The Shroud of Turin

A friend of mine is getting her doctoral. I’ve thought a long time about going back for mine but as I did some research I found a problem: I can’t find anywhere near me that teaches what I want to learn! So I think I might have to get an honorary Internet doctoral — meaning I spend a lot of time looking around on the Internet and reading everything I can find on a topic and let it go at that. ::sigh:: Not what I had in mind.

If I could do whatever I wanted and study wherever I wanted I would have to do a combined course of study anyway. Here’s how it all came about:

Several years ago I was looking at Time Magazine’s cover on a piece they did about most recent Shroud of Turin study. I wonder why, as a total non-science person, I knew they were not doing the tests correctly but the science people didn’t know.

I knew that the Shroud had been in a fire and the part of the Shroud they said they were testing was from a later date than the body of the Shroud itself. I know that there’s an organism that eats smoke and that, even if a thread of the main body was chosen, it would have to be cleaned before testing or all that would be tested was the leftover Medieval organism. I know carbon dating for a piece of fabric from that age is less reliable than if that test were done on a 3 billion old piece of pottery.

What I did not know was the Shroud was made of a bast fiber woven in a herringbone twill and that there is what looks to be a weaving error across the forehead.

So there I was; looking at the photo of the face on the Shroud. That got me thinking: before this piece of cloth was imprinted with the image and however it was imprinted, it was simply a piece of cloth. Is the weaving error what caused it to become a shroud? Was it intended as a table covering or dress fabric but because of the error it was thrown into the shroud pile? Or was it intended as a shroud when it was woven? Was the error (if it indeed exists) put there on purpose as some cultures do?

These questions are ones that can no longer be answered with absolute certainty. The one who knows has been dead for a couple thousand years. We might be able to give a good guess but that’s all it would be — a good guess.

So the inter-discipline would be anthy and curation. I’d like to study fabrics of the middle ages, know how to preserve it, know the history of different fibers in different areas and know when something’s a fake because that fiber wasn’t around in the time period. I’d also like to know how people used the fibers and how they felt about not just the fabrics but the people who created them.

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