Contribution of the Plants in Determining the Authenticity of the Shroud
The Shroud of Turin (Italian – La Sacra Sindone; Latin – Othonia; French – La Saint Suaire; Spanish – El Manto Sagrado or La Sabana Santa) is a linen cloth 443 cm long and 113 cm wide, kept in St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Turin, Italy. On the cloth is the image of a man, seen from its ventral- and from its dorsal side. The man's image has been the subject of many studies and dozens of books have been written about it. The researchers studying it are named "Sindonologists." In addition to the man's image, I observed the presence of plant images on the cloth (Fig. 15.1.1), which I studied and about which I wrote articles and books. I saw the plants in photographs from 1898, 1931, 1978, and even directly on the cloth (in 2000). The plants I discovered became indicators of its origin, of the time of the year when the man was wrapped in it, and of the thorns that caused some of his wounds.
Comments on photographic documentation
The image of the Man of the Shroud looks like a photographic negative (Fig. 15.1.2, right). When the first photographer, Secondo Pia (in 1898) looked at the photographic negative of the head (Fig. 15.1.2, left) or of the entire cloth (Fig. 15.1.2, center), he must have been surprised to see a man who looked like Jesus of Nazareth as represented in Christian art (Fig. 15.1.3, left).
I shall go into this issue in more detail later on in the long "trip" we are now starting, in the complicated tracks of the Shroud.
In the 16th century, the artist Giovanni, Battista delle Rovera showed the way in which the man's body was probably wrapped in the Shroud, upon which his image became imprinted (Fig. 15.1.3, right). The Man's image and the plants' images are not drawn or painted on the linen, but are seen the way they are, due to the presence of dark organic oxides on the microfibrils of which the linen is constructed (Fig. 15.1.4). These oxides are assumed to be products of the breakdown of the cellulose molecules of which the cloth is made. The disintegration of these molecules seems to be the result of certain radiation processes, not yet understood which possibly caused darkening of linen parts that were relatively close to the body. In Fig. 15.1.5, the head area is seen on the left, as a "positive," i.e. when looking directly at the linen itself. The nose looks darker than the cheeks and eye sockets, because of the difference in distance of these organs from the linen covering the body (as in Fig. 15.1.3). The black spots on the forehead are blood spots. A photographic negative of the positive one is displayed in Fig. 15.1.5, right.
Following a basic axiom in mathematics – a negative of a negative is a positive (or a minus of a minus is a plus), therefore Fig. 15.1.5, right, looks like a "true" or "real" image. Its blood stains look light-colored and the stain almost at the forehead center looks like the figure "3." In the photographic negative, its position is to the right of the nose line, and right of it there is a large blood spot at the angle formed between the left eyebrow and the hair line. In the positive photograph (Fig. 15.1.5, left), the blood stain in the form of "3" is left-right flipped: its position is left of the nose line, and the prominent blood spot at the forehead corner is on its left. In various publications there are faulty printings of the Shroud image or parts of it. There are positive photographs where the "3" spot looks straight, and negatives where the "3" is left-right flipped. We do not yet have a convincing explanation of the physical process which created the image of the man and the other objects on the linen. However, many researchers, including me, are not deterred by this shortcoming, and we continue to invest further efforts in discovering and observing images seen on the Shroud of Turin.
My involvement with Sindonological research
Since my childhood I have observed that plants leave their image on the paper I use for desiccating them. A Sternbergia clusiana flower I collected in my childhood, some 65 years ago, and desiccated between the pages of a book, is presented in Fig. 15.1.6. The book's paper is also made of cellulose fibers and a certain reaction made the plant image form on the two pages that touched it (Fig. 15.1.6 top). I have seen hundreds of such images on drying paper during 40 years of botanical work with dried plants.
Dr. Alan Whanger, my friend from Durham, North Carolina, obtained copies of photographic negatives of the Shroud, produced by the excellent photographer Enrie in 1931. Dr. Whanger gave instructions to the photo shop printing it and received enhanced photographs. In these photographs the plant images are seen more clearly than in other photographs of the same linen. When Dr. Whanger and his wife Mary came to my home in 1995, they showed me their photographs. I immediately saw the Chrysanthemum inflorescence (Fig. 15.1.7). When visiting their home, I was fascinated by the sight of many flowers I had seen on the enhanced photograph, and marked their margins with a red pen on a transparency (Fig. 15.1.8). While staying at the Whanger's home I learnt a lot from them and from their occasional guest, the late Dr. Alan Adler. The sites where plant images were discovered are marked on photographic negative of the Shroud (Fig. 15.1.9).