A team from the Institute of Crystallography in Bari, Italy, with the support of the National Research Council, led by Liberato De Caro, has published a new study on the dating of the Shroud of Turin which concludes that it is 2,000 year old relic.
The article entitled “X-Ray Dating of a Linen Sample from the Shroud of Turin” was published in the journal Heritage on April 11, 2022. The method used is that of the “Wide Angle X-ray Scattering” or WAXS.
The technique is based on the study of the natural aging of cellulose which can be measured by the aforementioned technique. This is explained in detail by Mr. De Caro during a long interview granted to the National Catholic Register (NCR) on April 19.
The new technique was developed there three years ago. It is used to date samples taken from linen fabrics. It is based on the observation of the gradual breaking of the polymer chains of cellulose over the centuries “due to the combined effect of temperature, humidity, light and the action of chemical agents in the environment in which they are found.”
The method measures the natural aging of flax cellulose and then converts it to time elapsed since its fabrication. It is carried out using the WAXS technique, which was first tested on already dated linen samples.
This technique makes it possible to work on very small samples, which, unlike what happens in carbon-14 dating, are not destroyed by the experiment. Therefore, it can be repeated several time on the same sample.
Application to the Shroud
According to the abstract of the paper, “the dating method was applied to a sample from the Shroud of Turin, consisting of a thread taken in the proximity of the 1988/radiocarbon area (corner of the TS corresponding to the feet area of the frontal image, near the so-called Raes sample).”
“The size of the TS linen sample was approximately 0.5 mm × 1 mm. The data profiles were fully compatible with analogous measurements obtained on a linen sample whose dating, according to historical records, is 55-74 AD, found at Masada, Israel [Herod's famous fortress built on a limestone bedrock overlooking the Dead Sea].”
“The degree of natural aging of the cellulose that constitutes the linen of the investigated sample, obtained by X-ray analysis, showed that the TS fabric is much older than the seven centuries proposed by the 1988 radiocarbon dating.”
“The experimental results are compatible with the hypothesis that the Shroud is a 2000-year-old relic, as supposed by Christian tradition, under the condition that it was kept at suitable levels of average secular temperature…for 13 centuries of unknown history, in addition to the seven centuries of known history in Europe.”
“To make the present result compatible with that of the 1988 radiocarbon test, the TS should have been conserved during its hypothetical seven centuries of life at a secular room temperature very close to the maximum values registered on the earth.”
The article was published after an evaluation by three independent experts and the editor of the journal. The article is presented on the National Research Council website. No doubt, it remains to evaluate the impact of the two fires that affected the relic, especially that of Chambéry during which drops of molten silver fell on the fabric.
In the NCR interview, the Italian researcher remains cautious, especially about the discrepancy with carbon-14 dating. He begins by pointing out that, to be reliable, the latter a very careful cleaning of the fabric must be carried out, because over the centuries, contaminates become lodged in the weft and can skew the results. “If the cleaning procedure of the sample is not thoroughly performed, carbon-14 dating is not reliable.”
Mr. De Caro therefore proposes to make a series of WAXS measurements, carried out by several laboratories, on samples taken from various places in the Shroud. These samples can be very small – at most millimeters.
The researcher therefore turned to the Vatican, which is the owner of the relic, and to the Archdiocese of Turin, which is responsible for its conservation, to authorize the implementation of an analysis protocol. Given the non-destructive nature of the technique, it would undoubtedly be desirable to carry out this new dating.