Blood on the Shroud: An Interview with the Blood Investigator of the Shroud of Turin Research Project
In 1978 a large team of American scientists under the auspices of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) spent over two years prior to embarking for Turin, planning a large number of specific data gathering tests, on the sacred Shroud of Turin, believed by millions of Catholics around the world to be the shroud in which the body of Christ was wrapped following his crucifixion.
In Turin, the expedition was joined by colleagues from around the world. This was to be the first
extensive scientific examination of the shroud and remains to this date the most extensive study of the shroud ever undertaken. To support the effort, they carried several tons of equipment and scientific instruments. The team arrived in Turin in early October 1978. For five full days beginning October 8th and lasting through the 13th, the STURP team studied the Shroud around the clock in a room at the Royal Palace adjoining the Turin Cathedral.
The Cathedral of Turin. (Public Domain)
On their return to the USA I was privileged to conduct a series of investigative interviews with a number of the team members. The most interesting of these was my interview with the now deceased Dr. Alan Adler; the scientist responsible for the investigation of the Blood on the Shroud.
The late Professor Alan D. Adler (1931-2000), Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Western Connecticut State University. American Society for Photobiology. Original member of STURP, who went on to spend 20 years of continuing research, lectures, symposiums, and trips around the world as a member of Shroud of Turin Research Project.
I opened our discussion with the following:
PJS) I understand that you were responsible for the identification of Blood on the Shroud.
A) Well, what we did was to run not one test but a variety of tests for blood; we used one of the oldest known tests for blood forensically which was to see if one can generate the compound that produces the color of blood, this compound is called 'porphyrin' it is the same stuff that makes grass green.
The human blood is a porphyrin related structure. We ran that, and we got that. But we were also able to get a number of other tests for blood but also most importantly we did immunological tests for blood. Not only have we gotten them but an Italian investigator has independently confirmed our tests and has also got immunological tests for blood. So we feel pretty certain that the blood is blood!
The tests we ran are more indicative than some of the tests that people routinely run. Some of the tests that people run for blood depend on the blood being fresh, the tests that I ran where we detected the so-called porphyrin is a test that does not depend on the blood being fresh, it is now being used more by people for the arch metric detection of blood. We actually found that you can accurately demonstrate 10,000 year old blood using this particular test, which many of the more recent tests will not. From the immunological tests, we got positive results which is all I can say. On the other hand, people have also got immunological results on tomb samples that would have been equally as old, if not older. On the other hand, people have done the same thing with older material.
PJS). Forgive me asking Alan, but a man of your faith - how did you become involved with the shroud in the first place?
A) I made the mistake of talking to someone on the phone like I'm doing with you!
PJS. You've been involved with the investigation for some years now....
A) Well actually I work in the field of porphyrin, so detecting blood this way is something that is not new to me, and I have done so in the past before working on the shroud,...... and so a person actually asked me would I detect some blood for him on a piece of cloth....then he told me it was the Shroud of Turin. It was a scientist by the name of John Heller that did that........It was John Heller that got me roped into this!
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PJS) How major a part has the shroud played in your life since you got involved.
A) It's chewed up all of my free time!
PJS. Are you hopeful of being there in 1988 when they carry out the carbon 14 process?
A) I certainly hope so.
PJS. What do you think they will achieve with that process?
A) Well it will certainly tell us what the date of the cloth is...it won't tell us what the date of the image is....it will only tell us the date of the cloth... If the cloth dates to the first century, well it certainly continues to add to the argument that it is not a 14th century artifact. I'm sure there will be people that will say that the 'artist' used a first century cloth...there are only so many of these ad-hoc hypotheses you can use before it simply becomes more reasonable to accept the fact that this isn't a 14th century artistic work!
The full length of the Shroud of Turin. Scientists and scholars cannot resolve the mystery of the shroud. ( Public Domain )
PJS) How, Alan, if you were pinned down, would you explain the image on the cloth?
A) Well honestly at this point that's the one thing we can't do! We know what the chemistry of the image is - we think we know what the chemistry of the blood is...we think that makes sense in terms of what one would expect of the pathological properties for one who was crucified, but the interesting thing is with all the work that we have done on it, we still can't suggest a simple process by which the image and the blood could have been put on the cloth by the same process... we now feel quite strongly that the blood got there by being in contact with a wounded body...but it is quite clear that the image had to go on there by a different process. We really don't know how to explain that at this point.
PJS) Your findings would indicate that the blood could not have been smeared on the cloth.
