Using Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS), a sample of the TS was compatible with a 1st century dating.
A team from the Institute of Crystallography in Bari, Italy, with the support of the National Research Council, led by Liberato De Caro, has published a new study on the dating of the Shroud of Turin which concludes that it is 2,000 year old relic.
The article entitled “X-Ray Dating of a Linen Sample from the Shroud of Turin” was published in the journal Heritage on April 11, 2022. The method used is that of the “Wide Angle X-ray Scattering” or WAXS.
The technique is based on the study of the natural aging of cellulose which can be measured by the aforementioned technique. This is explained in detail by Mr. De Caro during a long interview granted to the National Catholic Register (NCR) on April 19.
The new technique was developed there three years ago. It is used to date samples taken from linen fabrics. It is based on the observation of the gradual breaking of the polymer chains of cellulose over the centuries “due to the combined effect of temperature, humidity, light and the action of chemical agents in the environment in which they are found.”
The method measures the natural aging of flax cellulose and then converts it to time elapsed since its fabrication. It is carried out using the WAXS technique, which was first tested on already dated linen samples.
This technique makes it possible to work on very small samples, which, unlike what happens in carbon-14 dating, are not destroyed by the experiment. Therefore, it can be repeated several time on the same sample.
Application to the Shroud
According to the abstract of the paper, “the dating method was applied to a sample from the Shroud of Turin, consisting of a thread taken in the proximity of the 1988/radiocarbon area (corner of the TS corresponding to the feet area of the frontal image, near the so-called Raes sample).”
“The size of the TS linen sample was approximately 0.5 mm × 1 mm. The data profiles were fully compatible with analogous measurements obtained on a linen sample whose dating, according to historical records, is 55-74 AD, found at Masada, Israel [Herod’s famous fortress built on a limestone bedrock overlooking the Dead Sea].”
“The degree of natural aging of the cellulose that constitutes the linen of the investigated sample, obtained by X-ray analysis, showed that the TS fabric is much older than the seven centuries proposed by the 1988 radiocarbon dating.”
“The experimental results are compatible with the hypothesis that the Shroud is a 2000-year-old relic, as supposed by Christian tradition, under the condition that it was kept at suitable levels of average secular temperature…for 13 centuries of unknown history, in addition to the seven centuries of known history in Europe.”
“To make the present result compatible with that of the 1988 radiocarbon test, the TS should have been conserved during its hypothetical seven centuries of life at a secular room temperature very close to the maximum values registered on the earth.”
The article was published after an evaluation by three independent experts and the editor of the journal. The article is presented on the National Research Council website. No doubt, it remains to evaluate the impact of the two fires that affected the relic, especially that of Chambéry during which drops of molten silver fell on the fabric.
In the NCR interview, the Italian researcher remains cautious, especially about the discrepancy with carbon-14 dating. He begins by pointing out that, to be reliable, the latter a very careful cleaning of the fabric must be carried out, because over the centuries, contaminates become lodged in the weft and can skew the results. “If the cleaning procedure of the sample is not thoroughly performed, carbon-14 dating is not reliable.”
Mr. De Caro therefore proposes to make a series of WAXS measurements, carried out by several laboratories, on samples taken from various places in the Shroud. These samples can be very small – at most millimeters.
The researcher therefore turned to the Vatican, which is the owner of the relic, and to the Archdiocese of Turin, which is responsible for its conservation, to authorize the implementation of an analysis protocol. Given the non-destructive nature of the technique, it would undoubtedly be desirable to carry out this new dating.
On a sample of the Turin Shroud (TS), we applied a new method for dating ancient linen threads by inspecting their structural degradation by means of Wide-Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS). The X-ray dating method was applied to a sample of the TS consisting of a thread taken in proximity of the 1988/radiocarbon area (corner of the TS corresponding to the feet area of the frontal image, near the so-called Raes sample). The size of the linen sample was about 0.5 mm × 1 mm. We obtained one-dimensional integrated WAXS data profiles for the TS sample, which were fully compatible with the analogous measurements obtained on a linen sample whose dating, according to historical records, is 55–74 AD, Siege of Masada (Israel). The degree of natural aging of the cellulose that constitutes the linen of the investigated sample, obtained by X-ray analysis, showed that the TS fabric is much older than the seven centuries proposed by the 1988 radiocarbon dating. The experimental results are compatible with the hypothesis that the TS is a 2000-year-old relic, as supposed by Christian tradition, under the condition that it was kept at suitable levels of average secular temperature—20.0–22.5 °C—and correlated relative humidity—75–55%—for 13 centuries of unknown history, in addition to the seven centuries of known history in Europe. To make the present result compatible with that of the 1988 radiocarbon test, the TS should have been conserved during its hypothetical seven centuries of life at a secular room temperature very close to the maximum values registered on the earth.
The authors also point out since the shroud came to Europe around 700 years ago, the lower average temperature decreased the speed of aging of the linen and decreased the speed of the degradation of the image on the shroud.
Finally, since X-ray dating indicates that the TS is older than its seven centuries of European history, we can also argue that it was fortunate that the TS was carried to Europe seven centuries ago. Indeed, our analysis has shown that, from the XIV century until today, the natural aging of the cellulose of the TS linen has been very low, due to the low secular European average room temperatures, thereby preventing the TS body image from fully disappearing, which would have happened at an average secular room temperature of 22.5 °C. Indeed, Equation (4) implies that, under the hypothesis that the TS is 20 centuries old, after 20 centuries at an average value of Tr = 22.5 °C and a relative humidity of 55%, a natural aging of about 90% would have already occurred; this value is much higher than the 60% that was experimentally determined for the TS sample. Therefore, by chance, only the recent history of the TS in Europe has prevented the TS linen from fully yellowing and the TS image from fully disappearing, thus preserving a puzzle that is very difficult for science to solve. New WAXS analyses on the natural aging of the cellulose in linen could allow for the correct age of the TS to be determined, which is a fundamental piece of this puzzle.