Books on Carbon 14

There are two books with detailed treatment of the Shroud's carbon dating,
including not only the scientific issues but also the events, personalities
and struggles leading up to the sample taking. The books offer diametrically
opposed views on how the dating should have been conducted, and both are
critical of the methodology finally employed. These books have been reviewed

In Relic, Icon or Hoax? Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud (1996; ISBN
0750303980), Harry Gove provides an account with large doses of light humor
and heavy vitriol. Particular scorn is poured on STURP (the US scientific team
studying the Shroud) and Luigi Gonella, then scientific adviser to the
Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero. Gove describes in great detail the
mammoth struggle between Prof Carlos Chagas, chairman of the Pontifical
Academy of Sciences, and Cardinal Ballestrero, with Gove and Gonella as the
main combatants from each side. He provides a detailed record of meetings,
telephone conversations, faxes, letters and maneuvers. Gove initially accepted
the dating as accurate, but in the epilogue notes that the bioplastic
contamination theory seemed to have some evidence to support it.

The Rape of the Turin Shroud by William Meacham (2005; ISBN 1411657691)
devotes 100 pages to the carbon dating. Meacham is also highly critical of
STURP and Gonella, and also of Gove. He describes the planning process from a
very different perspective (both he and Gove were invited along with 20 other
scholars to a conference in Turin in 1986 to plan the C-14 protocol) and
focuses on what he claims was the major flaw in the dating -- taking only one
sample from the corner of the cloth. Meacham reviews the main scenarios that
have been proposed for a possibly incorrect dating, and claims that the result
is a "rogue date" because of the sample location and anomalies. He points out
that this situation could easily be resolved if the Church authorities would
simply allow another sample to be dated, with appropriate laboratory testing
for possible embedded contaminants.

The Restoration of 2002

In the summer of 2002, the Shroud was subjected to an aggressive restoration
which shocked the worldwide community of Shroud researchers and was condemned
by most. Authorized by the Archbishop of Turin as a beneficial conservation
measure, this operation was based on the claim that the charred material
around the burn holes was causing continuing oxidation which would eventually
threaten the image. It has been labeled unnecessary surgery that destroyed
scientific data, removed the repairs done in 1534 that were part of the
Shroud's heritage, and squandered opportunities for sophisticated research.

Detailed comments on this operation were published by various Shroud
researchers on a special page at [16]. In 2003 the principal
restorer Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, a textile expert from Switzerland, published
a book with the title *Sindone 2002: L'intervento conservativo -- Preservation
-- Konservierung* (ISBN 88-88441-08-5). She describes the operation and the
reasons it was believed necessary. In 2005, William Meacham, an archaeologist
who has studied the Shroud since 1981, published the book *The Rape of the
Turin Shroud* (ISBN 1-4116-5769-1) which is fiercely critical of the
operation. He rejects the reasons provided by Flury-Lemberg and describes in
detail what he calls "a disaster for the scientific study" of the relic.

William Meacham
Hon. Research Fellow
Centre of Asian Studies
University of Hong Kong