"Restoration" Notes Part II

Shroud Material Lost

One of the most reprehensible aspects of the recent so-called "restoration" of the Shroud was the unnecessary removal of intact Shroud fabric, and the totally inadequate collection strategy not only for this material but for all dust and other debris that was removed.

The reasons that have been advanced for this horrific "restoration," namely that the charred material and carbon dust posed some kind of chemical threat to the rest of the cloth, are patently and demonstrably false, as Ray Rogers has shown so clearly. Regardless of the false premise on which the "restoration" was based, the removal of ANY material from the Shroud, whether it be carbon dust or charred fabric or other debris, without the strictest of scientific controls constitutes an act of vandalism. The controls and sampling strategies that were employed by the Commission members were amateurish and the resultant samples virtually useless. This is not excused by the well-intentioned motivations of those involved, any more than damage to an archaeological site or ancient artifact can be excused on similar grounds of good intentions coupled with ignorance.

The pulverization of intact though charred Shroud fabric is even worse, and has to be condemned in the strongest terms. The claims by Commission members that "everything was kept" and "nothing was cut away from the Shroud" are half-truths that mask the reality. Poor sampling strategy can render samples invalid, and this is precisely what has happened in the areas altered by the restorers.

Furthermore, the intact cloth which was scraped away and pulverized by the restorers was rendered almost useless for C14 dating. If this material had been properly collected, valid C14 dates from more than ten different sites on the cloth could have been obtained and would be available right now! As it is, the pulverized material sits in little glass bottles in the Archbishopric’s safe, and is of scant use to anyone for research purposes.

The tragedy of this situation is that there was a wonderful opportunity to subject the entire proposed operation to peer review at the "worldwide symposium of experts" organized by the Turin Archdiocese at Villa Gualino in March 2000. Flury-Lemberg told me on the telephone in August 2002 that the removal of the patches and backing cloth had been under consideration by the Commission for a long time. Ghiberti states the same in his book in "Sindone le imagine 2002 Shroud images" although there is also the strong implication that the decision to proceed with the intervention was made as a snap judgement after the official photographs of 2000 (presumably those taken in September during the first scanning of the underside) revealed the extent of dust and "residues" between the Shroud and its backing cloth. Commission members present at the Villa Gualino symposium were: Adler, Baima, Barberis, Dietz, Flury-Lemberg, Ghiberti, Savarino, Scannerini, Soardo. Yet in no session was there any mention or even hint of the intervention which was under consideration.

The fact that this "restoration" went ahead on the false assumption that the charred areas posed some kind of threat to the rest of the cloth is due entirely to the lack of consultation with experts. Had there been such consultation, there would have been no "restoration," at least not in the form it took and not for the reasons that were given. And if there had been a peer review of the operation beforehand, a proper sampling strategy would of necessity have been drawn up.

From what I can gather, and surmise, all the aspirated materials were stored by patch/burn hole area, plus the four areas of so-called "poker holes." The reason I think so is as follows: 30 patches were removed, and the four areas of poker holes were worked over. The scraping and aspirating seems to have focused on these areas. Ghiberti said on Italian TV on Sept. 21 (and this just happens to be in the short video clip I have on my website www.hku.hk/hkprehis/shrdvid2.htm): "We saved all this [removed] material ... we have more than 30 small glass containers." I take this to mean less than 40, so it would appear to be the 30 patch areas plus 4 poker hole areas. I would of course welcome correction on this point, or indeed any point in this paper. I expect there are mistakes since the information we have to work with at the moment is very skimpy indeed.

Presumably material from the front and back of the cloth were lumped together for each patch area, and no other subdivision was made, as for example between the area which had been covered by the patch and that which was already exposed. Loose adventitious material and scraped carbonized fabric appear to have been collected together. And there do not appear to have been any subdivisions within each burnhole area; each one should at the MINIMUM have been divided into quadrants, both front and back. Sampled properly there should thus have been 30 x 4 x 2 or 240 collection units for the patch areas alone, plus at least one for each of the small holes in the poker hole sets, also separating front and back, so another 60. Special collection units should have been made for any area of the image side covered by a patch and thus protected since 1534, plus any area where image or bloodstain intersected the edge of the burnhole. The total number of collection units should have been 400-500 rather than 30 odd. In sum, the sampling was a disaster. I made this point to Savarino in September in Turin but he seemed puzzled as to why it was faulty.

Of course none of the charred fabric material should have been removed in the first place; the only justifiable removal was the dust and loose debris that could be aspirated without scraping. But if any intact fabric was going to be removed, it should have been done in a way that preserved the structure of the fabric and thus the utility of the material for scientific study, especially for C14 dating. It was absolutely horrifying to discover that intact segments between or around the edges of burn holes were been removed. Ghiberti says in Sindone le imagine 2002 Shroud images that:

"Cutting away the charred parts to get back to the undamaged cloth would have produced an unnatural and devastating effect. It was decided to use tweezers to remove material which tended to give way when pulled and to reach the brownish borders ..."

