The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Shroud of Turin: It’s Fake, Get Over It!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 7, 2009

Well, I can’t say that I’m surprised one bit by this piece of news: there is yet another piece of evidence that the much revered Shroud of Turin is a fake.  But don’t tell the “Shroudies” – those who emphatically maintain that it is the “holy cloth” which covered the body of a crucified Jesus in his tomb – because they’re likely to engage in some rather interesting mental gymnastics via special pleading & cognitive dissonance.

Italian Scientist Reproduces Shroud of Turin

This latest research on the Shroud definitely counters the criticism among the Shroudie-true-believers: that there is no known man-made technique which can accurately replicate the features of the Shroud.  That is because the scientist in question, Luigi Garlaschelli, has perfected a method of replicating the Shroud!

“We have shown that is possible to reproduce something which has the same characteristics as the Shroud,” Luigi Garlaschelli, who is due to illustrate the results at a conference on the para-normal this weekend in northern Italy, said on Monday.

A professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, Garlaschelli made available to Reuters the paper he will deliver and the accompanying comparative photographs.

The Shroud of Turin shows the back and front of a bearded man with long hair, his arms crossed on his chest, while the entire cloth is marked by what appears to be rivulets of blood from wounds in the wrists, feet and side. …

… But scientists have thus far been at a loss to explain how the image was left on the cloth.

Garlaschelli reproduced the full-sized shroud using materials and techniques that were available in the middle ages.

They placed a linen sheet flat over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid. A mask was used for the face.

The pigment was then artificially aged by heating the cloth in an oven and washing it, a process which removed it from the surface but left a fuzzy, half-tone image similar to that on the Shroud. He believes the pigment on the original Shroud faded naturally over the centuries.

They then added blood stains, burn holes, scorches and water stains to achieve the final effect.

Of course, skeptics have known for quite some time that this supposed “holy relic” was most likely a complete fake.  Scientific investigations have been conducted on the Shroud, and they have yielded embarrassing evidence  which challenges the authenticity of the Shroud.  These lines of evidence include the results of radiocarbon dating, done independently by three different labs – Oxford University, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – which all agree & reveal the year of origin of for the Shroud to be somewhere from 1260 to 1390. This was, incidentally, during the same period of time in European history where many charlatans were pawning off a variety of “holy relics” – from supposed body parts of Saints to splinters of the True Cross – upon the faithful & gullible for money.

In any case, when these results came out, the Shroudies began to come up with some really lame excuses.  One example of these is well outlined at the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry on the Shroud…

The shroud allegedly was in a fire during the early part of the 16th century and, according to believers in the shroud’s authenticity, that is what accounts for the carbon dating of the shroud as being no more than 650 years old. To non-believers, this sounds like an ad hoc hypothesis.

According to microchemist Dr. Walter McCrone,

“The suggestion that the 1532 Chambery fire changed the date of the cloth is ludicrous. Samples for C-dating are routinely and completely burned to CO2 as part of a well-tested purification procedure. The suggestions that modern biological contaminants were sufficient to modernize the date are also ridiculous. A weight of 20th century carbon equaling nearly two times the weight of the Shroud carbon itself would be required to change a 1st century date to the 14th century (see Carbon 14 graph). Besides this, the linen cloth samples were very carefully cleaned before analysis at each of the C-dating laboratories.”*

Interestingly, when presented with these iron-clad scientific findings, the Catholic Church tries to have it both ways.  The Catholic Church does not claim the Shroud is authentic nor that it is a matter of faith, but says it should be a powerful reminder of Christ’s passion.  So, in other words, they don’t want to look like they’re encouraging people to act in a superstitious manner when they’re encouraging people to act in a superstitious manner.

23 Responses to “Shroud of Turin: It’s Fake, Get Over It!”

  1. Russ said

    Just because it can be reproduced does not, logically, mean that the original does not also exist and was created as it believed. It only proves that it can be reproduced. This is not very scientific in its results.

    • mattusmaximus said

      Russ, your criticism is a valid one. However, as I stated in my blog post, what this research does show is that it is possible to make such a thing by normal, non-supernatural means – which is contrary to the claims of some Shroud-believers who claim that it could only have been made by God or Jesus. Take this new evidence, apply Occam’s Razor, and I think it’s pretty easy to draw a reasonable conclusion.

      Btw, since you’re making the point about not being able to prove a negative (i.e., it isn’t possible to prove the Shroud wasn’t made by God/Jesus/supernatural entities), I will point out that it’s also not possible to prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist 😉

  2. I’m a Christian (figured I’d get that out the way up front). But I thought they debunked this myth YEARS ago? I remember hearing this like in the late 90’s. Why are we still talking about old stuff?

