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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Summarising the rational side of the pro-Shroud argument, 1 April 2002
This review is from: The Blood And The Shroud (Paperback)
Ian Wilson states in his introduction to The Blood and the Shroud that 'it will be the task of this book to rescrutinise every genuinely worthy hypothesis, whether for or against authenticity, with equal dispassion', and, for the most part, he is as good as his word. Effectively a summary of the author's research since his publication of The Turin Shroud (1978), Wilson concentrates on the two principle arguments related to the shroud: first, that it is the work of a highly accomplished medieval forger; second, that it dates from around the time of the birth of Christ (Wilson's thesis). Those of the second inclination were dealt a heavy blow in October 1988, when it was revealed that the result of the three carbon-dating tests had given a period of 1260-1390 AD for the shroud's origination. Like many others, I had assumed carbon-dating to be a virtually foolproof method, and so I approached this book with a healthy degree of scepticism over Wilson's claim that it might yet still date from the time of Jesus. First examining the probability of the shroud being a medieval work of forgery, Wilson asks some pressing questions in terms of feasibility, accuracy, how the supposed artist could have had anatomical and scientific knowledge centuries ahead of his era, and the reliability of those historical sources denouncing the work as a replica. Following this he displays the results of his endeavours to trace the existence of the shroud back to the first century AD, producing a surprisingly authoritative chronology with only two major periods of disappearance (177-543 and 1205-1354 AD). He draws reference to several works of art prior to this now crucial date of 1260, all of which exhibit either the shroud or the face of Jesus with characteristics that indicate that the artist probably saw or knew about the Turin Shroud (i.e. distinctive burn-marks, blood flow patterns, etc.). Finally - and crucially - he turns his attention to what might have caused a significant inaccuracy in the carbon-dating tests. Among these possibilities we have the effect of previous scorches in 'enriching' the radiocarbon content, the choice of a shroud sample heavily soiled by human contact, and most importantly, the discovery of bioplastic coating produced by fungi and bacteria, which in two other instances of dating archaeological artefacts produced mis-readings of approximately 1000 years.
I found this book highly readable, especially since Wilson tends to be very thorough and draw himself away from sensationalism, while presenting what is essentially a detective story drawn across two millennia. Many of the arguments given are highly plausible, and few of the theories are Wilson's own; rather, he relates the independent investigations of artists, microscopists, historians, physicists, textile experts, and microbiologists, all of international credibility; thus we are presented with a study of more than usual objectivity. Where Wilson does see a case for the shroud-forgery camp, he tends to state it unequivocally. The only fault for me was the final chapter, rather sentimentally titled 'examining your own heart on the matter', where Wilson makes an altogether unnecessary appeal to the reader, and even entertains the possibility of Jesus' resurrection as a miniature thermonuclear reaction which would have altered the level of the carbon 14 isotope, thus distorting the carbon-dating reading. This temporary abandonment of his otherwise methodical treatment of the available information aside, Wilson's effort comes close to being a must-read for all those who have a curiosity concerning the shroud. My position is still divided, but I am now altogether less certain of the positivity of the carbon-dating process which scientists often brand (if you'll excuse the pun) as gospel.
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