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Carbon Dating in 1988 

Cutting the Shroud of Turin for carbon datingIt happened in 1988. The Shroud of Turin was carbon dated. After the results had been leaked, twenty-one scientists from the University of Oxford, the University of Arizona, the Institut für Mittelenergiephysik in Zurich, Columbia University, and the British Museum wrote in a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature in 1989:

The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of AD 1260 - 1390 (rounded down/up to nearest 10 yr). These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval. How can anyone argue with this? The radiocarbon measurements were done, not at one laboratory, but at three highly regarded institutions. The authors are emphatic. The results provide not just evidence but conclusive evidence. Does this not suffice to answer the students’ questions?

Craziness ensued. One explanation after another was offered. Finally Ray Rogers, who had accepted the carbon dating, decided to disprove a crazy explanation from what he called the lunatic fringe. The crazy idea was that the Shroud had been mended and the samples were from that mending job. What Rogers discovered was that the crazy idea seemed to be right. He concluded that the sample used for carbon dating was not representative of the cloth. It was chemically different. Moreover, one of the chemical differences, the amount of vanillin, provided a new clue about the cloth’s age. Samples from the main part of the cloth, unlike the carbon 14 sample area, did not contain any vanillin. If the shroud was only as old as the radiocarbon date, it would have plentiful vanillin.  The Shroud was at least twice as old. It might be 2000 years old. After a lengthy peer review process, his findings that the carbon dating was wholly invalid were published in the scientific journal Thermochimica Acta.

Rogers' published work showing that the carbon dating is invalid has been confirmed by John L Brown, a forensic materials specialist at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia and by Robert Villarreal and a team of nine scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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