The Shroud Re-Created by Linen Bleaching
Commentary by Steven Schafersman
February 28, 2005
Revisions: March 7, 2005; March 11, 2005
I have received word that the Shroud has been re-created by a method compatible with early 14th century technology and artistic method, just as Walter McCrone, Joe Nickell, and I have maintained since the early 1980s. This re-creation will be published in the March, 2005, Books and Culture magazine. The details of the re-creation can be learned by visiting the ShadowShroud website at http://www.shadowshroud.com. I had assumed that the re-created Shroud would have all the necessary attributes of the Shroud of Turin: sepia-colored cloth, false photonegative and 3-D encoding properties, pale and ghostly red image, bright red blood rivulets, authentic-looking scourge and puncture markings, distortion-free image of a scoured, crucified, and then-dead Jesus, abundant red ochre pigment particles in the image and blood areas, etc. It indeed has some of these, but not all, because the method used to re-created the Shroud differs from what I expected.
The re-creator, N. D. Wilson, did not use either the Nickell bas-relief or McCrone painting methods--both using red ochre pigment--as I hoped he would. Instead, he and his collaborators used a very simple bleaching method. Wilson asked an artist to paint a sheet of glass with an image of Jesus's face using oil paint, placed the glass over a linen cloth, and allowed the sun's rays to bleach the linen around the painting, thus lightening it, and leaving a superficially life-like, dark, and photonegative image of the original painting. A negative of the photonegative image on the linen produces a positive, just as with the Shroud of Turin, and this is illustrated. The results are remarkably similar to the Turin Shroud, for the re-creation has both the photonegative and 3-D encoding properties that the Turin Shroud possesses. Wilson used image analysis software (which today is commonly available) to produce a 3-D topographic image from their positive image on the linen. The photonegative image, positive image (negative of the negative), and 3-D topographic image are remarkable similar to the respective images of the original Shroud of Turin, and all are clearly illustrated on the ShadowShroud site.
The only problem is that Wilson claims that his method produces a "true photonegative," but--to the contrary--it certainly does not. However, neither did the method used by the original artist to create the Shroud of Turin, which is why the ShadowShroud re-creation is so similar. Instead, as with the Shroud of Turin, the result is a faux or false photonegative, with the beard, hair, and moustache all black (or dark) on it, and all white (or light) on the corresponding positive; obviously, they should be dark if the positive was from a "true photonegative." Jesus was not an albino, no matter what skeletal defects he may have had.
Similarly, the topographically-higher parts of the face--the forehead, chin, cheekbones, beard, moustache, hair, etc.--are lighter than the other parts on the positive, thus giving the image of the re-creation a remarkably life-like appearance and the density gradients necessary to produce a respectable three-dimensional topographic image using appropriate software, just as with the Turin Shroud. It is obvious, from observing the photograph of the original oil painting on glass, that the artist painted the topographically-higher parts of the face with a thicker or more opaque application of oil paint, as any artist would to give the image a life-like appearance. Consequently, the evidence of artifice is readily apparent in the re-creation, just as it is with the original Shroud of Turin.
The ShadowShroud image is not a true photonegative, so a negative of it produces an un-lifelike photopositive; but since this is precisely the case with the Turin Shroud, the result is indeed remarkably similar, just as claimed. Also, both the ShadowShroud and Turin Shroud possess the "3-D encoding" thought to be so unusual and even miraculous by Shroud enthusiasts, but which in reality is merely caused by density gradations in applied pigment (oil paint in the case of ShadowShroud, red ochre in a tempera binder in the case of the Turin Shroud). Obviously, the ShadowShroud re-creation could have possessed other Turin Shroud features if desired: bright red blood rivulets (painted directly on the image, as is the case with the original Shroud), authentic-looking scourge and puncture markings (easily reproduced with proper artistic knowledge and craft), etc. The ShadowShroud image does not reveal the red ochre/iron oxide pigment particles on the linen fibers, as does the Turin Shroud, but then why should it? It was created by a different method. I applaud the effort of N. D. Wilson and his collaborators to artistically reproduce the image of the Shroud of Turin, by which they show how easy it is to create a reasonable facsimile.
I have always thought that the Shroud of Turin would be very easy to re-create, but no one has attempted it because either (1) it would reveal the ease of reproducing a Shroud of Turin and thus serve to debunk the magic and mystery that the current Shroud is claimed to possess, or (2) the evidence that already exists that the Shroud is an artifact is so overwhelming that it isn't worth anyone's time and expense to reproduce it. No. 2 is certainly my reason for not making a Shroud. So far, no one has indeed taken the time and expense to duplicate it exactly, but the ShadowShroud effort is nevertheless a worthy accomplishment.
