While many Christians revere the Shroud of Turin to be the burial linen of Jesus Christ, a recent study conducted by scientists at a public university in Italy suggests that the cloth's unique image was created by neutron emissions from an earthquake that occurred around the time of Jesus' death.
Italian scientist Alberto Carpinteri led a group of scientists at the Politecnico di Torino University in Torino, Italy, in their study, recently publishing their findings in the journal Meccanica. In their abstract statement, Carpinteri and his colleagues suggest that neutron emissions from an earthquake caused the image on the shroud to look like Jesus' face.
The scientists also suggest that the emissions could have caused a change in the shroud's radiocarbon levels, therefore inaccurately dating it, as the shroud was once accused of being a forgery from the medieval times.
"The authors consider the possibility that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on Shroud linen fibers, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and provided a wrong radiocarbon dating due to an increment in [Carbon-14 isotope] content," the study's abstract, published in the journal Meccanica, reads.
Carpinteri and his team reportedly simulated an earthquake by crushing brittle rock segments in a pressure machine, and found that the combination of nitrogen atoms and linen fibers caused a chemical reaction that created a distinct face image in the piece of cloth.
In 1988, radiocarbon image dating done on the shroud at Oxford University indicated it was only 728 years old, thus causing scientists to suggest that the piece of linen was actually a forgery from the medieval times. Carpinteri's most recent study explains that the emissions, along with creating the facial image, could have also caused the cloth to be inaccurately dated. The radiation on the shroud caused by the earthquake would have given the cloth an artificially youthful age when carbon -14 testing was done on it in 1988. Additionally, the study argues that there was in fact an 8.2 earthquake in Jerusalem in 33 a.d.
"Moreover, if we assign the image imprinted on the Shroud to the Man who died during the Passover of 33 a.d., there are at least three documents in the literature attesting the occurrence of disastrous earthquakes during that event," the authors of the study argue.
Some have denounced the scientists' recent study, however, arguing that if the shroud was affected by radiation, why haven't other archaeological and geological material from the same area sustained the same affect.
"It would have to be a really local effect not to be measurable elsewhere," Gordon Cook, a professor of environmental geochemistry at the University of Glasgow, told Live Science, which reported on the recent study's findings. "People have been measuring materials of that age for decades now and nobody has ever encountered this."
Cook said that believing in the Shroud of Turin is due in large part to faith, adding: "If you want to believe in the Shroud of Turin, you believe in it."