The Third International Dallas Conference on the Shroud of Turin—a review

The Third International Dallas Conference on the Shroud of Turin took place at the Adolphus hotel, in downtown Dallas, Texas, USA, from the 8th to the 11th of September 2005. It was organized by AM*STAR. The complete program is presented here. It was modified during the conference but I did not record all of these modifications. Some of these presentations may become available on this website. Here are some comments about the conference and the presentations, in no particular order. Note: unfortunately there is currently no proceedings of the conference, so I comment from memory.

A few papers on the program were not presented. The most notable one was a paper with more than 20 co-authors titled Evidences for testing hypotheses about the body image formation of the Turin Shroud. The presenter of that paper, Prof. Giulio Fanti, was present at the conference. Apparently, the organizers of the conference pulled it out at the last minute because it was "too controversial"—whatever that means. But no public explanation was given for the cancellation of that presentation. This is rather unfortunate as it did not dispel the impression of secrecy and lack of transparency on the part of the organizers of the conference. In any case, the paper is publicly available at Barrie Schwortz's website PDF. I witnessed its numerous versions from the shroudScience group. A review of that paper will appear in the Section Review of Shroud Papers and Books.

The organizers have qualified the conference as "peer-reviewed." There was some kind of a peer-review process, but unfortunately not of the form known in most scientific fields: the reviewers never commented the reason to accept or reject a paper. The "review process" simply accepted or rejected the papers. This is unfortunate as this does not encourage open and better Shroud research.

Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg clarified some misconceptions of the work done during the 2002 Shroud restoration. For instance, she corrected the rumor that the Shroud was forcefully stretched with weights hanging at the four corners of the Shroud. The fact that the Shroud is longer and wider now (by 8 cm for its length and 1 cm for its width) compared to previous measurements, is simply due to the removing of the linen backing cloth (the so-called "Holland cloth"). The Shroud was under tension when it was sewed to the 1534 backing cloth. Also, the rumor that the Shroud was vacuumed during the 2002 restoration came from a misconception: only the circumference of the burnt holes were vacuumed to remove the soot particles.

Prof. Giulio Fanti gave a presentation on a (Shroud) image formation hypothesis based on corona discharge. The study is certainly interesting. Prof. Fanti referred to a previous computer simulation, with the resulting photographs, of an unidirectional radiation from a hand to a sheet. During the question period, I raised the question that this simulation, according to the given equations, used rays that are straight, whereas corona discharge is not occurring by rays of straight lines. But Prof. Fanti answered that the two studies were not related. Then, why were these photographs showed during his presentation? No further questions could be raised from the floor, so this answer ended the discussion on this matter. I think this shows the inadequacy of the modus operandi of the question period where no real debate could take place.

Aldo Guerreschi, a professional photographer living near Torino (Italy), had a beautiful presentation with many photographs to illustrate the (most) probable way the Shroud was folded when the burnt holes and water stains occurred, in particular for the 1532 Chambery fire. In that case, his hypothesis is that the lid of the reliquary broke, and one burning corner fell on the Shroud. This would explain the triangular shape of the holes seen on the Shroud. The smaller water stains would have been caused by water being poured directly on that corner of the lid. On the other hand, some of the wider water stains were probably caused while the Shroud was put in a jar—similar to the size found at Massada in earlier time—and some water found its way at its bottom. A black-and-white version of that paper is available from this website at PDF. I think Aldo has put a serious dent into the theory that a drop of molten silver caused the heavy damaged on the Shroud—it was rather the top lid, probably made of wood, that broke in half, due to the fire, and one corner dropped on the Shroud— causing the triangular shapped holes seen on the Shroud. I think it was the best paper and presentation of that conference.

Emanuela Marinelli presented a list of Shroud websites and associations existing around the world. I have asked Emanuela for a copy of her presentation; it could be best presented on a website since it contains many Internet links. I might have eventually a copy of this presentation on this website.

Dr. Gilbert Lavoie discussed the blood stain relative locations and the apparent contradiction of their undisturbed nature and the fact that they appear to have moved from the face to the hair. I believe that the apparent contradiction exists when we assume that the blood stains around the face were produced by contact on the face. They were probably simply made by contact with the hair. In other words, no flattening occurred between the formation of the blood stains and the image. After studying all the papers written by Dr. Lavoie, I cannot see the compelling evidence to have a flattening of the Shroud over the face.