    Must be a slow news week or something…

  3. Skookum said

    Let it alone. Who cares, but the people that believe? You know a lot of our problems in this world are caused by the weird need to disprove what another person thinks.

  4. Byron said

    He recreated a cartoon, Lord God Jesus’ photograph (and more) is imprinted on the shroud and looks like a modern day photograph. this guy recreated something that looks like a cartoon, if you cannot see the difference then one needs new glasses

  5. Mike said

    The pigment on the original shroud was fairly shallow, it contained remnants of sweat and body oil and computer imaging shows all the stains were in the right places. I always figured an assistant had the “blood” painted on his body, was rolled up in the shroud and it was a simple paint transfer. Is there a way to tell is the sweat and body oils were applied to the same or opposite side of the “blood” stains?

  6. trueskeptic said

    mattusmaximus: You don’t know; I don’t know; nobody knows. A reasonable person understands the difference between impossible, a finite conclusion based on knowledge, and inexplicable, an infinite conclusion in want of knowledge. You seemed to be challenged in this regard.

    • mattusmaximus said

      “trueskeptic” it’s called Occam’s Razor. I suggest that you look it up.

      By your reasoning, it could just as easily have been leprechauns that made the Shroud. That’s the ticket – leprechauns! Because, you know, we just don’t know… [/sarcasm]

      • trueskeptic said

        I followed your advice and looked up’s “Occam’s Razor.” I didn’t find anything new or relevant (Note that I didn’t propose any theory, a stance required in philosophical skepticism). I don’t know who made the shroud and I don’t know who didn’t make it. Yet, I’m quite comfortable leaving a hole in my knowledge for now, rather than try to explain the inexplicable with biased speculation. I suggest you try suspending judgment during investigations, too. With practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Since your link fails to supply the missing knowledge, it’s useless here. As for your emotional post and sarcastic reply, they contribute nothing to Pyrrhonism: All they do is give our skill a bad name.

      • mattusmaximus said

        I’m quite comfortable with saying “I don’t know” too, but only when there is a lack of evidence pointing to any particular conclusion – such is not the case here. I’m also equally comfortable with taking the available evidence, as displayed in my post and in other scientifically-validated sources, to come to the reasonable conclusion (via Occam’s Razor, btw) that the Shroud did indeed originate in the 1300s, which completely discounts the claim that many Shroud-believers make (it was draped over the body of Jesus). If you somehow think that means that we cannot make any conclusions regarding the origins of the Shroud, then you are being willfully ignorant. And if you think me calling you out on your logical fallacy is being overly mean-spirited, so be it. I’m not here to impress folks like you, I’m here to post my thoughts on a variety of skeptical topics and I shall allow my readers to judge for themselves.

        However, I will say that seeing as how we “don’t have any evidence one way or another” that I’m open to the possibility that leprechauns made the Shroud 😉

      • trueskeptic said

        Well, my friend, I can lead a horse to the water but I can’t make it drink. Good luck with your self-education.

  7. […] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Shroud of Turin: It’s Fake, Get Over It!Script found on Shroud of TurinJesus Christ, It’s a Fake AlreadyWriting Found On The Shroud of […]

  8. […] created sometime around the 13th century A.D. (see my previous blog posts on the Shroud of Turin here and here).  And, unless I’m really bad at both math and a basic understanding of Christian […]

  9. John said

    Not a very impressive site. You’re obviously not a genius. Perhaps a wanna be! Good luck!

  10. Ddot said

    Ur a loser for even making this, ur obviously an atheist so how does this affect ur life or have anything to do with u? Dnt u have anything better to like talk or go out with friends ? A job? Obviously no u loser

  11. Cartilage said

    Lets face it, how in the world can you carbon date a piece of cloth and determine if it is 1K years old or 2K years old? It is virtually impossible.

    Secondly, where is this replica? all i can find is a small thumbnail image.

  12. ModernJon said

    I’m not a big fan of words like “iron-clad” evidence because as scientists continue to discover the world around us evidence for the ‘simplest’ things like the laws of gravity even changes. This article is reminiscent of those declaring the earth was flat. It is most likely that the shroud is not Jesus’ but a true scientist would say: Keep them theories coming. The crazier the better. This is how science moves forward.
    Mattusmaximus is seeking the truth which is commendable but calling his theory iron clad just makes me think that the sun may just revolve around his world 😉
    I must commend him on his batting that hate-filled christian Ddot… Coudos! You are totally allowed to have your opinion dude and although probable… it is unexciting.

    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

  13. […] the history of the Catholic Church is full of examples of pious frauds (such as the much-lauded Shroud of Turin) passed off on the faithful as the real thing when, at best, their authenticity is highly […]

  14. […] conclusively that the Shroud of Turin, which many claim is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, is fake. For instance, there is the historical evidence which dates it to a time (around the year 1300 C.E. […]

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