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Shroud dating isn't ironed out.

Shroud dating isn't ironed out

A stubborn wrinkle has developed in plans to date one of Christendom's best-known relics, the Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth that some believe is imprinted with the bloody form of Jesus. When carbon-14 dating experts met in Turin with church officials last fall, they specified that six postage-stamp-sized samples would be taken from the shroud to be tested in seven labs, using accelerators and radioactivity counters (SN: 4/25/87, p.265). The pope apparently agreed to this protocol in February and told the Archbishop of Turin that the testing could commence.

However, in an April interview in the Turin newspaper, the Archbishop's science adviser indicated that not more than three samples could be taken. This was confirmed three weeks ago when Garman Harbottle at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., and a co-coordinator of the Shroud of Turin Research Project received a letter from the Archbishop also informing him that only three labs--at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Oxford University in England and the Technical University of Zurich--would be involved. Moreover, only accelerator dating would be allowed, even though Harbottle notes that counters are a "more mature' technology. No reasons for these changes were given.

The protocol group had originally chosen seven labs on statistical grounds. In a recent test on other cloths, one of the six labs involved mistakenly arrived at a date that was off by 1,000 years. With only three labs, says Harbottle, it would be difficult to pick out the erroneous values. "Whatever the date that comes out, there are going to be people who aren't going to like it no matter what you do,' he says. "So you have to have a result that is so secure no one could quarrel with it. What they've done now is push it back into a realm where everyone can quarrel with it. They're just asking for trouble.'
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Title Annotation:Shroud of Turin
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 7, 1987
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