10 Controversial Archaeological Discoveries You Should Not Miss

3. Shroud of Turin: The Real Face of the Son of God?

The Shroud of Turin is a length of linen cloth bearing the image of the face and body of a bearded man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. There is no consensus yet on exactly how the image was created, but it is believed by some that the 14ft-long linen cloth was used to bury Christ’s body when he was lifted down from the cross after being crucified 2,000 years ago, despite radiocarbon dating placing its origins in the Medieval period.

The image is much clearer in a black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color. The negative image was first observed in 1898 on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral. The shroud is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, northern Italy.

The origins of the shroud and its image are the subject of intense debate among theologians, historians, and researchers. Scientific and popular publications have presented diverse arguments for both authenticity and possible methods of forgery. A variety of scientific theories regarding the shroud have since been proposed, based on disciplines ranging from chemistry to biology and medical forensics to optical image analysis.

In 1978, a detailed examination carried out by a team of American scientists found no reliable evidence of how the image was produced. In 1988, a radiocarbon dating test was performed on small samples of the shroud. The laboratories at the University of Oxford, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology concurred that the samples they tested dated from the Middle Ages, between 1260 and 1390.

In March 2013, experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua (Italy) dated the shroud to ancient times, a few centuries before and after the life of Christ. The tests dated the age of the shroud to be between 300 BC and 400AD, but with an error margin of 400 years due to the unknown influences of temperature and humidity on the samples during their lives.

The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud, but in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. More recently, Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI have both described the Shroud of Turin as “an icon.”

As well as can be expected, the shroud continues to remain one of the most studied and controversial archaeological objects in human history.

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