What is the Shroud of Turin?


What is the Shroud of Turin evidence?
What are the Shroud of Turin facts?
Is the Shroud of Turin real?

A shroud is a piece of cloth that is used to wrap a dead body for burial. Turin is a city in north-western Italy. Thus, the Shroud of Turin is a particular burial cloth that is located in Turin, Italy. It has been in Turin since 1578, and measures 14 feet 5 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide. The remarkable thing about this burial shroud is that it contains a front and back (dorsal) image of a man that was crucified exactly as the New Testament says that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, yet the image contains no pigment and is not a scorch or photograph.​

History of the Shroud

Prior to coming to Turin in 1578, the Shroud of Turin was displayed as the burial cloth of Jesus in the French town of Lirey in about 1355 or 1356. Based on his historical investigation, Ian Wilson [“The Blood and the Shroud” (1998) and “The Shroud” (2010)] and others believe that prior to the mid-1350s, what we now call the Shroud of Turin was probably one and the same as a precious piece of cloth that was in Constantinople until 1204, which was apparently called the Mandylion. There is good evidence that this cloth came to Constantinople from Edessa, Turkey, in 944 AD. In Edessa, it was called the Image of Edessa. The historian Eusebius on pages 65 to 70 of his book "The history of the Church" written about 325 AD records the traditions that the true burial cloth of Jesus was brought from Jerusalem to Edessa by a disciple named Thaddaeus (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18) to cure the king of Edessa named Abgar, which probably occurred in the first century. So historical investigation indicates that the Shroud of Turin could very well be the authentic burial cloth of Jesus.

​​​​​What is on the Shroud?

1. ​​​​​​​​​​​Rigor mortis in feet shows that the victim was on the cross for a significant amount of time after he had died.

2. Two nails are through one foot, but only one of the nails is through the other foot. This allows one foot to rotate, so that the victim can push up and down on the cross in order to breath during crucifixion. If the victim of crucifixion is not pushing up and down, then it is clear that he is dead. The soldiers had no doubt that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:43-45, John 19:31-35).

3. In 1532, the church where the Shroud was located caught fire. This fire produced two scorch lines on either side of the front and dorsal images.​ Water stains can also be seen on the Shroud from water thrown onto the metal box containing the Shroud after it was rescued from the fire. The heat from the fire did not produce a gradation in the intensity of the image discoloration, indicating that the image is not due to application of an organic compound.

4. Shortly after the fire in 1532, charred material was removed and replaced by patches.​ The repeating pattern of patches and scorch marks that can be seen on the Shroud resulted from the way in which the cloth was folded at the time of the fire. One corner of the folded Shroud that burned resulted in the many areas that had to be patched.

5. The Shroud has four sets of burn holes in an L-shaped pattern. This same pattern of holes appears on a picture in a document known as the Hungarian Pray Manuscript, which is dated to 1192-1195 AD. This indicates that the Shroud of Turin ought to be identified as the cloth, sometimes called the Mandylion, that was in Constantinople until the city was sacked during the fourth crusade in 1204 AD. It is generally believed that this cloth was brought to Constantinople from Edessa, Turkey, in 944 AD. In Edessa, it was called the Image of Edessa. Thus, the Shroud of Turin is the same as the Image of Edessa, so it can be historically traced back prior to 944 AD. This indicates that the C-14 date range of 1260 to 1390 AD for the Shroud of Turin is erroneous. Other dating methods are consistent with a first century date for the Shroud: 1) test results of tensile strength and reflectivity of linen as it ages, 2) stitching used to sew on the 3-inch wide side piece onto the main Shroud is nearly identical to that found at Masada which was destroyed in 73-74 AD, 3) the size of the Shroud being very close to 2 by 8 cubits - the ancient unit of measurement, 4) crucifixion being outlawed after the fourth century, and 5) a possible Roman Lepton over one eye dating to 27 - 30 AD. Several hypotheses have been made to explain the erroneous C-14 date, including an invisible reweave of the sample area and neutron absorption in the trace amount of nitrogen in the linen shifting the C-14 date by the (N14 + neutron --> C14 + proton) reaction. Details of this last option are discussed further at Ra. Pros and cons of the various options will be considered at the conference.

6. The back (dorsal) image on the Shroud shows a separation of blood & clear blood serum that flowed from the wound in the his side that shows on the front image. This separation indicates that the victim’s heart was not beating for long enough to allow the red blood cells to settle out of the clear blood serum before the side wound was made. Compare this with the "blood and water" that is said to have exited from Jesus' side wound in John 19:34.

7. The Shroud shows 100 to 120 scourge marks from two Roman flagrum, one striking from each side, with dumbbell shaped weights on the ends of the straps. The blood marks from these wounds show blood serum rings (visible only under UV) around the dried blood exudate.


8. There are abrasions on both shoulders evidently caused by the victim carrying a heavy rough object. Compare this with Jesus carrying his own cross (John 19:17).​ This refers to the horizontal piece (patibulum) but not the vertical piece, which would have been stationary in the ground at the location of the crucifixion.


9. The front and back of the head show puncture wounds from sharp objects. Jesus had a cap of thorns beat into his scalp with rods (Matthew 27:30, Mark 15:17-19).

10. Pollen is on the Shroud that is unique to the area around Jerusalem. Pollen from a plant with long thorns was found around his head.

11. The front and back (dorsal) images of the crucified man are negative images and contain 3D or topographical information content related to the distance of the cloth from the body. Of the 100 to 200 fibers in a thread, the images result from only the top one or two layers of fibers in a thread being discolored. The thickness of discoloration in a fiber is less than 0.4 microns, which is less than a wavelength of light. There is no indication of capillarity (soaking up of a liquid) between the fibers or the threads. The discolored regions of the fibers in the image result from a change in the covalent bonding of the carbon atoms that were originally in the cellulose molecules in the linen. This change in the covalent bonding of the carbon atoms is equivalent to a dehydration and oxidation of the cellulose molecule. The conclusion is that an artist or forger could not have produced the bizarre characteristics of the images in any era, either ancient or modern. How the image of a crucified man could have formed on the cloth with these image characteristics will be considered at the conference.

12. The image on the Shroud has swollen cheeks and a possible broken nose from a beating (John 18:3) or a fall. Abrasions on the tip of the nose have a microscopic amount of dirt in the abrasions. Jesus probably fell while carrying his cross (Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21).

13. The side of the front image on the Shroud shows a 2 inch wide elliptical wound - the size of a typical Roman spear (John 19:34). Post-mortem (after death) blood and watery fluid flowed down from this wound.​

14. The blood running down his arms is at the correct angles for a crucifixion victim. Two angles for the blood flow can be seen on his arms. These two angles are consistent with the crucifixion victim shifting between two positions while on the cross in order to breath. (See #2 above) What appears to be blood on the Shroud has passed 13 tests proving that it is real human blood. The presence of "X" and "Y" chromosomes indicates that the blood is from a male. The blood type is AB. And most significantly, the blood is high in bilirubin which is a compound produced by the liver when it processes damaged red blood cells, which occurs when a victim is severely beaten, as Jesus was. Normal blood turns very dark brown to black as it ages over days and weeks, but the blood marks on the Shroud show a reddish hue. There are multiple possible causes for this coloration.

15. All paintings of the Middle Ages showed the nails through the center of the palms, but nails through the palms do not support sufficient weight since there is no bone structure above this location. Archeology has confirmed that during crucifixion, the nails were driven through the wrists. The Shroud shows the correct nail locations - through the wrist instead of through the palm.

16. On the Shroud, the thumbs are folded under, contrary to all paintings of the Middle Ages. Nails through the wrists automatically fold the thumbs under due to contact of the nail with the nerve that goes through the wrist.

17. Abrasions on one knee show a microscopic amount of dirt, which is evidence of a fall.

18. The three-inch wide side strip is sown on with a unique stitch nearly identical to that found only at Masada which was destroyed in 73-74 AD. This is evidence that the Shroud was made in the first century. The reason for this three-inch side piece is not certain, but the most likely explanation is that it probably was sown on in the process of originally making the Shroud.

19. Small chips of travertine aragonite limestone were found in dirt near the feet. This rare form of limestone is commonly called "Jerusalem limestone" because Jerusalem is the main location in the world where it is found. This limestone found in dirt on the Shroud had a spectral signature nearly identical to a sample of limestone taken from the Damascus Gate - the closest gate to Golgotha. No other place on earth is known to have the identical spectral image. This indicates that the victim whose image is shown on the Shroud almost certainly walked on the streets of Jerusalem before being crucified.

Could it be a Forgery?

The two most common explanations of the Shroud are: 1) It is a forgery from the Middle Ages probably made in northern France, and 2) It is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus from about 33 AD. Note that several of the above items are inconsistent with the Shroud being a forgery from the Middle Ages. A forger would not have known to:

  • Place invisible serum rings around the blood exudate of the scourge marks.
  • Add pollen to the Shroud that is unique to the Jerusalem area.
  • Add pollen around the head that is from a plant with long thorns.
  • Put a microscopic amount of dirt in abrasions on the nose and one knee.
  • Put bilirubin into the blood.
  • Locate the nails in the wrists or fold the thumbs under, contrary to paintings from the Middle Ages.
  • Put microscopic chips of limestone from Jerusalem into dirt near the feet.
  • Use a stitch unique to the first century to sew the three-inch wide side strip to the main shroud.
  • Create a negative image with 3D information content in the image.
  • Create an image based on a change in the covalent bonding of the carbon atoms in the cellulose molecules.

Scientific Investigation of the Shroud

Scientific investigation of the Shroud of Turin began in 1898 when an amateur photographer named Secondo Pia took the first photograph of the Shroud and found to his amazement that his negative was a high resolution positive image, which meant that the image on the Shroud was a high resolution negative image. This implied that it could not be a painting since artists cannot accurately draw or paint a negative image because they never see one. Subsequent investigation of the wounds observed on the Shroud by experts in anatomy and medicine led them to conclude that the images and blood marks on the Shroud were in some way the result of a real human body that had been wrapped in the Shroud. In 1976, using NASA’s vp-8 image analyzer, it was discovered that there is 3D or topographical information in the image on the Shroud related to the body-to-cloth vertical distance. Since such information does not exist in any drawing, painting, or photograph, this indicated that the image on the Shroud could not be a drawing, painting, or photograph. This motivated scientists at leading national laboratories and research facilities in the United States to form the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) to apply the best scientific methods and equipment to determine how the image on the Shroud was formed. About 24 of their team went to Turin in 1978 where they were allowed five days, 24 hours a day, to perform non-destructive testing on the Shroud. The STURP investigation found that:

  • The image has no pigment, no carrier, no brush strokes, no clumping of material between the fibers or threads, and no cracking due to centuries of folding or rolling the Shroud. This means that the image could not be due to paint or stain.
  • ​There is no capillarity (soaking up of a liquid) of the discoloration in the fibers or threads, so the image could not be due to application of a liquid such as an acid or another chemical in a liquid state.
  • ​The image is not luminescent under ultra violet light. This means that the image could not be due to a scorch from contact of a hot object with the cloth.
  • ​The image does not contain any silver compounds. This means that the image could not be due to a photographic process.
  • ​The image is only visible in front lighting. It is not visible in back lighting. From this, the STURP team concluded that the image does not result from any substance placed on the cloth, which means that the image could not be a rubbing, a dusting, or a print.
  • ​A typical thread contains about 100 to 200 fibers. The image is caused by discolored fibers in some of the threads, but only the top one or two layers of fibers are discolored in any thread.​
  • Each fiber that is discolored is only discolored on the outside circumference of the fiber. The thickness of this discolored layer is less than 0.4 microns, which is less than a wavelength of light.
  • The discoloration of any fibers in the image results from a change in the covalent bonding of the carbon atoms that were already in the cellulose molecule. This change in the covalent bonding of the carbon atoms is equivalent to a dehydration and oxidation of the cellulose molecule. But how can this change in the covalent bonding of the carbon atoms be accomplished so as to create an image of a crucified man?

Mysteries of the Shroud

The above results of STURP’s investigation and the subsequent research indicates that the characteristics of the image are so bizarre that no one (artist or forger) could have created the image either in a previous era or even today. So the first of three mysteries is how could this image have been made?

The second mystery is related to the dating of the Shroud. In 1988, samples were taken from the bottom corner opposite the feet and sent to three laboratories in Oxford, Zurich, and Tucson for C14 dating. The average date from the three laboratories was 1260 ± 31 AD, which produced a two sigma (95% probability) range of 1260 to 1390 AD when corrected for the changing production of C14 in the upper atmosphere. But the values from these three laboratories did not agree well with each other. Statistical analysis of the average values from each laboratory indicated only a 5% chance that these average values are consistent with the measurement uncertainties. When plotted, these average values from the three laboratories produce a slope for the C14 dates of about 40 years/cm as a function of the distance from the bottom edge of the Shroud, so that if the sampling location were moved about an inch closer to the center of the body mass, then the C14 date would increase by about 100 years. This indicates that something probably caused a spatially dependent shift in the experimental C14 dates. And the C14 date to the Middle-Ages contradicts other scientific and archeological dating methods noted above. It contradicts the conclusions of historical investigation which indicates that the Shroud of Turin dates back prior to 944 AD. It contradicts physical evidence that the Shroud could not have been produced in the Middle Ages due to the bizarre characteristics of the image, and it contradicts other evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus. Though multiple hypotheses (contamination, isotopic change, bio-plastic film, invisible reweave, and neutron absorption) have been offered to explain the C14 dating to the Middle Ages, this will remain an area of active research until conclusive evidence is obtained.

The third mystery is related to the blood marks on the Shroud. Most of the blood would have dried on the body by the time that the body was placed into the Shroud in the tomb. Dried blood will not soak into a piece of cloth placed over the blood. In fact, blood that is dried on skin must be scrubbed off of the skin to remove it. Yet the blood marks on the Shroud are not only on the surface of the linen but often soak through it to the other side, and the dried surface of the blood marks on the cloth are pristine in appearance with no cracking or chipping on the outer edge. This indicates that the Shroud was not lifted off of a body from which it had soaked up the blood. So the third mystery is how the dried blood could have transferred from the body to the cloth and produce the blood marks that can be seen on the Shroud.

The conference on the Shroud of Turin in Tri-Cities, Washington, in July of 2017 will present recent research related to these mysteries as well as other issues. It is also intended to help form a basis for future research.

The four photographs below show additional views of the Shroud of Turin. The first photo is a close-up of the face taken by Giuseppe Enrie, who was the official photographer for the exhibition of the Shroud in 1931. This is a negative based on front lighting of the image of the face. The next photo down is a positive of the entire front image based on front lighting. The next photo is a positive of the front image based on rear lighting. And the last photo is a positive of the back (dorsal) image based on rear lighting. The value of these last two photographs is that they indicate that no substance was transferred to the Shroud to form the images since no images can be seen in rear lighting, and that horizontal striations of the linen can be seen that are continuous across the width of the Shroud, including the area near the feet. The horizontal striations are in the Shroud and not in the backing cloth because slight discontinuities in the striations can be seen where the 3-inch wide side strip is sown onto the main piece of the Shroud. These continuous horizontal striations in the linen argue against the possibility that an invisible reweave or patch was made in the area from which the samples were removed in 1988 for the C-14 dating.

Additional research on the Shroud is discussed at RECENT RESEARCH

​All photographs are courtesy of Barrie Schwortz (www.shroud.com).

Below is a slideshow of photographs from the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP). In this research project, 24 to 26 American scientists went to Turin, Italy, in 1978 to do scientific testing on the Shroud of Turin. They were allowed to do hands-on non-destructive testing on the Shroud for five days, 24 hours a day. Their goal was to determine what caused the image, but they concluded that they could not determine what caused the image since it contains no pigment and is not a scorch or photograph. All photographs are courtesy of Barrie Schwortz (www.shroud.com).

Front Image

Back (Dorsal) Image