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Beyond Stone & Bone

Who Made the Shroud of Turin?
by Heather Pringle
January 29, 2010

331px-Shroudofturin1If you are not Catholic,  you  may not have heard yet that the Vatican has decided to put the very famous Shroud of Turin on public display for six weeks, beginning on April 10th.   Exhibitions of the controversial shroud–believed by many devout Catholics to be the winding cloth that covered Jesus after his crucifixion–are relatively rare. Indeed, the Vatican has authorized only five such expositions since 1898.  As a result,  the faithful are hastening to their computers to obtain online tickets.

I notice that the Vatican will not permit any scientific experimentation or testing of the shroud during the exhibition.  Quite possibly,  it is a little disenchanted with the latest archaeological findings related to the controversial cloth.   In December,  Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist and senior research fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jersualem, announced tantalizing results from a new study that he and Boaz Zissu,  an archaeologist at Bar Ilan University, just completed on a 1st century B.C.  shrouded burial they excavated in a tomb in Jerusalem.  Gibson and several colleagues published the first part of the study in a paper in PLoS One on December 16th.

The entire study will clearly shed much new light on the authenticity of the more famous Shroud of Turin.   As the team points out in the PLoS One paper, archaeologists rarely find ancient shrouded burials in the Jerusalem region:  the city’s high levels of humidity quickly destroy organic materials.   So,  as Gibson recently explained to a reporter at The Catholic Review,  “this  is the first shroud from Jesus’ time found in Jerusalem and the first shroud found in a type of burial cave similar to that which Jesus would have been buried in,  and (because of this) it is the first shroud which can be compared to the Turin shroud.”

Gibson and his colleagues radiocarbon-dated the tattered vestiges of the excavated shroud to 95 B.C.E .  And their careful examination revealed that the mourners in question employed two very different pieces of cloth to wrap the unknown dead male. They wrapped the individual’s head in linen cloth,  and his body in wool cloth–a practice that Gibson says was part of traditional Jewish burial practices at the time.   Moreover,  this practice fits with the biblical description of the two pieces of cloth that Jesus cast off after he rose from the dead.  The Shroud of Turin,  by comparison, consists of just one large piece of cloth said to have covered both the head and body of Jesus.

And Gibson and his team found another critical difference.  The tattered cloths they excavated were woven very simply,  with a two-way weave.   The  Shroud of Turin, however,  exhibits a more sophisticated weaving pattern,  known as a twill weave.

No one will be able to draw any definitive conclusions about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin based on this new study.  The comparative sample size is miniscule, and archaeologists  need to see much more in the way of Jewish burial shrouds from the period in order to establish what the customs really were.   However,  this evidence is the best we have at the moment,  and it certainly casts a lot of new doubt on the Shroud of Turin.

I’d like to join the pilgrims who will flock to Turin this spring,  just to see the famous shroud for myself.  But the big question in my mind is who made this fabled cloth?

Comments posted here do not represent the views or policies of the Archaeological Institute of America.

21 comments for "Who Made the Shroud of Turin?"

  • Reply posted by Fragment found in Jerusalem tomb has nothing to do with the Shroud of Turin « Shroud of Turin Story Blog (February 2, 2010, 12:22 pm):

    […] Stone and Bone, the weekly blog of Archaeology Magazine, asks by way of her posting title, "Who Made the Shroud of Turin?" It is a fair question, one that invites us to do some thinking. The question is prompted by a […]


  • Reply posted by stanley (February 2, 2010, 2:11 pm):

    does it really matter? it is what it is.


  • Reply posted by Rick Perconte (February 3, 2010, 12:18 pm):

    You people are so funny. You ignore all of the scientific evidence that points to the Shroud of Turin’s authenticity and focus on. . . what? a scrap of a burial cloth that because it doesn’t exactly match the composition of the Shroud MUST mean the Shroud is a fake?! How scientific is that?

    Why not focus on the established facts such as the image NOT being formed by paint, and the fact that the best minds in science still haven’t figured out how the image was formed.

    I could go on and on, but why should I provide the data thats already out there for anyone not to lazy to research it. Virtually every shred of scientific evidence points to the Shroud’s authenticity and the only evidence that indicates otherwise (Carbon dating tests) has been conclusively proven to be invalid because the sample included parts of a repair job.

    And Ms. Pringle should do a little research herself before making ignorant comments about burial practices and how the Shroud fits in. She obviously has not heard of the Sudarium of Oviedo, a face cloth purported to have covered the face of Jesus.

