Originally created 09/22/99

Father Dreisback: After 21 years, image of Shroud remains mystery

(Editor's note: The author, the Father Albert R. Dreisback Jr., is executive director of the Atlanta International Committee for the Continuing Study of the Shroud of Turin.)

ALAS, LETTER writer Kenneth L. Towe's attempt (Aug. 23) to point out the Turin Shroud's "inconsistency" in truth does nothing more than reveal Mr. Towe's own lack of knowledge about this linen burial wrap which has undergone scientific investigation by scientists from such prestigious institutions as Los Alamos, Sandia, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the New England Institute of Medicine -- all of whom have published their results in peer reviewed journals.

Mr. Towe should have done his own "research" before attempting his flawed "rebuttal." Had he done so, he would have quickly discovered that even Dr. Michael Tite, then of the British Museum which was the guarantor of the 1988 Carbon-14 testing results, stated that the shroud was not a painting but the image of a real human corpse -- in Dr. Tite's opinion -- the victim of a medieval "custom crucifixion" based on the biblical account.

Those scientists who have studied the linen since 1978, contrary to Mr. Towe's claim, have not "continually ignored the undistorted nature of the facial image on the shroud." Rather, having discovered that there is no paint, pigment, chalk, acid or binder responsible for the image, that there are neither brush strokes nor directionality expected in a painting and that the image is strictly a surface phenomenon which does not penetrate the cloth but is limited to one or two of the topmost fibrils, both empirical scientists and professional artists are agreed that the shroud is not a painting.

IN TRUTH, after 21 years of rigorous analysis science cannot tell us what is responsible for the image of the Man of the Shroud. They do know that the image is "projected" perpendicularly from the ventral and dorsal portions of the body. There are no side images so the mechanism did not "radiate" a full 360 degrees around the body. Science can tell us what the image is, but not how it was formed. In truth, the image is the result of accelerated cellular degradation, dehydration with oxidation and conjugation of the fibrils. The key words are accelerated and dehydration. Thus it happened very quickly (i.e. at a nano second) and -- like a linen table cloth on which an iron has been left too long -- the dehydration of the upper fibril(s) produces the sepia-like color of the image.

Since 1979, when Dr. Giles Carter suggested some form of low-level radiation as the casual factor, scientists have theorized that the mechanism is some kind of autoradiograph (i.e. an X-ray produced by the body itself). Recent photographs by Dr. Alan Whanger of Duke University reveal even skeletal bones of the hand and skull as well as teeth.

WHEN ALL IS said and done, the "problem" is not the "inconsistency" cited by Mr. Towe, but rather his own lack of knowledge of the subject.