AVVENIRE - Saturday,  January 22, 2005, page 23

A new USA study makes scholars debate: the C14 dating is not reliable because it is based on a Medieval “patch”.
The darn of the Shroud



“Peso el tacòn del buso”? Luckily the popular wisdom (in this case, from Veneto – a region of Northern Italy, translator’s note) helps us once again, as we are confronted by another scoop involving the Shroud and which could deepen the gap in its supporters’ front. “The darn is worse than the tear”: and this time in a literal meaning, because news from overseas bases the re-debating of the Sacred Linen C14 dating just on the theory of a “darn”.

In fact, in “Thermochimica Acta”, an American scientific magazine, an article by a Los Alamos scientist was published, which would demonstrate how, in 1988 – that is, when the famous and highly disputed C14 test, which dated the Shroud between 1260 and 1390, was carried out – it was not used a genuine sample from the relic, but a fragment of “re-woven”, that is, a sort of “invisible darn” dating back just to the Middle Ages. The signatures affixed to the new revelation are authoritative: it is the Amstar’s (The American Shroud of Turin Association for Research), a serious scientific organization that devotes itself to  the research on Turin Linen, and the chemist Raymond Rogers’, a member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and who has always been one of the most reliable Shroud researchers. Rogers, having come into possession of some residual threads of the 1988 sampling, has subjected them to rigorous tests and has concluded that “the results of mass spectrometry of the pyrolysis of the sample zone, together with the microscopical and microchemical observations, demonstrate that the sample for the radiocarbon was not part of the original sheet of the Shroud.” Indeed,  “the radiocarbon sample has completely different chemical properties from the main part of the Shroud relic,” Rogers chimes in.

The analyzed border has been dyed using a technique that appeared in Italy in the age when the Crusaders’ last stronghold fell in the hands of the Turks, in 1291. The radiocarbon sample cannot therefore be older than  1290, just what the C14 tests assessed. But the Shroud itself  is in fact much older.” Surely, it is not the first time the 1988 tests of Oxford, Tucson and Zürich laboratories (authorized by Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero) are disputed, and with several charges: for example, the percentages of mistake of C14 itself, the unavoidable contaminations of the sample for moulds or fungi, the alterations of radioactive isotopes due to a fire, up to  the perplexities about the correctness in the test carrying out, so much so that today a consisting group of scientists is not afraid of being accused of  “apologetics”, if they advance their reservations on the “certainty” of the results obtained on the Shroud with the carbon method. But recently the theory of the “darn” – or, in more scientific terms – of the “Medieval interwoven” (risen, to tell the truth, not in a scientific environment, but from a sort of mystical “revelation” due to a would-be seer) has gained more and more ground. Joe Marino and Sue Benford, for example, have subjected high definition photos of one of samples taken in 1988 to three experts, without saying that they were from the Shroud, and all three of them have recognized a different weaving on one side of it.

But, how was it possible that the scientists, who carried out the sampling in 1988, did not notice the existence of a “patch”? The question was passed to Mgr. Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the Commission for the Shroud of Turin diocese, and his answer came soon after: “It was possible because, in fact, there is neither a ‘patch’ nor a ‘darn.’ During the last checks, carried out in 2002 during the preservation and cleaning intervention, the Swiss expert Dr. Mechtild Flury-Lemberg (the greatest world-wide authority in the ancient cloth field) has examined the Shroud with great care and has not seen absolutely any sign of a textile addition.” “It is indisputable that there is no textile remaking in this cloth,” states, in fact, her scientific report,  published in three languages in 2003. Mgr. Ghiberti goes on: “Even the lining has been removed and for the first time after 500 years we have seen the back of the Sheet: there is no sign of a ‘darn.’ Moreover, a reconstruction is made only where there is a hole, while the sample has been taken in a corner area, where is unreasonable to think of any ‘Medieval interwoven.’ Moral? “I am astonished that an expert like Rogers could fall in so many inaccuracies in his article. I can only hope, indeed, also think that the C14 dating is rectifiable (the method, in fact, has its own uncertainties), but not on the basis of the ‘darn’ theory.”