The Definitive Shroud of Turin FAQ

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How old is both linen and herringbone weaving?

Pieces of herringbone cloth has been found in the ancient Hallstatt salt mines near present-day Vienna among the mummified remains of a Celtic people dating back about four centuries before Christ. Other herringbone cloth, made from horsehair, has been found in Ireland dating from possibly as early as the arrival of Celtic people on the island around 600 B.C. Besides, herringbone, other complicated twill patterns going back to at least 200 B.C. and probably earlier have been found with mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China.

The oldest known examples are from Northern Italy where a six foot long piece of linen cloth was found with twilling and lozenge patterning that almost certainly dates to the third millennium B.C. Linen, itself, has been around for a very long time.

Bits of Egyptian linen at the British Museum in London and the Bolton Museum in Lancashire are over 6,000 years old. The wrappings from the mummy of Rameses II, the pharaoh of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, are linen, and are still very well preserved. From the Old Testament, we learn that curtains of the Tabernacle were of fine linen. Aaron, the high priest, the scriptures tell us, wore a linen coat and linen miter.

In other words, linen and twill cloth, even herringbone twill, has been around for a long time. We might reasonably suppose that herringbone twill linen was produced in the weaving centers of Alexandria, Antioch, Damascus and in other cities in Hellenistic and Roman antiquity.

Claims from some skeptics that a three-over-one herringbone is too elaborate for Roman Palestine, or that a piece of linen could have lasted 2000 years is historically unsustainable.  

See: Why is the herringbone weave pattern of the cloth historically important? 

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