PARIS - The Shroud of Turin, which some Christians believe is Jesus Christ's burial cloth, may not be the fake scientific tests have concluded because they analyzed a patch put on it, according to a U.S. scientist.
Raymond N. Rogers of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico published a paper this week arguing that new dating tests showed the 1988 tests were from a cloth patch probably sewn on after a fire damaged the Shroud in 1532.
The linen Shroud measuring 4.4 by 1.2 meters (14.5 by 3.9 feet) bears the image, eerily reversed like a photographic negative, of a crucified man believers say was Christ.
One of Christianity's most disputed relics, it is locked away at Turin Cathedral in Italy and rarely exhibited. It was last on display in 2000 and may not be shown again until 2025.
Radiocarbon dating tests by laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona in 1988 caused a sensation by dating it from between 1260 and 1390. Sceptics said it was a hoax, possibly made to attract the profitable Medieval pilgrimage business.
But Rogers, writing in the scientific review Thermochimica Acta, wrote: "The dye found on the radiocarbon sample was not used in Europe before about 1291."
"The radiocarbon sample was thus not part of the original cloth and is invalid for determining the age of the shroud," he wrote in the article on the Internet (www.sciencedirect.com).
Rogers said one dating test, which measures the gradual disappearance of the compound vanillin in linen, found it was present in the patch analyzed in 1988 but not on the main body of the Shroud.
He said linens found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date back to the time of Christ, also show no vanillin. He estimated the Shroud could be anywhere from 1,300 to 3,000 years old.
Scientists are at a loss to explain how the image was made and most agree it could not have been painted or printed.
The Catholic Church does not claim the Shroud, which is believed to have been brought to Europe from the Middle East during the Crusades in the mid-14th century, is authentic.