Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

The Shroud of Turin

Case File: The Shroud of Turin
Location: Turin, Italy
Date: 1578
Description: A length of linen cloth bearing the negative image of a man. It is believed by some to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ.


History: The Shroud of Turin is one of the most famous Christian artifacts of the Twentieth Century. Believed to contain the face of Jesus Christ, it first turned up in France during the Renaissance period. By 1578, the shroud was moved to Turin, Italy, where it has been rarely shown in public. Father Albert “Kim” Dreisbach, Jr. spent the majority of his career studying the shroud with intentions of declaring it a hoax, but now, several years later, the shroud still manages to mystify him.
The shroud was photographed for the first time in 1898 where negatives gave the best image of the hidden face on the cloth. The photographer’s negatives showed more detail than could be seen by the naked eye. Dr. Robert Bucklin, a forensic pathologist, has examined life-sized photographic negatives of the shroud and discovered a series of bloodstains around the forehead, high in the scalp and along the posterior portion of the scalp. These are consistent with the application of a crown or a cap of thorns. On the chest area, there is a rather unique wound consistent with a puncture-type wound made by an implement which entered the chest cavity and produced an outflow of blood and water. In the region of the left wrist, there is a puncture wound, which was clearly made by some implement, which passed into the tissues of the wrist and produced bleeding. All of these details are consistent with the Crucifixion. Although most crucifixions have been traditionally depicted with nails driven through the palms, modern research has confirmed that at the time of Jesus’ death, nails were driven through the victims’ wrists:
“The Romans did enough of these, sometimes 500 a day, to be excellent anatomists. And like a butcher, they knew where the bones were. They put it in the wrist and it held the body and held it well.” Father Dreisbach adds.
The shroud was made available to a number of scientists for the first time in 1978 who lifted particles from the shroud with adhesive tape. Biophysicist John Heller and chemist Alan Adler also determined that there was blood on the cloth along with chemical evidence of severe torture, consistent with crucifixion. Their findings, however, are not universally accepted. Some scientists, like Dr. Walter McCrone, have claimed that the shroud is a forgery - the work of a highly skilled artist who painted with tiny brush strokes.
In recent times, other scientists have used computer technology to study the shroud. Optical specialist Kevin Moran claimed his computer analysis revealed that the image has unique optical qualities impossible to duplicate that confirm the shroud’s authenticity. In addition to his findings, believers claimed that the absence of brush strokes on the shroud proves it is not a painting. However, skeptics have pointed out that Leonardo da Vinci’s brush strokes were often invisible. In an effort to resolve the controversies surrounding the shroud, the Vatican allowed samples to be cut from its outer edges in 1988.
Three universities were given a tiny piece of linen for carbon dating. Dr. Paul Damon, at the University of Arizona, headed the carbon dating team in the United States. His findings placed the shroud’s origin between 1290 and 1360 A.D., around the time it allegedly first appeared. The Vatican accepted the results of Paul Damon’s carbon dating as carbon dating tests in Switzerland and England confirmed Damon’s findings. The Vatican has refused to allow further testing, but it did approve a major restoration. However, recent findings suggest the carbon dating could be flawed - that only a reweave was tested, but not the true shroud. In addition to that, a fire that occurred in the shroud's past might have altered its carbon signature, making any further carbon dating test invalid.
Background: The complete history of the Shroud of Turin is a bit convoluted, but it is believed to have reached France from Constantinople, where it was known as the Edessa Cloth, and spirited to Europe during the Crusades.
Investigations: None
Extra Notes: This case originally ran on the October 2, 1991 episode. An update to this story aired on September 7, 1994.
Results: Unresolved. Forensic illustrator and anthropologist Dr. Emily Craig believed that she had found a way to re-create the Shroud's distinct qualities. She used "dust drawing" and naturally-occurring pigments. The higher areas, such as the nose, forehead, and cheek, had more pigment than other parts of the face. This prevented any brush strokes from being shown. A textile scientist used computer analysis on Dr. Craig's drawing and showed that the drawing had a similar 3-D attribute as the Shroud.
In 2013, Italian scientists used infrared lighting and spectroscopy to date the shroud between 280 B.C. and 220 A.D. This includes Christ's lifetime, lending credence to it being his shroud. However, in 2018, scientists cast further doubt on the possibility that the shroud was Jesus's burial cloth. Tests done with similar shrouds showed that the bloodstains on the shroud were not consistent with what one would expect from a crucifixion. The stains on the shroud also contradicted with each other; for example, one stain was consistent with someone standing with their arms held at a 45-degree angle, while another matched a person standing with their arms held nearly vertically. Most modern scientists now agree that the shroud is a fake; however, others are still convinced that it was Jesus's burial cloth.
Father Dreisbach passed away in 2006 at the age of seventy-two.