The Definitive Shroud of Turin FAQ

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What prompted Ray Rogers to re-examine the carbon dating problem?

Another hypothesis was being floated to explain why the carbon dating of the shroud might be wrong. M. Sue Benford and Joe Marino suggested that the sample used in the carbon dating was from a corner of the cloth that had been mended using a technique known as invisible reweaving – an actual technique practiced by medieval tapestry restorers and practiced today by tailors to repair tears in expensive clothing. It was gaining traction among some shroud researchers and on the internet.

Benford and Marino sought out the help of several textile experts who examined documenting photographs of the radiocarbon samples. They found visual evidence of apparent reweaving. Based on estimates from these photographs, and based on a historically plausible date for such repairs, Ronald Hatfield of the radiocarbon dating firm Beta Analytic provided estimates that show that the cloth might be 2000 years old.

These repairs, particularly in the media, are sometimes confused with patches applied to the shroud following the 1532 fire. Those were obvious.  But the reweaving repair was intended to be nearly invisible. Would repairs in 1531 (a plausible date from the historical records) or at any other time, have been so expertly done that that they would have gone unnoticed when the carbon dating samples were cut from the cloth?

Rogers was skeptical.  In fact, he referred to the Benford and Marino as part of the "lunatic fringe of shroud research." According to Philip Ball, writing in Nature Online, “Rogers thought that he would be able to ‘disprove [the] theory in five minutes.’” (brackets are Ball’s). Inside the Vatican, an independent journal on Vatican affairs, reported:

Rogers, who usually viewed attempts to invalidate the 1988 study as ‘ludicrous’ . . . set out to show their [Benford and Marino] claim was wrong, but in the process, he discovered they were correct.

As it turns out, Rogers ended up agreeing with Benford and Marino.


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