Firstly, this description does not agree with the photographic evidence, since at the private briefing on Sept. 20 in Turin, a slide was shown of a scraping tool lying beside a pile of tiny, sand-sized bits of chewed up fabric in front of the "brownish border" which had become the new man-made edge of the burn hole. This left me aghast and yes, the effect was "devastating." This was a technique I had used for cleaning corroded coins, scraping away the corrosion product until the solid metal was reached. But to do this to the Shroud, as if the charred material was merely dirt or accumulation to be scraped off ??? Then on Italian TV the next day a short documentary on the "restoration" included a 3-second shot of the scraping being done with a sharp-edged tool on one of the burn holes. It was quite violent and clearly not the gentle tugging one imagines when reading Ghiberti’s account. It is also crystal clear that this material was not "about to fall off" as Flury-Lemberg is reported to have said. This was an aggressive operation aimed at removing the charred fabric which presumably was brittle and crumbled under the pressure of a scaping tool.

Secondly, and most regrettably, the decision on how the material would be removed was made for cosmetic rather than scientific objectives, most probably without realizing the damage being done. Ghiberti states the Commission was worried about the "devastating effect" of how cut edges would look. It is unbelievable that such a consideration took precedence over scientific aspects. If they were keen on the "frayed look," that could have been done after the segment was cut away. But to treat the Shroud as if it was a pair of blue jeans??? This ignorance of basic sampling strategy can only be explained by the lack of consultation and the lack of expertise on the Commission for Conservation. It would have been INFINITELY preferable to have cut away the small segments intact instead of pulverizing them, for several reasons. In the form of powder and tiny bits of material, it is impossible to examine the structure of the weave and determine the extent to which it might have embedded contaminants. Pretreatment and cleansing by the C14 labs have been compromised by reducing the material to fluff. In addition, even a segment as small as 0.25 sq cm would still retain idiosyncracies and could be identified in the record photomicrographs taken (one would hope) before its removal, so that provenance could always be independently re-established. As it stands now, a little vial of powdered carbonized fabric could come from anywhere, and the fact that it has the Archbishopric seal on it does not carry any weight scientifically. For all the vial samples, the chain of evidence is broken and the samples are certainly useless as primary C14 samples. If they were to be used and a date came back of 1st century or anything significantly earlier than 1000 AD, people would certainly cry foul and claim tampering, just as Bro. Bruno did with Tite's handling of the 1988 C14 sampling.

Exactly how much intact Shroud material has been lost in the "restoration" is very difficult to establish, even with the large and very nice ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of the full-length Shroud taken from the same position and to the same scale, as published in the aforementioned Sindone le imagine 2002 Shroud images and the companion book Shroud images 2000. Most of the scraping took place in areas formerly covered by the patches. Using the X-rays taken by William Mottern in 1978, I made several attempts to match the shapes of the burn holes before and after the "restoration" only to find that this was virtually impossible, even assuming some expansion of the holes due to scraping. If the sizes matched, the shapes did not, and vice-versa; the alignments were often different as well. As Barrie Schwortz has been at pains to point out, mechanically reproduced photographs have very limited value for detailed studies of this type. In addition, for wide shots of the full length Shroud, even spread over three slides, there is bound to be distortion depending on the distance from and angle to the lens of the camera. I understand that the X-rays were actual size "contact prints," as it were, so these should not suffer the same distortion problem. Clearly, when higher resolution digital scans are available of the new-look Shroud, a much more accurate measurement can be made of the amount of material scraped away. But this is akin to measuring the volume of spilt milk.

The above considerations notwithstanding, and at the risk of seeming to bewail the aforementioned milk, I have made a VERY ROUGH estimation of the material removed by scraping in the worst affected areas. An assumption is that there was negligible loss to abrasion since 1978 when the X-rays were made; this assumption is supported by reference to all the visible areas outside the patches, where no loss can be seen with the naked eye. While alignments, sizes and shapes did not correspond between the 1978 X-rays, the 2000 photos and the 2002 photos, in several cases it was possible first to reduce the patch in the X-ray to its size in the 2000 photo, and then overlay the exact area in the 2002 photos, corresponding to where the patch had been, by aligning scorch marks, water stains and other features. This would give a good idea of where scraping had occurred. In other cases, it was clear from the new shape of the burn hole that scraping had been done at certain points. These are indicated on the figures below, along with a rough estimate of the amount in square centimeters of Shroud material lost.