Diana Fulbright had a detailed presentation on the meaning (translation) of some of the Greek key words, relevant to the Shroud, found in the New Testament (NT). Unfortunately, I cannot be very precise about her presentation—since there is currently no proceedings. It shows how the meaning of some Greek words, from the first century, are not precisely known. They can radically change the meaning of some verses of the NT.

Monsignor Guiseppe Ghiberti answered many questions during the Sunday session. In particular, the possibility to access the 2002 digital scanning of the Shroud (front and back side). This was one of my question. Don Guiseppe answer: Some of these scans might be made available, but not all are currently available due to the "unavailability of the machine". I did not understand this "unavailability" but it would be very useful to release the scans to a wider group of researchers.

Dame Isabel Piczek made two presentations, one of which was rather disconnected from the Shroud. The other one was, with all due respect to Dame Isabel Piczek, quite difficult to follow. I think that the major problem with her statements is a complete lack of data and measurements to support them. For example, she states that the legs of the man of the Shroud are foreshortened. Not even one measurement is provided. This problem is repeated in "Alice in Wonderland and the Shroud of Turin" presented on Barrie Schwortz's website (Alice). Not only there is a lack of measurements, but there is a clear geometrical error. I quote the text of this article:

Has the cloth really been straight? Illustrated and simplified on this diagram, the distance marked AB is the real length of the thigh. If the Shroud at the moment of image formation would have been wrapped around the body in full contact, the full length of AB, the full length of the thigh would be seen on it. As it is we see AC, the projected and foreshortened length of the thigh on the Shroud. This proves the Shroud was straight at the time of image formation, and the dorsal image should be shorter than the frontal, - which it indeed is. (I include below, for completeness, a copy of the relevant diagram from her article.)
(Note: the points labeled A, B, and C are not clearly visible on this diagram. I clarify this by pointing out that A, B, and C are the labels of a triangle under the thigh where A is on the left on the ground, B under the knee and C on the right of A on the ground: A-C-B forms a 90 degree angle.)

If the front and dorsal halves of the Shroud are completely flat during image formation (as suggested by Dame Piczek), then the back leg images (as seen on the Shroud) should not be shorter than the front leg images. They should appear the same length. On the other hand, if the back half of the Shroud is flat and the top half follows, to some degree but not necessarily tightly, the body, then indeed the back legs would appear shorter.

Perhaps, Dame Piczek meant that the top half of the Shroud was almost flat (as in not following the contour of the body).

Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg reiterated that no image could be found on the backside of the Shroud; although Prof. Giulio Fanti is the co-author of a paper describing a faint image of the head on the backside. The whole matter, though, hinges on the meaning of "image." Do we see on the backside an image formed by "dehydrated cellulose" ("light scorch") or due to a liquid soaking through the Shroud? I believe that it is rather difficult at this time to draw any clear conclusion. The image described by Prof. Fanti is faint to very faint. More importantly, Fanti's paper is not based on direct observation but on photos taken during the 2002 restoration. Therefore, there is currently no description of what caused the "image", if any, on the backside. In any case, the 2002 restoration photographs of the backside clearly shows many blood stains (this is to be expected) and some "image" of the hair; although this might be simply due to some liquid that went from the front side to the backside (by capillarity), as if the hair were saturated with some liquid when the Shroud came in contact with them. So, the whole matter goes down to the meaning of "image." I tend to think that there is no image due to a "light scorching" of the linen fibers on the backside, but only images formed by some liquid (e.g. water, blood, serum) that went through the cloth due to capillarity. There should be a review of the paper of Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggolio ("The double superficiality of the frontal image of the Turin Shroud") in the Paper Review Section of this website in a few weeks.

Some presentations are not covered in this review due to my lack of access to a conference proceedings. I apologize to all presenters that I have not covered (and I wish to correct that in the future once I get a proceedings of the conference).

I also presented a paper at this conference. You can download the paper and slides from the Repository of this website.