A new study of the Shroud of Turin — the burial cloth thought by some to have held the body of Jesus Christ — has furthered analysis as to where the cloth might have originated and where it has been throughout history.
The research published earlier this month in the journal Nature detailed DNA analysis conducted on dust particles obtained from the body image on the cloth. The goal was to determine the origin of the particles that were vacuumed from the cloth in 1978 and 1988, figuring out whether they were "pollen grains, cell debris and other minuscule organic specimens, such as plant-derived fibers and blood-like clots."
Pope Francis prays in front of the Holy Shroud, the 14 foot-long linen revered by some as the burial cloth of Jesus, on display at the Cathedral of Turin, Italy, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Francis visited the long linen with the faded image of a bearded man, during his two-day pilgrimage to Turin. (L' Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
This analysis could add further discussion points to two scenarios that might explain the origin of the Shroud of Turin, the researchers wrote. One scenario is that the shroud is of Medieval origin and, thus, is not an authentic cloth from the time of the burial of Jesus. The other scenario is that the cloth started its journey in Jerusalem around 30 A.D., being transferred to what is now modern-day Turkey to Greece to France and ultimately ending up in Turin, Italy, in 1694.
"Several plant taxa native to the Mediterranean area were identified as well as species with a primary center of origin in Asia, the Middle East or the Americas but introduced in a historical interval later than the Medieval period," the study authors wrote.
The researchers also found that some of the dust particles were of human origin. Mitochondrial DNA analysis revealed multiple people of different ethnicity's with a widespread geographic distribution had at one point come in contact with the cloth.
n this Sunday, April 19, 2015 filer, people admire the Holy Shroud, the 14 foot-long linen revered by some as the burial cloth of Jesus, on display at the Cathedral of Turin, Italy. (AP/Massimo Pinca)
"These results not only confirm that plant fibers and pollen grains are present on [the shroud], as previously reported by optical microscopy, but also reveal that multiple human individuals touched or otherwise left traces of their DNA on the relic linen," the study authors wrote.
This finding, the authors wrote, supports both the theory that the shroud had a longer journey, traveling through different geographic regions, or that people from these further regions could have come to visit it in Europe.
"In conclusion, our results on human mtDNA traces detected on the [Shroud of Turin] are compatible with both alternative scenarios that i) the cloth had a Medieval origin in Western Europe where people from different geographic regions and ethnic affiliations came in contact with it, possibly moved by the worship for the Christian relic; ii) the linen cloth had a Middle Eastern origin and was moved itself across the Mediterranean area, consequently coming across a wide range of local folks and devotes in a longer time span," the researchers wrote.
The study authors expressed surprise at finding DNA of Indian origin, but speculated that someone of Indian ancestry could have come in contact with the cloth on its travels or, perhaps, the linen itself was weaved in India. This latter possibility is intriguing, the researchers said, because the Italian "Sindone di Torino" "appears to derive from Sindia or Sindien, a fabric coming from India."
A 1988 study involving radiocarbon dating of the cloth found it to be from between 1260 to 1390. However, two later studies — one in 2005 and another in 2013 — dated the cloth back to Christ's era. Researchers of these later studies believed the 1988 study might have mistakenly dated the cloth due to a patch placed on it at a later date for repair.
Pope Francis has called the shroud an "icon of a man scourged and crucified."
(H/T: Huffington Post)