Shroud of Turin? Probably Not a Death Shroud of Jesus

The death shroud held by the Vatican and occasionally displayed, commonly known as “The Shroud of Turin,” has long since been demonstrated to be a fraud from antiquity. The provenience is unknown; the cloth dates to the 14th century; the pigments in the “image” are ocher and vermillian (i.e. paint); the facial image is unrealistic for a cloth draped around a skull; etc.

Another death shroud was discovered recently in the Old City of Jerusalem that dates to the alleged time of Jesus and is, apparently, the first shroud from the period found in Jerusalem. Shimon Gibson, the archaeologist involved in the discovery, will be publishing full study results later this year, and I’ll be sure to give the paper a once over, perhaps summarizing it here.

What was significant to those that research the Turin shroud is the nature of the textile itself. The new shroud is a two piece ensemble: a linen head-wrap;  and a wool body wrap. In addition the weave of the newly found shroud was a simple two-way weave, whereas the Turin shroud was a complex twill weave.

Several of the media reports I’ve seen include a headline that suggests that the Turin shroud is not of Jesus’ time, implying that this is a conclusion reached by the archaeologists studying the new find. It certainly renders more unlikely that the Turin shroud is genuine, but this is a conclusion that would be safer to arrive at for the other reasons I mentioned above rather than the style of the cloth. So far, there’s a sample size of one from the period that Jesus was supposed to be alive, and that’s the recent sample. We have only that to go on and it would be scientifically incorrect to compare it with the Shroud of Turin since we don’t know that the new find is typical of death shrouds of the day.

Still, the recent discovery is a remarkable find and I look forward to reading the paper describing it.

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