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The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology [and Comments and Reply]

William Meacham, James E. Alcock, Robert Bucklin, K. O. L. Burridge, John R. Cole, Richard J. Dent, John P. Jackson, Walter C. McCrone, Paul C. Maloney, Marvin M. Mueller, Joe Nickell, Adam J. Otterbein, S. F. Pellicori, Steven Schafersman, Giovanni Tamburelli and Alan D. Whanger
Current Anthropology
Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jun., 1983), pp. 283-311
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2742663
Page Count: 29
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The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology [and Comments and Reply]
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Abstract

The Turin Shroud has generated controversy ever since its first known display in 1353. Appearing under suspicious circumstances in an age of relic worship and forgery, it would long ago have been dismissed but for the unusual body image it bears. Scientific scrutiny of this "burial cloth of Christ" began in 1900 with anatomical studies of the apparent body imprint and its wounds suggesting crucifixion. Medical opinion has been unanimous in describing the imprint as that of a real corpse; historical documents, however, reveal an early and fierce opposition by ecclesiastical authorities who believed the image to be a painting. Direct scientific testing of the cloth since 1973 has involved an array of sophisticated nondestructive methods. It has been shown that the image is not painted; blood substances have been detected in the wound areas, but a technologically credible mechanism of image formation has not yet been established. Pollen from European and Middle Eastern plants has been identified in the cloth. A study of archaeological, anthropological, and art historical features of the image indicates that the Shroud man was Semitic and the victim of a Roman crucifixion. The exact correspondence of the wounds of the Shroud figure with those recorded of Christ cannot be taken as fortuitous, and a number of early forgery and imitation hypotheses are considered. The unique pattern of data present in the Shroud image exhibits a specificity comparable to many other historical/archaeological identifications, and the relic may thus be considered reasonably well established as genuine.

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