The Shroud of Turin: Controversial Cloth Defies Explanation as Study Shows it Has DNA From Around the World
Believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, but held only as a religious article of historical significance by skeptics, the Shroud of Turin has captivated scholars and scientists alike due to its mysterious nature. New DNA tests add to the body of research that only serves to highlight the strange, unexplained origins of the shroud.
The cloth, a pale sheet of woven fabric approximately 14-feet (4.5 meters) –long, might be considered unremarkable save for the distinctive reddish-brown markings on its front and back. The image of a prone man with hands folded can be made out on the cloth, with both the front and back views of the head meeting neatly at the middle of the sheet, suggesting it was folded over the front and back of a naked body in death. Countless horrible wounds to the body are revealed through the images on the fabric, from slashes to gouges, piercings and welts. These images strongly indicate to proponents the evidence of crucifixion and the Biblical description of the death of Jesus.
The full length of the Shroud of Turin. Scientists and scholars cannot resolve the mystery of the shroud. ( Public Domain )
The Hidden History of the Shroud
Historical record can place the shroud in the late 1300s. Scholars debate its existence previous to 1390, describing the period before that as “very murky territory.” Even during the middle ages there was disagreement over authenticity of the cloth, with written claims at the time between church officials suggesting it was a forgery. However, historians raise the possibility that several such ‘shrouds’ were making the rounds at the time, and forgery claims might have had nothing to do with the cloth found today in the cathedral in Turin, Italy.
Since the 15 th century, the existence of that shroud is well documented. It was deeded to the House of Savoy in Italy in 1453, and suffered damage in a fire. Patches and repair-work have been done at various times on the artifact. It was set in a chapel in the 17 th century, but it wasn’t until 200 years later that it was put on public display, and first photographed.
Full length negatives of the Shroud of Turin. ( Public Domain )
It was these photographs which elevated the cloth from relic to sensation. The photos were not remarkable in and of themselves, until viewed in the reverse negative, whereupon a detailed image of a wounded, bearded man became clearly visible. It had previously been suspected that the stains and images were painted on the linen by an artist at some point in its history, but the discovery of the detailed body image found embedded within the fabric drastically rewrote theories, and convinced many that the images were made through contact with an actual human corpse. Some Christians believe the image was transferred from Jesus’ body onto the cloth with a release of “divine light” or energy upon his resurrection.
A poster advertising the 1898 exhibition of the shroud in Turin. Secondo Pia's photograph was taken a few weeks too late to be included in the poster. The image on the poster includes a painted face, not obtained from Pia's photograph. ( Public Domain )
If this was indeed the death shroud which encased the body of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, that would date the cloth to 30 AD, the biblical date of the death of Jesus. However, this dating is at odds with later historical record, as well as the modern scientific research on the artifact.
- Could ancient earthquake explain face of Jesus in Shroud of Turin?
- Religious Artifacts found alongside Bones in Attic may be Relics of a Saint
- The Thirteen Legendary Treasures of Britain
Scientific Examinations and Bombshell Revelations
A variety of tests have been carried out on the shroud since scientists were first allowed to examine it in 1969, including physical examinations, chemical analyses, and radiocarbon dating. Initial examinations led to the formation of an 11-member Turin Commission composed of scientists and advisors, and in 1977 the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) was born.
Their findings, based on a gamut of rigorous tests, were reported in 1981, stating:
"We can conclude for now that the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin. The image is an ongoing mystery and until further chemical studies are made, perhaps by this group of scientists, or perhaps by some scientists in the future, the problem remains unsolved."