The image on the Shroud of Turin, a burial cloth that some believe bears the face of Jesus Christ, may not have resulted from the impression of a person’s face. A new study says the image on the cloth might have been caused by an earthquake.

In the late 1980s, it was suggested that the cloth could have been dated incorrectly. Alberto Carpinteri and his colleagues with the Politecnico di Torino in Italy now suggest that neutron radiation caused by an earthquake could have been the cause of this incorrect dating — and could have created the image.

“The authors consider the possibility that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on Shroud linen fibers, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and provided a wrong radiocarbon dating due to an increment in [Carbon-14 isotope] content,” the study’s abstract, published in the journal Meccanica, read.

Radiocarbon dating of the shroud in 1988 found it to be at most 728 years old. Afterward, some claimed neutron radiation might have resulted in a wrong date.

But the source of such neutron radiation that could have caused this was not known.

The study pointed out that historical earthquake data maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Significant Earthquake Database records evidence of a significant seismic event in Jerusalem in 33 a.d.

“Moreover, if we assign the image imprinted on the Shroud to the Man who died during the Passover of 33 a.d., there are at least three documents in the literature attesting the occurrence of disastrous earthquakes during that event,” the study authors wrote.

Simulating an earthquake with brittle rock, the researchers found such an event could generate neutron emissions, which could then interact with nitrogen atoms in the fabric. This reaction could have led to the wrong dating but also could have created a chemical reaction that made the image on the linen, the authors wrote.

Photo credi: Diego Barbieri/Shutterstock.com

Photo credi: Diego Barbieri/Shutterstock.com

Some researchers who wre not involved in the study  are questioning its science though.

Gordon Cook, an environmental geochemistry professor at the University of Glasgow, questioned why this effect of earthquakes hadn’t been seen before.

“It would have to be a really local effect not to be measurable elsewhere,” Cook told Live Science. “People have been measuring materials of that age for decades now and nobody has ever encountered this.”

“One question that would need to be addressed is why the material here is affected, but other archaeological and geological material in the ground is not,” Christopher Ramsey, director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Uni, added to LiveScience. “There are huge numbers of radiocarbon dates from the region for much older archaeological material, which certainly don’t show this type of intense in-situ radiocarbon production (and they would be much more sensitive to any such effects).”

From a religious perspective, Roman Catholic Church leaders have not come right out to say the image on the shroud is Jesus.

Pope Francis has called the shroud an “icon” not a relic. The Pope Benedict XVI, who proceeded Pope Francis, said in 2010 the shroud is an “icon of Holy Saturday.”

“[…] the Turin Shroud presents to us an image of how [the body of Jesus Christ] lay in the tomb during that period which was chronologically brief (about a day and a half), but immense, infinite in its value and in its significance,” Pope Benedict said, noting that the shroud at least corresponds to the way the Bible says Jesus was wrapped after he was crucified on a cross.

(H/T: Daily Mail)