Shroud of Turin Research Project.


Scientists continue to compare the chemical composition of shroud limestone and Jerusalem limestone. Their hope is that they will detect rare trace elements on both samples that will clearly distinguish them from aragonite samples elsewhere in the world. To date—no such “marker” has been found.



Body preparation could be carried out in the home as well as at the tomb, but especially in the case of criminals, interment was immediate and preparation was in the tomb.


Aragonite will form from calcite solutions at 80°–100° F. Formation of aragonite will also occur at lower temperatures when barium, strontium, iron or lead are present. Aragonite can be found in many iron deposits particularly when the iron is present as siderite (iron carbonate).


These substances were detected by x-ray fluorescence. Lead was detected by the STURP team on the shroud fibers and by Joseph Kohlbeck in Jerusalem limestone samples. Dr. Levi-Setti, however, did not detect lead when he compared the mass spectra of Jerusalem limestone and shroud fibers (see graphs).


Mylar tape sample JAB.


Little could be done to examine the few small particles microscopically in the environment of the Mylar tape used to lift the sample because the tape had crystalline properties which interfered with obtaining optical information from the particles. Thus the risk was taken to recover these few crystals and remount them in a 1.680nD Cargille immersion oil. The intermediate or b [beta] index of aragonite is 1.680, and a match at specific orientations would be a good indication of the possibility of aragonite. In one orientation there was a match for the 1.680 index oil. An interference figure at 1250× having a small 2V angle estimated 18–20 optically negative was observed. These optical properties would be expected from aragonite and this is a strong suggestion that these fragments, particularly when compared with the Jerusalem samples, are aragonite. The aragonite samples were also found to be mildly alkaline and the aragonite had a tan to brownish color, probably due to the presence of iron. The pH of the sample was estimated to be 8 to 8.5 based on the green color reaction with pH paper.


Ricardo Levi-Setti, G. Crow and Y. L. Wang, “Progress in High Resolution Scanning Ion Microscopy and Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry Imaging Microanalysis,” Scanning Electron Microscopy, 1985, 11, pp. 535–552.


A popular account of the STURP tests can be found in Kenneth E. Stevenson and Gary R. Habermas, Verdict on the Shroud (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1981) or a more technical version in Larry S. Schwalbe and Ray N. Rogers, “Physics and Chemistry of the Shroud of Turin: A Summary of the 1978 Investigation,” Analytica Chemica Acta, 135 (1982), pp. 349. Lists of the tapes and their identifications can be found in John H. Heller and Alan D. Adler, “A Chemical Investigation of the Shroud of Turin,” Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal, 14/3 (1981), pp. 97–98.


The tape samples were given to Joseph Kohlbeck in October of 1982 by Dr. Ray Rogers of the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the purpose of obtaining quality photomicrographs. Following this work, Rogers granted permission to pursue some additional investigative work.


The fibers and adhesive were separated by carefully washing the adhesive from a small tape sample taken from the lance-wound area with reagent grade toluene. The reddish particles were unaffected by the toluene wash and continued to adhere to the fibers. There were, however, a few clusters that broke off from the fibers during handling.


The two slides prepared in OV 17 were heated on a hot stage to 350° C. Most of the particles adhering to the fibers darkened, as did the fibers and not a great deal was learned from heating except that there was a change with heat.


Heller and Adler, “Blood on the Shroud of Turin,” Applied Optics, 19/16 (1980), pp. 2742–2744.


Walter C. McCrone and C. Skirius, “Light Microscopical Study of the Turin Shroud,” Microscope, 28/3 (1980), p. 105.


There are a number of possible explanations for the rare paint contaminant, if that is what the iron oxide is. Quite often an inscription concerning the dead was written in red paint above the niche (or kokh) where the body was to be laid. Blue paint was used over earthen graves of the poor to warn people that a dead body was there and the area unclean. Yellow was often used on ossuaries. In addition, the tomb caves were often decorated with frescoes of various colors. Any or all of these could have found their way onto the shroud in microscopic amounts. In addition, medieval copies of the shroud were laid on top of the shroud to produce “touch relics”; these could also have been sources of some types of paint contamination.


Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary (New York: Doubleday, 1963), p. 208. Another example of increased body temperature in a cool environment that closely parallels Barbet’s account is that found in Fredrick Zugibe, The Cross and the Shroud (New Jersey: McDonagh, 1981). On p. 108, he describes the 70° air-conditioned test room and yet, “A marked sweating reaction became manifest in most individuals, which encompassed the entire body and in some instances actually drenched the volunteers, running off the toes to form a puddle on the floor.”


S. Shibolet, R. Coll, T. Gilat and E. Sohar, “Heatstroke: Its Clinical Picture and Mechanism in 36 Cases,” Quarterly Journal of Medicine, New Series XXX, 144 (Oct. 1967), pp. 525–547.


See Dr. Zugibe’s study cited in endnote 15, pp. 89–90, and his letter to the editor in Queries & Comments, BAR 11:03.


A conversation with Dr. John Jackson on September 2, 1985 confirmed that there is indeed an inequality in the frontal and dorsal images. With a sophisticated instrument called a VP-8 Image Analyzer, scientists have been able to produce a three-dimensional image from photos of the front of the shroud. However, they cannot produce a three-dimensional image of the dorsal side that equals that of the front.


Robert A. Wild, “The Shroud of Turin: Probably the Work of a 14th-Century Artist or Forger,” BAR 10:02. Raymond E. Brown, “Observations on the Shroud of Turin,” Biblical Theology Bulletin, 14/4 (Oct. 1984), p. 147.


The manikin is submersible, so body heat was added by simply heating water and filling the body. The manikin was provided through the courtesy of Simulaides, Inc., Woodstock, NY.


Incidentally, the experiment appears to destroy effectively the so-called hot-statue theory (see discussion of various scorch theories in Schwalbe and Rogers, “Physics and Chemistry of the Shroud,” pp. 25–28. According to these theories, the image on the shroud was produced by an artistic scorching process from a heated statue. It is true that, if tenable, this process would produce an image that does not contain directional strokes like a painting. But in light of our experiment, the hot-statue theory is not tenable to explain the observed character of the shroud’s image—the dehydration of the cellulose. All of the materials used in the production of statues, when heated, will either hold that heat too long and unevenly burn areas of the cloth, or dissipate heat too quickly and produce nothing. Only the heat of a human body and the characteristic rate at which that body’s temperature eventually lowers to meet its environment can produce an image of a quality approaching that exhibited by the Shroud of Turin. The image process lasts only as long as the body maintains a temperature above its surroundings.