This page was created as a result of a conversation I had with Michael Martin in rec.music.christian. I mentioned a page I'd discovered some time ago which conclusively demonstrated that the image on the Shroud of Turin could not be that of an actual human being. Of course, when I went to find it again, I couldn't. Fortunately, the information it presented was very simple and available to all, so I decided to make my own version.
Yes, I said simple. The secret to the Shroud's authenticity lies not in carbon dating or chemical analysis, but in the image itself. It is quite simply not an image of a human being. Not an accurate one, anyway.
The human body has certain proportions which remain constant. One of these is the position of the eyes. As you can learn in any basic drawing lesson, the eyes of an adult human are positioned almost exactly in the center of the head. We get the impression that they are much higher due to the amount of attention we give to the lower half of the face, which includes important features such as the mouth.
This impression sometimes finds its way into artistic portrayals of the human form. Sometimes it's done intentionally, and sometimes it's simply the result of ignorance of human anatomy. The image on the Shroud of Turin is one of those portrayals. The distances marked by the arrows on the negative of the Shroud at left are equal. As you can see, the eyes of the face are not centered in the head. They are approximately 2/3rds of the way up, where the brows should be. The head would have to be quite a bit taller (as indicated by the top line) for the proportions to be correct.
As it is, the cranium of the person depicted in the Shroud would have to be abnormally small. I'll leave the obvious jokes at the expense of Christians as an exercise for the reader.
Let's compare this to a real human face, in this case, the lovely mug of one of my favorite actresses, Veronica Lake. Perfect. While some of that perfection can be attributed to Max Factor, his art did not extend to the skeletal structure of his subject. Veronica's face displays the proportions of a human face because it is a human face.
Something the image in the Shroud of Turin most definitely is not.
So why hasn't anyone noticed this before? The short answer to that is that somebody did. This observation doesn't originate with me. I stole it from Cliff Crawford. (Thanks to Troy Davis for re-discovering the page for me.)
As for why this has escaped the notice of the many scientists who have studied the Shroud, it isn't too surprising. Scientists are not omniscient, and often focus heavily on their own specialty to the exclusion of all else. A brilliant grasp of chemistry does not carry with it a knowledge of anatomy. Thanks to the optical illusion that causes artists to falsely exaggerate the size of the face, even someone trained in anatomy might overlook this.
On a slightly more cynical note, the possibility that the Shroud bears the image of the man known as Jesus Christ makes it very profitable. When it was first displayed in the 14th century, it was used as a fund-raiser for a new church. It's still making money for a lot of people in the form of tourism, book sales, and scientific grants. As just one example, in 1989, a one million pound donation was made to establish a chair of archaeological sciences at Oxford, specifically to study the Shroud.
As I told Michael, I'm not particularly interested in the Shroud of Turin. However, in the process of searching the web for material for this page, I discovered something interesting that deserves to be shared.
Most of the pro-authenticity pages out there go to great lengths to claim that the Shroud could not even be produced by modern technology, much less the technology of the 14th century. Presumably, we are meant to draw the conclusion that the Shroud could have only been the result of a miracle.
I was surprised as anyone to discover that not only can the Shroud be duplicated, it has been duplicated. The results are striking in their similarity to the original Shroud image, duplicating not only its superficial appearance, but also its microscopic and chemical properties. The process used does not even require modern technology. The techniques were known as early as the 4th century B.C.!
Yet this information has been largely ignored. This tells me that my cynical speculations were probably correct. There's more money to be made catering to ignorance and superstition than there is in providing intellectually satisfying answers to challenging questions.
Of course, making money was never my intention, so there's no reason I shouldn't point you toward real answers. "In Whose Image?" describes the basic process used to make the Shroud and its origins. The stunning results may be seen in "Verification of the Nature and Causes for the Photo-negative Images on the Shroud of Lirey-Chambéry-Turin" by Nicolas P. L. Allen.
Note that the proportion problems addressed above lead me believe that the source of the image was a mediocre sculpture rather than an actual corpse or a plaster model of a real human.
Copyright © 1999 by Jason Steiner.