    Such a cloth is known to have existed from the gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 6 and 7. These verses read as follows, “Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the linen cloth lying on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself.” John clearly differentiates between this smaller face cloth, the sudarium, and the larger linen that had wrapped the body.

    It appears that “Archaeology” cares more about speculation and conjecture than scientific fact.


  • Reply posted by Maria Eliferova, PhD (February 4, 2010, 1:59 am):

    Hmmmm… I have read some papers both by the Shroud enthusiasts and by skeptics. The overall impression is that BOTH parties are swindling (I wish I knew where). You either have traces of paint on a piece of cloth or you haven’t. It is a matter of plain chemistry. But even the skeptics cannot come to agreement if there is paint or not. Some claim that the picture is burnt somehow rather than painted. Some claim that the Shroud was made by Leonardo (how could it be if its existence is well-documented since 14th century?).
    I wonder if there can be an unbiased study – coming neither from pious Catholics nor from militant atheists but from scientifically honest people.


  • Reply posted by Tony Leone (February 4, 2010, 7:07 am):

    The truth is the Shroud of Turin Carbon Dating has been proven to be totally wrong by hundreds of year and that is a fact. The piece that was carbon dated was from a patched area were cotton was used and dyed.

    (pasted from article)
    Raymond N. Rogers, a well-published chemist, and a Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, explained why the cloth was much older. Because the cloth did not contain any vanillin, it could be determined that it was at least twice as old as the radiocarbon date, and possibly 2000 years old. Vanillin disappears with age and establishes threshold measurements of age.

    So don’t claim something is a hoax when you obvious are not doing your homework to find out the truth. It shows how bias or incompedent your study is. It is most likely the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

    Ask yourselves if it was anyone else but Jesus, how you so-called scientists would be claiming it is real and a great find. You ingore everything else on the Shroud, blood, scurge marks, the bones and teeth showing through like an X-Ray, pollen from the Middle East, a perfect human image the is slightly bent upward, prints of coins and flowers, but your discredited Carbon Dating. Nitwits!


  • Reply posted by deran (February 4, 2010, 10:23 pm):

    “does it really matter?”

    It’s important to debunk all these sorts of scams. Which is why the Vatican is opposed to serious contemporary scientific tests.


  • Reply posted by david wilson (February 8, 2010, 4:05 pm):

    Science is about understanding. Faith is about trust in the absence of understanding. The vatican is all about control of faith and therefore trust. Understanding is a threat to that control. If you understand something you no longer need to have faith in it because its nature has been revealed. The vatican has always acted as a frustrated parent when the child asks too many questions. Its safer to say ‘Because I say so’ and shut down the questions. And the vatican has centuries of experience eliminating those who ask too many questions. If you prefer faith over understanding, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.


  • Reply posted by Harry (February 10, 2010, 3:45 pm):

    Heather Pringle discredits the Shroud of Turin because it’s only one cloth? Sorry, no proper homework Heather! For many centuries the (alleged)headcloth of Christ is wellknown. It’s called the Sudarium of Oviedo and history knows it since 614AD. It fled ahead of the Arab armies with Christians across N.Africa till it reached Seville, Spain around 700AD. Recent research shows that blood marks correspond with those of the head area of the Turin Shroud and the spots seem to agree with that of a body on a cross. Pollen research indicated a voyage from the Palestine area across N.Africa to Spain.

    An entire library has been written full about the Shroud, the most studied artifact in Western history, so it is a bit disappointing that a high profile site as publishes such a shallow article about the Shroud.


  • Reply posted by Martha (February 15, 2010, 5:56 am):


    I’m not convinced one way or the other about the shroud of Turin, but I have a question. If the head of Jesus was covered by the Sudarium, why is there a facial image on the shroud?


  • Reply posted by Rick Perconte (February 26, 2010, 7:06 am):

    In response to Martha. The sudarium was used to cover the head of the deceased shortly after death to keep friends and loved ones from having to see the sometimes agonized and contorted faces. It was removed prior to actual interment.


  • Reply posted by Maria Eliferova, PhD (March 2, 2010, 2:05 am):

    I still wish to know the plain fact: ARE there traces of paint or not?
    They should hire a team of Buddhists to get unbiased results.


  • Reply posted by Rick Perconte (March 8, 2010, 9:15 am):

    In response to Maria Eliferova, PhD: Yes, there are TRACES of paint on the Shroud but those traces have been proven to NOT make up nor be a part of the image on the cloth. The key word here is TRACES.

