The Shroud of Turin: Perspectives on a Multifaceted Enigma


August 14 through August 17, 2008           Abstracts of Papers


Analytical Results On Thread Samples Taken From The Raes Sampling Area (Corner) Of The Shroud Cloth by Robert Villarreal with Barrie Schwortz and M. Sue Benford. Saturday, August 16, 10:15 a.m.–10:45 a.m. 

I became involved with the analytical aspect of the Shroud when Ray Rogers asked me for help in conducting certain Shroud image formation studies.  He needed an alpha-particle source to complete investigation of possible image formation processes and some radiochemical calculations on the depth of penetration of an emitted alpha-particle into flax fibers.  I provided him with both and he asked further for X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) measurements on a special sample he termed a “spliced thread” or R1 sample.  The XPS measurements were made and he was quite excited at the results because they indicated the two ends of the thread were not the same and he additionally asked if there were other specialized non-destructive equipment that might be available.   I compiled a list of analytical equipment that seemed appropriate that included: 

  1. 1.      High Resolution Photo-Microscopy; (Warren Steckle) 

  2. 2.      Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) with Reflectance Mode Capability;  (Kevin Hubbard) 

  3. 3.      X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS); (Roland Schulze) 

  4. 4.      Radioisotope and Tube Excited Micro-spot Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry; (George Havrilla and Brian Patterson) 

  5. 5.      *Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS); (Doug Farr) 

  6. 6.      Auger Spectrometry System; (Doug Farr), and 

  7. 7.      *Confocal Raman Spectroscopy (Jon Schoonover and Steve Doorn)          

*Can be minimally destructive 

Before I was able to give him the above compilation, Ray passed away.  Ray repeatedly asserted to me that he was not concerned whether the Shroud was or was not the burial shroud of Jesus, but if a determination was to be made, it must be scientifically correct. 

Based on evidence he had accumulated, Ray was convinced that the material from the Raes (1973) and C-14 (1988) sampling corner (lower left corner of frontal image area) was significantly different from the original Shroud cloth.  After his death, I asked Joan, Ray’s wife, what I should do with the thread sample he had given me for analyses and she said to hold on to it.  About 18 months later, I received a call from Barrie Schwortz inquiring if I had the “spliced thread.”  I asked him if I should proceed to arrange to conduct analyses on the thread with the above instruments and he encouraged me to continue.  After conducting analysis at high vacuum with the ToF-SIMS, the “spliced thread” broke into three distinct pieces; a fuzzy end (Region 1), a tight woven end (Region 2), and a micro-sized circular cocoon-shaped brown crust that seemed to be connecting the two end pieces.  The ToF-SIMS results were the first to show that the spectra from the two ends were similar to cotton rather than linen (flax) and the Spectroscopist recommended that the next analysis should be with the FTIR instrument.  After several scans of individual fibers or strands, the FTIR data showed that the two ends (Region 1 and 2) were definitely cotton and not linen (flax).  The crust appeared to be an organic-based resin, perhaps a terpene species, with cotton as a main sub-component.  After showing  the FTIR data to Barrie Schwortz and Sue Benford, they were quite surprised at the results and decided to send me two other pieces of thread (No. 7 and 14) that were from the same sampling area and that had been in John Brown’s Lab in Marrietta, Georgia.   

The results of the FTIR analysis on all three threads taken from the Raes sampling area (adjacent to the C-14 sampling corner) led to identification of the fibers as cotton and definitely not linen (flax).  Note, that all age dating analyses were conducted on samples taken from this same area.  Apparently, the age-dating process failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case. What was true for the part was most certainly not true for the whole.  This finding is supported by the spectroscopic data provided in this presentation. 

The recommendations that stem from the above analytical study is that a new age dating should be conducted but assuring that the sample analyzed represents the original main shroud image area, i.e. the fibers must be linen (flax) and not cotton or some other material.  It is only then that the age dating will be scientifically correct.


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