“New research,” reports the Catholic News Agency (July 14, 2017), indicates that the “Shroud of Turin Bears Blood of a Torture Victim.” Actually, it was the research that was tortuous: questionable science in the service of confirmation bias.
At issue is the article “Atomic resolution studies detect new biologic evidences [sic] on the Turin Shroud [sic],” by Elvio Carlino et al. (2017). Carlino is a researcher at the Institute of Crystallography in Italy. Another of the four co-authors is University of Padua professor Guilio Fanti, whom I know as a zealous pro-shroud researcher (author of a book, Il Mistero della Sindone, i. e., “The Mystery of the Shroud”) and one who uses highly dubious tests to supposedly authenticate the shroud as Jesus’ burial cloth.
Again and again, Fanti and other do-or-die shroudologists have relied on questionable shroud samples. These are being passed around among devotees, but Archbishop of Turin Cesare Nosiglia insists they cannot be authenticated as having come from the Turin cloth. (Allegedly they are snippings left over from earlier tests, and they only turn up in the possession of shroud believers.) The archbishop’s position provokes enthusiasts like shroud blogger Stephen E. Jones (2013) who huffs: “It is bad enough that this current Turin Archbishop is continuing in the telling of a lie about the matter, but it is even worse that he is in effect accusing Prof. Fanti of scientific fraud, as well as giving false comfort to Shroud anti-authenticists like Joe Nickell and his ilk.”
But even if the samples had been valid, the claims made from them are not. Carlino et al. are drawing conclusions from a fiber with “red crusts” which they assume to be blood, based on the discredited work of John Heller and Alan Adler who lacked the necessary expertise. They claimed to have “identified the presence of blood, “ but used an additive approach (this plus that) while lacking any definitive test for blood. A forensic expert explained how results similar to theirs could be obtained from tempera paint (Nickell 2013).
Actual shroud “blood” samples have been shown, by internationally known forensic serologists (blood experts), to fail all of the microscopical, chemical, biological, and instrumental tests for blood—not surprisingly, since the stains were suspiciously still red and artistically “picturelike.” One expert found traces of apparent paint, and famed microanalyst Walter C. McCrone (1996) identified the “blood” as red ocher and vermilion pigments in a collagen tempera medium.
The evidence of painting is further underscored by the shroud’s provenance (historical record) before the middle of the fourteenth century, at which time the fake “relic” was being used in a faith-healing scam and an artist confessed he had “cunningly painted” the image of the crucified Christ. And in 1988, radiocarbon testing by three laboratories agreed that the cloth dated to ca. 1260-1390—the time of the reported confession (Nickell 2013). Today, the “blood”—and with it the “shroud” itself—is still fake.
Carlino, Elvio, et al. 2017. Atomic resolution studies detect new biologic evidences on the Turin Shroud. Plos One, June 30, 2017.
Jones, Stephen E. 2013. New tests by Giulio Fanti show the Shroud of Turin could date from the time of Christ. Online at https://theshroudofturin.blogspot.com/2013/04/new-tests-by-prof-giulio-fanti-show.html; accessed July 25, 2017.
McCrone, Walter. 1996. Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud. Chicago: Microsc ope Publications.
Nickell, Joe. 2013. The Science of Miracles. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 119-132.