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Reader's view: Chemical analysis debunked the legend of the Shroud of Turin

On Nov. 1, the News Tribune published an article headlined, “Shroud of Turin mystery deepens.”

The mystery to me is how this subject continues to get press coverage. In the 1970s, Dr. Walter McCrone examined a portion of the shroud that was purported to contain dried blood. He found no blood, but he did find red ochre and vermillion paint particles. Dr. McCrone, who literally wrote the book on the analysis of microscopic particles (“The Particle Atlas,” published in six volumes from 1973 through 1979), was eminently qualified to conclude that the shroud was a 14th century painting. The “scientists” who refuted his work had no qualifications to perform the analyses on which they claimed to rely.

The History Channel ran a documentary on the people “testing” the shroud, in which it was evident the channel had no interest whatsoever in accepting facts that conflicted with preconceived notions. One “scientist” seriously theorized that holy radiation from the resurrection might have transferred the image of Jesus to the cloth. As in many cases where rational thought collides with religious beliefs, truth is ignored in favor of magical thinking. The age and origin of the cloth is totally irrelevant to the question.You might better ask how red ochre and vermillion particles get on a real burial cloth.

Kenneth L. Johnson


The writer is a retired chemist who was trained in microscopic analysis by Dr. Walter McCrone and his staff at the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago.