Carbon dating of the shroud

Philip Ball, the former physical science editor for Nature when the carbon dating results were published, recently wrote: “It’s fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever.” If we wish to be scientific we must admit we do not know how old the cloth is.

But if the newer thread is about half of what was tested – and some evidence suggests that – it is possible that the cloth is from the time of Christ.

Maybe it would also pinpoint a more precise date within or outside of the 1260-1390 period.

Those of us who stick to the presumption of the 1988 dating standing do so a) because in relation to the three possible alternatives, a swapping over of samples by the Cardinal and Tite, some form of contamination ( many different contaminants, soot, sweat, carbon monoxide suggested) or an invisible rewoven patch selected as the sample, critics of the testing disagree so violently among themselves – e.g see Antonacci’s critique of Raymond Rogers’ 2005 paper- that the independent observer cannot be convinced that a single clear refutation of the 1988 testing has been proposed by the critics b) There is not a hint in any of these critiques that resolution of the problems proposed would lead to a radio-carbon 14 dating in the first century.

I don’t think any of us should have anything to fear by a redo, certainly not if our goal is the truth.

This time, however, carbon dating must be done correctly and with complete transparency.

Sue Benford and Joe Marina, from Ohio, suspected the 1988 sample was from a damaged section of the linen shroud repaired in the 16th century after being damaged in a fire.

Rogers said: "I was irritated and determined to prove Sue and Joe wrong."However, when he came to examine threads taken in 1978 - luckily from the same section as the 1988 sample - he found cotton in them.

Even the famous Atheist Richard Dawkins admits it is controversial.

Dan I am sure that you would support, and I hope make strong moves to use your influence, to campaign for a new radio-carbon -14 dating.

After all, in the past twenty-five years r-c dating has become more scientifically accurate and it should be able to avoid the criticisms of the 1988 dating.

Sampling, chemical analysis, cleaning and testing protocols must be developed by knowledgeable representatives of various constituencies including radiocarbon dating scientists, archaeologists who have studied the shroud, chemists with special competence in flax and other materials that may be present on the cloth, ancient textile experts, the owners and/or custodians (Vatican/Archdiocese of Turin).

The protocol must be widely published in detail well in advance of the testing.

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