The Shroud of Turin is not old enough to be the burial cloth of Jesus, according to a radiocarbon dating done in 1988, but a new study says neutron radiation from an ancient earthquake could have been responsible for an incorrect date.
According to Alberto Carpinteri, from the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, a massive earthquake, measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale, in 33 A.D. in Jerusalem (soon after the time of the Crucifixion) could have led to the release of free neutrons, attaching to other atoms, to form carbon isotopes, a process called neutron radiation. The research was published in the journal Meccanica.
The Shroud of Turin was first photographed in 1898 by Secondo Pia and long has been a point of controversy. Believers say it is the burial cloth of Jesus while doubters point to the 1988 dating as evidence that the Shroud was a forgery created around 1260. There have been plenty of counterarguments to explain the carbon dating, be it from a fire or, now, an ancient earthquake.
Carpinteri says he is able to produce these neutron emissions by compressing brittle pieces of rock. This is known as a “piezonuclear fission reaction” and the neutron emission is caused by the fission, splitting, of iron atoms, but the reaction does not emit gamma rays or nuclear waste, notes Science Insider.
The Jerusalem earthquake could have created neutron emissions that either interacted with the Shroud of Turin to produce the image or increased the carbon-14 isotope level. Carpinteri said in a statement, “We believe it is possible that neutron emissions by earthquakes could have induced the image formation on the Shroud’s linen fibers, through thermal neutron capture on nitrogen nuclei, and could also have caused a wrong radiocarbon dating.”
That statement would stir some controversy on its own, but the methods Carpinteri uses, in particular piezonuclear fission reaction, have previously been called into question. The Science Insider article from 2012 discusses a petition from 1,000 Italian scientists to block funds for piezonuclear research. Researchers from Canada, Sweden and Italy questioned Carpinteri’s conclusions in 2010, as well as the chemical analysis the Italian researcher said proved fission was taking place in the rock samples.
Piezonuclear fission reaction and Carpinteri are back in the spotlight following his Shroud of Turin research. Speaking to LiveScience, Gordon Cook, from the University of Glasgow, questioned the findings, stating research on other materials from around 33 A.D. has not turned up any evidence of increased neutron emissions. “People have been measuring materials of that age for decades now, and nobody has ever encountered this,” said Cook.
The Shroud of Turin will continue to be the source of much debate and, as the Telegraph notes, the Vatican has yet to weigh in on its authenticity. There have also been renewed calls to have the Shroud tested, such as using molecular testing that can scan each fiber of the object.