For comparison, it needs to be borne in mind that, before a small strip of about 8.1 x 1.6 cm was finally allowed to be cut for C14 dating in 1988, there were several years of discussion and dispute, and a formal 3-day Consultation for C14 Dating the Shroud was organized in 1986 by the Archbishop of Turin and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, attended by 22 scientists and scholars, including me. The 1988 samples given to each lab were about 2 sq cm or 48 mg of cloth, representing final pure carbon of about 15 mg after pretreatment (a ratio of 31% carbon yield for linen has been reported). Even at that time, this was enough sample for quite a number of C14 measurements, depending on how rigorous the pretreatment was. In the 1986 Consultation, the minimum Shroud sample size for AMS dating was agreed amongst the AMS lab representatives at 0.6 sq cm or 15 mg of cloth, yielding 5 mg final carbon. AMS labs now routinely date samples of 1mg final carbon, corresponding to a Shroud sample of only 0.125 sq cm ! This is an amazingly small amount, even smaller than an average watermelon seed. It is about the size of a capital ‘D’ in 10 point type. To see for yourself: draw a 1 x 1 cm square, bisect it horizontally, vertically and diagonally both ways. Each section is one eighth of a sq cm. When one recalls the unsuccessful struggle over the last 14 years to obtain a second C14 run on a different part of the Shroud, and when the minuscule amount of material needed for that measurement is compared with the enormous amount wasted in this "restoration," the situation can only be described as comical and absurd.

The illustrations below concern only the areas where more than 1 sq cm of cloth was removed. There are quite a few more areas where the amount removed is between 0.2 and 1 sq cm. It is of course true that some of this material was charred and would have less mass than uncharred cloth, but a similar end product is produced after pretreatment of radiocarbon samples, reducing them to pure carbon. There was certainly enough material scraped away to have conducted DOZENS AND DOZENS of radiocarbon dates from TEN to TWENTY different points on the cloth, if the material had been collected properly.

It should be noted parenthetically that all of these sites where material was scraped away consist of charred or carbonized material, and it would be highly desirable to have at least two additional samples from completely uncharred and unscorched pristine areas, as a control against any possible impact from the 1532 fire on the C14 content. In this way, all of the various doubts and criticisms of the 1988 C14 test can be dealt with -- all for the price of about this much additional Shroud material : D D

Ceterum, sindon carbone recomputanda est !

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Note: Solid lines or photocopies are the new "restoration" edges; dotted lines represent the former edges.

[sketch of material lost at side wound] There are two segments formerly outside the patches that were removed. One of these, between the patches at the side wound, is seen in Part I in 'before' and 'after' photographs. The X-ray reveals that some material under the adjacent patches was also scraped away. The total amount of material removed is estimated at 3 sq cm.

[xray of patches at side wound]

[sketch of material lost opp. side wound] The other segment visible in the pre-"restoration" Shroud but now gone is laterally across from the side wound. The X-ray shows quite a lot of material was removed not only between the smaller holes and the large one, but all around as well. Estimated material removed is 4.5 sq cm.

[xray of patches opp. side wound]

Two burn holes were joined under the large patch on the dorsal image, by scraping away a segment. Amount of material removed was ca. 2.5 sq cm.

[location of material lost under large dorsal patch] [sketch of material lost under large dorsal patch]

[xray of large dorsal patch]

The holes under these dorsal patches were expanded by a total of about 2.5 sq cm.

[xray of other dorsal patches]

[xc of other dorsal holes]

These holes diagonally across from the C14 area were expanded by about 3 sq cm in total.

[xray of ventral patches]

[xc of ventral holes]

Petition to the Pope

A petition is being drawn up to Pope John Paul II arising out of the controversial alterations made to the Shroud last summer. The text of the petition is given below, followed by instructions for those who wish to sign the petition.

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In the light of recent alterations to the Shroud of Turin, we the undersigned are deeply concerned about the future scientific study of this precious object treasured by many people all over the world.

We request that Your Holiness consider appointing an international commission of respected scientists and other knowledgeable persons, to advise on all matters relevant to the Shroud's conservation, scientific testing and long-term preservation as an object of study.

Such a commission would, we hope, also include representatives of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Vatican Museum, and the Pontifical Commission for the Heritage of the Church.

We request further that the commission operate on the basis of peer-review prior to recommendation of any proposal, that it invite public comments on matters before it, and that its deliberations be published regularly.

We believe that the appointment of such a commission will contribute significantly to progress in our understanding of this fascinating object.

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If you want to support this petition, you may do so by sending your NAME and AFFILIATION or RESEARCH INTEREST to the address indicated below. If you wish to make COMMENTS on the recent alterations to the Shroud, these will be included under your name in the final petition that is sent to the Vatican. All comments will be kept confidential. Unless specifically requested otherwise, names of signatories to the petition will be made public.


Philippe Bourcier de Carbon
Rev. Alberrt R. 'Kim' Dreisbach
Paul Maloney
Emanuela Marinelli
William Meacham

To reply, please send an email to the following address:
       wmeacham at hkucc dot hku dot zt
substituting the appropriate symbols, @ for at and . for dot, and changing zt to hk

Return to Part I