the cellulose we are examining.” “The second method, instead, – Professor Campanella continues – is a photochemical method, that is, a generator of ultraviolet radiations is used, that is put in connection with the sample to be dated, also adding an activator of the action of the light, in our case, titanium dioxide”. “In these conditions – the chemist of La Sapienza adds –  the cellulose is degraded, that is, the molecules are broken down. But the resistance of the cellulose diminishes as years go by, therefore, through the photosensor, the resistance of the cellulose to these degradation is determined and, once the answer is reached, it is possible to trace back to the age of the find.” “I do not want to say that mine is the only method that can finally tell us the exact age of the Shroud, but surely from this method – Professor Campanella concludes – we get precious and important indications indeed, also because these are methods completely different from those applied up to now.”