Tuesday, 06 October 2009
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Artifacts and relics always fascinated me, and having grown up in the Catholic church, I have had many chances to see relics up close. A relic supposedly from the true cross of Jesus is housed at a chapel just a few miles from my home town, along with hundreds of other relics said to belong to saints and Christian figures. I've spent many hours gazing at these relics, wondering about their origins and their legitimacy.
Perhaps the most widely known—and hotly debated—relic is the Shroud of Turin. Said by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus, it has come under much scrutiny, in part due to carbon dating tests conducted in the 1980s that suggested it was made sometime in the 1300s, well after the death of Jesus. Debated, too, is the nature of the image on the shroud, which skeptics claim is a forgery, perhaps a painting or some sort of chemical wash made to appear as though the crucified body of Christ was wrapped inside.
Though the subject has taken a bit of a back seat in recent years, debate has flared up again this week with the announcement that an Italian chemist has replicated the shroud using methods that would have been available to artisans and chemists in the 1300s. Luigi Garlaschelli, professor of organic chemistry at the University of Pavia, showed Reuters photographs which he will present to a conference on the para-normal later this week.
According to the published report, Garlaschelli and helpers used a very simple method, in which they “placed a linen sheet flat over a volunteer and then rubbed it with a pigment containing traces of acid.” The article goes on to say:
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.
The end result is convincing; a side-by-side comparison can be seen on the Reuters website.
While many will rebuke Garlaschelli, claiming he is just another of those seeking to debunk honest Christian heirlooms, his is the most seemingly realistic attempt at recreating the Shroud of Turin, or any holy artifact for that matter. It certainly begs the question: what if it really is a fraud?
Would it matter to you if the Shroud of Turin was a hoax?