    The traces of paint are there because artists would copy the Shroud and then place or rub the cloth on the painting to symbolize the relationship between the painting and the original.

    Again, it has been proven beyond any doubt that the image is NOT formed by paint. Additonally, where there is blood, there is no image, which means that the blood had to have been introduced on the shroud BEFORE the image was created.


  • Reply posted by David Rapalyea (May 2, 2010, 4:41 pm):


    Sometimes I get an enthusiasm and lately it has been this shroud. I even bought a 30 CE ‘Pilate Lepton’ when I read some people see eye coins. Further, as a congressional investigator [GAO] I know how to conduct an investigation. So far I have found no exclusionary evidence – Red Ochre and C14 are the usual suspects, but it does not take a congressional investigation to set them aside.

    What seems remarkable is the steady accumulation of both physical and circumstantial evidence for a very early date. For instance, today I learned the 3 inch side panel stitching is consistent with first century Masada textile stitching. In fact, I got to this site to find out if there is anything in this stitching that is particular to the first century.

    It just goes on and on. You may be aware of all the pollen discussions. However, soil samples that got collected along with the pollen are consistent with chemical spectra from first century tomb samples. Are you aware there have been two additional and separate but umpublished C14 datings? See:

    This single sample could hit the nail on the head, for several reasons. First, the tests were from two separate halves of a single thread. One half showed heavy starch contamination so he cut it in half and dated both. CE 1,200 and CE 200. I sure would like to see a microscopic photo of that thread had cotton or starch on the old end.


  • Reply posted by Theadosia (May 9, 2010, 7:19 pm):

    Regardless of the issues of textile dating, what about the fact that the image itself has serious anatomical issues? The face is far too narrow in proportion to it’s height, the forehead is far too low (such a low forehead would normally indicate severe brain development issues), and it is physically impossible to have the hands in that position without the shoulders being hunched forward (the shoulders as depicted on the back of the cloth show no sign of hunching). The image also has one forearm significantly longer than the other and appears to be missing a thumb.

    The proportions and style of the image conform far more closely to the stylized (and anatomically inaccurate) depictions of people in 13th-14th century European art than they do to any human likely to be walking around in 1st century Palestine.


  • Reply posted by dayofwrath (July 3, 2010, 4:33 am):

    I recommend to read the book the coin of the temple,you will see the person of the shroud.


  • Reply posted by Faith is belief absent of proof « Random Ntrygg (August 24, 2010, 6:08 pm):

    […] incidentally is 1300′s textiles, as the woven pattern was not seen in the 1st […]


  • Reply posted by Rick Perconte (December 2, 2010, 11:23 am):

    In response to Faith is belief absent of proof <<Random Ntrygg:

    The linen is NOT 1300's textiles. The entire cloth was crafted with a weave known as a three-to-one herringbone pattern. This kind of weave was special in antiquity because it denoted an extraordinary quality. Less fine linens of the first century would have had a one-to-one herringbone pattern. The woven pattern WAS seen in the 1st century, but it was an expensive weave and could only be afforded by the wealthy (as in Joseph of Arimithea)

    I don't know where you got your "facts" from, but you need to do a little more research and not just believe the first thing you read, especially when your claims are so easily refuted.

    As for textile evidence, here's a good place to start:


  • Reply posted by random ntrygg (September 2, 2011, 3:11 pm):

    @ Theadosia

    plus the image is the front and back – with no sides or top of the head

    if this was “wrapped”, then the person in it was a few inches thick and had a dip instead of a rounded top of the head


  • Reply posted by Jerrold (November 2, 2011, 9:05 am):

    Thanks a bunch for trying to explain the terminlogy to the noobs!


  • Reply posted by >The Shroud of Turin | Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament (December 11, 2011, 5:03 pm):

    […] to the Turin shroud.” To read Pringle’s article, visit Beyond Stone and Bone by clicking here. Claude Mariottini Professor of Old Testament Northern Baptist Seminary Tags: Archaeology, Burial […]


  • Reply posted by Michael (August 27, 2012, 7:43 am):

    If you read the bible the part that hey talk about the burial cloth of Jesus you will see that they did not follow the exact procedures as they would for any other Jew… I don’t know the scripture by heart but his disciples took care of him…


About Our Blogger:

Heather Pringle is a freelance science journalist who has been writing about archaeology for more than 20 years. She is the author of Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust and The Mummy Congress: Science, Obsession, and the Everlasting Dead. For more about Heather, see our interview or visit

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