Ancient Mysteries

Season 2 Episode 4

The Shroud of Turin

Aired Sunday 7:00 PM Apr 21, 1995 on A&E
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Episode Summary

The Shroud of Turin
This episode of Ancient Mysteries was also released by A&E Entertainment in 1999 titled as "Ancient Mysteries: Shroud of Turin." The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is being kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. Some believe it is the cloth that covered Jesus of Nazareth when he was placed in his tomb and that his image was recorded on its fibers at or near the time of his proclaimed resurrection. Skeptics contend the shroud is a medieval hoax or forgery or even a devotional work of artistic verisimilitude. It is the subject of intense debate among some scientists, believers, historians, and writers regarding where, when, and how the shroud and its images were created.
Arguments and evidence cited against a miraculous origin of the shroud images include a letter from a medieval bishop to the Avignon pope claiming personal knowledge that the image was cleverly painted to gain money from pilgrims; radiocarbon tests in 1988 that yielded a medieval time frame for the cloth's fabrication; and analysis of the image by microscopist Walter McCrone, who concluded ordinary pigments were used.
Arguments and evidence cited for the shroud being something other than a medieval forgery include textile and material analysis pointing to a 1st-century origin; the unusual properties of the image itself which some claim could not have been produced by any image forming technique known before the 19th century; objective indications that the 1988 radiocarbon dating was invalid due to erroneous sampling; and repeated peer-reviewed analyses of the image mode which strongly contradict McCrone's assertions.
The shroud is rectangular, measuring approximately 4.4 x 1.1 m (14.3 x 3.7 ft). The cloth is woven in a herringbone twill and is composed of flax fibrils entwined with cotton fibrils. It bears the image of a front and dorsal view of a naked man with his hands folded across his groin. The two views are aligned along the midplane of the body and pointing in opposite directions. The front and back views of the head nearly meet at the middle of the cloth. The views are consistent with an orthographic projection of a human body, but see Analysis of the image as the work of an artist.
The "Man of the Shroud" has a beard, moustache, and shoulder length hair parted in the middle. He is well proportioned, muscular, and quite tall (1.75 m or roughly 5 ft 9 in) for a man of the first century (the time of Jesus' death) or for the Middle Ages (the time of the first uncontested report of the shroud's existence, and the proposed time of possible forgery). Dark, red stains, either blood or a substance meant to be perceived as blood, are found on the cloth, showing various wounds:
-at least one wrist bears a large, round wound, apparently from piercing (The second wrist is hidden by the folding of the hands)
-in the side, again apparently from piercing
-small ones around the forehead
-scores of linear wounds on the torso and legs, apparently from scourging.
On May 28, 1898, amateur Italian photographer Secondo Pia took the first photograph of the shroud and was startled by the negative in his darkroom. The negative gave the appearance of a positive image, which implies that the shroud image is itself effectively a negative of some kind, as a negative of a negative is a positive. Observers usually feel that the detail, contours, and heft of the man on the shroud is greatly enhanced in the photographic negative, leading some to feel that, as no other pre 19th century work of art even contends with it in verisimilitude, it is therefore no work of art. Pia's results intensified interest in the shroud and sparked renewed efforts to determine its origin.

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