A) No...I mean the first thing we see - it looks to us that what we are seeing is not whole blood, but the exudation from blood clots, so there has to have been enough time for the blood to have clotted on this individual...before the cloth came into contact with it. And it seems most consistent with the forensic chemistry, with the forensic biology, with the medical findings and with the chemistry, that we have done.
PJS) The 3D image that appears on the cloth, did that impress you in any way?
A) It sure does, because that is the thing we can't explain...in a simple way. We don't have any simple process that we have been able to find that would explain why an image is the particular type of image that we see! It is definitely NOT a contact image.
3-Dimensional image of a male face that is imprinted on the shroud. (Public Domain)
PJS) In hindsight looking back on the 1978 investigation is there anything that you feel was overlooked at that time; any particular test preformed at that time that should perhaps be looked at in the future.
A) Well there are certainly tests that should be done now, but you know one has to realize that the first time that someone does something like this the results are spotty, you make the best guesses you can. You go in and you try to test them. When you get through with a whole bunch of tests you decide you should have done this and you should have done that!
Actually, the tests that were done in ‘78 were really a very good set of tests; people made the best guesses they could, designed the best experiments they could design on the basis of that...and we established a lot of things. It is very important that we established that it WASN'T a painting!
Of course, a lot of the tests were designed to find out what kind of a painting was it. People in fact did go in there with the opinion that it probably was a painting...the idea that anybody went in there trying to prove that it wasn't a painting is bizarre, because all one has to do is look at the tests that were carried out. It is clear that we were trying to find out what type of a painting it really was. So it was quite a shock to find out that it isn't a painting. So of course what we need to do now is go back and look at tests now that tell us more about the kind of things we did find. We think it is some sort of an oxidation process - we want to explore that.
We would like to do further tests to clarify that the blood is blood! And the kinds of abnormalities that support some of the forensics. There are a lot of things that we would like to do in a second round of testing. One, of course, is to also date the cloth! All these things in the long run will help us establish that it is not a forgery.
You see one of the things we can't prove is that it’s authentic! Not by Science...You don't have any tests for authenticity, we only have tests for dis-authenticity! If we keep doing all these tests and we don't prove that it is dis-authentic...then it is up to the historians, the theologians, the anthropology and the archaeology types to decide what they want to do with the data. Because clearly the scientific data will not be inconsistent with in fact this being Christ's burial shroud. That's the best that science can ever say!
PJS) I Spoke with Dr Walter McCrone and he was quite sure that paint pigment was only to be found on the actual image itself?
A) Well we disagree! Apparently, you see, the spectroscopy was done, the ultraviolet and the infrared spectroscopy, which was done on the whole cloth not just looking at a sample from it. I'm not in agreement with that and he has never answered that point. You know you just can't just throw away other people’s data because you don't agree with it! In fact, we have shown why we think our data is different from his. We have shown why we think his interpretations are not correct. He has never done us the courtesy of doing the same. He has not shown why our measurements would be in error - he just says we did it wrong...that's not science, I'm sorry.
Full length negatives of the Shroud of Turin. ( Public Domain )
PJS) If the carbon dating process shows the cloth to be relatively recent, where do we go from there?
A) Well then clearly it is not Christ's cloth! And then maybe people will let us preform the kind of tests we can do to find out what it is really all about. You see, the fact that it might be a real religious artifact means we have been very limited in the amount of study time and the things we have been able to do. If it can be definitely established that it isn't, there still remains the intriguing problem, no matter whose cloth it is - how did that image get on there?
In our opinion it is NOT A PAINTING! We'd like to find out what is it and how did it happen. Because that will remain a scientific problem no matter whose cloth it is…It is very interesting!
Exerpt from The British Shroud Reserch publication on Dr. Alan Adler who passed on June 10th, 2000
“Of Jewish parentage, Alan Adler has been on the Shroud scene since the late 1970s.
His introduction to it came from the late Dr. John Heller who asked him, as a physical
chemist and specialist in porphyrins, to help him study the sticky tape samples of the
Shroud image that the STURP team had brought back with them from Turin. At that
time Heller and the STURP team were in some disarray from Dr. Walter McCrone
having dismissed the Shroud's image as just artist's pigment. When Heller first told
him that the sticky tapes were from the Shroud of Turin, Adler's reported response
was 'The what of where?' - all too typical of him, as those of us who knew him are well
"He was 69 and up to his retirement Professor of Chemistry at West Connecticut State University, where he taught for many years. The cause of his death was a cerebral hemorrhage. No other single figure on the Shroud scene had Alan's huge grasp of the scientific complexities of the subject. The full ramifications of his loss have yet to be realized.”
Dr Peter Shield is the author of “The Maltese Shroud”, which is available on Amazon