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Tuesday, August 3, 1999 Published at 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK


Plants shed light on Turin Shroud

Carbon dating suggested the shroud could only be 700 years old

The Shroud of Turin could genuinely be the burial cloth of Jesus, according to analysis of pollen grains taken from the controversial relic.

The finding is likely to reignite a long-running debate over the age of the yellowing linen sheet - which bears the ghostly image of a bearded crucified man.

The BBC's Toby Murcott: Professor Danin's claims fly in the face of radiocarbon evidence
Radiocarbon analysis carried out a decade ago suggested that the shroud dated back only as far as the 13th or 14th Century.

Scientists maintained that those findings proved that the cloth, which has been held in the Italian city of Turin since 1578, was a medieval fake.

The latest research lends support to those who believe the shroud was used to wrap Jesus's body after his crucifixion.

Professor Avinoam Danin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said an examination of pollen traces and floral imprints suggested that they could only have come from plants growing in a restricted area around Jerusalem and could date back to Jesus's time.

[ image: Blood stains have been linked to those on Jesus's supposed face cloth]
Blood stains have been linked to those on Jesus's supposed face cloth
He said: "This combination of flowers can be found in only one region of the world. The evidence clearly points to a floral grouping from the area surrounding Jerusalem."

The pollen grains were collected from the shroud some years ago.

His researchers also said a type of pollen from a thistle visible near the shoulder of the man's image on the shroud was believed to have come from the plant used for Jesus's crown of thorns.

Two pollen grains of this same species were also found on the another relic, the Sudarium of Oviedo, which is widely believed to have been Jesus's face cloth at his burial.

That has been traced back to the 1st Century.

Blood link

Professor Danin told the International Botanical Congress in St Louis, in the US, that blood stains on the shroud were similar to those on the Sudarium.

"There is no way that similar patterns of blood stains, probably of the identical blood type, with the same type of pollen grains, could not be synchronic - covering the same body," he said.

"The pollen association and the similarities in the blood stains in the two cloths provide clear evidence that the shroud originated before the 8th Century."

However independent research carried out in the US has found no evidence of blood on the shroud - ruling out the link between it and the Sudarium, according to BBC Science's Toby Murcott.

Critics say 1989's carbon dating analysis - which showed the shroud could be no more than 700 years old - remains the most compelling evidence of the shroud's age.

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Internet Links

Turin Cathedral: The Shroud

Turin Shroud: Scientific papers

Turin Shroud education project

International Botanical Congress, St Louis

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