After the above was posted, Nate D. Wilson contacted me by email to explain that he meant that his positive image was a "true photonegative" of his bleached cloth re-created negative Shroud image, not that the image on the bleached cloth was a true photonegative. In this he is correct, and I thank him for clarifying the matter.
I emphasized the alleged photonegative aspect of a Shroud image because the Shroud authenticity advocates insist that the Turin Shroud is a true photonegative--a historical anomaly--that suggests it is unprecedented or miraculous, when in fact it is nothing of the kind. The well-known final positive image of the Turin Shroud and now Wilson's re-created positive image are manifestly not true photopositives, even though they are both true photonegatives of their respective original negative images, because the original images are not true photonegatives. The Shroud face in a positive image looks remarkably lifelike, but the resemblance is superficial. The image is not only monochromatic, like a photo of a human face in shadow or a dark room, but the shading of features is unrealistic (dark hair is light, etc.), because the image was not reproduced by a photographic process, but by an artistic one. Thus Wilson's method accurately reproduces the Shroud image because his method uses artifice, not photography, exactly as the Shroud was produced.
Aaron Rench sent me his news story from http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43062 about ShadowShroud:
Surprising new study on Shroud of Turin
By Aaron Rench
Saturday, February 26, 2005
MOSCOW, Idaho -- The Shroud of Turin has long baffled scientists and scholars, Christians and skeptics for over seven centuries. The cloth bears a photonegative image of a man crucified and is thought by many to be the miraculously preserved burial cloth of Christ. Over the years, skeptics have been unable to convincingly demonstrate how any medieval forger could have produced such an image.
N.D. Wilson, a fellow of literature at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho, believes that he has done just that.
"The Shroud has always been particularly mysterious because the image is both three-dimensional and a photonegative," Wilson says. "Artists are simply not able to produce images like that on their own, and so many conclude the Shroud is an authentic relic of Christ's resurrection. What I've done is demonstrate how easy it could have been for a medieval to create a three-dimensional photonegative."
Wilson, who describes his experiment in an article published in Books and Culture, (March/April, 2005) as well as on his website <http://shadowshroud.com> , began his experiment by painting faces on glass. The painted panes of glass were then set on top of linen and left in the sun for various lengths of time. Dr. Scott Minnich, a microbiologist well-known in Intelligent Design circles, provided Wilson with scientific advice on structuring his experiment. Minnich was not expecting the results the experiment produced.
"The success of these experiments was a surprise to me," Minnich said. "And as Nate [Wilson] aptly concludes in his paper, it doesn't disprove the Shroud's authenticity. However, it does show an alternative hypothesis for its making that has not been considered to my knowledge. And I don't think he goes beyond the data in his interpretation."
Commenting on Wilson's lack of scientific credentials, Minnich said, "It is the irony of science that often someone out of the mainstream shoots an outside shot with such accuracy."
Though the images Wilson produced look remarkably similar to the Shroud of Turin, he does not believe he has proved the relic to be a fraud.
"I believe it to have been faked. But that's not something I can prove," he said. "What I have demonstrated is that in order to produce an image like the one on the Shroud, nothing more is required than the cloth itself, and a painting on glass. All things available to a medieval. A forger would have three-dimensionally encoded a photonegative onto cloth, without even being aware of the completeness of his art, or for how long he would be confusing the rest of us."
Antonio Lombatti, a fellow researcher of medieval church history at the Deputazione di Storia Patria in Parma, Italy, was quite interested in Wilson's findings.
"I am eager to examine his results under the microscope to check the chemical properties of his shroud. What I really find interesting about Wilson's experiment is that his shroud has encoded 3D data even if it was not produced with a real face or a bas-relief."
Wilson said that his faith has surprised people: "I'm a Trinitarian Christian. I believe in the Resurrection and all that it means for this world. Either the Shroud is genuine or, as I believe, it is a lie about a great truth. I think Christians should want to see religious fraud exposed wherever we can find it."
Scientists from around the world have already begun requesting samples of Wilson's shrouds. When asked if he would distribute samples from his experiments, Wilson was unsure.
I haven't thought that far ahead."
Steven D. Schafersman at infoATfreeinquiry.com (substitute @ for AT before mailing) Skeptical Shroud of Turin Website at http://www.skeptic.ws/shroud/ Last updated: 2005/03/11