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Shroud of Turin Stirs a New Controversy

By Jim Meyers   |   Monday, 18 Aug 2008 03:48 PM

University of Colorado physicist John Jackson is seeking new tests he believes will prove that the controversial Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus Christ.

The historical record of the shroud now stored in Turin, Italy, dates back to the 14th century, when a French knight told the Pope that he had the burial shroud of Christ.

According to the Gospel of John, “linen clothes” that had wrapped Christ’s body and a “napkin” that had wrapped his head were found in his sepulcher after his resurrection.

In 1978, a team of scientists led by Jackson ran a series of tests on the approximately 4-by-14-foot linen cloth, which bears the image of a man who appears to show signs of crucifixion. They concluded that the shroud was not painted, dyed or stained, and that the blood stains were real, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Then in 1988, radiocarbon dating of a small piece of the cloth by three different laboratories showed that the shroud originated in the 13th or 14th century, and the Catholic Church acknowledged that it could therefore not be authentic.

But Jackson, a former scientist at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory, says the contamination of the shroud by carbon monoxide skewed the carbon-14 dating by 1,300 years.

Now Oxford University, which participated in the original carbon dating, has agreed to work with Jackson in recalculating the age of the shroud, according to The Times.

Jackson hopes to be allowed to reexamine the shroud, which is owned by the Vatican and stored in Turin’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

He is not alone in questioning the accuracy of the carbon dating results. At a recent conference sponsored by the Shroud Science Group at Ohio State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists asserted that the sample tested in 1988 came from a portion of cloth that may have been added to the shroud during repairs in the Middle Ages.

Christopher Ramsey, head of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, said on his Web site that there is a lot of “evidence that suggests to many that the shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow, and so further research is certainly needed.

"Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information."

While some insist the shroud is the authentic burial cloth and the image was formed by natural processes, skeptics claim it is a forgery created by a medieval artist.

One skeptic is Steven Schafersman, a geologist who maintains a Web site on the shroud.

He told The Times that Jackson has “had other ideas, but they’ve all been shot down, and this one will be shot down too.”

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