Here’s a good story………..Turin shroud shows another mystery face
Monday, 12 April 2004
This isn’t the only face on the Shroud of Turin (Image: NASA)
The ghostly image of a man’s face has emerged on the reverse side of the Shroud of Turin, the piece of linen believed to have been wrapped around the body of Jesus after he was crucified, scientists say.
The discovery, using new digital imaging techniques, adds new complexity to one of the most controversial relics in Christendom.
The study, which will be published online ahead of print publication in the Journal of Optics A: Pure and Applied Optics, examined the back surface of the famous handwoven linen.
The front side of the shroud, which carries the smudged outline of the body of a man, has been venerated as proof that Christ was resurrected from the grave, yet dismissed by others as a brilliant medieval fake.
While a multitude of scientists has investigated the front side of the shroud, the back side has remained hidden for centuries beneath a piece of so-called Holland cloth.
Nuns had sewn on the cloth in 1534 to protect the shroud after it had been damaged by fire. And researchers only fully scrutinised the cloth’s back surface in 2002, when the 14-foot-long linen was unstitched from the Holland cloth during a restoration project.
To the naked eye, the back surface of the shroud showed almost nothing, apart from a peculiar stitching that Dr Mechtild Flury-Lemberg, the Swiss textile expert who performed the restoration work, identified as a style seen in the first century AD or before.
The back surface, however, was photographed in detail and the pictures published in a book by Monsignor Giuseppe Ghiberti, one of the Church’s top shroud officials. At the end of the restoration, a new reinforcing cloth was sewn back in place, hiding the shroud’s reverse side once more.
“As I saw the pictures in the book, I was caught by the perception of a faint image on the back surface of the shroud. I thought that perhaps there was much more that wasn’t visible to the naked eye,” said Giulio Fanti, professor of mechanical and thermic measurements at the University of Padua and the study’s lead author.
Imaging the face
Fanti used sophisticated image processing based on direct and inverse Fourier transform, enhancement and template-matching techniques on Ghiberti’s pictures to uncover the image of a man’s face.
Lying behind the known image of the bearded man bearing the marks of crucifixion, the new image had a striking 3-D quality and matched the known face in form, size and position.
“Though the image is very faint, features such as nose, eyes, hair, beard and moustache are clearly visible. There are some slight differences in the known face. For example, the nose on the reverse side shows the same extension of both nostrils, unlike the front side, in which the right nostril is less evident,” Fanti said.
But the enhancing procedure did not uncover the full body image as it appeared on the front side.
“If it does exist, it is masked by the noise of the digital image itself. But we found what it is probably the image of the hands,” Fanti said.
The presence of a face on both sides of the shroud would seem an obvious feature in case of a fake: when making a print onto a cloth, paint soaks the cloth’s fibres and also reaches the back side.
“This is not the case of the shroud. On both sides, the face image is superficial, involving only the outermost linen fibres. When a cross-section of the fabric is made, one extremely superficial image appears above and one below, but there is nothing in the middle. It is extremely difficult to make a fake with these features,” Fanti said.
Shrouded in mystery
Scientific interest in linen cloth began in 1898 when lawyer Secondo Pia photographed it. The negatives showed the image of a bearded man with pierced wrists and feet and a bloodstained head.
In 1988, the Vatican approved carbon-dating tests. Three laboratories in Oxford, Zurich and Tucson, Arizona, concluded the shroud was medieval, dating from 1260 to 1390, and not a burial cloth wrapped around the body of Christ.
But since then a growing sense that the radiocarbon dating might have had substantial flaws has emerged among shroud scholars.
Fanti’s finding matches a hypothesis postulated in 1990 by Dr John Jackson, a U.S. physicist who conducted the first major investigation into the shroud in 1978.
Jackson speculated the presence of a faint image on the back surface of the shroud, only in correspondence to the frontal image.
The history of the cloth has been steeped in mystery. It has survived several blazes since its existence was first recorded in France in 1357, including a mysterious fire at Turin Cathedral in 1997.
The shroud has been kept rolled up in a silver casket and has been on display only five times in the past century. When it last went on display in 2000, more than three million people saw it. The next display will be in 2025.
Tutankhamen’s tomb was awash with red wine, News in Science 23 Mar 2004
World’s oldest burial related to 40,000 years, News in Science 20 Feb 2003
Science gives hope to shroud believers, AM Local Radio 5 Jul 1999
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