The Shroud of Turin – revered as the cloth that covered Jesus in the tomb – is a man-made relic, according to scientists who reproduced a copy of the famous fabric.
Italian chemist Luigi Garlaschelli said his experiment proves that earlier carbon dating of the shroud to the 14th century was correct.
He used materials and techniques that were available in the Middle Ages to explain how a negative image of a crucified man could be imprinted centuries before the invention of photography.
Professor Garlaschelli said his team used the same type of woven linen as the shroud and first artificially aged by heating it in an oven and washing it with water.
The cloth was then placed on a student, who wore a mask to reproduce the face, and rubbed with red ochre, a well known pigment at the time.
The entire process took a week, said Professor Garlaschelli of the University of Pavia.
His replica even includes the spots which, on the original, were said to show blood seeping out of Christ’s nailed hands and feet.
The scientists were commissioned by a group of sceptics and atheists called the Italian Committee for Checking Claims on the Paranormal.
Professor Garlaschelli today said: ‘Many still believe that the shroud has unexplainable characteristics that cannot be reproduced by human means.
‘But the result obtained clearly indicates that this could be done with the use of inexpensive materials and with a quite simple procedure.’
However, Professor Garlaschelli said he still expected people to challenge his research and insist the shroud, kept at Turin Cathedral, is real.
‘If they don’t want to believe carbon dating done by some of the world’s best laboratories they certainly won’t believe me.’
The shroud is first recorded in history around 1360 in the hands of a French knight – a late appearance that is one of the reasons why some scientists are skeptical of its authenticity.
Measuring 13ft long and 3ft wide, it has suffered severe damage during the centuries, including from fires.
Owned by the Vatican, it is kept locked in a special protective chamber in Turin’s cathedral and is rarely shown.
The last public display was in 2000, when more than 1 million people turned up to see it, and the next is scheduled for 2010.
The Catholic Church makes no claims about the relic’s authenticity, but says it is a powerful symbol of Christ’s suffering.
The shroud has been strongly debated within the scientific community.
Some researchers claim that patches used in the Middle Ages to repair the cloth after a fire altered the carbon-dating results.
Another study, by the Hebrew University, concluded that pollen and plant images on the shroud showed it originated in the area around Jerusalem sometime before the eighth century.
The study considered to be the most definitive, however, was carried out in 1998 via separate tests by three institutions granted permission by the Vatican.
The chosen laboratories at the University of Oxford, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, used radio carbon dating on separate portions of the cloth.
They found the shroud dated from 1260–1390.
Thanks to kchiu for this story.